BWW CD Reviews: Idina Menzel's HOLIDAY WISHES is Splendidly Mirthful
I still have vivid memories of first discovering Idina Menzel's voice on the 1996 dual disc release RENT (Original Broadway Cast Recording). My obsession with RENT led me to purchase her 1998 album STILL I CAN'T BE STILL, which forever cemented my fandom of the then quasi-unknown Broadway star. In 2003, she sang "I Saw Three Ships" on BROADWAY'S GREATEST GIFTS: CAROLS FOR A CURE, VOLUME V, and left her fans longing for a Christmas/holiday album. Finally, in 2014 our holiday wishes came true when Warner Brothers Records released her mirthfully charming HOLIDAY WISHES.
Holiday albums are a dime a dozen, and all the great stars and divas have at least one tucked into their discography. Whether a vanity project or a gift to fans, people go absolutely crazy for a well-produced holiday record featuring charismatic vocals, and luckily Idina Menzel doesn't disappoint. Whether you first discovered her as Elsa singing "Let It Go" or if you know every lyric to "Straw Into Gold" but are still unsure how she hit that final note, on HOLIDAY WISHES Idina Menzel gives her fans exquisitely radiant performances of classic Christmas and holiday tunes that we already know and love.
To make Idina Menzel's album one you'll keep in your holiday repertoire for years to come Walter Afanasieff cleverly arranged the songs and produced the album to keep her stunning vocal instrument front and center. She delivers soft, flirty vocals on hits like "Baby It's Cold Outside" and showcases her golden belt on bouncy chart toppers like "All I Want For Christmas Is You," which she infuses with subtle jazz touches to make the song her own. Likewise, her vocals shine on her evocative rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Along the way Michael Bublé, and Kenny G join her. Also, her lush rendition of "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" features spectacular trumpet solos by Kent Smith.
The album also packs a couple of surprises, as she sneaks in covers of "When You Wish Upon a Star" and Joni Mitchell's "River." However, the best surprise is the stirring and gorgeous "December Prayer," an original song written by Walter Afanasieff, Idina Menzel, and Charlie Midnight. Following in the footsteps of other Jewish artists who have written "Christmas" songs, Idina Menzel pens a truly lovely ode to the spirit of the Christmas holiday season that is also secular enough to be enjoyed by people of all faiths.
Idina Menzel's HOLIDAY WISHES is filled with all the warmth and mirth one could want and expect from a holiday album. Each track lets her show off the aspects of her voice that made her the star she is. Most importantly, this album is sure to enchant everyone from one to ninety-two, making their 2014 holiday seasons that much brighter. It truly is the Christmas album many of us have been waiting for.