I've acquired a few new release Christmas CDs this year, so I'll post a few thoughts about them. Mini-reviews, strictly my opinions. These albums were already on my must-buy list this year, and there are a few others I'm considering. The great thing about online music services such as Spotify is that you can listen to many of these new releases before you make a buying decision. So, between my mini-reviews, all the other reviews out there in Christmas music land, and the ability to listen online, you'll have lots of information available to help decide what to add to your own personal Christmas music collection.
Chris Mann - "Home for Christmas"
Chris Mann was a finalist on season 2 of "The Voice" (a show I and my family love to watch). Chris is an opera singer from Wichita, KS (hey! I grew up 45 miles south of Wichita), and he quickly became a favorite of ours each week as he made it further toward the finals.
Chris has released a 6-song EP this Christmas, a Wal-Mart exclusive release. I set aside my personal pledge to avoid Wal-Mart in order to buy Chris' CD, and it was well worth it. Chris' performances are splendid, and this CD will get a lot of play in the Bingle house this year. The highlights are the beautiful "O Holy Night" and "Ave Maria", and Chris' rendition of "The First Noel" is one of the best I've heard.
Stylistically, Chris Mann will be compared to Josh Groban. There's some legitimacy to that, although Josh Groban is a purer baritone while Chris edges closer to tenor.
I think you will enjoy Chris Mann and "Home for Christmas".
Colbie Caillat - "Christmas in the Sand"
Colbie Caillat's Christmas release was one of most highly anticipated here in the Christmas interwebs. I bought the Target exclusive edition, with a couple bonus songs. Colbie has a terrific, natural singing style, effortlessly hitting the notes and rhythms. "Christmas in the Sand" is very pleasant and tuneful, but seems to be lacking songs that are truly memorable. Nothing here really stands out as exceptional, nor is there a bad song on the disc. To me, it's a middle-of-the-road, pleasant to hear once or twice type of album.
I'll admit to not being much of a country music fan, but I wanted to love this record. I like it, but don't love it. Colbie performs well, but I can't hear much passion in the recordings. And, there are too many duets. It seems like country singers have a quota for duets on their Christmas releases. Three of the first six songs as duets were just too many. Maybe I would have liked the record more if it were just Colbie. I'll never know.
It's pleasant, and Christmassy, and charming. Just not too memorable.
Blake Shelton - "Cheers, It's Christmas"
Hmmm, I just said that I'm not much of a country music fan, and here I am reviewing another album by a country music artist, Blake Shelton. Blake is terrific as a coach on "The Voice", and he's very good at his craft. And, generally, Blake's brand of country music is not too bad to Der Bingle's ears.
Blake's "Cheers, It's Christmas" is in may ways similar to Colbie Caillat's. It's competently done, sticks to the dual genres of Christmas and country, and features several duets. And again, like Colbie's, it's pleasant to listen to, but not one that I'll spin every day.
One difference though, is a standout song. Blake, together with "Voice" protege Xenia, perform "Silver Bells" using a unique and outstanding arrangement. This is truly a memorable performance, and placed as track 12, was a very satisfying surprise toward the end of the record.
Country music fans will probably love this record. I like it, and love "Silver Bells".
Ceelo Green - "Ceelo's Magic Moment"
We didn't know what to expect from Ceelo Green, another performer tied to "The Voice" (a coach, as is Blake Shelton). We knew that whatever Ceelo released on a Christmas record would be interesting.
So far, "Ceelo's Magic Moment" is my favorite new release for 2012. Yes, it's interesting, but in very good ways. Ceelo has given us a record with a wide variety of Christmas songs, with a few guest stars, such as Christina Aguilera, Rod Stewart, Straight No Chaser, and The Muppets.
Everything is solid and entertaining, with creative arrangements, going over the top when it makes sense (Baby, It's Cold Outside) and showing respect and reverence when appropriate ("Silent Night"). Ceelo has fun with the Muppets on "All I Need Is Love" and with Straight No Chaser on a great interpretation of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch".
The highlight, though, is a tremendous verson of "Mary, Did You Know?". Easily the most emotional song on the record, Ceelo treats this song with all the reverence it deserves. It is a beautifully charged song, performed excellently.
I highly recommend adding Ceelo to your Christmas.
Well, that's all for tonight. Der Bingle will be back soon with more Christmas-season ramblings...