Friday, 25 December 2009

Diva of Christmas Past

After a deal to produce her own brand of ketchup, Diana Soss, fell through, Diana Ross had no other option but to 'go fro with it' and release a sublime Christmas album, A Very Secial Season. Her soft whispering sigh is so often underrated with an unmatched ability to soar and land straight back down again - a knack that propelled a late bloom into the lucrative early 90s commercial market for furlorn power ballads. And no one in the world does cooing soggy ballads like Ms. Ross does. Note: if that last sentence was read without motioning a z-snap, do so now.

Her stop-gap holiday album presents itself as warm and tender interpretations of other peoples work - her fine voice does the usual quivering, skimming the surface as always in flighty rapture. On Winter Wonderland, refined and oh-so-lush, the big old lush herself opts to deliver a mischevious sense of drama: not everyone can match the perversity of Annie Lennox, but Ross never loses sight of her impeccable aesthetics. Her flirtatious excitement dwelling on the line 'two hearts are thrillin' sound like the old timer is propositioning a young police officer arresting her for drink driving. Sleigh bells tip-toe on her highly-competent version of Wonderful Christmastime, where her voice has all the giggling confidence and shameless majesty of drink-driver throwing up in her cell.

Sounding like her yoga session is being interrupted, she almost loses it on Happy Christmas (War Is Over). Her serenity comes under fire when her sincerity boils over into a heartwrenching pledge in order to avoid being upstaged by a childrens choir. It is a dramatic thrill for her to come so close to danger and come out the other side wig intact - she must have left the recording booth with more sweat beeding down her than one of her staff daring to make eye contact.

Most surprising is her poignant handling of the tear streamer Ave Maria, and never before has the diva sounded more statue-esque and convincingly humble since admitting to Oprah that in all her years she had learned: "absolutely nothing!"

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