by John Gaddis
I originally became aware of Pentatonix with their former Christmas CD, That’s Christmas To Me, I immediately found myself becoming an instant fan. When the release A Pentatonix Christmas crossed my radar, I immediately made plans to add it to my Christmas collection. I’m glad I did because it certainly measured up and gave just enough of the “more” factor to be glad I did.
If you are new to the group, this is a five person a cappella group featuring four guys and one woman. But if you are thinking you know what they sound like because they are a cappella, don’t stick them in a box. They are musical chameleons, blending in various styles to entertain and delight.
Take the first two tracks. “O Come All Ye Faithful” opens things up with a fairly traditional first verse. But as the song progresses, it traverses into an African sounding essence. Now if you are worried that this means they disrespectl the lyrics, don’t. It works beautifully, and will leave you smiling with a different take on this classic carol.
The group completely switches times and locations with the next track, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” giving it a very proper Victorian feel. Again, as the track goes on, they have some fun with it. This is very easily the highlight of the disc and well worth the price of the disc all by itself.
So yes, we have two very diverse styles in just those first two tracks. And yet, the changes we go through as the disc progresses are never jarring. Pentatonix manages to blend everything together into a cohesive whole that is thoroughly entertaining and fun to listen to.
They even have a couple of original tracks on here. “The Christmas Sing A-Long” a fun and celebratory joy of the season. “Good to Be Bad’ finds member Kristin Maldonado singing about the things that might get her on the naughty list. But will Santa let them slide? Very reminiscent of “Santa Baby,” but with a modern twist.
The disc does have a few missteps. Repeated lines in the hip hop infused “Up on the Housetop” is a bit over the top, and in “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” can begin to grate with repeated listens. But then again, it just might be my visions of Christmas past overshadowing their ideas. Then there’s “Hallelujah” and “Coldest Winter,” which certainly cover the contemporary side of Christmas tunes.
On the other hand, there’s “White Christmas.” This song goes from very mild jazz to a fun slightly tropical feel. Manhattan Transfer joins for this song, and it is a delight.
And not to be missed is “Coventry Carol.” I was very excited to hear this cut when I saw this on the song list. I just knew that Pentatonix would do a fabulous arrangement of this lesser recorded song. Even with such high expectations, they blew me away. This is right up there with “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” for favorite song on the disc.
While A Pentatonix Christmas may equally be as good as the other Christmas disc in their discography, it still should not be missed. Lots of great performance moments and plenty of new twists are a plenty. Which makes a wonderful way to not hear “Last Christmas” on your local radio station every 15 minutes, pop the disc into your player or pick your favorite device, this is a holiday offering that will enjoy playlist time each Christmas, that I can say with confidence.