Anthony Callea has endeavoured to become part of the white noise in department stores in December this year with his upcoming album This is Christmas. Or perhaps instead he envisions his voice providing backing to the exciting activity that is the ripping of wrapping paper on Christmas morning. Either way, he has seen it fit to now capitalise on his ten consecutive years of carolling by candlelight in Melbourne. He sure loves Christmas, and it shows.
If you pick this album up, expect vocal gymnastics, and expect lead-footed vibrato. Callea is obviously an accomplished vocalist, but for the greater part of the record there is just one level he sings at – there is the occasional dynamic variation, but for the most part the tunes are sung with incessant vigour. The prime example is The First Noel, a very tedious track in terms of the vocal performance. Perhaps having kicked off his career on Australian Idol has led to the development of some kind of televised karaoke complex – an unconscious need to impress judges and have people on their feet by the end of every song. However, whilst at times I’m left feeling like I need a little siesta, Callea’s enthusiasm is in places as contagious as a bit of Christmas cheer.
The record has a good range of classics, and Callea is backed by a 55-piece orchestra, giving it a very full sound. There are also appearances from his partner, Tim Campbell, as well as the National Boys Choir and some other Australian singers. The choir is a particularly appealing feature of this record; there is great poignancy inherent in any well-organised raft of young voices, and employing them in a moving piece like Ave Maria almost guarantees some goosebumps.
The choir gets another run in the also-touching O Holy Night. Other notable tracks are the leisurely but ardent album opener Don’t Save It All For Christmas Day, and Callea’s rendition of the classic Silent Night, which features Stuart Fraser on guitar. The album also features some upbeat covers of Christmas Baby, Please Come Home and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, both of which provide more fitting contexts for the zealous voice belting them out. The final track of note is an acapella version of Amazing Grace, which is in collaboration with Susie Ahern, Michelle Serret and Rod Davies. The staggered entry of the singers and the harmonies they create make it a pleasant rendition of the old hymn, but then again, it’s one of those tunes that are so naturally uplifting that it’s hard to go wrong with it.
So if you think that this year your holiday playlist could do with a bit of refurbishment, and perhaps a little oomph, Anthony Callea’s This Is Christmas is I’m sure as suitable as any of the other Christmas albums that invariably pop up around this time of year.