Aled Jones and Russell Watson have a new Christmas album
“Morecambe & Wise were great fun. With Al and me, it’s just kidding. When we’re behind the scenes, we constantly pull each other’s hair out. Everyone asks what we’re laughing at.”
Now the men with the golden lungs are back with their first Christmas album. It’s their third studio collaboration and “the best we’ve ever done,” says Aled. “But we would say that, wouldn’t we?”
Just released, Christmas with Aled & Russell, is a crack, as elegant and likeable as the singers themselves.
The twelve themes range from the sacred, O Holy Night, to the most cloying, Mistletoe & Wine. They also take Walking In The Air, the theme song from the classic 1982 animated film The Snowman, which made Bangor-born Aled a school star.
“It was pretty weird making the album,” says Russell. “We shot it this summer when it was 100 degrees outside. I’m singing ‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas’ and outside I could literally see steam coming off.
Adds Aled: “I was in shorts and a t-shirt singing In The Bleak Midwinter…”
Watson and Jones together again
He continues: “I recorded my voice in Acton, West London’s Las Vegas.”
Russell: “I recorded mine in Los Angeles…Lower Accrington.”
They laugh and Russell says, “However, I feel sorry for the people who work in department stores during Christmas and have to listen to the same songs over and over again, especially since the holiday period is expanding all the time.”
Aled, “I once left a store because of it. I’d walk in and hear Mistletoe & Wine by Cliff, then Slade, and I’d know Walking On The Air would be next… But I love all the Christmas songs, Chris Rea, Wham!, Wizzard… they’re all magical.”
All of them? Have you ever heard Funky Funky Christmas by New Kids On The Block?
“There must be a filter on my playlist,” Russell jokes, deadpan.
They form an odd couple, the town tenor and the snowman. Urmston-born former bolt cutter Watson is a dramatic operatic tenor, while Aled is a lyrical baritone. On paper, his voices shouldn’t click. However, on stage, the mix is incredible. Working together has taken their careers into uncharted areas, and arias
“My voice isn’t influenced by opera, while Russell’s is,” says Aled. “She had never sung anything like Volare before we recorded together a few years ago, but it came out great. He even surprised us.”
The stars reunited at the National Eisteddfod of Wales this summer after an 18-month break. “It was just like always: lots of laughs, lots of jokes,” says Russell, who turns 56 this month. “We have a very similar sense of humor.
“I have never been one of these types of red carpet events. I only have a couple of friends in the industry. Ours is a good friendship. We’re classmates. I feel comfortable talking about anything with Al.”
Aled: “Me too, exactly the same; so much fun.”
However, time problems can bother. “I was born late and if sound check is at 3 pm, I’ll be there at ten past ten, and he’ll be there at least ten,” admits Russell. Except at Proms In The Park when Watson was onstage, and his singing partner was nowhere to be seen.
“The stage manager said, ‘Sorry, we’ll have to present you without Aled’…”
“I had a taxi driver go the wrong way,” explains Jones, 51. “I missed sound check and it was getting close to stage time. I literally got there as he was about to sing and ran onto the stage. I was in tennis shoes and jeans!”
“I said, ‘Thank you for coming,’” laughs Russell. “We did it. Although he was worried. I could almost get away with Volare, but the rest were duets.”
The son of a steelworker, Russell, a brain tumor survivor, “sings like Pavarotti and entertains like Sinatra,” according to the New York Times.
He has performed for three presidents, a pope and several royals, and is the best-selling classical crossover singer of our time; however, he remains resolutely down to earth.
Aled became the world’s most successful child soprano at age 12 and has amassed over forty gold, silver and platinum records. The friends first met at the Royal Albert Hall in 1999, but only got together in 2018 and achieved two Top Ten albums.
Both maintain that they are not joined at the hip, although Aled says that they could start writing together next year.
First, however, is the UK tour: 21 dates, starting at the Manchester Opera House on November 13 and ending at Fairfield Hall, Croydon on December 12.
“Every night will be different,” says Aled. “The set is the same but with the jokes, anything could happen…”
Anything but an appearance by the Traffic Cone, Aled’s alter ego in ITV’s inexplicably popular The Masked Singer. “That costume is back,” he insists.
During the show’s run, Russell came across a huge line of traffic cones on the M6 and sent a picture to Aled with the message: “Look, you’re multiplying!”.
Whats Next? “Al has Classic FM and Songs Of Praise; I have solo projects ahead that we will announce soon. I could do another musical,” says Russell, who played Billy Budd in Chicago for three months this year.
Aled: “The good thing about Chicago is that Russ’s dancing got better.”
“Marginally,” says Russell. “It’s okay when someone tells you what to do. We don’t dance, we make movements and decorations…”
The star claims he only started moving on stage “to dodge the bottles” when he was playing rough pubs in Wythenshawe 30 years ago.
“You’re better when you’ve had a drink,” Aled observes.
Russell: “I think I could get Strictly. I’ve seen Tony Adams. I could do that.
He survived ITV’s I’m A Celebrity last year. How was the rotisserie stale?
“Vile,” he says. “Face down in a tub of blue batter, cheers for that! Growing up in Salford, the ice was always on the inside of the window, but that… I assumed it would be room temperature. I went right under this frozen mass and sucked it up, right up to my nose. I thought I might regurgitate this. It’s pancake juice, we can have pancakes tonight for dessert…”
After the tour, Christmas arrives. “I’m going to have a 100% traditional family Christmas,” says Aled. “I don’t love anything else, just close the door to the world and enjoy it.”
Russell: “I’m exactly the same. We close the front door and that’s it. We don’t watch much TV at Christmas. It’s predominantly about being together.”
Russell, who has two daughters from his first marriage, lives with his second wife, Louise, in Cheshire.
“My wife is crazy about Christmas,” he says. “The planning starts any day now, buying new decorations. Our house is like the illuminations of Blackpool, Christmas trees decorated to the max, a big illuminated statue of a snowman… Needless to say, I sent Aled a picture: ‘We have your match here’… “
He laughs and adds: “I like Christmas, but I always have this feeling of melancholy. I miss my grandparents, but my wife soon gets me out of it.”
Aled married circus trapeze artist Claire in 2001. They have a son and a daughter, actress and singer-songwriter Emilia, and live in London.
Among his holiday plans is “eating a lot and watching garbage on TV.” He says, “I used to love the Only Fools & Horses specials, which were guaranteed to have lots of laughs. We don’t have those big sitcoms anymore, but we still have the movies Home Alone, Elf and all that.”
Wouldn’t you both like to host your own Christmas TV special?
“A great idea,” smiles Aled. “Spread the word!”
Consider it extended.
*Christmas with Aled and Russell is now available through BMG.
#Aled #Jones #Russell #Watson #double #helping #holiday #favorites