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Annie Lennox – A Christmas Cornucopia

“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” who am I to disagree? Annie Lennox has continually reinvented herself throughout a career that spans over three decades. I first came to her, like many, via the early days of MTV – in 1982 to be exact. You know, back when they played endless videos instead of endless reality shows.

The Eurythmics clip for “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” featured a compelling vocalist (Annie) with bright orange hair and an androgynous look that was ubiquitous in the ’70s and ’80s (think Patti Smith, Grace Jones, Adam Ant, Boy George, etc., etc.), yet still it stood out. What can I say, Annie thumping her fist on a boardroom table to a Dave Stewart synth beat made an early impression on me. Still not sure what the technophobic, Lotus-position, boardroom-mysticism imagery of the video exactly meant, but it didn’t deter me from taking my saved allowance money (the first time I’d ever done this), and venturing over to DJ’s Sound City where I bought my first three formative albums: Queen’s News of the World, The Clash’s Combat Rock and Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).

My favorite song off the Eurythmics LP was “Love Is A Stranger,” which was soon accompanied by an impossibly riveting video featuring Annie in numerous wigs and costumes. To this day I have no idea what ventriloquism actually has to do with obsessions of Dylan, Elvis, Marilyn or James Dean – or why exactly the video’s Taxi Driver-inspired image seemed to be a perfect marriage with Annie writhing in celluloid – but again, it was the ‘80s and videos only loosely had to make sense, and it cast a spell over me. It was Annie’s larger-than-life persona and unearthly vocals that remained ultra-compelling. I immediately went and checked out the duo’s back catalogue, which consisted of a handful of records as part of a band called The Tourists, and then a relatively unheralded but minor classic as Eurythmics, In the Garden.

I continued to be a fan over the years, well into Annie’s solo career, and even past the moment when my father even became a huge fan. Now, I may not have been the hippest of music scenesters, but when one’s parents actually embrace the music you love, well, is it finally time to jump off in order to retain your cred? I don’t know. Depends on one’s parents, I suppose. Suffice to say, Annie continues to grab my ear/attention with her solo work and collabos like the gripping David Gray duet on “Full Steam” or the divine Moby-backed, “When It’s Cold I’d Like To Die.”

Which finally brings me to Annie’s latest and her first Christmas album, A Christmas Cornucopia. Not only is it one of the best holiday-themed albums of the year, but we think it’s also one of the best of her career. And it’s in Starbucks coffeehouses now. It’s an incredibly ambitious collection filled with those “traveled the world and the seven seas” sounds, elaborate arrangements, an African Children’s choir and a 30-piece orchestra, along with her own inimitable and timeless vocals.