'Tis the musical season for classic Christmas collections
As an unabashed sucker for Christmas music, I've come to appreciate and look forward to the annual yuletide efforts of Legacy Recordings. Their “Classic Christmas Album” series never disappoints and this year's offering of tasty collections will get you in the holiday spirit.
The country music contingent should be thrilled with sets from Alabama, Johnny Cash, George Jones & Tammy Wynette and Martina McBride; and if you want some jolly old soul, look no further than the entry from Gladys Knight & the Pips. Traditionalists can enjoy releases from Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand and Andy Williams, but I recommend scooping up all eight.
Alabama (4 stars out of five) have long been a staple in my house at Christmas and their effort here is as good as expected. “Christmas in Dixie” is the highlight, and the veteran outfit also scores with “Tennessee Christmas,” “Angels Among Us” and “Silent Night.” Minor demerits for excluding “Thistlehair the Christmas Bear.” The late, great Cash (4.5 stars) knocks it out of the park on “That Christmasy Feeling,” “Christmas With You” and “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”; Jones & Wynette (4 stars) show why they were the First Couple of country music with keepers “Mr. & Mrs. Santa Claus,” “White Christmas” and “The Christmas Guest”; and McBride (4 stars) makes hay with “Blue Christmas' (featuring Elvis Presley), “I'll Be Home for Christmas” and “O Holy Night.”
Kudos to Knight & the Pips (5 stars) for offering up the series' best album to date. Among the many standouts are “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, “This Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” “What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?” and “The Lord's Prayer.” Diamond (4.5 stars) and Streisand (4.5 stars) are as reliable as ever, with the former scoring on “Joy to the World,” “Silver Bells” and “You Make It Feel Like Christmas” and the latter hitting the right notes on “A Christmas Love Song,” “I Wonder as I Wander” and “Christmas Lullaby.” Williams (4 stars) and his velvety vocals are put to good use on “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” “My Favorite Things” and “Ave Maria.”
Erasure (Andy Bell and Vince Clarke) have been making synth-fueled dance music for almost 30 years and they set their sights on the holidays with “Snow Globe.” A mix of originals and seasonal favorites, Erasure put a unique spin — though not one that always works — on songs both new and familiar. Among the highlights are “Bells of Love (Isabelle's of Love),” “Silent Night,” “Blood on the Snow” and “Silver Bells.” Less effective are “Gaudete,” “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” and their Casio keyboard reading of “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire).”
‘Wrapped in Red'
Kelly Clarkson (RCA)
Kelly Clarkson has one of those big, big voices that can send chills down my spine and she shows a knack for warming the heart on debut Christmas album “Wrapped in Red.” Clarkson puts her stamp on traditional favorites likes “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Baby, It's Cold Outside” (with Ronnie Dunn), “White Christmas” and “Silent Night” (with Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood); and makes a case for creating new holiday staples with the title track and “Underneath the Tree.”
‘Mad Men Christmas'
Various Artists (Concord)
If for no other reason, you should buy “Mad Men Christmas” for the first two songs of the 12-track album inspired by the Emmy-winning drama “Mad Men.” The first is RJD2's “A Beautiful Mine,” the instrumental that has served as the “Mad Man” theme for six seasons, and the second is the (slight lesser) remix of series star Jessica Pare's showstopping Season 5 rendition of “Zou Bisou Bisou.” Happily, the rest of the album features a nice sampling of holiday faves, including Darlene Love's “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” Rosemary Clooney's “White Christmas,” Johnny Mathis' “I'll Be Home for Christmas” and Teresa Brewer's “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”
‘The 25th Day of December'
Bobby Darin (Real Gone)
Available for the first time in stereo, Bobby Darin's 1960 offering “The 25th Day of December” gets a big boost from the Bobby Scott Chorale on gospel-tinged keepers “Child of God,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and “Jehovah Hallelujah.” Darin also soars on “Poor Little Jesus,” “Holy Holy Holy,” “Mary Where Is Your Baby” and bonus track “Christmas Auld Lang Syne.” Darin dared to do something a little different for a holiday album, and the results are often spectacular.
‘Punk Goes Christmas'
Various Artists (Fearless)
The “Punk Goes” series gets into the holidays with this compilation featuring a dozen tunes from the likes of New Found Glory (“Nothing for Christmas”), All Time Low (“Fool's Holiday”), the Summer Set (“This Christmas”), Yellowcard (“Christmas Lights”), the Ready Set (“I Don't Wanna Spend Another Christmas Without You”) and William Beckett (“Do You Hear what I Hear?”). Holiday music for your teen sons and daughters.
Jeffrey Sisk is a managing editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1952, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Grant will benefit Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin
- Mon Valley steelworkers rally for new contract
- County shuts down Clairton demolition work
- Paving, electronics upgrades evident at Steel Valley
- West Mifflin Community Day returns to airport grounds
- McKeesport’s Minerva Bakery gets spotlight in WQED special
- Homicide charges filed gainst Pittsburgh man in Munhall man’s death
- McKeesport Area schools to provide outreach activities
- Mon-Yough water line upgrades will lead to more reliable service
- Serra has cause to celebrate as new year starts
- McKeesport heroin bust nets 1,700 stamp bags, $3,880 cash