I’m a very casual watcher of American Idol, during a good year I may watch one whole entire episode of the show. But AI has produced several singers I've come to love and whose projects I’ve enjoyed, namely Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, and Katharine McPhee. McPhee has a gorgeous voice, perfectly suited for breathing new life into jazz and pop standards, and Christmas Is the Time (To Say I Love You) plays to those strengths. The result is one of the classiest, most timeless Christmas albums to be released in recent memory. The album opens with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” where McPhee is accompanied by one of my all-time favorites, trumpeter Chris Botti. It’s the perfect marriage of vocal and instrumental. This is followed by a catchy piano and tambourine-driven version of “Jingle Bells” – it’s not exactly big band swing, but it’s as close as this album comes and the result is undeniably fun. The McPhee-penned “It’s Not Christmas Without You” reminds me a bit of Mariah Carey’s “Miss You Most (At Christmas Time,” both heart-wrenching, romantic ballads of missing one's love during the holidays. Carols like “Oh Holy Night” and “Little Town of Bethlehem/Away In A Manger” are stunning in the simplicity of their arrangements and in McPhee’s vocal delivery, placing the purity of her voice and the message of the lyrics front and center. “Christmas Is the Time” turned out to be a surprise favorite of mine – fun and upbeat and catchy, this song of the Christmas spirit’s ability to transform everyone who gives into it is an album highlight. McPhee puts a more upbeat, pop spin on “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” followed by a gorgeous, heartfelt rendition of the perennial classic “White Christmas.” The album closes with a stunning version of “Who Would Imagine a King,” my absolute favorite track on the disc. The clarity and purity of McPhee's vocal here lends the song an almost heart-rending quality - for all its simplicity, the song is a showstopper. Christmas Is the Time is the very definition of understated elegance. Instead of opting for slick production techniques and musical bombast, McPhee's given fans a timeless Christmas record that is gorgeous in its simplicity and fully showcases her lovely voice, sure to be enjoyed for years to come.
Here's a Katharine McPhee webisode I found on YouTube about the recording of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and featuring CHRIS BOTTI!! :)