December 1, 2012
The 25 CDs of Christmas 2012
By Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency

’Twas weeks before Christmas, and like every year, I had holiday albums right up to here; Some were quite rootsy, others quite cutesy, Some were quite sappy and some were … well, crappy; But I spun every one — and listened with care, I listened until I could tear out my hair; Why did I do it? I’ll tell you why; I did it so you would know which ones to buy.

Happy holidays!

RATINGS

3 stars = Ho-ho
2 stars = So-so
1 star = No-no

Pop & Rock

Cee Lo Green
Cee Lo’s Magic Moment


F*** Yule? Sadly and surprisingly, no. Santa’s freakiest elf plays it straight for a change, bringing in funk, soul and R&B revamps that visit Motown, Sesame Street and elsewhere. Sweet ’n’ Lo.

DOWNLOAD: Baby It’s Cold Outside (w/ Christina Aguilera)

3 stars



Colbie Caillat
Christmas in the Sand


Baby, it’s cold outside — but determinedly delightful vocalist Caillat will gently warm your cockles with her sunny, Sheryl Crowish California-pop. Bathing suit and sunscreen not included. 

DOWNLOAD: Christmas in the Sand

2 stars

Christina Perri
A Very Merry Perri Christmas


Well, maybe not THAT merry. Pop singer-songwriter Perri’s EP is a low-key affair, with the tattooed songbird making like the new Karen Carpenter over some slow-burning piano ballads.

DOWNLOAD: Please Come Home for Christmas

2 stars

Rod Stewart
Merry Christmas, Baby


Rod the Sod strikes again, rasping his way through a slate of stale chestnuts while schlockmeister David Foster slathers everything with syrup and Velveeta. Give it to granny — then run.

DOWNLOAD: Auld Lang Syne

1.5 stars

Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)


TSO mastermind Paul O’Neill and his army of prog-rock elves return with their first Christmas present since 2004. With five short tunes, it’s more of a stocking stuffer, but better than nothing.

DOWNLOAD: I Had a Memory

2 stars

John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John
This Christmas


Cheese is the word as the former Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsen reunite to soullessly warble over lush jazz-pop arrangements. Even VIPs like Babs, Bennett and Kenny G can’t save this turkey.

DOWNLOAD: I Think You Might Like It

1 star

Tracey Thorn
Tinsel & Lights


What do you want for Christmas? Everything? Will you settle for Everything But the Girl singer Thorn’s charming collection of poppy compositions by Sexsmith, Joni, Jack White and others?

DOWNLOAD: In the Cold, Cold Night

2 stars

Alternative

Mark Lanegan
Dark Mark Does Christmas


Screaming Xmas Trees? Not quite. Sinister rocker Lanegan gets rootsy for his lo-fi solo EP, picking medieval fare on guitar and banjo — when he isn’t covering Roky Erikson. O, unholy night.

DOWNLOAD: Burn the Flames

2 stars

Polyphonic Spree
HolidayDream: Sounds of the Holidays Vol. 1


Twelve rockers rocking, 11 singers singing, 10 ladies dancing — and a massive dose of psychedelically soaring gems from everyone’s favourite choir-robed orchestral-pop cult heroes. Far out.

DOWNLOAD: Silver Bells

2.5 stars

Redtenbacher’s Funkestra
Very Funky Christmas


Santa’s got a brand new bag thanks to Austrian bassist Stefan Redtenbacher and his crew, who convert classic carols into booty-shaking instrumental grooveathons. Shake your jingle bells.

DOWNLOAD: Deck the Halls

2.5 stars

Scala & Kolacny Brothers
December


If you buy just one album this season that features alt-rock Christmas fare hauntingly sung by a Belgian women’s choir and two dudes, well, it would have to be this one. At least it should be. 

DOWNLOAD: 2000 Miles

2 stars

Sufjan Stevens
Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vol. 6 - 10

Some folks go overboard for Christmas. Like Stevens. The eccentric folk-popster’s second holiday box collects 58 originals and perennials, along with an ornament, stickers, tattoos and more.

DOWNLOAD: Christmas Unicorn

3 stars


Anthologies

Holidays Rule
Various Artists


Hark! The alt-rock angels sing on this cornucopia of cool new Yule recordings by fun., Shins, Civil Wars, Calexico, Andrew Bird and many more — including some guy named Paul McCartney.

DOWNLOAD: Eleanor Friedberger’s Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me

3 stars

A Very Special Christmas: 25 Years
Various Artists


Joy to the world redux: A galaxy of big-name stars — including Train, Xtina, Buble, Jewel, Mraz and OneRepublic — celebrate this charity disc’s 25th anniversary. More glitter than greatness.

DOWNLOAD: Cheap Trick’s I Want You for Christmas

2 stars

Canadian

David Gogo
Christmas With the Blues


Holiday music doesn’t have to be ho-ho-hum. Canadian guitar hero Gogo spikes the traditional eggnog with some searing solos, gruff vocals and muscular 12-bar workouts. Crank it up, Santa.

DOWNLOAD: Let’s Get a Real Tree

2.5 stars

Helix
All I Want for Christmas is the Leafs to Win the Cup


Metalhead Brian Vollmer and co. are rockin’ in a winter wonderland again with this coloured-vinyl single dedicated to their hometown hockey heroes. Their rockin’ Jingle Bells is on the B-side.

DOWNLOAD: All I Want for Christmas ...

1.5 stars

Lunch at Allen’s
Zuzu’s Petals


Enjoy some northern lights this year as the folksy foursome of Murray McLauchlan, Ian Thomas, Cindy Church and Marc Jordan join forces on a soothing set of mellow nostalgia. All is calm.

DOWNLOAD: Christmas Day

2 stars

Suzie McNeil
This is Christmas


Suzie is a bit of a do-it-yourselfer. The Canadian pop-rocker’s holiday display switches between secular favourites and seasonal compositions of her own. Hey, the best gifts are homemade.

DOWNLOAD: Santa (I’m Waiting for You)

2 stars

Jimmy Rankin
Tinsel Town


East Coast roots-rocker Rankin makes a scenic detour to the North Pole with this easygoing, affable batch of country, folk and rockabilly-wrapped oldies — along with a quartet of new originals.

DOWNLOAD: Boogie Woogie Christmas

2.5 stars

Country

Lady Antebellum
On This Winter’s Night


Everyone is busy at the holidays. So the superstar trio do some creative regifting, doubling the length of their 2010 EP with six new slices of affably endearing, harmony-rich country-pop.

DOWNLOAD: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

2 stars

Scotty McCreery
Christmas With Scotty McCreery


His name rhymes with naughty, but American Idol McCreery’s holiday feast is several flavours of nice, balancing warm-hearted country balladry with upbeat honky-tonk and rockabilly twangers.

DOWNLOAD: Holly Jolly Christmas

2 stars

Blake Shelton
Cheers, It’s Christmas


Holidays are about family and friends — and good ol’ boy Shelton welcomes both to his lightly swinging party, warmly twanging alongside Reba, Buble, wife Miranda Lambert and his mom. Aww.

DOWNLOAD: Jingle Bell Rock feat. Miranda Lambert

2.5 stars

Classical

Katherine Jenkins
This is Christmas | My Christmas


The Welsh popera star gets Scrooged by her old label, who rewrapped My Christmas’s (presumably) old tracks to compete with her new, more upbeat This is Christmas. So much for goodwill.

DOWNLOAD: Santa Baby

BOTH: 1.5 stars

Andre Rieu
Home for the Holidays


Rieu ought to feel at home — this is, after all, the leonine Dutch violinist and conductor’s six zillionth serving of schmaltz and treacle. No surprise it’s about as enticing as last year’s fruitcake.

DOWNLOAD: Go Tell it on the Mountain 

BOTH: 1.5 stars