Kelly Clarkson – Wrapped in Red
2013, RCA Records
Buy the album
1. “Wrapped in Red”
2. “Underneath the Tree”
3. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
4. “Run Run Rudolph”
5. “Please Come Home for Christmas (Bells Will Be Ringing)”
6. “Every Christmas”
7. “Blue Christmas”
8. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
9. “Winter Dreams (Brandon’s Song)”
10. “White Christmas”
11. “My Favorite Things”
12. “4 Carats”
13. “Just for Now”
14. “Silent Night”
This will be the first time and probably only time (unless she releases another Christmas album) I’ll ever review a Kelly Clarkson album. I actually don’t mind Kelly Clarkson. She’s adorable, seems much more down to earth and girl-next-door than your normal pop star and her songs aren’t terrible and some even have a rock edge to them. I don’t own any of her albums but she’s tolerable. My only issue is she keeps dying her hair blonde! I don’t think it suits her. She’s much prettier as a brunette.
Five of the songs here are originals: “Wrapped in Red”, “Underneath the Tree” (which was released as the lead single), “Every Christmas”, “Winter’s Dreams (Brandon’s Song)” and “4 Carats”. They’re all pretty good songs. “Wrapped in Red” has an upbeat 1960s vibe to it. Reminds me of The Ronettes. “Underneath the Tree” is a modern holiday classic that brings to mind Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas album. “Every Christmas” seems like a modern retelling of “Baby, Please Come Home for Christmas” while “Winter’s Dreams (Brandon’s Song)” is what I call “American Eagle music”. Something that you’d hear playing at hipster stores like Old Navy or Aeropostale. “4 Carats” is a modern pop number.
The rest of the album is mostly comprised of old standards that are dusted off by Clarkson’s powerful vocals. We already know these songs are good. The question is always does the vocalist and does the arrangement do them justice? The answer is yes. Everyone else agrees too because the album was a success right out of the gate. It debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top 200 and has already been certified platinum.
With Wrapped in Red, Kelly Clarkson has turned in a classy holiday album that I’m sure I’ll revisit over the years. She is truly the only good thing to ever come out of American Idol.
Highlights: “Wrapped in Red”, “Underneath the Tree”, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, “Every Christmas”, “White Christmas”
Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa – Don’t Explain (2011, J&R Adventures)
1. Sinner’s Prayer … 4:27
2. Chocolate Jesus … 2:39
3. Your Heart Is as Black as Night … 5:00
4. For My Friends… 4:11
5. Don’t Explain … 4:34
6. I’d Rather Go Blind … 8:06
7. Something’s Got a Hold on Me … 6:05
8. I’ll Take Care of You … 5:13
9. Well, Well … 3:42
10. Ain’t No Way … 6:47
Beth Hart – Vocals, Piano
Joe Bonamassa – Guitar, Vocals
Blondie Chaplin – Guitar
Carmine Rojas – Bass
Anton Fig – Drums, Percussion
Arlan Scheirbaum – Keyboards
Producer: Kevin Shirley
Joey Bones has had quite a busy year! In 2011, not only did he released the excellent Dust Bowl solo album but there was also a second helping from super-group Black Country Communion with 2 and now he’s partnered up with Beth Hart for a collection of blues, soul and jazz covers.
Though there are a number of uptempo moments like “Chocolate Jesus”, “For My Friends” and “Well, Well”, it’s the slower numbers and tender moments that I found myself enjoying most. “Your Heart Is As Black As The Night”, “Don’t Explain”, “I’d Rather Go Blind” and “I’ll Take Care of You” are fantastic soulful and sultry jazz numbers with Beth Hart putting in a great performance on these songs. I know of Beth Hart but I’m not familiar with any of her work but it’s easy to say from this album alone that she’s a great vocalist who can handle either bluesy rockers or soulful ballads.
Then, of course, there’s Joe Bonamassa who is proving himself to be one of the greatest guitarists of his generation whether he’s playing blues or straight up hard rock. There’s a lot of great solos and emotional lead work on this disc.
An album such as this is not something I would normally try but with the October 2011 issue of Classic Rock giving it a good review (and knowing I enjoyed Joe’s Dust Bowl and BCC works), I decided to give it a shot. A collection of blues, soul and jazz is something I’d have to really be in the mood to listen to but on a cold, dreary Autumn afternoon, it fit my mood and I found myself enjoying it a lot.
Don’t Explain may not be the album of the year for me and outside of my usual brain-dead listening circle of rock & metal but I found it to be a good listen and fans of both Joe & Beth should check it out.
Highlights: “Your Heart Is as Black as Night”, “Don’t Explain”, “I’d Rather Go Blind”, “I’ll Take Care of You”, “Ain’t No Way”