Audio Mixer: Jochem van der Saag.
Recording information: Air Studios, London, UK; Capitol Studios, Hollywood, CA; Chartmaker Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Platinum Sound Recording Studios, New York, NY; Verve Studios, Santa Monica, CA.
Arranger: David Foster.
A truly Mary Christmas would match the distraught look on the cover. Blige's first Christmas album, guided by David Foster and Jochem van der Saag, doesn't feature sad or embittered chestnuts like "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" or "Fairytale of New York" (was Method Man busy?). Instead, it contains a mix of standard holiday songs -- a couple playful, many solemn, all dramatic. It's a big production; an orchestra backs Blige on most of the songs. She pours herself into all of the material, even when she's joined by Jessie J (of all people) for a version of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" that is overcooked. It could use a couple more joyous songs in the vein of Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas," which is a delight despite so many versions since the original 1970 version. A Mary Christmas won't likely reach the high status of, say, Mariah Carey's Merry Christmas, but it's a full-effort holiday release that many of her fans should be able to enjoy for several years. ~ Andy Kellman