CD: Whitney Houston, One Wish

Also reviewed: Ashanti, Ashanti's Christmas

Soul princesses and Christmas albums go together, for some reason, like P Diddy and mink gaiters, and here two generations stick their tinselly oar in.

For Houston, especially, it's a chance to prove that she's still up to it. Straightforward renditions of 11 festive baubles - how hard can it be? And that's the problem: stuff like this is so piddling for her that she seems to have zoned out halfway through. Why put any elbow grease into the "project" when all she need do is set her larynx to "reverent," then doze off? Saying that, she gives Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas some a cappella welly, and the cocktail doo-wop of O Come, O Come, Emanuel is quite irresistible. Still, this is the Voice at its numbest.

Ja Rule's frothy duet partner, Ashanti, exhibits more zip. Her pure tones complement a very contemporary minxy streak that's dying to unwrap all those exciting presents. Hey Santa is the stand-out: a list of demands ("How about a diamond bracelet, a baby-blue convertible...") delivered with the charm that typifies the rest of the album.


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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