Friday, December 17, 2010

New Christmas Albums

For those looking to bolster their Christmas music collections for parties, family gatherings or personal listening over the next week, I’ve provided the lowdown on a few noteworthy holiday albums.

Annie Lennox
A Christmas Cornucopia
The former Eurythmics singer always displays a sense of refinement on her solo albums and A Christmas Cornucopia is no exception. A truly eclectic collection, the songs range from obscure (“As Joseph Was Walking,” “See Amid the Winter’s Snow,” “Lullay Lullay”) to international ones derived from French (“Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant”) and Latin (“Angels From the Realms of Glory”) traditions. Then there’s the more familiar (a Middle Eastern tinged “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman,” the flowery “First Noel”) and Lennox’s own compelling ballad “Universal Child” (all proceeds from the single go to her foundation supporting HIV/AIDS-striken women and children in Africa). Half the songs also feature the African Children’s Choir.

Sheryl Crow
Home for Christmas
Crow’s seasonal tribute to Southern soul initially came out two years ago and was only available in Hallmark stores. Now a Target exclusive, it has the added bonus cut “Long Road Home,” from her latest studio effort 100 Miles From Memphis. A horn-laden “Go Tell it on the Mountain” boasts a Dixie spiritual vibe, “White Christmas” is snappy with a laid back groove, Crow’s wailing vocals on “Bells of St. Mary’s” are enriched by a string section and “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear/O Holy Night” is rife with New Orleans styled horns. Booker T (of the MGs) also contributes organ work. 

REO Speedwagon
Not So Silent Night
(Sony Legacy)
In a more rockin’ vein is REO’s thoroughly enjoyable Christmas effort. First released last year, it has been reissued with three bonus tracks (a fun “Sleigh Ride,” acoustic based original ballad “I Believe in Santa Claus,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”; downloaded versions add “We Three Kings”). Sometimes reminiscent of Trans-Siberian Orchestra (though far more interesting and minus the over-the-top aspects), a rock gospel flavored “Children Go Where I Send Thee,” doo wop-oriented “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “White Snows of Winter,” a countryish “Blue Christmas” (with bassist Bruce Hall on lead vocals) and “Deck the Halls,” where frontman Kevin Cronin’s kids get into the mix, are among the songs assembled here.  

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