I've always loved listening (and dancing!) to Annie's music, so I was excited enough to order this far before its release. After giving it a listen, I'm ambivalent about this CD. The mixture of Christmas songs is very interesting -- traditional carols along with more unusual ones mixed in -- and the arrangements are so creative to be nearly startling. For example, Annie chose the less traditional Forest Green melody for Track #10, "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem," and weaves African drumming, penny whistle, and other embellishments into other tracks. There are small, delightful surprises in the way that each song unfolds.
While these ingredients and arrangements *should* have resulted in a 5-star album, what detracts (and distracts) from the music is, surprisingly, Annie's singing; every song is belted out at full throttle, on 8 cylinders. It's the equivalent of a bright, unrelenting sun that makes you squint. I know: that's how she sings. But some of these songs beg for softer expression, or at least nuance, and yet there's almost no varying from the FORCE with which she sings.
(The other distraction: on track #1, she sings "excelsis" wrong -- or else this word is pronounced very differently in the UK than in the US.)
I'm glad to have this in my music library, but it won't get played as often as my other Christmas music.
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