Christmas In Our Hearts by Jose Mari Chan is a hard act to follow. It is the biggest-selling album in Philippine pop music history and it continues to sell every year as fans replace worn out copies and the new recruits decide they want one for their own. But who’s to stop anybody from trying to create something that would top, or if we are to be realistic, that would at least equal the superb market performance of the CD? No one. More so when the guy making the attempt is Jose Mari Chan himself.
Seriously though, I do think that all he wants to do is write and record more Christmas songs. Jose Mari is one of those beautiful people who were born with the Christmas spirit embedded in their bones. How else would you describe a man who tracked in snow into his house so that his kids would think Santa Claus came and those were the fat guy’s footprints? Maybe that is also why there is so much joy in his voice when he sings about Christmas and it is most contagious.
He sort of admits to this in Going Home to Christmas, the title cut of the new album. Although written in English with a Western pop melody, the song fully captures the inherently Filipino sentiment of wanting to be home for Christmas. “I need the warm embrace of cool December/ and all the love that I have known/ I’m goin’ home to Christmas and to family/ where the heart resides forevermore/ I’m goin’ home to Christmas and to family/ where the lovelight hangs by the door.”
The love light is not left hanging by the door in this CD. Helped along with sparkling arrangements that should have been scored in the soundtrack of Home Alone, it glows with Christmas cheer. Jose Mari here is looking at Christmas both ways with songs about love and family. First as a child again, “Let God inside/ marvel at his wonders/ with the eyes of a child.” And then as a man of many years with a love song, “A song as new as when our love was born/ for to me you’ll always be/ as young as Christmas morn.”
The package is fully loaded with 19 new compositions and instrumental versions of some tracks. He has also brought in the family with his four children and a granddaughter getting into the act. And, for the first time in over 40 years, Jose Mari is ta da! singing in Tagalog! He breezes with flying colors through Pagdating Ng Pasko, which I believe, has the makings of a hit single. But if like most Pinoys you like your Christmas songs romantic, you might find the big hit in A Christmas Song For You.
On the other hand though, this is one case where one does not really have to make a choice. You will surely enjoy the bright Christmas feel this album brings that you would want to listen to the CD in its entirety and savor every song.
Now, while it is great news to know that Jose Mari has come up with a new Christmas album, it still remains a fact that no Yuletide celebration out here will ever be complete without another listen or two to his classic Christmas In Our Hearts. I do not know if Jose Mari himself was aware of what a monster seller and lasting gift he was creating in 1990. What occurred was pure serendipity. Everything came together at the right time to become a perfect whole.
The new compositions, the choices from among existing songs, the arrangements, the timing of the release, even little unforeseen snags contributed into making the album truly special. Did you know that Christmas In Our Hearts was meant to be recorded by a famous girl singer? She was, however, unavailable at the time and Jose Mari drafted his daughter Lisa for the job. The result is the wonderful harbinger of the Christmas season we continue to enjoy year after year.
I suppose that by this time, you have already taken your copy out of storage and that you are once more enjoying Christmas In Our Hearts. Included are A Wish On Christmas Night, Do You Hear What I Hear? Mary’s Boy Child, A Christmas Carol, A Perfect Christmas, Give Me Your Heart For Christmas, This Beautiful Day, The Sound Of Life, Christmas Children, Little Christmas Tree, When A Child Is Born, It Is The Lord! Count Your Blessings (Instead Of Sheep) and May The Good Lord Bless And Keep You.
And not to forget, Christmas In Our Hearts. Here goes, “Whenever I see girls and boys selling lanterns on the streets/ I remember the child in the manger as He sleeps/ whenever there are people giving gifts, exchanging cards/ I believe that Christmas is really in our hearts/ and so let us rejoice….”