Christmas just wouldn't be the same without Kim Wilde. Luckily, then, she's gift-wrapped a new collection of songs that are as sweet as the figgy pudding.
You get the impression that Christmas in the Wilde house would be an immensely fun affair. Festive sing-songs with Marty on guitar and Ricky on the piano. Freshly picked sprouts from Kim's vegetable garden. Plenty of booze, plenty of laughs. Sadly, they can't invite everybody (there wouldn't be enough crackers for a start), and so it is that we have to make do with the next best thing: Kim's new Christmas album.
She's no stranger to this Yuletide lark, of course, having provided us with one of the most ubiquitous songs of the festive season - the evergreen (some Scrooges might say ever-annoying) Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree with Mel Smith. Then there was THAT rendition of Kids in America on the London Underground that became such a YouTube sensation this time last year. So you'd expect Wilde Winter Songbook to be as toasty as a pair of Christmas socks.
And I'm pleased to say it doesn't disappoint. The album is bookmarked by two duets on which Kim teams up with a couple of her Eighties pals. On the first, Winter Wonderland, Rick Astley does his best impression of a Fifties swing-king, and ends up sounding... well, not very much like Rick Astley. The final track is a re-run of Rockin' Around..., only this time Nik Kershaw (with whom Kim is touring over Christmas) stands in for Mel Smith and, sadly, the comedy has been left on the cutting-room floor (mind you, I couldn't really imagine Nik calling her "Kimmy-Coo").
There are a couple more seasonal standards (Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas; Let it Snow) and both sound lovely treated to Wilde's trademark vulnerability. But it's the songs in between that are more noteworthy. Of the six newbies, New Life is the ost instant, a beautiful ode to a child that's as catchy as anything on Close. One is a yearning slice of melancholy that wouldn't have looked out of place on Kate Bush's 50 Words For Snow. Song for Beryl is a delicate acoustic ballad about a family friend. And there's a harmonious version of Fleet Foxes' White Winter Hymnal, on which Marty joins in the fun.
Now, anyone who read my review of Erasure's Snow Globe in the last issue of Classic Pop will know that I marked it down for being a Christmas album. But you kind of expect it from Kim Wilde, don't you? She's become synonymous with the festive season, like turkey sandwiches and The Royle Family. And for that reason, Wilde Winter Songbook is the perfect stocking filler. Mel Smith would've been proud.
(4 out of 5)