Album review: Robbie Williams - The Christmas Present
PUBLISHED: 12:19 18 December 2019 | UPDATED: 12:19 18 December 2019
Williams adds to the festive frivolity by delivering a gift that few will be searching out in years to come.
Punters clutching their plastic steins and ceramic mugs of mulled wine might've been scratching their heads as to why one of the pop world's national treasures had chosen to serenade them in the beer hall of Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland recently.
The surprise gig, rather smaller than the Stoke-On-Trent wunderkind's usual venue of choice these days, was all in aid of his first festive album - and an ambitious one it is, at that.
It is incredibly difficult to prise open the doors to the Inner Sanctum Of Christmas Classics, but if anyone can do it, surely this plucky Guinness World Record holder can?
Just eight of the 28 tracks on the sprawling special edition version are covers of familiar classics, theoretically giving Williams a fair crack at winning a seat in said sanctum next to Wham! and Wizzard, Mariah Carey and The Pogues.
Of the cover versions, Winter Wonderland and Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! set the bar, both solidly unremarkable and pedestrian retreads, shown up even more by having a big band reimagination of Slade's hoary-voiced classic Merry Xmas Everybody sandwiched between them, sounding like it was great fun to record and featuring the immaculate Jamie Cullum sharing vocal duties.
Williams duets with a sultry Helene Fischer (one of the world's most successful women in music) on Santa Baby, and Brian Adams is roped into a vanilla version of Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).
And alas, while The Christmas Present will sell a shedload, its staying power is questionable at best, with Williams spreading himself too thin to conjure a new Chrimbo classic across 20 new songs.
His love affair with swing continues with a sackful of songs, most of which are serviceable and toe-tapping after a couple of listens, but lack the genuine, timeless sparkle of the classics (see Let's Not Go Shopping or the cod-curmudgeonly Yeah! It's Christmas).
Boxing legend Tyson Fury inexplicably features in Bad Sharon, an office party-themed bouncer that should be soundtracking a second-rate sit-com's Xmas spesh.
If you must, the titbits to seek out include the synth-strafed slow-burner Soul Transmission, a notable departure from the usual, which may sustain as a Chrimbo curiosity. Others such as One Last Christmas and New Year's Day give enough space for Williams to deploy his limited vocal charisma.
On the whole though, it's a polished but ultimately passable affair.