A tie-in to ABC Family's December-long march of seasonal cheer, ABC Family 25 Days of Christmas mixes up re-recordings of songs from classic Christmas specials and movies (Hilary Duff singing "Santa Claus Lane," Big Bad Voodoo Daddy covering "Mr. Heatmiser," etc), and original recordings (Jimmy Durante's "Frosty the Snowman," Andy Williams' "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," Bing Crosby's "Silver Bells").
Manhattan's 15-track holiday compilation Celtic Woman: A Christmas Celebration features traditional yuletide classics like "Away in a Manger," "Little Drummer Boy," "O Holy Night," and "Silent Night" sung by some of the genre's loveliest sirens and accompanied by the occasional harp, cello, violin, and keyboard. Fans of Enya and Clannad will find this relaxing collection to be a nice addition to their seasonal arsenal, while children between the ages of five and ten will laugh mischievously at "Ding Dong Merrily on High."
James Christopher Monger, Rovi
The second studio album from the Canadian Tenors (Victor Micallef, Clifton Murray, Remigio Pereira, Fraser Walters) features 12 holiday classics, including “Silent Night,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “What Child Is This? (Carol of the Bells),” and “O Viens Emmanuel" (O Come Emmanuel). The aptly titled Perfect Gift was released through Decca in 2009 in North America, and in 2010 in the United Kingdom., Rovi
Andrea Bocelli's 2009 My Christmas album finds the Italian tenor performing various classic holiday-themed songs that touch on a mix of classical, opera, and pop. Included are such well-known holiday songs as "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "O Tannenbaum," and "Silent Night." The versatile Bocelli also delves into such iconic Christmas hits as "Blue Christmas" and "The Christmas Song" (featuring a duet with Natalie Cole). Of course, the opera and classic songs are Bocelli's bread and butter, and here listeners get such lavishly produced cuts as "Adeste Fidelis," "Cantique del Noel," and "Caro Gesu Bambino." My Christmas is not only a warm and inviting holiday album, but also a superb classical crossover entry worthy of Bocelli's discography.
Matt Collar, Rovi
Whitney Houston delivered One Wish: The Holiday Album, her first Christmas record, a year after her 2002 comeback, Just Whitney. If it seemed like that record played it safe, that's nothing compared to One Wish, which is the straightest adult contemporary record Houston had released in years. Of course, holiday records are the last place anybody would want to take a risk, since they're designed to be nice, pleasant mood music and this suits the bill nicely. The clean, pristine production, heavy on synths, sounds as if it was cut in the late '80s, yet it's also strangely spare, often being no more than a synth and a drum machine. Still, it's a sound that's well suited for Whitney and her thoroughly predictable set of material (the title track is the only new song, then the final two songs are recycled from the soundtrack of The Preacher's Wife). Ultimately, One Wish is the kind of album that may only appeal to a fan of Whitney who has already yearned for her holiday album, but for those fans, it will be satisfactory.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
Vocalist Josh Groban delivers his first Christmas themed album with 2007's Noel. Once again produced by longtime "man behind the curtain" David Foster, the album features more of Groban's dewy, supple vocals set to Foster's cinematic orchestrations. As per the holiday theme, these are primarily classic tunes of the season including such chestnuts as "Silent Night," "Ave Maria," and, of course, "The Christmas Song." However, also included are a few lesser-known traditional songs as "Panis Angelicus" and "Angels We Have Heard on High." Similarly, while most of the productions here should appeal to longtime fans of Groban's particular classical-crossover sound, some cuts like soft rock inflected "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" and the Celtic folk leaning "Little Drummer Boy" do expand upon the Groban/Foster palette in a pleasing way. Notably, also showcased here are guest appearances by country superstar Faith Hill, R&B stalwart Brian McKnight, and perennial holiday backing band the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Matt Collar, Rovi
Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz called on pianist extraordinaire Vince Guaraldi and his trio to compose and perform music that would reflect the humor, charm, and innocence of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the entire Peanuts gang for their 1965 Christmas TV special. It was a perfect match: Guaraldi strings together elegant, enticing arrangements that reflect the spirit and mood of Schulz's work and introduce contemporary jazz to youngsters with grace, charm, and creativity. "What Child Is This" touches on cool jazz's richly textured percussive nuances, while "The Christmas Song" reflects Christmas' relaxing, mellow moments. The renowned "Linus and Lucy" gives the Peanuts characters a fresh, energetic feel with its tantalizing meter changes, brilliant percussion, and dashing, humorous piano lines. "Christmastime Is Here," perhaps the album's most endearing and eloquent moment, is six minutes of soft, lullaby-like melodic and percussive flavors. This collection of soul-soothing melodies would not be complete without the romantic gem "Skating," which blends musical references to falling snowflakes with the dashing feel of swing. Finally, the uplifting, emotionally stirring swing tune "Christmas Is Coming" really brings the listener into the joyous light of the Christmas spirit. Fred Marshall's alluring walking basslines and drummer Jerry Granelli's hauntingly beautiful brush work give most of the album a warm foundation, while Monty Budwig and Colin Bailey shine through with eminent dexterity on bass and drums on "Greensleeves." As for Guaraldi, his penetrating improvisational phrases paint pictures of the first winter snowfall, myriad glistening trees, and powdery white landscapes. With its blend of contemporary jazz and lyrical mannerisms, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a joyous and festive meditation for the holiday season.