CD reviews: Bad Religion, Erasure and Nick Lowe top Christmas albums

Bad Religion, Susan Boyle, Vince Guaraldi Trio and Kelly Clarkson in this week's CD reviews.

Bad Religion, Susan Boyle, Vince Guaraldi Trio and Kelly Clarkson in this week's CD reviews.

Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:25 PM ET

RATINGS

HHH = Ho-ho

HH = So-so

H = No-no

’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!

Trace Adkin

The King’s Gift

HH out of HHH

Everyone’s a softie at the holidays. Even Adkins. Nashville’s diesel baritone mellows out on his first holiday CD, decorating country carols with Celtic tones — some courtesy of The Chieftains.

Bad Religion, Christmas Songs

HHH out of HHH

Yes, seriously. The preachy Cali pop-punks put aside theological differences to bash out a selection of harmoniously heavy Christmas classics without a trace of irony or sarcasm. Hail Santa!

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Feels Like Christmas Time

HH1/2 out of HHH

Oh, what fun it is to swing a sleighing song tonight. Especially when these natty L.A. revivalists are roasting chestnuts with finger-poppin’ zip, Andrews Sisters harmonies and brash brass lines.

Gord Bamford

Christmas in Canada

HH out of HHH

Regifting can be a good thing. The Canadian country crooner proves that by reissuing this enjoyably eclectic 2011 fan club offering to the masses. Three original tunes are icing on the fruitcake.

Joshua Bell & Friends

Musical Gifts

HH out of HHH

Who doesn’t love a Christmas party? Violinist Bell serves up classics — while playing host to Alison Krauss, Placido Domingo, Branford Marsalis and more — at this invitingly charming affair.

Mary J. Blige

A Mary Christmas

H1/2 out of HHH

Christmas already has enough drama. But that doesn’t stop MJB from being her ever-serious self on her first holiday offering — even as schlockmeister David Foster slathers on the cheese.

Susan Boyle

Home For Christmas

H out of HHH

Hands up, everyone who wants to hear the Boyle sing a duet of O Come All Ye Faithful with the ghost of Elvis Presley. Didn’t think so. Give this to your granny. Treat yourself to earplugs.

Richard Cheese

Cocktails With Santa

H1/2 out of HHH

Lounge around the Christmas tree with this gently swinging set from L.A. comic crooner Mark Davis — who plays it surprisingly straight here, save for a few subversive gems and the titular skit.

Kelly Clarkson

Wrapped in Red

HH out of HHH

Tradition is nice, but it’s not enough for Miss Independent. The powerhouse singer sprinkles a handful of seasonal originals in with yuletide standards on this stylistically adventurous present.

Erasure

Snow Globe

HHH out of HHH

It gets dark early these days. And the British synth-pop duo embrace those shadows here with eerily recast oldies like Bleak Midwinter (natch) and like-minded originals like Blood on the Snow.

Ed Henderson

Winter Child

H1/2 out of HHH

Sometimes there are no words — so Canuck Chilliwack guitarist Henderson does away with them, converting carols into solo acoustic-guitar instrumental flights fit for the weather channel.

Vince Guaraldi Trio

A Charlie Brown Christmas

HH1/2 out of HHH

It wouldn’t be Christmas without yet another reissue of pianist Guaraldi’s breezy jazz soundtrack. This version comes in a case that unfolds into Snoopy’s doghouse. Good grief.

Il Volo

Buon Natale: The Christmas Album

H1/2 out of HHH

Mamma mia! The Italian teen-popera trio spend their holidays splitting the diff between Il Divo and Michael Buble, fusing hymnal bombast with swinging jingle-bell jazz-pop and Latin grooves.

Jewel

Let It Snow: A Holiday Collection

HH out of HHH

Ghosts of Christmas past and present meet on Jewel’s second Xmas disc, as the singer sweetly intones tidings of comfort and joy amid a lush landscape of string-sweetened folk and country.

Kool & The Gang

Kool for the Holidays

HH out of HHH

No Jingle Boogie. No Christmas Celebration. Instead, the funky kings’ seasonal set earns its name with smooth R&B and silky soul. Notable exception: A smokin’ take on Winter Wonderland.

Lady Antebellum

Live: On This Winter’s Night DVD

HH out of HHH

Feel like watching in a winter wonderland? Settle in for the country-pop honeys’ live pageant, which includes acoustic and symphonic renditions of holiday hits, along with festive banter.

Leona Lewis

Christmas, With Love

HH1/2 out of HHH

Love, plus nods to Phil Spector and Motown. From its rebuilt Wall of Sound to its retro cover pic, Lewis’s 10-tracker pays homage to old-school soul and girl-group pop. Derivative but enjoyable.

Nick Lowe

Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection For All the Family

HHH out of HHH

St. Nick gets in the Christmas spirit — and comes bearing wonderful gifts in the form of rockabilly hymns, holiday oddities and arch pop ditties about Jesus and the airport. Best of the season.

Piano Guys

A Family Christmas: Deluxe Edition

H1/2 out of HHH

From YouTube to YuleTube. The piano-and-cello pairing continue their multi-media ways here, augmenting a CD of genial classical-pop melodies and mashups with a DVD of lighthearted videos.

The Rat Pack

Christmas With the Rat Pack

HH out of HHH

Ring-a-ding-ding those jingle bells and make with the ho-ho again, pally — it’s the six zillionth Christmas compilation from Old Blue Eyes, Dino and Sammy. Goes great with an Eggnog Martini.

Johnny Reid

A Christmas Gift to You

H1/2 out of HHH

It’s easy to overindulge at the holidays. Especially when you’ve got uberproducer Bob Ezrin, an orchestra, a choir and Peter Frampton helping you cook up this bombastically cheesy buffet.

Robertson Family

Duck the Halls

H out of HHH

Praise Jesus, pass the ammunition and camouflage the turkey, jack — TV’s latest redneck millionaires are celebrating the season by warbling off-key oldies and hillbilly country-rock.

Straight No Chaser

Under the Influence: Holiday Edition

HH out of HHH

Ten dudes a-singin’ more lighthearted, doo-woppy carols without musical instruments, but with fresh and canned vocals from Colbie Caillat, CeeLo Green, Paul McCartney and Otis Redding.

Tenore

Christmas With You

H out of HHH

You can’t toss a fruitcake without hitting some popera tenors these days. This typically faceless and forgettable crew trim their hymns with bits of gospel and pop-rock. Christmas with who?

Various Artists

A Very Special Christmas: The Story & the Music

HHH out of HHH

Classic-rock around the Christmas tree with this reissue of Jimmy Iovine’s 1987 charity album featuring U2, Run-DMC, Madonna, Springsteen and more. There’s also an hour-long DVD doc.

Various Artists

Frozen: Original Soundtrack

HH out of HHH

It may not be a Christmas album per se. But the soundtrack to Disney’s cartoon update of The Snow Queen is certainly timely — even if the lengthy orchestral score might lose the kiddies.

Various Artists

Glee: The Music — The Christmas Album Vol. 4

H1/2 out of HHH

Hark! The rapidly aging TV angels sing yet another batch of harmony-wrapped holiday ditties. Thankfully, this time it’s only a six-track EP, so it’s only slightly longer than its title.

Various Artists

Mad Men Christmas

H1/2 out of HHH

Buyer beware: Aside from the show’s theme song and Jessica Paré’s Zou Bisou Bisou, this disc mostly features reheated stuffing from various Rat Packers and lounge lizards.

Various Artists

Wow Christmas Blue

HH out of HHH

Have a holy night (but not a silent one) with the gospel label’s latest collection of previously released jingle-bell rock — along with jazz, country, pop, hip-hop, soul and more.

darryl.sterdan@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @darryl_sterdan

 


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