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CD Reviews:
The 12 Discs of Christmas: This Year's best in holiday music
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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We love our holidays.



And, it seems, we love our holiday music almost as much.



Consider that earlier this month, five of the Top 10 albums on the Billboard 200 chart were Christmas titles — including Carrie Underwood's new "My Gift" alongside evergreen's from Michael Buble, Nat King Cole, Pentatonix and, of course, Mariah Carey.



Maybe — with apologies to fruitcake bakers and tie-buyers — all we want for Christmas really is music.



With that in mind, and with the holidays here, let us offer our choice for this year's 12 Discs of Christmas, in alphabetical order, to play or stream and maybe bring a bit of musical joyeux into this strangest of holiday seasons.



• Andrew Bird, "Hark!" (Loma Vista): Bird is famously, and unaplogetically, idiosyncratic, but he turns the holidays on their ear on a good way on this follow-up to the 2019 EP of the same name. His takes on John Prine ("Souvenirs") and the Vince Guaraldi Trio are gifts unto themselves, and fusing of "Greensleeves" with the Handsome Family's "So Much Wine" in "Greenwine" is brilliant.



• Blackmore's Night, "Here We Come A-Caroling" (earMUSIC): There are certainly some fans who haven’t quite gotten their heads around Ritchie Blackmore's Renaissance music group with his wife, Candice Night. Our advice? After 23 years, get over it, pour some wassail and immerse yourself into this EP of sincerely crafted and seriously old school wintery madrigals.



• Chance the Rapper and Jeremih, "Merry Christmas: Lil Mama: The Gift That Keeps on Giving" (self-released): These Chicago rappers have made lots of right moves during their careers, and another one. They revisit the 2016/2017 EP of the same name, expanding it with two new songs ("The Return," "Who's To Say"). And Jeremih's recovery from a near-fatal COVID-19 battle makes this volume that much more welcome.



• Jamie Cullum, "The Pianoman at Christmas" (Blue Note): The British singer, songwriter and (how'd we know?) pianist doesn't put his creative ambitions on hold for the holidays. Instead he wrote 10 new songs and took them into Abbey Road's Studio 2 with a 57-piece orchestra, with exquisite results.



• Detroit Youth Choir, "A Holiday With You" (self-released): A case of good things coming in small packages, this five-song EP lets the DYC, still riding high from its runner-up ride on "America's Got Talent," offer a blast of wholesome holiday cheer.



• Goo Goo Dolls, "It's Christmas All Over" (Warner): The Goos deliver with a Santa's bag of originals, nostalgic remakes, a genuinely moving, kid-sung take of their hit "Better Days" and especially "The Christmas Party," a buoyant, brassy medley that will have the stockings line-dancing along the mantle.



• Matt Nathanson, "Farewell December" (AWAL): Of course he does "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" — Nathanson probably would have written it himself if given the chance. But mostly the singer-songwriter strikes a tasteful tone throughout these 12 songs, joined by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus on Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time is Here" and Donovan Woods for "Little Drummer Boy."



• Dolly Parton, "A Holly Dolly Christmas" (Butterfly/12 Tone Music): Dolly Parton can sing most anything these days and make it sound good, and after her $1 million donation to COVID-19 vaccination research, well, what's not to love? With its five Parton-penned songs and duets with Willie Nelson, Michael Buble, Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus, and more, "Holly Dolly" sounded like a classic on the day it was released.



• Pentatonix, "We Need A Little Christmas" (RCA), Straight No Chaser, "Social Christmasing" (SNC/Arts Music/Warner): These two a capella favorites have yet to falter with their frequent holiday releases, whether they're singing well-weathered favorites or their own fresh contributions to the seasonal songbook. We're particularly partial to SNC's "Office Party Blues."



• Shaggy, "Christmas in the Islands" (BMG): The holidays are certainly different in Jamaica, and this Grammy Award-winning rapper lets us know it — with tracks such as "No Icy Christmas" and with help from friends such as Ne-Yo, Bounty Killer, Junior Reid, Beenie Man and more. It sounds like a merry little Christmas indeed.



• Sweet Lizzy Project, "And So This is Christmas" (Mondo Mundo/Thirty Tigers): The up 'n' coming Cuban/Nashville quintet keeps it short and sweet on this EP, with two originals and covers of John Lennon and Pretenders seasonal favorites.



Other new holiday titles to consider:



Jon Bon Jovi, "A Jon Bon Jovi Christmas" (Island Records);



Dallas String Quartet, "The Christmas Album" (self-released)



Detroit Youth Choir, "A Holiday With You" (self-released);



Michael Falzarano and Extended Family, "A Kaleidoscope Christmas" (Hypnotation);



Kelly Finnigan, "A Joyful Sound" (Colemine)'



For King & Country, "A Drummer Boy Christmas" (Curb/Word);



JoJo, "December Baby" (Warner);



Davy Jones, "It's Christmas Time Once More" (Not Too Late);



Tori Kelly, "A Tori Kelly Christmas" (School Boy/Capitol);



Lady A, "On This Winter's Night" (Deluxe Edition) (Capitol Nashville);



LVRN, "Home For the Holidays" (LVRN/Interscope);



Maddie & Tae, "We Need Christmas" (Mercury Nashville);



Tom Mason, "Under a Mistletoe Sky" (Gas Station Music);



Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers, "Why? Because It's Christmas" (Always in the Club/M12/Universal)



Anne Murray, "The Ultimate Christmas Collection" (Capitol/UMe);



Leslie Odom Jr., "The Christmas Album" (S-Curve);



Ben Rector, "A Ben Rector Christmas" (self-released);



Runaway June, "I Think About Christmas" (BBR);



Maggie Szabo, "Come Celebrate Christmas" (self-released);



Michael Tenpenny, "Neon Christmas" (Columbia);



Meghan Trainor, "A Very Trainor Christmas" (Epic);



Carrie Underwood, "My Gift" (Capitol Nashville);



Various Artists, "Christmas Rocks" (Mascot);



Various Artists, "Christmas with Better Noise Music" (Better Noise);



Various Artists, "If the Fates Allow: A Hadestown Holiday Album" (Broadway);



Rick Wakeman, "Christmas Variations: Deluxe Edition" (Purple Pyramid/Cleopatra);



Stocking Stuffers



Here are some mixtape-worthy individual holiday songs from nearly any genre you can imagine:



Jimmie Allen and Louis York, "What Does Christmas Mean" featuring the Shindellas



Ingrid Andress, "Christmas Always Finds Me"



August Burns Red, "All I Want for Christmas is You"



Danielle Bradbery, "O Holy Night"



Lee Brice, "Go Tell It on the Mountain"



Circa Waves, "Miss Christmas"



Kelly Clarkson and Brett Eldredge, "Under the Mistletoe"



The Cribs, "Christmas (All Year Long)"



Dion and Amy Grant, "Hello Christmas"



Dion and Joe Bonamassa, "You Know It's Christmas"



Brett Eldredge and Sofia Reyes, "Baby, It's Cold Outside"



Tawny Ellis, "River"



Finneas, "Another Year"



Florida Georgia Line, "Lit This Year"



Foo Fighters, "Run Rudolph Run"



Liam Gallagher, "All You're Dreaming Of"



Girl In Red, "Two Queens in a King-Sized Bed"



Gowan and Stuck on Planet Earth, "Can You Make It Feel Like Christmas"



Lzzy Hale and Dee Snider, "The Magic of Christmas Day"



Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, "Christmas (And Dad Wants Her Back)"



High Plains Drifters, "My Girlfriend Back!"



Hootie & the Blowfish, "Won't Be Home For Christmas"



Christone "Kingfish" Ingram, "Ghost From Christmas Past"



Carly Rae Jepsen, "It's Not Christmas Till Somebody Cries"



Jonas Brothers, "I Need You Christmas"



Beverly Knight, "A Christmas Wish (The Loss Adjuster)"



Gary LeVox, "Christmas Will Be Different This Year" featuring Stephan Moccio



Lil Nas X, "Holiday"



Matoma and Michael Bolton, "It's Christmas Time"



Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello, "The Christmas Song"



Tim McGraw, "It Wasn't His Child"



Dallas Moore, "Honky Tonk Holidaze"



My Kid Brother, "White Christmas"



needtobreathe, "Silent Night"



John Oates, "The Christmas Song"



The Offspring, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"



Liam Payne, "Naughty List" featuring Dixie D'Amelio



Nick Piunti & the Complicated Men, "Christmas Morning"



Poppy, "I Won't Be Home For Christmas"



Rozei, "The Mean One"



Van Scott, "Thank God It's Christmas"



Sam Smith, "The Lighthouse Keeper"



Tarja, "Together"



Twenty One Pilots, "Christmas Saves the Year"



U.S. Girls, "Santa Stay Home"



Wallis, "Lonely Christmas"



Denis Walter and Mirusia, "We Need a Little Christmas"



Robbie Williams, "Can't Stop Christmas"

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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