Grease stars reunite for Christmas album

John Travolta and Olivia Newton John appear in the video for 'I Think You Might Like It', from...
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 moment.

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 might emerge:

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 Southern-fried soul.

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 of tricks.

Jason Paul Curtis with Swinglab & Swing Machine _ "Lovers Holiday" ( 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 Home To."

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.

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