For those not familiar with the term ‘smashed,’ when used in a musical sense or the similar description ‘mashed,’ Jacqui Naylor’s CD Smashed For The Holidays, is not an encouragement to get inebriated, but refers to the process of combining two songs from very different genres, to create a new composition. If you love music that is experimental, cutting edge, but performed by a vocalist and a backing band, both of whom possess an abundance of talent, then you will want to tuck this splendid album into your digital or retail shopping cart.
The southern rock rhythms of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s "Sweet Home Alabama," greet us as the disc starts to spin, but wait this is not how we remember "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town." Fasten your seat belts folks, because the lady with deep alto vocals is backed by some terrific guitar riffs, courtesy of Michael Romanowski’s bass and steel string guitar, as well as Art Khu’s electric six strings.
Led Zeppelin fans are going to be blown away by what Naylor has done with the British band’s 1973 hit tune, "D’yer Mak’er," as she smashes the rhythm and beat with the melody and lyrics for "Santa Baby." Cooing sensually, Naylor delivers an outstanding performance.
Jacqui Naylor is not a novelty act, nor is she to be confused with the entertaining parodies of "Weird Al" Yankovic. Since the early nineties, fans with eclectic musical tastes have been enjoying the jazz trained and gifted vocals of Naylor. Her vocal chops come to the forefront on "Celebrate Early And Often," which she co-wrote with Art Khu. The song is followed up by a strong cover of John Lennon’s "Happy X-mas (War Is Over)."
Naylor serves up a trio of very pretty vocal performances in the middle of this CD, Mel Torme’s "The Christmas Song," and two original songs, "Thank You Baby," and "Winter," both of which were also Naylor / Khu collaborations. "Thank You Baby," is once highlights Khu’s excellent musicianship as he serves up some memorable riffs. After hearing the opening tracks of Smashed For The Holidays, you cannot help be impressed by the sensitivity with which Naylor sings these three songs. Very seldom do you find someone who is vocally gifted enough to span a number of genres, and who can also bring the insight and emotion necessary to impact the music. Jacqui Naylor has that ability.
I was impressed with how well Art Khu’s arrangements for the Police’s "Every Breath You Take," worked with the lyrics to the classic Christmas song, "Silver Bells." If you had previously never heard either song, you would probably think this is how the music was intended to sound.
Other highlights include Naylor’s Edie Brickell like singing of "Father Christmas," the original track, "Christmas Ain’t What It Used To Be," and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Jon Evans’s acoustic bass vibes and Khu’s gentle caressing of the piano keys, provide the perfect accompaniment for another pretty performance by Naylor.