Canadian jazz vocalist Holly Cole is no stranger to Christmas albums. This 2001 offering is her third full-length holiday release, and, as on the previous albums, the gems here are plenteous. Few vocalists would attempt to cover the Vince Guaraldi classic "Christmastime is Here," but Cole's version honors the original by not being too showy or Broadway-ish. The other standout is "Never, No," previously done by fellow Canadian singer Mary Margaret O'Hara. Hole's understated approach is appropriate and charming.
Cole is fabulous, period. She explores a number of styles on this, her second album. Adding pop, blues, country and a French ballad to her standard, low-key jazz, Cole demonstrates that not only does she have impeccable taste, but she has the talent to make all of the material sound convincing. On "Get Out Of Town," pianist Aaron Davis gets up while playing and places one of his hands over the piano string while continuing to play with the other. This damped-string effect is an extremely interesting counterpoint to Cole's idiosyncratic, sexy style. This is a flat-out killer record, an all-time audiophile favorite.
Song stylist Cole reaches into the catalogs of some of pop's finest composers on Dark Dear Heart. The album opens with a technofied version of the Beatles classic "I've Just Seen A Face" that's deconstructed enough to make Paul turn over his grave (oops, he's not dead). There are two cuts from the criminally underrated Mary Margaret O'Hara (including the engrossing title tune) as well as the Joni Mitchell evergreen "River." The Joni connection runs a bit deeper, as Dark Dear Heart was produced by Mitchell's ex-husband/producer/bass player Larry Klein, whose work here is a bit more straightforward and pop-oriented than his collaborations with his ex. Throughout, there are moments of jazzy acoustic introspection contrasted by state-of-the-art Adult Contempo-pop.