Like Thea Gilmore, Tori Amos broadens her approach to Christmas here to include pre-Christian celebrations, though the mood remains comparatively more religious.
It starts well, with the traditional "What Child, Nowell" arranged for piano, harpsichord and strings, and Amos's vocal harmonies picking out the most moving aspects of the melody; and gets better with "Star of Wonder", in which the pointedly Middle-Eastern flavour of the strings and percussion sets one up perfectly for the warm, epiphanic glow of the familiar refrain. But things start to go awry with "Candle: Coventry Carol", which seems too studied and pedestrian, and an arrangement of "Harps of Gold" which appears to be aiming for the jaunty momentum of "Solsbury Hill", but over-punches in the drum department. And it's probably best to draw a discreet veil over the ghastly big-band blues ballad "Pink and Glitter". But overall, the pluses outweigh the minuses, with further highlights coming courtesy of Amos's own "Winter's Carol" and "A Silent Night with You" – the former blessed with stately, hypnotic grace, while the latter's undulating melody evokes the warmth of a reverie triggered by seasonal radio fare. Elsewhere, "Jeanette, Isabella" is accompanied by a delicate snowfall of piano notes, a lovely touch of aural imagery.
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