Soul singer Alexander O’Neal was basking in the success of his gold-selling self-titled debut and his platinum-selling sophomore album Hearsay when he released his Christmas album. Tabu Records released My Gift to You on November 11th, 1988. O’Neal covered the traditional Christmas standards such as “The Little Drummer Boy,” “Winter Wonderland,” and “The Christmas Song.”
Naturally, no R&B Christmas album is complete without a cover of the iconic Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” which O’Neal sings with ease while paying homage to Mr. Hathaway. However, the album’s real strength is in the original tracks that legendary producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis provide O’Neal with.
O’Neal opens the set with the lush ballad “My Gift to You,” which features flourishing production from Jam & Lewis. Singer Donell Jones covered this song a decade later and did it justice, but it something about the way O’Neal sings “So I’m offering this wrapped present” “Wrapped up in a package that you can get from someone this package that they’ll bring to you is my gift to you” that takes the song to another level.
From there, O’Neal makes his way into his funky side on “Sleigh Ride,” which makes me wonder just how The Time would’ve been if O’Neal had stayed on as a lead singer. The feel-good vibe continues with “Our First Christmas.” I think anyone who’s been in a new relationship can relate to the message in the song. Thinking about what to buy your significant other and hoping the relationship carries over into the New Year.
O’Neal taps into his gospel roots with the inspirational “Thank You for a Good Year.” While I don’t make it to church every Sunday, I am always thankful for the blessing that I receive in a year. “Thank You for a Good Year” sums up how I feel perfectly. O’Neal continues the gospel trend with “Remember Why It’s Christmas.” Too often, we get lost in the material aspect of gift-giving, and “Remember Why It’s Christmas” is a reminder of knowing the real reason to celebrate the holiday.
Alexander O’Neal was one of the eighties’ strongest singers, and his Christmas album is a testament to his talent. The chemistry O’Neal had with producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis was electric. Very few artists can produce a Christmas album that features original songs you can play year-round, and O’Neal achieves that with My Gift to You.
Final Grade A –
Top Songs – “My Gift to You,” “Thank You for a Good Year,” “Remember Why It’s Christmas,” and “Our First Christmas.”
My Gift to You is available to stream on all platforms.