Monday, 1 December 2014

CD Review: Idina Menzel – Holiday Wishes

“Hear the song within the silence”

First things first, Idina Menzel scores big brownie points for resisting putting ‘Let It Go’ on her first festive album (though I appreciate the decision may not have been in her control what with Disney/record company issues). Holiday Wishes (or Christmas Wishes as it seems to have been retitled for the UK market, somewhat missing the point that Menzel is Jewish…) is unlikely to convert any naysayers to this most visible of Broadway stars but it ought to, as it is a really decent collection that should appeal to many across the board.

The numbers that get the full-on old-school Broadway treatment emerge as highlights. ‘Silent Night’ may have an unnecessary coda but the whole thing is suffused with such warmth that it almost transforms the song and ‘White Christmas’ is just glorious, all marshmallowy hot-chocolately goodness culminating in a goosebump-inducingly lovely outro. Her relaxed take on ‘What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve’ is a highly classy affair as too is the self-penned ‘December Affair’, the comparative restraint in her performance paying dividends.

She also dips into more interesting waters with a jazz-inflected take on Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ which may lack a little of the outright fun of the original but brings its own musicality and singalong cheeriness. And though the trip into easy listening land with Michael Bublé on ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ is a little predictable, the results just about stay on the right side of glib. Of the bonus tracks which you might need to track down, Laura Nyro’s gorgeous ‘Mother’s Spiritual’ is well done and ‘Let It Snow, Let it Snow, Let It Snow’ is exactly how you’d expect it to be. 

The cumulative effect is thus rather engaging – the classics on here elevated to something special, her sustained tone beautifully enriching ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ and the more secular numbers, like Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ (which does seem to have been largely repurposed as a festive standard these days) soaring in their expansive arrangements. So whether you want to call it Holiday Wishes or Christmas Wishes, you won’t want to let it go once you’ve bought it.


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