Susan Boyle, "The Gift"

66 Billboard Rating

"The Gift," the second release from famed "Britain's Got Talent" contestant Susan Boyle, is a bit of a tweener: mostly a holiday album and partly a follow-up to last year's massively successful "I Dreamed a Dream." This time out Boyle even takes on "Don't Dream It's Over," which she and producer Steve Mac turn into a hushed, lush recitation quite different from the soaring celebration of Crowded House's original. The singer also offers solemn, chorale versions of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." But "The Gift" is primarily about her seven seasonal songs, including a gently building "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and subtly dynamic renditions of "The First Noel" and "O Holy Night." Boyle sounds more assured this time out, and her delivery of "Auld Lang Syne," with just the sparest of accompaniment, reveals an instrument that can probably stretch further than she's been asked so far. Her tone and technique are established; perhaps it's time to let Boyle loose on some uptempo material and bring more personality into the mix.

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