Tori Amos - Midwinter Graces
While at first glance, Tori Amos might seem like an unlikely candidate to release a Christmas record, and indeed the announcement was pretty out of the blue, she's got previous. When her first album was released, she released a relatively straightforward cover of 'Little Drummer Boy', while a decade ago, she released a truly haunting version of 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas'. As a b-Side. In April.
It is an unwritten law of reviewing a Tori Amos record that the word kooky must be used. So here it is. If there's one thing that Midwinter Graces isn't, it's kooky. This is perhaps the most straightforward album, both musically and lyrically that she has ever produced. Anyone concerned that she might have made a self-consciously unusual festive album will be disappointed.
In fact, it's curiously traditional in almost every way. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given her obvious interest in such themes and her upbringing, the album embraces the religious elements of Christmas, frequently interpreting and referencing favourite carols. Here a snippet of 'We Three Kings', there a bit of 'The Holly & The Ivy'. It owes more to Bing Crosby, than, say, Slade. There's all-new original material here, too, though. The sweet love song of 'A Silent Night With You', and the jazzy, stylish 'Pink and Glitter' are particularly strong.
It's refreshing, too, to have a Tori Amos album free of padding. Her recent discs have had more than a hint of filler - these 12 songs don't outstay their welcome in the same way. While it's unlikely to win her any new converts, non-fans exposed to the record won't find it as dense or impenetrable as some of her studio work.