Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Artist: Sarah McLachlan
Album Title: Wintersong
Genre: Pop/Christmas
Arista Records

When did I buy it?: I bought it in December of 2006, just a couple months after it was released.

Why did I buy it?: I like Sarah McLachlan, and I needed to get a Christmas album. This was my first.

What are the best songs?: I honestly like the non-traditional songs here the best. Perhaps the best song on the album is the warm, wonderful version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas." Sarah's voice on this song is as sweet as a candy cane. "River," a cover of Joni Mitchell, gives Sarah a chance to show her vocal talents. The same applies for "The First Noel/Mary Mary," which Sarah turns into an intense tribal-sounding showcase. It is the most daring of the songs on this collection.

"Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" is even better than John Lennon's version. It is a wonderful start to the album, and Sarah treats it with respect. "What Child Is This? (Greensleeves)" is very haunting, a contrast to the happy Christmas songs played over the radio this month. "Christmas Time Is Here" injects a bit of jazz into the mix, and features the wonderful Diana Krall on piano.

Any bad stuff?: I'm not a big fan of "I'll Be Home For Christmas," and Sarah doesn't do anything interesting with it. "In The Bleak Mid-Winter" sums up much of the mood of this album - subdued and bleak. I think Sarah could have put a couple happier, fun songs to break up the mood.

Overall thoughts: Sarah McLachlan's voice is perfect for Christmas songs. She can take any melody and make it sound great. She takes old favorites and new discoveries and makes them all sound like classics. This album is full of lullabies and soft piano, making this a more contemplative Christmas album. It's a good album to put on when you've had enough of the rushing, shopping and baking and want to slow things down.

Sarah McLachlan is not a big risk-taker, and most of the songs here play it fairly safe. Don't expect to hear fanciful interpretations of songs you know and love already (except for "The First Noel"). What you will find is a collection of Christmas songs done in a serious manner, without the hokey, cheesy plastic layer that so many Christmas classics have obtained over the years. Sarah brings things back to basics and does it well.

Sarah wrote her own original for this collection, the title track "Wintersong." It sounds just how a Sarah McLachlan Christmas song should. Perhaps someday in the future it will become a new classic covered by other artists on collections such as this.

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