Album reviews: From John Legend to Andrea Bocelli
US singer-songwriter John Legend has delivered perhaps the best present ever this year with his first Christmas album, while new efforts from Andrea Bocelli and Thom Yorke have also delighted this week
John Legend - A Legendary Christmas
From the very first note, you can tell this is going to be a modern classic Christmas album... What Christmas Means To Me even has Stevie Wonder on harmonica — talk about starting strong.
Silver Bells is equally as great, and it makes you wonder why it has taken so long for the critically acclaimed, multi-platinum singer-songwriter to record these classic tracks. The upbeat funkiness of the first two tracks drops with a smooth and jazzy Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, featuring singer and bassist Esperanza Spalding, and this continues with the rich and bluesy Merry Christmas Baby. The depth of Nat King Cole’s classic Chestnuts is sublime.
This album just screams gingerbread and hot chocolate, roaring fires and blankets. Out of this seasonal world.
- Rachel Howdle
John Carpenter - Halloween Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Horror fans were excited when the news was announced that not only would John Carpenter be involved in the new Halloween movie, he would also be composing the soundtrack. Despite the seemingly never-ending number of films in the franchise, Carpenter hasn’t been involved in the canon he created since Halloween III in 1982.
Fresh from the success of his Lost Themes series and remakes of some of his classic themes — made with his son, Cody, and Daniel Davies — the trio have worked together again to put together a soundtrack worthy of the horror classic.
Four decades since the original, his budget may have greatly increased, but the spirit is the same, with pulsating Moog and Roland keyboards, mellotrons and pianos recreating elements of the original score, alongside dramatic, chilling new elements.
Perfect late-night listening for the season of the witch.
- Rob Barker
Andrea Bocelli - Si
A whopping 14 years since he last released an album of new music, Andrea Bocelli’s Si reminds the listener that the Italian singer’s voice is as beautiful, as rich and as powerful as ever.
What makes this record exciting is Bocelli’s work with a range of young artists. Fall On Me, a duet with his son, Matteo, is a moving piece which highlights the bond between father and son, and showcases the younger singer’s potential and talent.
Similarly, Bocelli’s collaboration with Ed Sheeran on Amo Soltanto Te seamlessly blends the voices and the styles of these two icons, illustrating the individuality and ability of both.
However, other pairings are less successful. Dua Lipa is drowned out by Bocelli’s strength and pales in comparison on If Only. And, while Raphael Gualazzi’s piano accompaniment is undeniably impressive on Vertigo, his style seems to clash with Bocelli’s vocals.
On the whole Si is beautifully classic: simple, yet astonishing. Bocelli does not disappoint, but a few of those collaborations could have been solo efforts.
- Victoria Seveno
The Kingdom Choir - Stand By Me
There is very, very little to dislike about the debut album from The Kingdom Choir, perhaps the most famous gospel choir in the world at the moment thanks to their not-so-minor appearance at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in May.
If you were one of the few who didn’t watch the occasion, you’re in for a treat. The London-based choir, founded in the mid-1990s by Karen Gibson, performed a rousing rendition of Stand By Me inside Windsor Castle, sealing their fate for ever.
If you want to hear completely new, unusual, genre-bending versions of well-known hits, you’ve come to the wrong place. But otherwise, this record is truly a delight and a testament to the choir, who are still trying to digest their sudden global fame.
- Lucy Mapstone
Thom Yorke - Suspiria
Brooding, disconnected, an ever-present sense of dread and paranoia ... it’s not too hard to imagine why Luca Guadagnino, the Italian director behind the new remake of 1977 horror classic Suspiria, was so set on having Thom Yorke write the music for him.
The Radiohead singer’s 23-track album — his first full film score — takes in a range of influences from choral to Krautrock, and offers a chance to take his experimental sensibilities one step further, away from the constraints of the popular album format.
Does an Oscar beckon? It’ll certainly be up there. Either way, this is a worthy addition to an already glittering back catalogue.
- Stephen Jones