We all tend to get a bit emotional (some would say over-emotional) at this time of year. With space and time to relax comes the opportunity to reflect on all the joys and sorrows of life. That might seem like a strange introduction to “It’s Christmas Time in the City,” the latest Christmas album by critically-acclaimed singer, Michael Tinholme, but even the briefest of reads through Michael’s life-story could well have you in tears.

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 mental and physical 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 troubling home-life (including some terrible abuse and malnourishment), Michael played his first professional gig aged just twelve, and learned to love expressing his creativity.

Perhaps the most trying time was yet to come. 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.

You can see then, why “It’s Christmas Time in the City” is no ordinary collection of seasonal songs. Happily, the music contained within provides complete validation for Michael’s self-belief and determination. 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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