A WIZZARD IDEA, TOM

A Christ­mas al­bum? That’s...

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - MUSIC -

When it comes to mu­sic, we’re all haunted by the ghost of Christ­mas past. At carol ser­vices we ex­pect the old chest­nuts. On the day, Top Of The Pops re­turns to show Sounds Like Fri­day Night how it’s done. In the charts, the sounds of the Seven­ties ring out yet again. All to­gether now: I wish it could be Wizzard ev­ery year.

This time, there are some new Christ­mas songs, thanks to an un­likely saviour. Tom Chap­lin, of Keane, hails from the land of in­die, which usu­ally leaves Christ­mas to the pop stars. And where he once re­sem­bled a rosy-cheeked cherub, he now bears the scars of some bat­tles with drugs.

Still, he has two vi­tal qual­i­fi­ca­tions for the job: the voice of an an­gel, and an eye for life as it really is. In his Twelve Tales, Chap­lin is nei­ther dream­ing of a white Christ­mas, nor sim­ply hav­ing a won­der­ful Christ­mas time.

As the dad of a small daugh­ter, he’s not im­mune to the charms of the sea­son. Son­i­cally, this al­bum is de­scended from Greg Lake’s I Be­lieve In Fa­ther Christ­mas, with its sub­tle shim­mer. But lyri­cally, it leans to­wards Wham!’s Last Christ­mas, with a sense of the dark­ness that lurks be­hind the tin­sel.

‘There’s a bit­ter­sweet qual­ity to this time of year,’ Chap­lin says, ‘that made me want to ex­plore the themes of love, lost love and re­mem­ber­ing those we have lost.’ That’s a lot of loss, and it brings depth to the eight new songs here.

There’s also a dash of the earthy re­al­ism that has made the Pogues’ Fairy­tale Of New York so in­dis­pens­able. The first sin­gle, Un­der A Mil­lion Lights, is be­guil­ing but blunt: ‘It’s easy to think we’re screwed/Read­ing the front-page news.’

The four cov­ers are thought­ful choices, rang­ing from Joni Mitchell (River) to East 17 (Stay An­other Day). The Pre­tenders’ 2000 Miles is there too, but best of all is a sugar-free ver­sion of Howard Blake’s Walk­ing In The Air. It de­serves to vie with Wham! for Christ­mas No 1.

TIM DE LISLE

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