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My Gift to You (Live)

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Album Review

Holiday records were a staple of the Motown, Atlantic, and Stax release schedules during the golden age of soul music, but in the 1980s few R&B acts picked up the baton. Although it hasn't dated particularly well, My Gift to You nevertheless remains an admirable and energetic attempt to revive the Christmas album concept for a new generation, pairing Alexander O'Neal with the hitmaking production duo of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to create a lushly romantic set considerably more thoughtful and heartfelt than your average yuletide cash-in. Half of the album's ten songs are Jam/Lewis originals, and even if none of them emerged as contemporary standards, they do a good job of capturing both the secular ("Our First Christmas") and spiritual ("Remember Why It's Christmas") dimensions of the season. O'Neal also delivers shopworn material like "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Winter Wonderland" with conviction, saving his most potent performance for the Donny Hathaway classic "This Christmas." There's no getting around the trademark Jam/Lewis production, though. My Gift to You is plainly a product of its era, complete with thick synthesizers and programmed rhythms, and is best enjoyed by listeners still hoping Santa brings them acid-washed jeans and Members Only jackets regardless of the year in question.

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Biography

Born: November 15, 1953 in Natchez, MS

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

This Minneapolis, Minnesota (via Natchez, Mississippi) soul man cut his teeth in the Time but bounced before the band signed with Warner Bros. His tough voice has the same grain and range as that of Otis Redding. Like that master, Alexander O'Neal was comfortable with pumping dancefloor burners and slinky couch-cuddlers. He's certainly the best singer Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have ever produced, and the strength of his material and his robust voice can be heard on releases including 1985's Alexander...
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My Gift to You (Live), Alexander O'Neal
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