Blake with Dame Shirley Bassey

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) (Single)

So who would you want on your celebratory seasonal song, to add a dash of sheer class to the whole proceedings? No, Jason of Blackheath, not Kid Rock….who could be a better performer to invite than Dame Shirley Bassey? So Blake have pulled off a master move here and moreover the champagne-voiced chanteuse has never before featured on a Yuletide recording!

The current trio of Blake includes Ollie Baines, Humphrey Berney and Stephen Bowman. OK, that may sound like a challenging team of philatelists on ‘EggHeads’ but though these names don’t resonate as very showbiz, each is a fine singer and the ensemble celebrates harmony and vocal depth. They have already attained over a set of past recordings a warmth and precision that will find favour with listeners going for the tuneful over the radical and they have put together an entire Christmas season album titled ‘A Classic Christmas’. Thankfully they have their own stamp on the proceedings and are not just aping The Rat Pack…though I suspect they could, after a few brandies?

This song is of course one of the best-known seasonal pop songs (though spoiled forever for this caustic listener by a very funny American parody version called – I kid you not – ‘ Chipmunks Roasting On An Open Fire’) and this recording, funded via Pledge Music is aiming at raising money for the charity Variety which channels funds to the needy. Even more reason to buy it, then…

Dame Shirley is particularly keen that some of the proceeds go to Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital, in Cardiff, commenting on this recording with Blake that ‘ I was quite overwhelmed because it just suits my voice so well. I was amazed at how well our voices blended..’

A gentle piano intro launches the cut, a male vocal redolent of the 1950’s in its delivery, then Bassey is caressing the lyrics over cosy strings and the rich Blake harmonies are floating along. The string bass is well-recorded and the brass arrangement subtle, piano tinkling in the mix. At 2:40 the tempo changes and challenges you not to tap your toes before a full-blooded finale ices the Christmas cake. Totally old-fashioned but as vibrant as the recent wonderful Bennett/Gaga duets meisterwerk collection. Not only this, but the edition I have features a fine original ballad called ‘Back In Your Arms For Christmas’, uncannily similar in style to the recent Shane Filan recordings. Radio-friendly and rather comforting.

Not really aimed at the likes of me, this release is so well put-together, performed and well-intentioned it would be churlish to do anything except salute the creators.

Shirley Bassey Children's Hospital                   Blake and Dame Shirley Bassey Single Cover

Pete Sargeant

Blake with Dame Shirley Bassey ‘Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)’ single is out on Friday 18th December 2015. Blake’s new Christmas album ‘A Classic Christmas’ is released on Friday 20th November 2015. 

(Thanks Lisa, Mike, Blake and Her Majesty)

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