ARTIST: Susan Boyle
TITLE: “Home For Christmas”
LABEL: Columbia Records
STYLE: Majestic Vocal Christmas
NOTABLE: As she was on her first Christmas album, 2010’s “The Gift,” Boyle is backed by orchestras, choirs, and arrangements that are thicker and richer than fruitcake. While “The Gift” included such non-holiday songs as the Crowded House hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day,” the song selection is more traditional this time around.
Johnny Mathis, with whom Boyle recorded a version of “Do You Hear What I Hear” that appears on his new “Sending You a Little Christmas” album, repays the favor and duets with Boyle on “When a Child Is Born.” Studio magic also allows Boyle to sing with Elvis Presley on a powerful rendition of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” that is a vast improvement over the version (with Olivia Newton-John) that appeared on “Christmas Duets,” and even trumps The King’s original take with the Jordanaires.
“Little Drummer Boy” features British vocal group the Overtones. “Miracle Hymn” is an original song featured on the soundtrack from the new movie “The Christmas Candle,” in which Boyle makes her film debut.
HIGH POINTS: Boyle’s voice remains breathtakingly lovely. In addition to the aforementioned duets with Presley and Mathis, highlights include a folky, acoustic guitar and violin version of “I Believe in Father Christmas,” and a similarly simple arrangement of “The Christmas Waltz,” which features Boyle’s warmest vocal performance on the album. Boyle sings the original, melancholy lyrics on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
LOW POINT: Looking for holly-jolly Christmas music? Look elsewhere. Boyle gravitates toward austere ballads and reverential hymns. While she sings with technical precision, her voice lacks emotion and her phrasing is safe and conventional.
On bittersweet songs like “I Believe in Father Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Boyle hits all the correct notes, but the sound of her voice never reflects the meaning of her words.
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