This festive season, Collette Cooper provides an alternative take on the familiar deluge of yuletide projects with Darkside Of Christmas. Reflecting the current political and social environment caused by the impact of national and global events, Darkside Of Christmas takes a more poignant approach to the seasonal album, aiming to recognise the recent difficulties that have been felt by many around the world, touching on themes of love, loss and empathy, tied together with wry wit, edgy humour and outstanding musicianship.
While the theme may at first appear saturnine, Darkside Of Christmas’ ultimate sentiment is an uplifting feeling of spirituality and hope, laced with a devil-may-care party spirit designed to unify those who feel that the hour of ‘forced fun’ is upon them. Songs such as ‘Run Santa Baby’, sees old Saint Nick feeling the pinch of frostbite, while Cooper’s rendition of ‘What A Wonderful World’ sails over the sound of an old honky-tonk piano with the odd broken key, conjuring the essence of a singalong around the fire after a few too many glasses of Christmas spirit.
A more personal sentiment is projected on the original track ‘Another Day’ – is dedicated to Collette’s best friend Clare Bonham, who unexpectedly passed away in March 2020 (the last time they spent time together was New Year’s Day 2020), while the classic jazz standard ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ is given a unique treatment with the addition of the melody from ‘Carol Of The Bells’.
Cooper recruited good friend, Richard Harwood, the principle cellist in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (the impact of his unrivalled bowmanship is most intensely felt on their version of ‘Silent Night’). Notable jazz musicians such as Andy Davies, Kevin Davy (trumpets), Liam Stevens and James Pearson (piano) greatly enhance the recoding with both their individual and collective dexterity and flair, while the mellifluous tones of The Kings Voices Gospel Choir add vibrancy and warmth.
The final jewel in the crown is the addition of legendary British actor Ray Winstone, who introduces the album by reciting an original poem by Collette Cooper, setting the tone for what is to come.
Primarily recorded at Abbey Road and Dean Street Studios, with original artwork by the acclaimed photographer Rankin, Darkside Of Christmas is a distinctive and stylish work, destined to indulge all of this years’ Scrooges and maybe a few Tiny Tim’s for good measure!