You didn’t expect Sir Cliff to produce any surprises after more than 40 albums, did you?
The trauma of his well-documented recent legal troubles has given the veteran singer ample time to come up with strong new material, and directly spawned the defiant opening songs, whose titles (‘Rise up’ and ‘Reborn’) set the tone, amplified by the upbeat hindsight of ‘Gonna be alright’.
The middle of the album mixes tracks that feel like slowed-down 1980s disco with some genuinely effective pop, before he affirms the true spirit of Christmas in ‘The miracle of love’.
Among the mixed bag of mid-tempo ballads is ‘Wide deep and high’, which could be an old Sunday school song given a blast of production, and the more impressive ‘There’s one’, with its beautifully crafted lyrics.
Then there is a surprise: it ends with four greatest hits reworked with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: ‘The minute you’re gone’, ‘Miss you nights’, ‘Devil woman’ and ‘Some people’.
And through it all, his pitch-perfect voice still sounds like it did decades ago.
Derek Walker is an Anglican lay minister, kitchen designer and writer.