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Random thoughts on Martin's Christmas list

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Merry Christmas Martin NieveraPhilippine Star, Oct. 13, 2008

MANILA, OCTOBER 13, 2008 (STAR) - It took a long time coming, I mean Martin Nievera’s second Christmas album. He did his first one over 20 years ago when he was the young and very exciting pop idol in the local music scene. That was the one that included his own composition and most popular Christmas recording, the romantic Christmas Won’t Be the Same Without You.


But it is finally here and it is titled My Christmas List. The list is made up of 18 songs, old and new and Martin, joined by old friends at the helm, has come up with a real winner. The voice is as expressive as ever. Martin feels everything and feelings are what Christmas songs are all about.

Leading the pack is his own composition, Can’t Stop Christmas. This, if I remember right, is the Gift Gate Song. It is his other popular Christmas song and was never commercially available until now. It used to be that you only get a copy of the single if you do some Christmas shopping at Gift Gate. Christmas Won’t Be the Same Without You is not in the CD.

The other cuts are Give Love on Christmas Day; What Child is This; Pasko Na Sinta Ko; Blue Christmas; Nakaraang Pasko; My Heart’s Song; White Christmas; Christmas Love, a duet with Alex Godinez; The Most Wonderful Time of the Year; All I Want This Christmas; Forever I Am Yours; Lift Up Your Hands; My Grown Up Christmas List; In Christ Alone; Celebrate Me Home; It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve; and Maligaya Sana ang Pasko.

Because he spent his childhood in the US, although most of it was in Hawaii, this is one Christmas CD by a Filipino artist where White Christmas blends well with the Tagalog songs. He sounds like he would really enjoy getting a white Christmas, and at the same time stays a Filipino. Martin does a beautiful Pasko Na Sinta Ko and his Maligaya Sana ang Pasko is particularly heartwrenching. His choice for a single is also in Tagalog, Nakaraang Pasko, an early work by Tats Faustino that was first recorded by Kuh Ledesma.

Martin proudly shows off his three sons in the album. Santino’s laughter highlights Celebrate Me Home while Robin and Ram sing along in Forever I Am Yours. The song is Robin’s composition. He arranged it with Albert Tamayo and he played the electric guitar in the recording. His attempt to get his Dad to try something different is admirable, but twanging, discordant chords do not belong to a Martin Nievera album.

Admittedly Martin is in a box, but it is a lovely, enchanting box that has already withstood two decades and should be good for several more. Still, it is nice to know that Robin is not getting into this same box and that he has his own mind and style. I have a strong feeling that he will do better writing and arranging for his Mom. I sense a Debbie Harry feel about Pops that has never been exploited and Robin might just be the person who can push her to this edge.

Although it is not in the album he wrote down the first lines of Christmas Won’t Be the Same Without You as a dedication to his children in his liner notes. This is a very telling part of the CD. Martin is a sentimental soul who values family and traditions. Those things are inherent to the Yuletide celebration and Martin is unafraid to show his hurt that things are not really how he dreamed it should be and about how much effort he puts into trying to make everything right for the people he loves.

So if Martin were a song from this album, I would say that he would be It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve. It is sad, heartbroken and wistful but also hopeful. It is not really a Christmas song but it is about getting another chance and maybe, other choices. Martin would like those for Christmas.

Again about Christmas Won’t Be the Same Without You. Although it is not included in the collection, the song is still available in the early Martin album and also in Christmas Memories. The latter is a new compilation of Vicor, Blackgold, Telesis and Viva recordings from the past 30 years that brings together for the first time some of the biggest names in Filipino pop music.

Also included are You’re All I Want for Christmas by Sharon Cuneta; Miss Kita Kung Christmas by Susan Fuentes; The Christmas Song by Sarah Geronimo; Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Rico J. Puno; Last Christmas by Donna Cruz; O Holy Night by Regine Velasquez; Merry Christmas Darling by Rey Valera; My Grown Up Christmas List by Rachelle Ann Go; Pasko Na Sinta Ko by Aiza Seguerra; Christmas Card by Timmy Cruz; Give Love on Christmas Day by Jaya; I’ll Be Home for Christmas by harpist Tadao Hayashi and others.

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