Follow Us on Twitter

The Great British Barbershop Boys – Christmas Time

The Great British Barbershop Boys, Christmas Time

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I HAVE to admit to possessing a bit of a “bah-humbug” attitude to the Christmas record thing. But every season there’s usually one or two releases that make the festive sing-alongs bearable.

Last year, for instance, we had Thea Gilmore’s Strange Communion to offer something slightly different from the usual dose of schmaltz and merriment. This year, there’s the Glee cast offering seasonal warmth and cheer, as well as The Great British Barbershop Boys.

So, what makes the latter album so special?

Well, firstly… the barbershop sound is pretty unique in that it’s a cappella and there’s no instrumental backing.

That allows the performers to focus on their voices, who subsequently try to blend them as well as possible to create ‘overtones’, which is where frequencies are heard way higher than any of us are singing.

Also, there are a number of rules to adhere to, which means that harmonically the songs should follow the circle of fifths, and there should be a predominance of Dominant 7th chords (the ‘barbershop seventh’), while the melody line should stay with the lead.

All this is evident on The Great British Barbershop Boys’ jolly Christmas Time LP, which takes 16 well known festive standards and transforms them into old fashioned, nostalgia driven, sing-along delights.

Such is the enthusiasm, timing and sense of melody that you can’t help but want to sing along, while remembering fondly all those festive memories.

Highlights therefore include Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (which does, dare I say, employ backing instrumentals!), a surprisingly rousing version of White Christmas and the Jodie Prenger featuring I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm – which recalls classic Hollywood as well as classic Christmas.

Also fun is Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, which makes great use of baritone and tenor vocals, and Jingle Bells and Deck The Halls.

If there’s a criticism, it stems largely from my dislike of the more sentimental offerings, so Christmas Time thrives when keeping things upbeat and merry, but is less successful (for me) when tip-toeing towards the worthy and noble.

Hence, renditions of Silent Night, The First Noel and Auld Lang Syne – though expertly delivered and fascinating to listen to vocally – fall the wrong side of enjoyable for me. But that’s just personal preference.

In most respects, and to coin a phrase from the PR team, these lads offer a cut above most Christmas albums of the moment!

Read our interview

Download picks: Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!, White Christmas, Jingle Bells, It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Deck The Halls, Lonely This Christmas, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm

Track listing:

  1. It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
  2. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  3. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
  4. The Christmas Song
  5. White Christmas
  6. I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm feat Jodie Prenger
  7. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
  8. The First Noel
  9. Jingle Bells
  10. Be My Christmas Number One
  11. Silent Night
  12. Deck The Halls
  13. Lonely This Christmas
  14. We Wish You A Merry (Twelve Days) of Christmas
  15. Little Saint Nick
  16. Auld Lang Syne