Imagine mixing the upbeat island feeling of Jimmy Buffet’s Christmas IslandÂ with the Latin-infused melodies of Gloria Estefan’s Christmas Through Your EyesÂ and you’ve got a good idea of what Grammy winner Jon Secada’s new Christmas album feels like.
Though every songÂ on his set list has already been played by every performer you canÂ name – and most that you can’tÂ - Secada does what every Christmas album claims to do: he makes the songs his own. “I wanted the CD to be a tapestry of upbeat rhythms for the holidays,” states Secada. From the Columbian groove of “Let It Snow” to the gentle Peruvian influence of “Silver Bells,” A Christmas Fiesta is a musical tapestry that will have even the most stalwart of Grinches up and moving.
Especially enjoyable are his covers of “Jingle Bells” and “Silver Bells”, providing more energy than any Christmas party will need to keep going. Even “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, recently covered movingly by Jack Johnson, gets reworked in a particularly Secada-ish celebration of beats and rhythms. And what Latin American Christmas album would be complete without a cover of “Feliz Navidad,” which sounds the most familiar, most likely because it was alreadyÂ in SpanishÂ before Secada reworked it. Those bored of Christmas albums can look to Secada’sÂ crystalline aerial vocals to giveÂ these tunesÂ the extra boostÂ they need to break through the years of repetitive air time they’ve received.Â
What separates Secada’s interpretations from others is that he somehow manages to provide his own incredibly unique version of each song, but without straying so far from the original that it becomes unrecognizable. Anyone who can tap their feet will be able to get down to this record. When Secada sings that old phrase “Everyone’s dancing merrily in the new old fashioned way!” it feels like by blending new age beats, Latin culture and dated Christmas lyrics, perhaps he’s finally made sense of a senseless phrase.
Zach’s Rating: B+
Perfect For: A Christmas-time Conga line
Stay Away If:Â YouÂ don’t want to walk in a winter wonderland, no matter who’s singing about it