Sometimes, it seems, life can reward us with a fairy-tale ending. Aside from being a wonderful Christmas record, the seasonal album from critically-acclaimed singer Michael Tinholme, “It’s Christmas Time in the City,” comes complete with an astounding back-story. A highly-gifted musician and singer, Michael has overcome severe adversities to get where he is today. Adopted into a military family when he was only seven months old, Michael suffered years of abuse from his mentally ill mother, who in turn underwent several courses of shock therapy.
Through all this, music became Michael’s only release. Despite his difficult home-life (including some terrible abuse and malnourishment), Michael played his first professional gig aged just twelve, and learned to love expressing his creativity. With his adopted father stationed in Vietnam, Michael experienced months of foster care before leaving the family home and spending six years living on the streets of California. That’s an awful lot for anyone to handle, and no one could be blamed for struggling in such circumstances.
It’s incredible, then, that Michael, ever the optimist, turned things around, with no little help from legendary pianist and long-time David Bowie collaborator, Mike Garson, who recognised in Michael a great talent. Which brings us to “It’s Christmas Time in the City,” which is as likeable a collection of Christmas songs as you could wish for.
These are lush, wonderfully-produced songs with a tight and top-class jazz-band. You wouldn’t expect anything less from Michael, and the assembled players here are of the highest calibre. Bruce Fowler (former collaborator with Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa) lends his considerable talents on trombone. The great jazz guitarist, Mike Miller (Bette Midler, Quincy Jones, Brand X, Chick Corea) also features, as do renowned pianist, Bill Cunliffe (who can cite working with Frank Sinatra and Buddy Rich on his CV) and celebrated drummer, Gary Novak (Chick Corea, Natalie Cole).
That’s an impressive line-up, by any standards. It’s credit to Michael’s standing within the music community that so many amazing talents are backing him up here, and the results are spell-binding. “It’s Christmas Time in the City”is not your ordinary Christmas album!
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