Holiday

Simply Christmas [Deluxe Edition] (CD)

Hot off the success of his performance in Hamilton, Leslie Odom Jr. brought his smooth and expressive vocal prowess to the world of Christmas standards with last year's Simply Christmas, which has received the deluxe edition treatment this season, adding four new songs to the track listing. With pure and simple arrangements, Odom Jr.'s voice takes front and center, creating a cozy and intimate atmosphere, which brings to mind, not so much the hustle, bustle, and chaos of the holiday season, but the cathartic aftermath, sitting by the fire with family and friends. Adding subtle jazz and showtune elements to such songs as "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "First Noel" breathes new life to these classics, while still maintaining a universal appeal. The standout new track, "Please Come Home For Christmas," goes full-bore soul, with complete with horn section and blues-y, gospel-y piano.

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Christmas Christmas (CD)

If you're tired of the usual jazzy holiday fare this year, check out Cheap Trick's first holiday album, Christmas Christmas. A fun follow-up to last summer's vibrant We're All Alright, the new album mixes a few upbeat original songs, such as "Merry Christmas Darlings," with seasonal rock n' roll classics by the likes of Chuck Berry, The Kinks, The Ramones and Slade.

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Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection For All The Family (CD)

Maybe Nick Lowe is not the name that comes to mind when you think of Christmas music. Understandably, you’d be forgiven. The former pub-rock/new-wave icon known for his wry lyrics and wit seems like an antithetical fit for the commercially safe and stale venture that is the Christmas album. Yet the irony is not lost on Lowe, who at 68 years old has been deep into his crooner phase for over a decade now, but whose sense of mischievousness is still intact as he imbues “Silent Night” full of rocksteady rhythm and rockabilly guitar licks. To his credit, Lowe plays the majority of the album straight, with faithful renditions of Xmas standards along with tender originals such as “I Was Born In Bethlehem.” However, it’s “Christmas at the Airport” that steals the show; another Lowe original and one that blends holiday melancholia, cheeky humor, and a Tin Pan Alley melodic sensibility all in one. Oh, and it’s really catchy too!

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You Make It Feel Like Christmas (CD)

Taking a cue from classic Christmas albums like Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift For You, Gwen Stefani fronts her own wall of sound on You Make It Feel Like Christmas, blending her trademark rock/pop crooning with lush orchestration and rhythm sections reminiscent of the '50s and '60s. Muted guitars and horse hoof-like percussion, seemingly out of an old cowboy tune, form the backbone of her swinging "White Christmas" update, which is embellished with playful horns, delicate strings, and catchy backing vocals. "Jingles Bells" becomes punchy and rockin' with fat, low horns punctuating throughout, while perennial favorite "Santa Baby" finds the guitars slinky and jazzy, cutting a cool crawl beneath the flittering violins and soulful vocals. It's not all covers though, as Stefani co-wrote half of the album's tracks, like the inspirational "Christmas Eve," a melancholy, romantic piano ballad, and the album's boppin' title track, which features none other than Stefani's boyfriend, country singer Blake Shelton. Gwen Stefani may have shed her alt-rocker skin years ago to transform into a bonafide pop icon, but on You Make It Feel Like Christmas, she proves she still has a reverence for old-school rock 'n' roll, and brings pop back to what it used to be: a fun, swingin' time.

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My Kind Of Christmas (CD)

After a limited run last year, Reba McEntire's My Kind Of Christmas gets an expanded release for 2017 with three new tracks. The album features gorgeous, stripped-down arrangements of classic Christmas standards, amplified by McEntire's distinctive vocals and guest turns by Darius Rucker, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Lauren Daigle, and more.

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