North Dakota-by-way-of-Minnesota vocal group the Blenders return to seasonal music on Christmas Light, most of the time abandoning their a cappella approach in favor of musical accompaniment. But the vocals and harmonies remain the dominant factors in their music, and they exhibit influences reflecting most of the major pop and jazz harmony ensembles of decades past. The Beach Boys' sound is notable on the Blenders' version of "What Child Is This?," the only song on the disc in which the instrumentation drops out completely. Jazzy arrangements like that for "Children Go Where I Send Thee" sometimes suggest the Manhattan Transfer. On more recent Christmas favorites like Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas" and Wham!'s "Last Christmas," the Blenders recall the boy band style of the Backstreet Boys. But perhaps their greatest similarity is to Chicago, a band more known for its horns, although it has always boasted strong harmonies from its three tenor singers. The similarity is accentuated by Chicago's own interest in Christmas music and tendency to rearrange carols to suit their style. The Blenders sound like Chicago particularly on "Sleigh Ride," with its trumpet solos, and a radically reconceived "Joy to the World," which has a horn section. So, anyone who enjoyed Chicago Christmas: What's It Gonna Be, Santa? in 2003 will like Christmas Light in 2011. But it also will attract all fans of accomplished vocal harmony.
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