Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tom Baker reads... A Christmas Carol - AudioReview

Article author: Alwyn Ash

"Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail."

For me there has always been something quite magical about Ebenezer Scrooge's encounter with spirits (not the drinking variety, I can assure you), one of them his old business partner Jacob Marley. How can one man, so tightfisted and cold that the very winter's air curls up in terror of him, really change from a young and gentle creature, so full of respect and energy, to the loathsome fossil that we encounter in the tale? He had been in love once, the beautiful Belle, a romance long lost.

I first became enchanted with this story as a kid, after being given a copy by an uncle of mine. God Bless him! Unlike most editions, this hardcover had been beautifully put together by illustrators Roger Law and Peter Fluck, using puppet characters. It was photographed by John Lawrence Jones (see: A Christmas Carol).

It is always a delight to discover audio versions, and earlier this year I had relished the thought of hearing Sir David Jason read this fantastic tale in a way that only he knew how, via AudioGO. I am a fan of the various television and film versions, too, even enjoying Disney's interpretation, starring the most famous mouse of them all, in 1983's Mickey's Christmas Carol. So I am a fine connoisseur in all things "Carol". But, following Jason's interpretation, the best was yet to come, as I have discovered...

And so, believe me when I say that the latest release from AudioGO, Tom Baker reads... A Christmas Carol, is astonishing and delicious. The most recognizable voice in the world, other than that of Brian Blessed, takes on this three-course meal of ghosts and geese, warmth and despair, prized turkeys and poverty. As narrator, Baker captures each mood, moment and heart in a way unlike any other, he takes us through Scrooge's life, from the cold and heartless atmosphere of the business known as Scrooge and Marley (a counting-house) to the merry-fabulous joy of Mr. Fezziwig's establishment.

Even if you think you know this story well, think again. Tom Baker's embrace of Charles Dickens' 1843 festive feast will have you smiling, relaxing, and feeling the spirit yourself, as we are taken on this journey through Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.

Known for his most famous of roles, that of the Fourth Doctor in BBC's flagship sci-fi show Doctor Who, the man who traversed time and Space delivers a fine performance, one that will now remain a firm favourite of mine.

Produced by Kate Thomas with sound design by Simon Hunt, this is one spooky tale that must be listened to, and enjoyed. It feels now as if A Christmas Carol was written by Dickens specifically for Tom Baker to read, as he completely owns the story from beginning to end.

I must also pay tribute to the eye catching cover, designed by the marvelous Nick Spender, which captures Baker in perfect Scrooge-style, appearing from behind a curtain, no doubt wondering what the night has further in store for him...

Further reading: AudioGO - Official website