Disclaimer: Please note: I know nothing about writing a critique of music, so for those of you out there who are musicologists or artists, please forgive my bumbling efforts to describe this excellent album.
If you're looking for an album worthy of your Christmas music collection, then run, don't walk, to your nearest, dearest CD vendor and buy Sarah McLachlan's pop holiday album, Wintersong.
This album breathes new life into many of the otherwise rote Christmas standards you've been listening to for years. While there are undercurrents of McLachlan's trademark breathiness, this album is robust and straightforward. It's also a much quieter, reflective album than I had expected.
The album begins with a matter-of-fact rendition of John Lennon's Happy Xmas (War is Over) that sets the tone of hopefulness for the entire musical experience. She follows this up with a melodic harmonized version of What Child Is This? that is unlike any previous recording you've heard.
River leads next and, for anyone who's ever lived in tropical-like climes and wished for snow at Christmas, this song will tug at your heart. The title track, Wintersong, is picturesque and lovely, but sad as it speaks of lost love in the midst of joy and celebration.
McLachlan's version of I'll Be Home for Christmas is quiet and warm, but certainly ranks right up there with Perry Como's version as a classic that invokes all those feelings about Christmas with family and things familiar that many of us miss and wish at this time of year.
The First Noel/Mary, Mary is a mix of a new agey rendering of the traditional hymn and a Negro spiritual in a blend that is stirring and haunting. This selection does a great job of highlighting McLachlan's range and talent--sort of like Enya meets Etta.
Her version of Silent Night isn't like any of the other 40+ versions I have in my iTunes collection. She sings the harmony and slightly ahead of the music on this one, and while that might be annoying by any other artist, it plays well here.
Other songs on the album include:
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Song for a Winter's Night
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
In the Bleak Mid-Winter
Christmas Time is Here (featuring Diana Krall)
Each is unique in its own right. In the hands of McLachlan they acquire a warmth and newness that leaves you wanting to wrap up in a warm throw with a cup of your favorite hot holiday beverage and listen to her honey voice over and over again.
As I said, run, don't walk. If you love Christmas music, this album is a must for your collection.