As Christmas approaches I thought it would be an ideal time to review a festive album that was actually released in time for last Christmas, but one that is back in the shops for this Christmas too.
Tracey Thorn has been making music since the early 1980's but despite reasonable commercial successful as half of the band Everything but the Girl she has never really established herself as a household name. Instead she has enjoyed a loyal following from a dedicated group of fans, throughout her long career.
Tinsel and Lights is Tracey's first attempt at a festive album, but anyone who is familiar with her bittersweet lyrics and unique vocal compositions, which were described as being like Sade in the eighties, like Dido in the nineties, etc. when in fact she's been around much longer than both of these artists and most of the other female vocalists she's been described as being similar too. Her own influences cover a wide range of well known and lesser known artists from the last five decades so whilst I was initially surprised to discover Tracey Thorn had jumped on the Xmas album bandwagon I was less surprised to hear that it would feature a selection of her favourite covers along with a few new songs of her own, including the song from which the album takes its name "Tinsel and Lights".
The album opens with "Joy" one of her own songs that is both melancholic and uplifting. As always it in the lyrics where her strengths lie. How many other artists could pull off a Christmas song about a loved ones battle with cancer? In Joy we hear that they've been given the all clear just before Christmas, hence the joy.
Elsewhere on the album there are covers of the White Stripes "In the cold cold night". Joni Mitchell's "River" and Ron Sexsmiths "Maybe this Christmas". Despite such an odd collection of very different tracks they have each been given the magic of Tracey's vocals and sit together perfectly. On "Taking down the tree" Tracey Thorn is joined by the vocals of Green Gartside from the eighties band Scritti Politti who's own song "Snow in Sun" she has also covered on this album.
The purists out there might argue that some of the tracks are not true Christmas songs. This is true but also something that Tracey was quick to justify, explaining that they are all songs with the very least a winter theme. There are songs about snow and frozen rivers sitting among more traditional Xmas lyrics.
The full tracklist of Tinsel of Lights is as follows:
Hard Candy Christmas
Like a Snowman
Maybe this Christmas
In the cold, cold night
Snow in sun
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Tinsel and lights
Taking down the tree
Tracey Thorn is quoted recently as saying that she always wanted to make a Christmas record but always forgot until she started to hear other festive songs and by then it was too late. This time to make sure she didn't forget she recorded most of the tracks at the beginning of the year and the album was more or less complete by the end of February 2012.
I wasn't sure if a Christmas album from Tracey Thorn would work, but even after its very first play I wasn't disappointed. I'm sure I'll be listening to it again and again each and every other Christmas.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Hard Candy Christmas
3 Like A Snowman
4 Maybe This Christmas
5 In The Cold, Cold Night
7 Snow In Sun
8 Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
9 Tinsel And Lights
11 Taking Down The Tree (ft Green Gartside)
12 Sister Winte