Album: Cliff Richard

Cliff at Christmas, EMI
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The Independent Culture

Cliff has already opened his presents, judging by the cover shot of him leaning against a Yuletide backdrop in a pastel-blue sweater that only an aunt could have chosen. It's the kind of knitwear usually seen slung around the shoulders of some languid preppie, but Cliff's (doubtless reluctant) accession to donning it shows he has a keen regard for the sensibilities of his ageing, MOR fanbase. Whether they're prepared for the "modern" content is another matter: some tracks almost sound hip, though most of the new material remains mired in the Eighties, with, tinny drum-machine programmes and keyboard arrangements that even Phil Collins would blush to employ. "Children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow," sings Cliff in "White Christmas", but they'll not be agog to hear these ghastly keyboard sounds, or the excruciating whiter-than-white reggae version of "Mary's Boy Child". This year's Christmas single, "Santa's List", is the equal of "Saviour's Day" and "The Millennium Prayer" as regards self-important bombast, a peace-on-earth anthem that might sound persuasive were it not for the crusade being waged by the West's two most powerful born-again Christians. Although, just for a moment, I thought I heard Cliff sing: "We don't need Ameri-Christmas."

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