John Travolta and Olivia Newton John appear in the video
for 'I Think You Might Like It', from their Christmas
album. Photo YouTube
Need a little Christmas, right this very minute?
Many's the musician ready to help, with new holiday-themed
album releases to take the chill off the coldest wintry night
and occasionally remind us what the day's all about.
This year's crop of seasonal sets (all available as downloads
and most in CD form) started falling out of the skies as
early as August from artists major (Rod Stewart, Lady
Antebellum) ironically re-paired ("Grease" co-stars John
Travolta and Olivia Newton John), and very much of the
Take, please, the gathering of teen pop favourites - Justin
Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, Lady Gaga - on "Now That's What I
Call Today's Christmas."
Even cutting-edge artists like Sufjan Stevens or the mostly
alt-folk crew proclaiming "Holidays Rule" fear no ridicule,
feel no shame getting behind ye old holiday material - the
only standards we all share today.
But the true hat trick - as Stevens and a few others manage -
is bringing an authentically fresh "take" to the holiday
theme, not just serving another twangy guitar rendering of
"Rockin' Around the Chrstmas Tree" or a coyly seductive
"Baby, It's Cold Outside."
The bravest of artists also make new contributions to the
Christmas catalogue hoping their efforts will last beyond
December 25. A thankless job.
Ask a younger artist today what he or she likes in
"contemporary" Christmas music and most will cite Mariah
Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" - a song which
debuted a mere 18 years ago!
Here's some of the releases from which a new Christmas hit
Sufjan Stevens, "Silver and Gold" (Asthmatic Kitty): A
five-CD, 58-song box set that roams all over the musical map
from pure church-choir devotionals to a tech-transformed
"Good King Wenceslas."
Rod Stewart, "Merry Christmas, Baby" (Verve): Stewart's
spared no expense, spoiling us all on this variety show,
arranged/ conducted by David Foster with a bevy of 14
beautiful female string players, a blasting horn section,
gospel and kids choirs, a bagpipe ensemble (for "Auld Lang
Syne") special guests such as Cee Lo Green, Mary J. Blige,
Michael Buble and the late Ella Fitzgerald(!), plus the ever
popular partridge in the pear tree.
"Cee Lo's Magic Moment" (Elektra): The same rock 'n' soul
duet with Stewart on "Merry Christmas Baby" does double
service on this altogether fun and funky batch of
Bunny Sigler, "When You're In Love at Christmastime"
(Bunzmusic/ CD Baby): Philly soul vies with surprising
European touches in this local legend's brave, bodacious bag
Jason Paul Curtis with Swinglab & Swing Machine _ "Lovers
Holiday" (jasonpaulcurtis.com): If you like Buble/ Frank
Sinatra-styled jazzpop crooners, this is the 2012 holiday
gift to you. Packs clever originals like the reluctant
shopper's lament "Blue Friday" plus apt standards we don't
usually associate with the season _ "You'd Be So Nice To Come
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, "This Christmas"
(Lime): We hardly recognized the new improved John and Olivia
on the cover. But their cute attitude and interplay are just
like in the glory days of "Grease." For a twist, the woman
takes the seductive lead on "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Class
charts and guests (Barbra Streisand and Tony Bennett), too.
"That's What I Call Today's Christmas!" (EMI): This most
ecumenical of label/ talent-swapping projects is sure to make
the kids happy with "buzz" acts like Carly Rae Jepsen, One
Republic, Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato plus more mature
talents including Coldplay, Norah Jones and Grace Potter and
The Nocturnals. You could do worse.