Straight No Chaser: Christmas Cheers

RIYL: Quirky, comedy infused classic holiday vocal music

There really isn’t another group like Straight No Chaser. All they do is holiday-themed music, and they do it their own way – that is, a cappella. With their new one, Christmas Cheers, the follow up to 2008’s Holiday Spirits, the group took even more risks than before. The soulful, R&B-infused vocal runs, techniques and harmonies are all there, and they effectively weave comedic bits into classic material without skipping a beat. That’s all well and good, but the novelty has worn off with just 12 months between releases, and some of these tracks tend to run into one another. The opening track, “The Christmas Can-Can,” is really funny with terms like “Shop until you lose your mind.” And some of the other really pretty classics include “Christmastime is Here” and “O Holy Night,” and there is a hilarious yet nicely done version of “You’re A Mean One, Mister Grinch.” But maybe the best track of all is the studio version of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” a track the group released as a live take last year and which has become their trademark. So give Christmas Cheers a fair listen, but be warned – you may not make it past two or three listens before January. (Atlantic 2009)

Straight No Chaser MySpace Page


Straight No Chaser: Holiday Spirits

There is something about a ten-piece vocal group that just lends itself to holiday music. Straight No Chaser is such a group, and after forming over ten years ago at Indiana University, this group became YouTube darlings last year with their hilarious and compelling version of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Atlantic Records chairman Craig Kallman was one of those who liked what he saw; the rest is history, as Holiday Spirits is the group’s debut on Atlantic. But these guys are no one-hit wonder, because this collection of traditional holiday songs and a few originals blend together beautifully, and are delivered with an amazing vocal flair that rivals the likes of Take 6. Some of the highlights are Donnie Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” “Carol of the Bells,” and of course “The 12 Days of Christmas,” a live version that shows the group’s morphing into a medley of holiday songs, culminating in a clever use of the lyrics to “12 Days” to the tune of Toto’s “Africa.” But to have original songs rival the traditional stuff is not easy, and Straight No Chaser pulls it off with ease, particularly on the stunning “Indiana Christmas.” This one is a must-have this holiday season. (Atlantic 2008)

Straight No Chaser MySpace Page