The Christmas album is something of a tried and tested formula. There are enough standards out there now to fill any artist’s album effortlessly, and fans never complain about the cheese factor at this time of year. However, as it has been proven time and again, sticking to the tried and tested formula often leads to short-term interest and bargain bin status before Christmas even hits. However, in amongst the mix this year is a surprising release. Tom Chaplin, the former frontman of every Dad’s favourite pop rock outfit Keane, has delivered an understated, not too schmaltzy collection that is destined to be a Christmas classic.
Primarily centred on new compositions, Chaplin has cleverly selected four covers to be included in the collection. While everyone already knows and loves East 17’s Stay Another Day, in Chaplin’s hands it is taken to a whole new level. This may always be a slightly cheesy Christmas classic, but the emotional depth of track married with an almost stoic production makes for a truly haunting and unforgettable listen. To say that his rendition of Joni Mitchell’s River is magical would be a cruel understatement. Yet it is the unrecognisable Walking In The Air, which will leave you awe-struck.
The remainder of the album is built around original compositions. These songs share both the magic of Christmas, and a raw realism that can be found throughout his back catalogue. He has the voice of an angel but a heart driven by the reality of living. This is not an album that transports to a far off land of make believe, but one that instead focuses on the real warmth of the festive period that has shades of dark as much as it does light.
Lead single Under A Million lights is the perfect example of what the album contains. With realistic lyrics married with musical magic, this will give you the warm and fuzzy feeling but not leave you with sugar shivers.
While the shimmering London Lights shines brightly as one of the album’s finest moment, it is the poignant We Remember You This Christmas that leaves you truly breathless. Elsewhere Follow My Heart, which harks back to mid-period Keane, will have Chaplin’s fans of old cheering and swaying in perfect time.