Album: Anita Baker <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

Christmas Fantasy, BLUE NOTE
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The Independent Culture

There is a type of jazz singing that is so far up its own arse that it neglects to bother with the actual melody as it was written by the composer, and on this dreadful, dreadful album, Anita Baker indulges in some advanced proctological research, scatting her way into hitherto unexplored areas of her own fundament on standards like "O Come All Ye Faithful" and a version of "Frosty the Snowman" done with archly antique jazz clarinet stylings. It's the kind of smug, pre-urban upscale black muzak we've come to expect from the Queen of Quiet Storm, but magnified a thousand times - even Jamie Cullum doesn't sound quite this self-satisfied. Baker's "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is an extraordinary, stillborn thing, utterly drained of any vestige of merriment, replaced instead by irritating noises of approval of the musicianship - which, given that the band includes Larry Carlton, Nathan East, George Duke, Joe Sample and Phil Upchurch, is impeccable but impersonal, all but petrified with good taste. It's all rather like a Steely Dan album minus the wit and wisdom, and it offers further proof that music is far too important to be left to musicians.

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