Every new song from the Eagles Christmas album reviewed. As they’re released. – The Philadelphia Inquirer

Showcasing the vocal talents of Jason Kelce and his offensive tackle teammates Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata.
One new A Philly Special Christmas song is being released every Friday until the full album comes out on Dec. 23.
I’m going to be reviewing a new song, every week, so don’t forget to check back in. Go Birds!
» READ MORE: Forget eBay. The Eagles’ Christmas album will be back for sale one final time.
The version of “Silent Night” that’s sung on A Philly Special Christmas doesn’t have a single Eagle on it. But it does have plenty of E-A-G-L-E-S.
Let me explain: Eagles offensive lineman and Christmas song singers Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, and Jordan Mailata get a well-deserved breather on the two-century-old Austrian carol with lyrics by Joseph Mohr.
While they sit on the bench, the ball is carried by The Silver Ages, the eight-man-indie rock male chorus led by A Philly Special Christmas’ producer Charlie Hall, who is also the drummer for The War On Drugs. Hall plus fellow Philly musicians Zach Miller, Robbie Bennett, Brandon Beaver, Dave Wayne Daniels, Heyward Howkins, and Todd Starlin earnestly join voices in a cappella, to a stirring effect. They sing the familiar lines — “all is calm, all is bright” and “shepherds quaking at the sight” — but the song also includes a Kelly Green surprise.
Listen closely: do you hear what I hear? The entire second verse consists of the Super Bowl contending team’s name repeatedly being spelled out, with the enunciation of each letter contoured to fit composer Franz Xaver Gruber’s melody. E-A-G-L-E-S never sounded so good.
This week, Dec. 9, the new Eagles Christmas song is “Merry Christmas Baby,” which was first recorded by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers in 1947, and sung by Charles Brown, the great piano blues balladeer who was one of the Blazers.
On A Philly Special Christmas, “Merry Christmas Baby” is a showcase for Jordan Mailata, the 6-foot-8 Australian left tackle who showed off his musical ability earlier this year in Masked Singer and opened for Ne-Yo at the Dell Music Center in the summer.
The hard edged, swaggering arrangement by the Eagles tackle resembles the version developed by Stax Records soul man Otis Redding in 1968, and later followed by Bruce Springsteen.
Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson stay out of their teammate’s way and Mailata carries the song on his own, though he gets plenty of help. His relaxed, grainy vocals are cushioned by sax player Nasir Dickerson and trombonist Kalia Vandever (who also plays with Harry Styles, and has a gig with her jazz quartet coming up at Solar Myth on Jan 19.)
“Merry Christmas Baby” keeps up the project’s spotlighting of top talent from the Philly music community, with Brandon Beaver taking a guitar solo, and Robbie Bennett and Eliza Hardy Jones of The War on Drugs also chipping in. But the real second star of the show is R&B house music diva Lady Alma, who shows up to sing a verse and play Mailata’s paramour, with the two trading ad libs on the coda as if exchanging presents on Christmas morning.
This week, Dec. 2, it’s “Blue Christmas,” the song written by Billy Hayes and Jaye W. Johnson that was recorded by Ernest Tubb in 1949, and turned into a lonesome holiday standard by Elvis Presley in 1957.
The Philly Special “Blue Christmas” is the album’s prime showcase for Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson, who pours his heart into his sincere vocal and shines on the track, singing alongside center Jason Kelce. Jordan Mailata, their left tackle teammate in song, sits this one out, but Eliza Hardy Jones of the War On Drugs, who the players referred to as “Coach E”, pitches in on backup vocals.
» READ MORE: Fly, Santa, Fly! Eagles Jason Kelce, Jordan Mailata, and Lane Johnson to release ‘A Philly Special Christmas’ album.
Like the album as a whole, “Blue Christmas” rises above novelty status, without taking itself too seriously. With Rob Hyman of The Hooters on organ, his bandmate Eric Bazilian on mandola, and Mike “Slo-Mo’ Brenner playing pedal steel, the song nods to Presley’s Blue Hawaii phase. “It’s a half-earthy, half-spooky sound, like a UFO in Hawaii,” says producer Charlie Hall.
The first taste of A Philly Special Christmas arrived on Black Friday with “Christmas (Baby Please Home),” the Darlene Love-sung song written by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, and Phil Spector that’s the high water mark on A Christmas Gift For You, the 1963 album many consider the greatest pop Christmas album of all time.
Those are mighty big shoes for the Eagles o-linemen to fill, but the big guys tackle the task more than adequately, injecting plenty of Wall of Sound spirit into a song that has been covered by Mariah Carey, Michael Bublé, and countless others.
Jason Kelce takes the lead before Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata follow him in, just as Miles Sanders or Boston Scott might on the gridiron. Music director Charlie Hall is credited with drums, guitar, shaker, castanets, tambourine, sleigh bells, and vocal arrangements. The choir is the Silver Ages, the indie rock chorus helmed by Hall.
And that sax solo : why is it so wildly creative and beyond the bounds of yet-another-recording of a long in-the-tooth holiday standard? Because it’s played by Marshall Allen, the eternally young 98-year-old leader of the Sun Ra Arkestra.
Check out the A Philly Special Christmas mini-documentary


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