Music Review: “A Very Acoustic Christmas”

Winner of the first season of NBC’s “The Voice,” Javier Colon hasn’t quite reached the same success as “American Idol” alums like Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood (or even that of later winners like Cassadee Pop or Danielle Bradbery), but his velvety voice was perfect for Christmas album. It’s actually quite sad that 2011’s “A Very Acoustic Christmas” is so overlooked. The EP is certainly low-key and relaxed, but its perfect for the holiday season.

Stylistically, “Acoustic” is in the same vein as some of Michael Bublé‘s holiday songs, but without the upbeat songs. The standards are all here that you’d expect: “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” kicks off the album, followed by “The Christmas Song.” These two songs were made for voices like Colon’s.

Colon breathes new life into the dreary “River” and croons on the two closing tracks, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “O Holy Night.”

None of the songs on the EP stand out as better than another. They’re all sweet and soft and definitely worth a listen.

Music Review: “Christmas in the Sand”

 

Acoustic pop singer Colbie Caillat first reached fame in 2007 after her MySpace music page blew up in popularity and she was finally signed to a major label. Her first full-length album, “Coco,” was released in 2007 and became a top ten hit. It went on to sell over two million copies. Fast-forward to 2012 and after two more studio albums, Colbie was tackling classic Christmas songs on her first full-length Christmas album, “Christmas in the Sand.”

As a Malibu, California native, Colbie is used to green Christmases. Her holiday traditions are likely very different than those of us in the north that enjoy white Christmases nearly ever year (yet that didn’t stop her from including “Winter Wonderland” or “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” on this album). The title of the album and the title track resembles her unconventional Christmas traditions.

The first track off the album sets the tone for the rest of the set. A sweet, easy “Merry Christmas Baby” is accompanied by Brad Paisley. The album actually includes many guest appearances including Gavin DeGraw (“Baby, It’s Cold Outside“), Justin Young (“The Christmas Song“), Jason Reeves (“Every Day is Christmas“), and, of course, Brad Paisley (“Merry Christmas Baby“).

Despite the title track having a warmer feel to Christmas, the rest of the album is perfect for the holiday season for anyone in the world. Some of the highlights include: “Merry Christmas Baby,” “Christmas in the Sand,” “The Christmas Song,” and “Every Day Is Christmas.”

Music Review: “Noël”

 

Josh Groban’s 2007 Christmas album “Noël,” along with 2004’s (also Christmas-themed) “Believe” and 2005’s “You Raise Me Up,” might be Groban’s most signature pieces ever. When fans think of Josh Groban, they think of the smooth baritone crooning out Christmas classics. What kid at Christmas time hasn’t tried to emulate Groban’s deep vibrato?

Right from the start of the set, it’s no wonder this album went on to become 5x Platinum and chart #1 on the Billboard 200 for 5 weeks. Groban pulls you in and serenades you perfectly to immediately put you in the Christmas mood. Listen to this album in the middle of July and you’re likely to start longing for the winter holidays.

Groban didn’t venture this alone, however. First off, he enlisted superstar producer David Foster (Céline Dion, Michael Bublé, Charice) to help craft this beautiful collection. Guitarist Andy McKee and vocalist Gigi Hadid help out on “Little Drummer Boy,” the second song on “Noël.” Hadid reappears on “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” which is also accompanied by the voice of United States soldiers who are missing the holidays with their families. This one, I’m sure you’ve heard on the radio at Christmas time. It’s hard not to hear it at least once during the season.

Brian McKnight duets with Groban on “Angels We Have Heard on High” and the result is absolutely heavenly. “The First Noël” features Faith Hill and the album wraps up with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on “O Come All Ye Faithful.” 

Groban’s voice holds its own as he takes on Latin in “Ave Maria,” French on “Petit Papa Noël,” and Latin yet again on “Panis Angelicus.”

“Noël” is truly a classic Christmas album and Groban’s smooth vocals perfectly fit each of these songs.


Music Review: “Christmas with Nashville”

 

ABC’s hit country music drama, Nashville, premiered in 2012 and has been a favorite for fans of country music and the country music community alike. Albeit a little racier than real-life Nashville, the show has always put music at its core and that shows with the various volumes of albums they have put out featuring songs from the show.

Although it is unclear whether or not the show will put on a Christmas special to accompany the Christmas album, the album still shines on its own accord regardless. While some of the actors and actresses claim to be actors and actresses first and singers second (or, if you’re Connie Britton, you claim to not be a singer at all…) they still hold their own on these holiday standards. Clare Bowen, who plays Scarlett, kicks off the album with “Santa Baby” and Charles Esten (Deacon Clayborne) reminds us on “Blue Christmas” that this is a country Christmas album. Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barkley) takes on Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” while Hayden Panettiere delivers a sweet, although somewhat boring, rendition of “White Christmas.” The album goes jazzy and fun for Connie Britton’s “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” (although it’s more of a singsongy, spoken track, it’s still fun).

The album slows down again for Sam Palladio’s “River,” which has always been the most depressing Christmas song, in my opinion (even beating out “The Christmas Shoes“). Connie Britton returns with Will Chase on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Again, as the power couple on the show, it’s really no surprise that they’re singing this song together (and it also alludes to the fact that there will be a Nashville special, whether it be within the show or a concert special like last spring’s “Nashville: On the Record“). Aubrey Peeples sings “Merry Christmas Baby” while Chaley Rose delivers a sweet “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Lennon and Maisy deliver the only original Christmas song on the album with “Christmas Coming Home.” Will Chase sings “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and the entire cast wraps up the album with a surprisingly powerful “Celebrate Me Home.”

The entire cast gets air time on this album, so if you have a favorite character on the show, they likely have a song on here (although Chris Carmack is noticeably absent…). Throughout the album, each song retains soul (although Connie Britton’s songs are actually probably the weakest spots, I know you’re not a singer, but try a little girl!) while staying true to its country roots. Fans of the show will want to be sure to pick this up. Even those who don’t watch the show will enjoy this, although it is unlikely that they will buy an album with virtually unknown singers, but there’s a chance.

Music Review: “Cheers, It’s Christmas”

Blake Shelton shot to mainstream fame when he became known as the funny and caring guy on NBC’s The Voice, but what a lot of non-country listeners probably don’t realize is that Blake has been in the music industry since 2001 with his self-titled debut album (he sported a full-on mullet back then, as did a lot of country stars—ahem, Billy Ray Cyrus—seriously, go Google it). Back in 2008 for his album Pure BS (seriously, this guy has been a funny-man his whole life), Shelton even covered Michael Bublé’s 2005 hit, “Home,” which went on to be #1 on the country charts for Shelton. Together, Shelton and Bublé reworked the song with a Christmas theme and sang it together on this Christmas album. One of the highlights from this twang-heavy Christmas album.

Now, if you’re not one for country music, maybe you should simply be cherry-picking songs like “Jingle Bell Rock” (sung with Shelton’s wife, Miranda Lambert), “White Christmas,”  or “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” Throughout these songs, Shelton “tones down” the country and sings a classic rendition of the famous holiday hits. However, Shelton has a pure country voice, full of twang in its own right. Non-country lovers might not take to his scratchy soulful voice, but with country music on the rise, who isn’t at least a little bit of a country fan?

The album is packed with guest-stars: Shelton’s wife, Miranda Lambert (“Jingle Bell Rock“), superstar Reba McEntire (“Oklahoma Christmas“–talk about a twangy, pure country song), pop star Kelly Clarkson (“There’s a New Kid in Town“–Clarkson released her own Christmas album last year as well), crooner Michael Bublé (“Home“), country trio Pistol Annies (“Blue Christmas“–hey, there’s Miranda Lambert again!), The Voice contestant Xenia (“Silver Bells“), Shelton’s mother Dorothy Shackleford (“Time for Me to Come Home“), and Trypta-Phunk (“The Very Best Time of Year“).

At its heart, this album is a classic Christmas album, with a few songs that are pure-country (hey, you can’t expect someone like Blake Shelton to not include corny songs like “Santa’s Got a Choo Choo Train“). Country fans want to be sure to pick this album up for their holiday collection. Non-country lovers might want to listen to a few previews before deciding which ones to pick up. 

Music Review: “Miracles: The Holiday Album”

When you think of contemporary jazz, I’m sure Kenny G comes to mind. Especially as the guy who happens to always be on a float at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This saxophonist has been churning out tunes since 1982, however it wasn’t until 1994 that he put together “Miracles: The Holiday Album,” which went on to sell over 7 million copies and has been played every year on holiday radio stations ever since. Twenty years later, this smooth jazz holiday collection still perfectly provides the soundtrack to your holiday traditions.

Although short, the album has so many high points it’s hard to pick a favorite. The first four songs, “Winter Wonderland,” “White Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Silent Night” are probably the best on the album, however the rest of the album is certainly worth a listen.

You can find the album on Youtube (check it out below). Play it while you’re setting up the tree, baking cookies, or just while you’re cleaning or doing housework. It will certainly put you in the holiday mood immediately. 

Music Review: “These Are Special Times”

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Canada’s most famous songstress, Celine Dion, is known for her powerful range and her impressive ballads. Songs like “My Heart Will Go On” (from Titanic), “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” and “That’s The Way It Is” have made her a household name. It’s no wonder that her 1998 Christmas album is filled with pieces of musical perfection from the album opener, “O Holy Night”—which is a slow build until Ms. Dion is releasing the full power of her voice—to “Les cloches du hameau” (“The Bells of the Hamlet”) which closes out the album.

With seven out of the 16 tracks originals, the album is filled with Christmas classics as well as songs that further cement Dion’s place in the power-ballad world such as “The Prayer” with Andrea Bocelli and “I’m Your Angel” with R. Kelly.

There are so many high points such as “Ave Maria,” “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” and “Christmas Eve” among others. The low points are few and far between. With each song, Celine sings with power and conviction that every song featured on the album emits a sense of the Christmas spirit.

Despite some songs being in a language other than English (“Adeste Fideles”—”O Come All Ye Faithful”, “Feliz Navidad,” “Les cloches du hameau”), Celine is able to captivate listeners. Even if you don’t know what she’s singing, she’s still singing it so beautifully that it doesn’t matter.

This album is a staple for Christmas music and will be held among the high standard of other artists such as Mariah Carey’s “Merry Christmas,” Michael Bublé’s “Christmas,” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Wrapped in Red.”

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