glad tidings of comfort and joy

Last night, I discovered Annie Lennox’s Christmas album. It’s great fun; she takes all the schmaltz out of the seasonal songs and replaces it with pounding drums, African voices and her smooth contralto.

  • – The beautifully lyrical chorus – Il est né le divin enfant, chantons tous son avènement – in the mouths of the South African Children’s Choir, becomes a staccato shout of rebellion, liberation and hope.
  • – In God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, she uses her belting range and her band’s hard-rock drums to pound this old traditional carol into an anthem of tolerance and generosity in a gone-crazy world.
  • – Her Coventry Carol is a hymn of solidarity with women everywhere who have lost their children to the duplicity of men and their religious hypocrisies.
  • – And in The Holly and the Ivy, you can forget pretty; Lennox’s incredible comfort in the lower extremes of her voice produces a solid, dark, male-like timbre as she sings about blood, thorns and bitter gall. 1
  • – But In the Bleak Midwinter her voice is soft, nostalgic for a long-ago time.
  • – In the angelic As Joseph was a Walking, her ability to sing a single syllable while moving between several different notes gives this old Lutheran hymn a haunting beauty.
  • – And her Universal Child – I see the tracks of every tear that ran right down your face – is most definitely the soul of the album. Let’s not forget our Annie is an atheist, this collection is not about the Christmas season.
  • – Of the 12 songs, Angels from the Realm of Glory, See Amid the Winter’s Snow, The First Noel, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, and Silent Night are not used to message. Yes, her powerful voice is still there, but she sings them straight adding no nuance.

After looking at all the images of Lennox online, I settled on the Mapplethorpe photograph. Come on, how can I pass up the opportunity to write about Annie Lennox, Robert Mapplethorpe and Christmas carols? (It’s my answer to, “We’re saying Merry Christmas again.” )

1 The website – Diva Divotee – has great info on Lennox’s unique voice.