Susan Boyle is one of the most inspiring success stories of the decade.
When the plain but cheeky woman walked out onto the stage on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, everyone expected an almost instantaneous rejection. Then, when she belted out “I Dreamed a Dream,” from Les Miserables, in a voice as beautiful and powerful as any Broadway star’s, the audience and all the viewers got a stunning reminder of the old adage, “never judge a book by its cover.”
Since that triumph, Boyle has gone on to record five albums, including this year’s Home for Christmas. While last year’s The Gift had a seasonal theme, Home for Christmas is completely made up of Christmas songs, with one exception.
A Duet with Elvis
This new album features 12 stirring Christmas selections. Three of them feature her singing in tandem with other artists like the Overtones, Johhny Mathis and the late Elvis Presley.
The practice of pairing a current-day singer with someone posthumously was popularized when Natalie Cole did a duet of “Unforgettable” with her father, the late, great Nat King Cole, in 1991. Boyle isn’t the first singer to pair up with Elvis since he passed away in 1977. Celine Dion sang with him on American Idol and his daughter, Lisa Marie, did a duet of “In the Ghetto” with her dad at a Presley Foundation fundraiser.
Boyle does a great job of adding her vocals to Presley’s 1971 recording of “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful.” The voices blend very well together, making this a fitting tribute to both the King of Rock and Roll and the King of Kings. Boyle is donating the royalties for this particular track to the Save the Children charity.
The Johnny Mathis duet works very well, too, as Boyle shows once again that she’s not just a solo artist. Her voice pairs up very nicely on both of these shared tracks.
Good Mix of Songs
Most of the songs on this album have a decidedly retro feel, like Boyle’s rendition of “The Christmas Song.” The arrangement, as well as Boyle’s singing, makes it something that could easily fit into the Bing Crosby era of the 1940s or 1950s.
Home for Christmas is heavy on songs that focus on the true, Christ-centered meaning of the season, like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “The Little Drummer Boy” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” but it also includes secular standards like “The Christmas Song,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” This makes it a nicely balanced album that keeps Christ in Christmas while tossing in something to appeal to everyone.
Perhaps one of the best things about Home for Christmas is the fact that it also throws in some lesser known, but still beautiful, Christmas songs. Perhaps the most notable is “In the Bleak Midwinter,” a ballad-style song that’s almost tailor-made for Boyle’s angelic voice. She also sings an original, “The Miracle Hymn,” that comes from her 2013 movie The Christmas Candle, about angelic visits.
One Non-Christmas Selection
Boyle also includes a song without a Christmas tie-in, even though it’s certainly a Jesus-centered choice: The Lord’s Prayer. The classic prayer taught by Jesus to His Disciples has been recorded many times before and even soared to number four on the American Billboard charts when performed by Sister Janet Mead in 1973. Boyle’s rendition is certainly competent but not particularly compelling. The Christmas music is the star, and this track feels like more of an afterthought.
Most of the songs are slow and soothing, but some of them get rather jaunty. The best example of this is Boyle’s energetic rendition of “I Believe in Father Christmas,” which manages to be both respectful and upbeat at the same time.
A Great Gift Idea
Overall, Home for Christmas is a perfect stocking stuffer for Susan Boyle fans, although you might want to opt for an iTunes gift card rather than a CD if your recipient prefers the digital route.
You’ll also want to add it to your music library if you’re a fan yourself, or even if you just want something to put on in the background. It’s a pleasant, soothing album that makes a perfect melodic backdrop for your Christmas celebration, with something to appeal to everyone.
Here’s the complete track list:
1) O Come, All Ye Faithful, 2:54
2) The Lord’s Prayer, 3:45
3) Little Drummer Boy, 3:35
4) I’ll Be Home for Christmas, 3:08
5) When a Child Is Born, 3:17
6) The Christmas Song, 2:36
7) I Believe in Father Christmas, 3:29
8) Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, 2:50
9) Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, 3:45
10) The Christmas Waltz, 2:35
11) In the Bleak Midwinter, 3:31
12) Miracle Hymn, 2:57
So, if you’re not buying this for yourself, it’s sure to bring joy to the ears of those who receive it from you under the Christmas tree this year.