Release Date: Nov 16, 2010
Record label: Decca
Genre(s): Holiday, Pop/Rock, Holidays, Christmas, Carols
Most artists treat Christmas albums as toss-offs; something to get into the marketplace and have on the shelf when punters come in and snap up the holiday offerings. There is usually little forethought, production and arrangements are entrusted to studio stalwarts who paint by numbers. Annie Lennox doesn't fit this mold remotely. She considered a Christmas Cornucopia with all the intuitive care and devotion her other studio albums reflect.
Lennox can't help make everything she sings sound effortful and ablaze with righteousness, but her first festive album makes a virtue of it by pairing that commanding voice with carols that have stood the test of centuries. The result is a collection you might actually play at other times of the year, too. Despite the contributions of a 30-piece orchestra and the African Children's Choir, much of the album has an appealingly spare, folk-songy quality – the couple of instances in which she goes for a full-on rock treatment are jarring and wrong.
For an artist whose most famous (only?) contribution to contemporary holiday music is Eurythmics’s synth-pop rendition of “Winter Wonderland,” Annie Lennox’s A Christmas Cornucopia is surprisingly non-secular. There’s no mention of Santa Claus, no talk of sleigh rides or snowmen. Eleven of the album’s 12 songs revolve around Jesus Christ’s birth, which purists will say is the way it should be.
2009’s crop of Christmas albums were a typically mixed bag, encompassing the good (Tori Amos’s Midwinter Graces, Sting’s underrated If on a Winter’s Night…), the bland (Neil Diamond’s A Cherry Cherry Christmas) and the plain ugly (Bob Dylan’s Christmas in the Heart). Although it has some significant problems (more of which anon), Annie Lennox’s A Christmas Cornucopia looks likely to be one of this year’s superior offerings. Reuniting Lennox with Mike Stevens, co-producer of her last studio album, 2007’s erratic Songs of Mass Destruction, the new album is Lennox’s first release on Universal.
Like gifts themselves, Christmas albums shouldn’t be obligations, though they all too often are. And also like gifts, the ones worth receiving and embracing are those that in spite of the familiar structure, find new ways to deliver old thrills. Or even, sometimes, new thrills. Or even more ….
Could be as much a part of the holiday season as arguments with loved ones. Ian Wade 2010 Annie Lennox would probably hate being called a grand old dame of British pop, but there’s no two ways about it – she is. Inspiring deep devotion among a large section of the public – who have her on a time-share with Kate Bush – there’s enough in the worldwide sales of 85 million and more to suggest she’s quite popular.