This is Susan's second album, and is said to have more of a 1960's feel to it, now that she's becoming more comfortable with the studio and professional singing in general. It did very well on the charts, though for shorter periods of time than her first album did, hitting #1 in several countries, including the Billboard 200.
Anywhos, here's the Spotify link, and here's an intro video!
"Hallelujah," originally from our old buddy Leonard Cohen (yes, I feel like I get to claim friendship with artists who I've reviewed at some point), is the second song on the album. And yes, you know this from beyond Christmas. It's one of the absolutely best songs ever. It's one of simply music and feeling, and life itself. Now, the critical part here - I'm not happy with the tone of Susan's voice at all. It's like a choir girl, and that kind of voice has no business singing a song that requires so much more feeling. This is not "I Dreamed a Dream" level of thought and power, and that's a shame, because that's actually what this song deserves.
Susan held a YouTube contest for fans to sing a duet with her. The winner of this was 33-year-old Amber Stassi, who got to work with Susan on "Do You Hear What I Hear?" Together, they have created an entirely classic sounding version of the song, much like versions you've probably heard throughout many a December evening. It's lovely and sweet, just as the song should be in every way. If you're looking for a new arrangement, this is not the place to find it, but it is a great addition to your Christmas playlist for the background ambiance of dinner. Please tell me other people slave over those lists too.
"Don't Dream It's Over" should sound pretty familiar. Originally performed by Crowded House, it was made far more popular by a band in recent memory, Sixpence None The Richer. It's still a great song, lyrically. Now, this particular arrangement? It's okay. It's just not great. And not really fitting for a holiday album in the least bit. However, again, the choir that accompanies Susan is the thing that makes it just Holiday-esq enough to, I suppose, be fitting. The song itself is honestly just making me want to fall asleep with its airy nature though.
I remember the N*Sync version of "The First Noel" being fantastic and unique with their five voices. This one employs the choir of ghostly voices under a very light-sounding Susan. It's a very soft-spoken version of the song, with little to grasp onto as a celebratory song of the season. And someone needs to teach Susan that, while she can hit pretty high notes, it's not always necessary or fitting.
"O Holy Night" is a much more powerful display for Susan. She brings it out loud when it's needed, and is impressive in some spots. She relies on going to that head voice a little much, but this song remains the best emotionally that the album has had to offer yet. It took a while, but she found a great place in this song. Finally, the Susan I remember being impressed by from the beginning.
The first song I ever played on the piano was "Away in a Manger." Ah, fond memories of a piano teacher in a tiny house in Pleasentville. A child starts this version - I'd bet money on it. This is not the typical song you know of - mostly because it relies so much more on the unknown verses you only see in the hymnals this time of year. And Susan isn't helping things by holding back so much, basically whispering the words as she goes. Come on girl, praise for God's sake. So grateful... that this one's over. Ugh, I'm going to hell...
"Make Me A Channel of Your Peace," an old Christian hymn, serves as the next piece. I would have thought it was a song from The Lion King soundtrack at first, the way there was a build with the choir. But no, it's just another hymn we have to crank the volume up for because apparently Susan only has momentary projection abilities. If I hadn't seen the note of it being a hymn, I would have actually just assumed it to be a contemporary Christian song. It doesn't ring the way the hymns do, and almost sounds radio-worthy. Except that whole pesky feeling and projection loss thing.
Perhaps more appropriate as the final song, but second to last here, is "Auld Lang Syne." Sorry, just a personal opinion given how the season falls. Anywhos, it does sound nice as a light beginning, and then the slight build, well, I'll deem it downright appropriate. There's always a solemness that's just right for this song. Susan pretty much hits it here - well done girl. I appreciate the chance to think back on New Years for a minute, especially given this last one. Ah, fond memories of friends and happiness.
"O Come All Ye Faithful" is the final song on this album. Again, I think a song earlier or at least a switch would have been nice. It starts a cappella, with a decent amount of ambiance placed on her vocals, given the effect of a choir hall. Other voices join, layering this song the way a gorgeous choir only can. The key change is rough, but welcome once it settles. It's a very pretty ending.
Added to My Playlist:
- "Auld Lang Syne"