Best Christmas Albums of 2010
Dialling in a local radio station for Christmas music gets unbearably dull after a while. It’s better to take control of the selections yourself. 2010 has given us some nifty new releases. Most notably, new unreleased material from Bing Crosby and a rocking record from former Stray Cat Brian Setzer are worthy additions to any music collection.
The Crosby Christmas Sessions by Bing Crosby
Bing is the reigning champ of timeless Christmas songs. Even after all these years no modern artist can top his vocal performances on ‘White Christmas’ and ‘The Christmas Song (Chestnut Roasting on an Open Fire).’ It was a different, simpler time back then. Bing Crosby sang Christmas songs with authenticity and sincerity. The only problem is we’ve heard it all countless times. This new collection is the first significant, new collection of songs from Bing in years. There are unreleased versions of his many popular songs such as ‘It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas’ and ‘Jingle Bells’. One in particular track takes the cake, especially if you are a fan of the thin white duke. Bing’s famous duet with David Bowie is featured here with impressive audio quality. Now we can refrain from watching that performance so much on YouTube.
Christmas Comes Alive! by The Brian Setzer Orchestra
Brian Setzer is the type of cool cat I’d like playing at my Christmas bash. As the name of album implies, this is the music that will thrust the party into overdrive. Once the spiked fruit punch is starting to kick in, pop this disc on and watch your guests’ faces light up. Setzer rich vocals stay true to the character of crooners of old, yet his band has managed to pump up the excitement factor. Those outrageous horn blasts will make you jump out of your seat. The Orchestras doesn’t mix it up all that much as these boys stick to what they are best at: fist-pumping rockabilly. That is until you hit ‘The Nutcracker Suite.’ You’ll be dazzled by the classy instrumentation and creativity of that number.
Merry Christmas by Shelby Lynne
Country-Pop star Shelby Lynne has released a Christmas album with warmth and character. You should give a chance, even if you hate country. The vocals and instrumentation haven’t been tinkered with all that studio magic. It gives the production a feel liken to having a top-notch group performing for your family by the fireplace. The album leads off with a fantastic version of ‘Winter Wonderland.’ There is something old-fashioned and decidedly laid back about it that makes it impossible not to be charmed by the music. That feeling stays pretty consistent throughout. When Lynne’s voice reaches for the higher registers things get a little shaky. She sounds good singing fairly low ala Fiona Apple. Still, such imperfections just add to the likable, scrapbook quality of this album.
It's Beginning To Sound A Lot Like Christmas by Various Artists
This is yet another compilation of classic Christmas songs, much of it recorded during the golden era of rock and roll. It calls itself ‘The Alternative Yuletide Collection’ but doesn’t really fit the description because the songs are iconic favourites. If you don’t have fun tracks like ‘Rock Around The Christmas Tree’ and ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ at your disposal this holiday season, this is a good way to get them. The two disc set is chock full of classic up-tempo numbers that will keep the party alive. You won’t have to worry about one too many ballads causing your Uncle Bill to fall asleep and dunk his head in the Eggnog bowl.
Christmas Is The Time… (To Say I Love You) by Katharine McPhee
American Idol Star Katharine McPhee’s vocal prowess catapults this album into the top selections for 2010. The musical selections are a mixed bag and have a little bit to offer everyone. There is everything from pop ballads, up-tempo gospel songs, vanilla jazz numbers, to southern flavoured rockers. You’ll recognize classics like ‘Have Yourself a Merry a Little Christmas,’ ‘O Holy Night,’ ‘Silver Bells,’and ‘White Christmas.’ To keep things fresh there are some likeable contemporary tracks you haven’t heard three trillion times. The backing band is top-notch and provides some stylish interpretations, especially with the two leading tracks. Although the musicians are extremely competent, the vibe gets pretty generic at times. In the end its pleasant background music, but it won’t win over any one group because its lack of character.