Two things strike you as you look at this album – the design has a beautiful charm about it, very striking and suitable for the theme AND it would be hard to pick a more hackneyed choice of songs for inclusion. However context is everything, any reviewer has to ask 1/ what is attempted and 2/ how successful is the project.
Fortunately, Darling’s voice is a breathy delight. This plus some very nice instrumentation saves the day. Admittedly none of the songs are ones I want to ever hear again BUT this is the kind of record you wouldn’t take off the deck once it’s playing, simple as that.
Santa Baby of course evokes Monroe in its melody however Darling croons beautifully over the jazzy arrangement. This song always struck me as absolutely stuffed with double entendres. So congratulations for being able to sing it straight!
White Christmas follows the traditional cadences of the best known versions. Lovely bass playing here, btw. The strings coast away in the middle, just like they should. The overall effect of this material performed this way is like being at a superior hotel function. Very warm and relaxing, one has to concede. Next up is Silent Night and here Sarah makes it sound very heartfelt. A magical rendition, whatever the inspiration..maybe a relative’s favourite song? The piano is outright gorgeous.
Sweet strings introduce the next cut and this is a good attempt at conveying the wonderment of the Season. A voice that never shouts or becomes shrill is such an asset! Winter Wonderland is almost inevitably a tad Disneyfied but that’s the nature of the number. A 50 style guitar solo uses delay for atmosphere. A masterful string arrangement enhances the delivery. The Christmas Song has been done to death and Darling can do nothing to make it special.
I was wondering whether our lass was about to deliver Terry Reid’s song River but no it’s the Joni Mitchell tune, which did always have a Christmas/wintery vibe to it. This is song with great style and feel and benefits from its relative lack of familiarity.
I’ll Be Home For Christmas always sounds better in an Irish accent but is tuneful enough here and the acoustic guitar has a languid charm about it. Finally we have Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, delivered straight. Always seemed to me a drably paced tune given the lyric but then again would we want it Roy Wood-ed? Probably not, eh?
A couple of uptempo items would have helped balance this collection no end but this is a Christmas songs record featuring a tuneful and beguiling singer. Silent Night goes to the top of the tree, for me.
Sarah Darling’s new album ‘Winter Wonderland’ is out now on Be Darling.
In addition, Sarah will be performing a full-band show at Union Chapel, Islington, London, United Kingdom on Monday 5th March 2018. Tickets are priced at £18.70 each (including fees) and are on sale here: http://bit.ly/2B5OddZ
For more information visit her official website here: http://bit.ly/2AVtqJW