Barbara Cook

Count Your Blessings

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Barbara Cook addresses seasonal music in a variety of moods and settings on Count Your Blessings. The Broadway Inspiration Voices, a 12-member, male chorus, joins her on the title song, "O Holy Night," "Silent Night," and the late-'50s McGuire Sisters song "May You Always," adding a reverent tone to the religious songs and a jovial one to the pop tunes. "I Wonder as I Wonder," "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," Amy Grant's "Breath of Heaven," and the album-closing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" employ a spare accompaniment of one or two instruments (or are rendered a cappella), giving them an intimate feel. Otherwise, Cook is backed by an orchestra in detailed orchestrations by Larry Blank that support her voice well. It is that easily identifiable voice of hers that is the album's major asset, however. Cook's warmth and sincerity as a singer (as well as her sense of fun) make her an ideal performer of Christmas music, be it sacred or secular. She is particularly affecting on the several songs that date from the 1940s and '50s (a golden age of Christmas songs), particularly "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," imparting the bittersweet tone of the original (which appeared during the war years). She joins in on a recent trend in holiday collections, incorporating songs that aren't really Christmas tunes, but that fit the mood of the season, such as "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," "May You Always," and even "Count Your Blessings" (which, although used in the 1954 film White Christmas, does not refer to the holidays directly). But that doesn't harm the overall impact of the album, which is one of the better Christmas discs of the early 21st century.

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