TARJA – From Spirits And Ghosts [Score For A Dark Christmas] (2017)
If there was any selection of tunes in need of a major kick in the azz it is Christmas music. It is a good thing for this beleaguered sub-genre that renowned Finnish vocalist TARJA Turunen is here to provide the necessary jolt. Seeing the light of day on November 17th, 2017 through earMusicC, “From Spirits and Ghosts (Score For A Dark Christmas)” shows the versatile vocalist continue to shape her solo career into new horizons, this time channeling some well-known holiday standards through her own creative lens.
Possessing a sublime classical trained voice that can effortlessly switch between moods, and a predisposition towards gothic grandeur, guessing how these cover versions will be slanted is a simple task.
Critically, though, the arrangements have been a labor of love, as each song is sublimely layered, with the orchestral backdrop providing a suitable match for Turunen’s vocals.
There’s also a darkness that permeates, and Turunen has declared that the songs are for those “lonely people that do not find joy in the blinking lights and the jingle bells”.
It’s laudable that she’s achieved that aim, as transferring the inherent, upbeat merriment of ‘Feliz Navidad’ into a brooding, introspective lament isn’t something every artist could achieve.
At times, there’s a claustrophobia that surrounds the songs, with ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ possessing the aura of a drama movie soundtrack.
Indeed, that lack of festive cheer could be off-putting to some, but that’s exactly the point. Quite whether the “lonely people” Tarja targets will quite grasp the nuances of the album, rather than calling the Samaritans’ Christmas Helpline, remains to be seen.
‘Deck The Halls’ resonates with a creepy beauty, and the sole original track, ‘Together’, sits faultlessly alongside such traditional standards and proves her ability as a shrewd songwriter.
Seeing TARJA doing a Xmas album truly surprised me. But in a good way. She has made these traditional songs her own, and with an incredible twist: happy songs turned darker.
As festive albums go, this is a beguiling and often intriguing collection. Different for sure, and very, very well done.
01 – O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
02 – Together
03 – We Three Kings
04 – Deck the Halls
05 – Pie Jesu
06 – Amazing Grace
07 – O Tannenbaum
08 – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
09 – God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
10 – Feliz Navidad
11 – What Child Is This
12 – We Wish You a Merry Christmas