I remember not being very excited when it was announced that The Moody Blues were going to release a Christmas album. But thought if Jethro Tull can make a Christmas album then why not The Moody Blues? It turned out that I was pleasantly surprised.
December was issued in late October of 2003. It was their first studio album in four years and remains their last as of 2009. There were several firsts for the group. Ray Thomas would not appear on the album as he had officially retired. Norda Mullen would play the flute and Danilo Madonia would handle the keyboards. This was also the first time, since their first album, that they would record non-original songs. It was also their first studio album not to chart in The United States.
In some ways I wish that Justin Hayward had written more songs for this album as the three he did contribute are excellent. “Don’t Need A Reindeer” is a catchy light rocker while “December Snow” is a moving ballad. Both are excellent Christmas fare and only improve with repeated listens. His third contribution, “Yes I Believe,” is a notch below the first two but still above average.
John Lodge’s “The Spirit Of Christmas” is a song that has wonderful and inspirational lyrics but is set to an odd melody. His “On This Christmas Day” is probably the least effective original song as the parts just do not hang together well.
There were a couple of notable cover songs. The old John Lennon/Yoko One anti-Vietnam War song “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” is presented in a whole new context. John Lodge and Justin Hayward effectively entwine their voices to create a memorable sound. The classic carol, “In The Bleak Midwinter,” is presented in a simple and traditional manner which in this case is good.
The only song that really misses is “White Christmas” which has been recorded so many times that to provide anything new or creative is difficult.
December is a fine Christmas release and I bring it out every holiday season for a listen or two. It showed that The Moody Blues can still produce a quality album.