Over the years, I have often been asked about Cliff's 2003 Christmas album, how did it come about, whose idea was it, and why no liner notes? Below, is the press release that I wrote for EMI to help promote the album, which hopefully will answer some of those questions, and for those who missed having a liner note, hopefully this be a good alternative...
When Mistletoe and Wine went to number one and became the best selling British single of 1988, it also became representative of one of Cliff’s most successful genres: the Christmas song. Like gospel music, it is a body of material that speaks directly to Cliff’s roots, and one he enjoys celebrating. With both new and old recordings, CLIFF AT CHRISTMAS brings together – for the first time – a collection of Christmas favourites.
Due in part to the success of the single Millennium Prayer, and in part to the almost traditional association of Cliff with Christmas, even when he had Christmas hits that weren’t Christmas songs, Cliff has decided, this year, to create an album of purely Christmas repertoire. The idea was to cut eight new songs and put them on an album with some familiar favourites. Although four of the ‘older’ tracks would be remixed to bring them into keeping with the new recordings, there is the handful that appear in their original form, all digitally remastered, to remind us of the unprecedented run of Christmas hits that Cliff’s had ever since his version of O Little Town of Bethlehem was released in 1982. After all, no Christmas album by Cliff could be considered complete without the Christmas number ones like Mistletoe And Wine, Saviour’s Day and Millennium Prayer.
Nor could a Christmas album by Cliff be considered complete without his own stylish arrangements of seasonal standards like Silent Night, which interestingly enough, includes his own additional lyric of Mistletoe And Wine ‘just being played on the radio’ – but now with a new hidden extra.
Another is White Christmas, the Irving Berlin favourite that Bing Crosby recorded in 1942 for the film Holiday Inn, and has since been in the charts every year at Christmas from its first release all the way through to 1962. Though dozens of artists have recorded it over the years, Cliff has given his own originality to the song. As with the other traditional selections on the album such as Winter Wonderland, When A Child Is Born and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Cliff says, ‘if you’re going to do a cover version, it should be distinct from the original. So you bend or change the melody, the arrangement, and all the guitar riffs. There’s no need to do it the same way. In everybody’s mind, the original way is always going to be the definitive version. There’s no point in making it sound exactly the same as the original.’
From the list of new material, Let It Snow and Walking in The Air, recorded in Nashville, are probably among Cliff’s favourites. ‘I did those tracks with Michael Omartian and I loved working with him. He was fantastic. They were really done as test cases to see how we would gel together, and it worked really well. The piano on those two sound great.’
One listen to this 17-track album, which also includes a duet with European star Helmut Lotti, should forever put to rest the question of Cliff’s deep-rooted feeling for Christmas songs and for the traditional simplicity that they represent.
With Cliff’s proven instinct to spot potential hit material, and Christmas number one songs, a special radio edit of Santa’s List, co-written by Chris Eaton, who also penned Saviour’s Day, will be released on 8 December as the single Cliff has chosen to promote the album, and more importantly, to echo his own distinctive feeling for Christmas.