(3 out of 5)
At first, the idea of Tori Amos doing a holiday album may seem a little strange. The out-there piano princess turning her gaze toward yuletide standards and Christmas cheer? Turns out, it’s not as strange as one may assume. Of course, in Amos’s hands, the concept of a “holiday album” is stretched considerably; so much so, in fact, that MIDWINTER GRACES is probably best viewed as a thematically consistent addition to her oeuvre, rather than a chestnut-roasting cash-in for the Starbucks set. Of course, there are a couple of standards here, but Amos goes in for distinctly non-hoary numbers like “What Child, Nowell” and “Star of Wonder” as complements to her original material on the disc. That original material is filled with the dynamic and enchanting melodrama one expects from Tori Amos, and amazingly, she finds a way to let her lyrical flights of fancy take even greater wing, such as on the quirky and dark “Candle: Coventry Carol.” In other words, if you think this is the one Tori Amos album that would be cool to play for your grandparents as your family gathers around the holiday table…it’s not.