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Chilly Gonzales Christmas LP

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Chilly Gonzales A VERY CHILLY CHRISTMAS. Gentle Threat Ltd

CHILLY GONZALES HOLIDAY ALBUM ‘A VERY CHILLY CHRISTMAS’ FEATURING FEIST AND JARVIS COCKER

Background

Christmas music: a peculiar genre that offers everything from solemnity to exuberance. Christmas carols are beloved, largely uncontested vessels for emotion and memory, gratitude and generosity.

Enter Chilly Gonzales.

Composer, showman in slippers and a bathrobe, he has a deep dedication to his craft: he’s an Entertainer. His humble service to this calling lends a certain inevitability to this announcement: Chilly Gonzales has made a Christmas album.

From feudal oldies to newer holiday pop canon, A VERY CHILLY CHRISTMAS surveys a broad scope of seasonal repertoire and sentiment. There’s grandeur and solemnity, there’s austerity and merriment.

With his unabashed loyalty to melody, Gonzales’ approach deftly navigates the myth of one shared songbook with a collection that opts for nuance over pomp. From Wenceslas to Wham, the great revelation of this collection is the restrained, distilled beauty of Gonzales’ signature minor key interpretations.

A VERY CHILLY CHRISTMAS finds its star in ‘The Banister Bough’, the album’s sole original song. This tinseled, sugar-plum collaboration with Feist, complete with miniaturized Jeunet-esque stop-motion animated video, balances delicate whimsy with an ecological message in disguise as a home decorating tutorial. The song gently encourages us to reimagine traditions, those we claim and those we inherit, for the generations to come.

From solo arrangements to intricate, delicate additions of strings, bells, choir and more, A VERY CHILLY CHRISTMAS also features Gonzales’ frequent stage and studio collaborator, cellist Stella Le Page. As a whole, the album’s contribution is the space it creates for quieter moments amid the flurry and noise of the season.

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Review

Tracklist:

Silent Night
Good King Wenceslas
Silver Bells
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Last Christmas
The Banister Bough (feat Feist)
Jingle Bells
All I Want For Christmas Is You
In the Bleak Midwinter (feat Jarvis Cocker)
Snow Is Falling In Manhattan (feat Jarvis Cocker and Feist) O Tannenbaum
Maria Durch Ein Dornwald Ging
O Come, All Ye Faithful
We Three Kings
Auld Lang Mynor

Christmas is a time of very mixed intense emotion for me, and the existing canon often sounds like a forced smile. Christmas is a typical time for superficial happiness, but also a time for reflection and mourning the sad events throughout the year. The songs of A very chilly christmas make room for a more authentic interpretation of this very peculiar 2020 holiday season.” - Chilly Gonzales

The USA has a tradition of Christmas album releases which over many years has tempted artists and labels to ‘get involved’. Such an activity could be viewed as ‘pure commercialism’ and viewed with a high degree of sceptisism by the music-loving public. But just occasionally something different and relevant to the times appears, like this release from Chilly Gonzales. My interest was pricked in it by past releases and a live performance I covered several years ago in Manchester, which was both unconventional and hugely entertaining.

‘Silent Night’ is a prime example of Chilly decorating the song with the sadness of our times by slowing it down to snail’s pace and introducing the most atmospheric string passage introduced by tumbling piano notes. ‘Good King Wenceslas’ is in more conventional style but is punctuated by darker, sharper moments. ‘Silver Bells’ is treated in a similar fashion with joyful higher notes juxtaposed with lower notes, and a series of out-of-tune moments signifying that things aren’t great right now.

Chilly tells stories through his piano-playing and ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ is a good example with this arrangement hitting a more reflective note. ‘The Banister Bough’ is the only original song here and includes a beautiful, moving vocal performance by Feist. ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ includes a whispering, talking and threatening Jarvis Cocker perhaps forewarning us of a Covid and climate change winter ahead…’Snow Is Falling In Manhatton’ includes another expressive talking Cocker juxtaposed by Feist vocals which dart in and out. It’s a beauty. ‘O Tannenbaum’ sees Chilly in jazz mode.

This is a surprisingly emotive album which won’t fail to move the listener. If you were to treat yourself to a Christmas album, make it this one.

4.5/5

https://www.chillygonzales.com/

Biography: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilly_Gonzales


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