At first glance you might think this is a joke perpetuated by Ebenezer Scrooge himself, but Lynch and her holiday cronies deliver a serious portion of holiday cheer guaranteed to get your fingers popping and your toes tapping. Kate Flannery and Tim Davis join in on Lynch’s tuneful sleigh ride of holiday favorites including: “Up on the Housetop,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Good King Wenceslas.” Accompanied by the superb Tony Guerrero Quintet, Jane Lynch’s yuletide swing fest is guaranteed to turn any holiday gathering into an instantaneous Christmas party worthy of Santa’s approval.
Kylie Minogue: Kylie Christmas – After previously teasing us with a few holiday treats in the past, Australian singer, songwriter, and actress Kylie Minogue finally delivers her delightfully eclectic full-length Christmas album. The internationally celebrated pop star’s long-awaited release fulfills its yuletide promise with playful classics and delightfully charming originals. Highlights include the Chris Martin-penned “Every Day’s Like Christmas,” a posthumous duet with Frank Sinatra, a celebratory cover of The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping” (featuring Iggy Pop), as well as a surprisingly gorgeous duet version of Yazoo/Yaz’s “Only You” with James Corden.
The Brian Setzer Orchestra: Rockin’ Rudolph – Brian Setzer and company return with another snazzy jazzy Christmas offering. This latest holiday set (the band’s first in over a decade) once again finds the former Stray Cats vocalist and guitarist in full tilt yuletide mode. Rockin’ Rudolph‘s sprightly big-band bombast and holiday cheer is guaranteed to have your friends rockin’ around the Christmas tree. Noteworthy moments include “Rockabilly Rudolph” alongside the cleverly arranged “Yabba-Dabba Yuletide,” which puts a refreshingly festive holiday twist on the classic Flintstones theme. The BSO’s latest is a welcome addition to the band’s seasonal canon and is surely destined to be a full-fledged swingin’ hit at any Christmas gathering.
Patty Smyth: Come on December – Former lead singer of rock group Scandal (and wife to tennis legend John McEnroe) returns to music after a lengthy 16-year absence with eight tasty seasonal melodic morsels. The songstress, best known for 80s hits “The Warrior” and “Goodbye to You,” gifts us with five traditional favorites alongside three originals, all of which are nicely nestled within a warm acoustic timbre. This short but sweet set is the perfect holiday soundtrack companion for Christmas tree gazing and fireplace cuddling. Completists will also want to seek out Smyth’s delicate but dazzling version of “Silent Night,” which is still available as a digital download at PattySmythAndScandal.com.
Train: Christmas in Tahoe – After seven studio albums and selling 10 million records, Train’s latest effort is the band’s first full-length Christmas recording. The celebratory 15-track set features the band’s three original songs intermingled with a mix of holiday classics and cover tunes including: Chrissie Hynde’s “2000 Miles,” Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” Joni Mitchell’s “River,” and John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over).” But don’t waste precious seasonal moments looking in stores for this holiday treat because it is available exclusively at Amazon.
With the inescapable return of the holiday season, another eclectic batch of Christmas music releases is heaped upon us, for better or worse. Some of these Christmastime offerings may fill you with comfort and joy, while others could have you wishing for an early spring and pondering if this really is the most wonderful time of the year.
Colbie Caillat: Christmas in the Sand – Colbie Caillat’s full-length holiday collection is everything you could want from a contemporary Christmas album. Christmas in the Sand is synchronously fresh, bubbly, and sentimental without sounding maudlin. Caillat has cleverly succeeded in crafting a delightful mix of old and new coastal California breeziness sure to warm the cockles of your heart throughout the entire Yuletide season. Christmas in the Sand is a surprisingly charming stocking stuffer and essential addition to any pop music fan’s Christmas music collection.
Cee Lo Green: Cee Lo’s Magic Moment – This soulful and funk-a-licious holiday romp will absolutely spice up your present and future Christmas playlists. Even an overwrought version of “Baby it’s Cold Outside” with Cee Lo’s overzealous diva and fellow The Voice judge Christina Aguilera can’t ruin this irresistible modern day classic. From the bouncy opener “What Christmas Means to Me” to the heartfelt rendering of “River,” Cee Lo’s Magic Moment sounds like the kind of Christmas album Elton John wishes he would’ve made before he turned into a cynical, acid-tongued, blowhard.
Lady Antebellum: On This Winter’s Night – After dominating the airwaves and claiming the spot as country music’s best new trio, Lady Antebellum is teetering on the brink of overexposure with this unnecessary release of holiday standards. However, On This Winter’s Night sufficiently achieves its ultimate goal as a holiday gift surprise for Lady A fans, which simultaneously whets musical appetites for new music and further endears them to the country music masses.
Richard Marx: Christmas Spirit – Although the idea of Richard Marx recording a Christmas album at this point in his career may at first seem pointless and a little desperate, surprisingly Marx delivers a lushly layered and gratifying effort. These 13 tracks cohesively make the perfect romantic holiday soundtrack for sipping warm cider by the fireplace with the one you love most.
Scotty McCreery: Christmas with Scotty McCreery – This futile and obligatory exercise of holiday blandness falls flat. McCreery sounds emotionless as he mindlessly and effortlessly bleats out 11 dispassionate renditions of holiday ditties. Don’t bother unless you’re completely enamored with the 2011 American Idol winner or in need of a short winter’s nap.
Blake Shelton: Cheers, It’s Christmas – Despite Shelton’s renewed enthusiasm from his run on The Voice, endearing duets with Reba, Kelly Clarkson, (and of course Miranda Lambert), aren’t quite enough to make this holiday album exceptionally good or bad. While there are some noteworthy highlights that are more than just typical holiday fare (“Santa’s Got A Choo Choo Train,” “Time for Me to Come Home,” and “The Very Best Time of Year”), ultimately, Cheers, it’s Christmas ends up sounding like little more than a mediocre country Christmas collection targeted specifically towards hardcore Shelton completists.
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John: This Christmas (Universal Music) – No, this isn’t a joke. Obviously a marketing department’s attempt to appeal to fans of Grease, this dismal holiday collection (grossly marred with auto tuned vocals by Travolta) is better suited as a gag gift than as a tree trimming soundtrack, despite guest appearances by James Taylor, Tony Bennett, and Barbra Streisand. This embarrassingly bad addition to Newton-John’s catalog sounds like a Donny and Marie holiday album gone horribly wrong.
A Very Special Christmas: 25 Years – Bringing Joy to the World – This series has continued to wane and become a bit of a disappointment since the first volume debuted in 1987 with notable performances by Sting, Madonna, Eurythmics, and U2. Unfortunately this latest mixed bag of various artist holiday filler is no exception, but at least a portion of the proceeds benefit Special Olympics. A few album highlights include tracks by Train, Michael Bublé, and Jason Mraz, but overall this collection is rife with non-essential holiday fodder that leaves you hoping Santa has something better loaded on his sleigh.