Their distinctive interpretations of standards such as “Oh Holy Night,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “Angels We Have Heard On High,” as well as out singer/songwriter Chely Wright’s “It Really Is A Wonderful Life” and Beth Nielsen Chapman’s “There’s Still My Joy,” are glorious, while the inclusion of Woody Guthrie’s “Happy Joyous Hanukkah” is a delight.
Annie Lennox: ‘A Christmas Cornucopia’
One listen to Annie Lennox’s beautiful and abundant “A Christmas Cornucopia” (Decca) and you will wonder why she hasn’t recorded an album such as this before. After all, she was born on Dec. 25. The dozen songs range from the well-known selections including “The First Noel ,” “In the Bleak Midwinter” and “Silent Night” to less familiar fare such as “As Joseph Was a Walking,” “See Amid the Winter’s Snow” and “Angels From the Realms of Glory.” Lennox closes the disc with the original composition “Universal Child,” a powerful number with a message that extends beyond the holiday season.
Shelby Lynne: ‘Merry Christmas!’
Shelby Lynne tosses her Santa hat into the ring with “Merry Christmas!” (Everso/Fontana). Like the Indigo Girls, Lynne combines her renditions of classics of the season, including a “Sleigh Ride/Winter Wonderland” medley, “Christmas Time Is Here,” “O Holy Night,” “White Christmas,” “Silent Night” and “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” with her own compositions. “Ain’t Nothing Like Christmas” is a celebratory song of the season, while “Xmas” reminds us of Lynne’s way with heartbreak, even during the holidays.
The Puppini Sisters: ‘Christmas With The Puppini Sisters’
The Puppini Sisters sound like they were born to sing holiday songs. They put Elton John’s “Step Into Christmas” into their personal time machine on “Christmas With The Puppini Sisters” (Verve), giving the song a timelessness. The same goes for George Michael’s “Last Christmas” and even Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas.” As for familiar favorites such as “Santa Baby,” “Let It Snow” and the ukulele-driven “Mele Kalikimaka,” they are given the respectful treatment one would expect from the Puppinis.
Ronnie Spector: ‘Best Christmas Ever’
A new cause for celebration, “Best Christmas Ever” (Bad Girls Sounds) marks Ronnie Spector’s return to holiday music. From the inclusive “It’s The Time (Happy Holidays) to the buoyant “My Christmas Wish” to the radiant “Light One Candle” and the retro “Best Christmas Ever,” this is one Christmas gift you won’t want to return.
Canadian Tenors: ‘The Perfect Gift’
The Canadian Tenors give “The Perfect Gift” (Decca) an especially Canadian flavor. The vocal quartet teams up with fellow country-person Sarah McLachlan on her “Wintersong,” for example, and also perform “Huron Carol,” written by Canadian Jesuit Jean de Brébeuf, as well as two co-written by Stephan Moccio (the title tune and “Instrument of Peace”). In an unusual twist, the Tenors extend the Canadian connection to include Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (complete with bagpipes!).
Celtic Thunder: ‘Christmas’
Celtic Thunder keeps the thunder to a minimum on their holiday disc “Christmas” (Decca). They do, however, perform new or lesser-known songs such as “Christmas 1915,” “Going Home For Christmas,” “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” and “Our First Christmas Together,” which serve to enhance the familiarity factor on the rest of the disc.
Top photo: Indigo Girls Emily Saliers and Amy Ray offer the radiant ‘Holly Happy Days,’ a compelling collection of new songs and beloved classics. (Publicity photo)