Kelly Clarkson – Wrapped in Red
2013, RCA Records
Buy the album
1. “Wrapped in Red”
2. “Underneath the Tree”
3. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
4. “Run Run Rudolph”
5. “Please Come Home for Christmas (Bells Will Be Ringing)”
6. “Every Christmas”
7. “Blue Christmas”
8. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
9. “Winter Dreams (Brandon’s Song)”
10. “White Christmas”
11. “My Favorite Things”
12. “4 Carats”
13. “Just for Now”
14. “Silent Night”
This will be the first time and probably only time (unless she releases another Christmas album) I’ll ever review a Kelly Clarkson album. I actually don’t mind Kelly Clarkson. She’s adorable, seems much more down to earth and girl-next-door than your normal pop star and her songs aren’t terrible and some even have a rock edge to them. I don’t own any of her albums but she’s tolerable. My only issue is she keeps dying her hair blonde! I don’t think it suits her. She’s much prettier as a brunette.
Five of the songs here are originals: “Wrapped in Red”, “Underneath the Tree” (which was released as the lead single), “Every Christmas”, “Winter’s Dreams (Brandon’s Song)” and “4 Carats”. They’re all pretty good songs. “Wrapped in Red” has an upbeat 1960s vibe to it. Reminds me of The Ronettes. “Underneath the Tree” is a modern holiday classic that brings to mind Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas album. “Every Christmas” seems like a modern retelling of “Baby, Please Come Home for Christmas” while “Winter’s Dreams (Brandon’s Song)” is what I call “American Eagle music”. Something that you’d hear playing at hipster stores like Old Navy or Aeropostale. “4 Carats” is a modern pop number.
The rest of the album is mostly comprised of old standards that are dusted off by Clarkson’s powerful vocals. We already know these songs are good. The question is always does the vocalist and does the arrangement do them justice? The answer is yes. Everyone else agrees too because the album was a success right out of the gate. It debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top 200 and has already been certified platinum.
With Wrapped in Red, Kelly Clarkson has turned in a classy holiday album that I’m sure I’ll revisit over the years. She is truly the only good thing to ever come out of American Idol.
Highlights: “Wrapped in Red”, “Underneath the Tree”, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, “Every Christmas”, “White Christmas”
Rod Stewart – Merry Christmas, Baby (Deluxe Edition)
2012, Verve Music Group
1. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
2. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
3. Winter Wonderland
4. White Christmas
5. Merry Christmas, Baby
6. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
7. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?
8. Blue Christmas
9. Red-Suited Super Man
10. When You Wish Upon A Star
11. We Three Kings
12. Silent Night
13. Auld Lang Syne
14. What Child Is This
15. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
16. Silver Bells
Producer: David Foster & Rod Stewart
For the past decade Rod Stewart has been content to become a crooner covering the “great American songbook” as well as Motown and rock ‘n’ roll staples. Despite having said in the past that he would never do a Christmas album, it was really only a matter of time before he did just that. Rod isn’t a rock star or a pop star anymore. He’s a crooner in the tradition of Crosby, Sinatra and Martin (just as Michael Buble is). You can’t be a crooner and not do a holiday album.
Rod has not been taking any chances in the past decade when covering the materials of others. The songs are played faithfully and in their traditional big-band fashion just with Rod’s raspy vocals laid over. A few exceptions would be songs like “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” or “Winter Wonderland” where the tempo is a bit slower. It’s easy listening background music at a Christmas party. Not that I’m complaining.
These songs are classics for a reason and in my opinion they don’t need to be remixed or refashioned into flamenco, country and dance songs. Just give someone with a great voice the mic and let’em sing. That’s exactly what’s been done with Merry Christmas, Baby.
As standard, there’s a few cameos on this album. Michael Buble appears on “Winter Wonderland”, Cee-Lo Green lends a hand on “Merry Christmas, Baby” and Mary J. Blige duets with Rod on “We Three Kings”.
While I can’t say I’ve ever really followed Rod’s career, he’s always had a great distinctive voice so it’s wonderful to hear to him put his vocal stamp on these timeless classics. There’s a couple of songs I didn’t really care for though. “Red-Suited Superman” being one and I felt the inclusion of “When You Wish Upon a Star” was out of place. Why not just save that for the next volume of his Great American Songbook series? That’s not really a Christmas song at all.
In any event, this is a good easy-listening Christmas album that’s well worth picking up for Chrirstmas traditionalists.
Highlights: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, “Winter Wonderland”, “White Christmas”, “Silent Night”, “Auld Lang Syne”, “What Child Is This”
John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John – This Christmas
2012, Universal Music Enterprises
1. Baby It’s Cold Outside
2. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
3. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
4. This Christmas
5. Silent Night
6. The Christmas Waltz
7. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
8. Winter Wonderland
9. White Christmas
10. I Think You Might Like It
11. The Christmas Song
12. Deck the Halls
13. Auld Lang Syne/Christmas Time Is Here
Okay, this project sounded too campy to pass up. I mean, just look at that album cover! It’s a complete sugar overload of Christmas cookies and they embrace it. The pull is that you’re getting to hear John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John sing together 34 years after they first teamed in the movie Grease. And they’ve chosen to reunite over an album’s worth of classic Christmas songs. Somehow, it seems right.
I wasn’t sure what exactly was going to be going on with this album. Would the songs be played traditionally or would they shake things up? Well, it’s a bit of both. For example, for “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” the male & female roles are reversed. Nice twist. “Silent Night” starts off with a flute and features some nice violin work as well.
There is only one song on the entire album that I am not a fan of and that’s only because I’ve never been a fan of this song: “This Christmas”. I just don’t like that song, no matter which artist is playing it. There is one original song here: “I Think You Might Like It”. It’s Christmas meets Grease. I think I might like it. It’s a true guilty pleasure.
There’s a few guest spots as well: Barbara Streisand (“I’ll Be Home For Christmas”), James Taylor (“Deck The Halls”), Kenny G (“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”), Cliff Richard (“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”) and Tony Bennett (“Winter Wonderland”).
I’m a fool for Christmas standards and as long as you don’t stray too far away from the traditional versions, I’m going to like what I’m hearing. Olivia’s voice is just as good as ever and John does a good job as well. They both really seem to be enjoying themselves on this project.
If you ever wanted to hear Danny & Sandy singing Christmas tunes, pick this album up. It’s a fun kitschy romp.
Highlights: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, “Silent Night”, “The Christmas Waltz”, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, “Winter Wonderland”, “I Think You Might Like It”, “The Christmas Song”
1. The Christmas Song
2. Christmas Spirit
3. I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day
4. Let There Be Peace On Earth
5. O Come All Ye Faithful
6. Little Drummer Boy
7. O Holy Night
8. What Child Is This
9. Silent Night
10. Christmas Mornings
11. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
12. White Christmas
Richard Marx – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards, Piano, Backing Vocals
Jerry McPherson – Guitar
Matt Scannell – Guitar
Mark Hill – Bass
Steve Brewster – Drums
Will Sayles – Drums
Michael Omartian – Piano
Jason Webb – Piano
Kenny Loggins – Lead Vocals (“Let There Be Peace On Earth”)
Sara Watkins – Lead Vocals (“Silent Night”)
Sara Niemitz – Lead Vocals (“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”)
Producer: Richard Marx
I’m a sucker for Christmas albums and Christmas in general. I don’t care who knows it. I’m also a sucker for Richard Marx. Great voice, great songwriter, he’s written some of the greatest rock/pop songs of all time. Everyone should at least own one of his greatest hits compilations.
Anyway, when I found out Richard Marx was releasing a Christmas album, I knew I had to check this out. There are some artists that toss out a holiday album as a cheap & lazy way to cash in on the holiday cheer of an unsuspecting public but that’s not what we get with Christmas Spirit. To be fair though, “Christmas Spirit”, “O Holy Night”, “Silent Night”, “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” & “Alleluia” all appeared on Marx’s The Christmas EP in 2011.
The album is named after one of the album’s original Marx-penned songs. And it’s a good one. In fact, “Christmas Spirit” is one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s upbeat and sounds like something that could’ve come from Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas album. It’s a contemporary Christmas classic, in my opinion. The second original track, “Christmas Mornings”, sounds like a classic Marx ballad to me.
The rest of the album is full of holiday standards which are sometimes played traditionally and sometimes not. “I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day” becomes even more of a haunting ballad in the hands of Richard Marx. There are now two truly great versions of this song: Bing Crosby’s and now Richard Marx’s. “Little Drummer Boy” is another song that has received a soft rock/pop makeover. This is really the only song on the album I find myself skipping over. It’s way too “light” sounding for me (and, yes, I know I’m discussing Christmas songs here).
Other songs such as “The Christmas Song”, “White Christmas”, “Let There Be Peace on Earth” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” are played pretty faithfully but still done quite well. I don’t mind hearing traditional Christmas songs played straight. For me, it has more to do with who is singing the song and it’s great hearing Richard Marx put his stamp on these timeless classics.
Christmas Spirit is a new holiday classic that is sure to get a lot more play in my house around the holidays as the years go on. Even radio seems to agree with me as I’ve already heard “Little Drummer Boy” numerous times on one of the local stations that is playing Christmas songs up until the New Year. I think they’ve played “Christmas Spirit” as well. The album is well worth picking up.
There is also an exclusive edition at Target that includes four bonus tracks: “Blue Christmas”, “Silver Bells”, “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”.
Highlights: “The Christmas Song”, “Christmas Spirit”, “I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day”, “O Come All Ye Faithful”, “O Holy Night”, “Silent Night”, “Christmas Mornings”, “White Christmas”