Album Review: Alexander Armstrong – In A Winter Light

In Albums, London theatre, Opinion, Reviews by Ian FosterLeave a Comment

“I was following the pack.”

Alexander Armstrong has many a string to his bow – actor, comedian, presenter and singer – and following a couple of albums that have hit the Top 10, he now makes the move that seem de rigeur for the middle-aged male entertainer this year, in releasing his first Christmas album In A Winter Light.

The album is nearly completely stymied by its song selection, misguidedly mishmashing its genres so that we’re taken from traditional carols to easy listening to the Fleet Foxes to original compositions pastiching them all. A different kind of performer might have been able to tie such a collection together but there’s a stiff formality to Armstrong’s singing that means he is not the one.

There are some beautiful moments here, mainly reflecting the years he has spent performing in choirs. The exaltation of ‘O Holy Night’ soars with the assistance of the Trebles of The Choir of New College Oxford, the simplicity of ‘Silent Night’ is enhanced by the big band of The Royal Air Force Squadronaires and his baritone suits ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ perfectly.

But the Fleet Foxes’ gorgeous ‘White Winter Hymnal’ is rendered with a painfully enunciated precision and that same stiffness plagues the likes of ‘The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)’ and ‘Let It Snow’, recalling nothing so much as a grim determination that show that he’s no fuddy-duddy. It doesn’t work. As for including the light jazz of ‘Little Girl Blue’, too much eggnog must have drink that day.

The sad thing is that it’s completely unnecessary too – there’s nothing wrong with the solemnity of choral beauty. The brief instrumental passages set the tone perfectly and if he’d played to his strengths, utilising the much-trumpeted classical training as in Herbert Howells’ ‘A Spotless Rose’ or even his own track ‘This Glorious Morrow’, In A Winter Light would have been a much more effective album

Ian Foster on FacebookIan Foster on RssIan Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."
Read more...

Tags: , , ,

Ian Foster on FacebookIan Foster on RssIan Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."

Leave a Comment