The 2006 Christmas Music Guide

The 2006 Christmas Music Guide

Sarah McLachlan, Wintersong If anyone was going to create a gloomy Christmas album it was bound to be Sarah McLachlan. Full of mid-tempo, piano based versions of holiday favourites; McLachlan puts together an album worthy of being in her discography. Wintersong highlights include “I’ll Be Home For Chirstmas” which features a ghostly backing harmony; the […]

Sarah McLachlan, Wintersong

If anyone was going to create a gloomy Christmas album it was bound to be Sarah McLachlan. Full of mid-tempo, piano based versions of holiday favourites; McLachlan puts together an album worthy of being in her discography. Wintersong highlights include “I’ll Be Home For Chirstmas” which features a ghostly backing harmony; the medley of “The First Noel/Mary Mary” starts off as an original rendition then morphs into a tribal, club oriented beat; and “Silent Night” best showcases McLachlan’s soothing vocals. But my favourite track is McLachlan’s cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River” which really captures the feeling of the original track, of wanting to escape. As far as Christmas albums go, this is definitely one of this year’s best. (Nettwerk) — Jason Gladu

RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5

Bette Midler, Cool Yule

Bette Midler’s first holiday effort sticks to the classics, but still manages to sound fresh and vital, thanks to Midler’s sassy and emotive vocals. Cool Yule is also a great party record to play from beginning to end, as it’s intelligently sequenced, balancing the ballads and uptempo tracks perfectly. The most distinctive tracks are the jazzy uptempo cuts, including the swinging title track, “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” and the peppy “Mele Kalikimakaso.” However, the ballads are more ho-hum, as Midler’s renditions stay pretty faithful. But plug your ears when the rewritten “Christmas version” of her 1990 hit “From a Distance” starts, which is tacky, and the album’s sole embarrassment. Fortunately, Midler spared us a Christmas version of “The Rose” (just imagine: “Some say love it is a razor/That cuts into your Christmas tree”). (Columbia/Sony BMG) — Robert Ballantyne

RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5

Sufjan Stevens, Songs for Christmas

This best of five-disc box set is a warm collection of original and indie rock takes of your favourite Christmas songs. Like Stevens’ past work, it’s full of quirky yet smart song structures, and his loveable light hearted voice. Although the classics are here (from “Jingle Bells” to “Joy To The World”) the best cuts are Stevens’ originals. Huge rocker “Hey Guys! It’s Christmas Time” dissolves into bells anda subtle mix of banjo, and keyboards accentuate the heartache tale on “Did I Make You Cry On Christmas.” Sweet, thoughtful, and fun, Songs should melt even the coldest of hearts. (Sonic Unyon Records) — JG

RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5

Leigh Nash, Wishing for This

Nash’s sugary sweet vocals make her an ideal Christmas performer, which Wishing for This wisely exploits. This seven-track EP opens with a brassy duet with Gabe Dixon on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” followed by warm covers of Ron Sexsmith’s “Maybe this Christmas” and Wham!’s “Last Christmas.” However, the EP is front-loaded, because after this point, melancholy takes over, and Wishing for This becomes overly saccharine — including the solemn holiday tracks “O Holy Night” and Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas.” (One Son Records/Nettwerk) — RB

RATING: 3 OUT OF 5

Bootsy Collins, Christmas is 4 Ever

Oddball funk bassist Bootsy Collins clearly wants us to have a very funky Christmas, but even with plenty of lyrical references, Christmas is 4 Ever doesn’t quite capture the holiday spirit. Part of the reason why is that Bootsy throws in too many long indulgent voice overs, though when the tracks finally begin, he pulls off the funk-holiday concept in tracks like “Silent Night” and “Jingle Belz.” Unfortunately, most of the reinterpretations of classics are too radical, rendering them unrecognizable. This is a novelty record for Bootsy’s fans only. (Sony BMG) —RB

RATING: 2.5 OUT OF 5

Twisted Sister, A Twisted Christmas

After experiencing A Twisted Christmas, I actually felt bad for wasting an hour of my life on such a lifeless collection. I could actually get more enjoyment out of Kenny G playing in the background, then sitting back and listening to this catastrophe. Featuring bastardized, ’80s hair metal versions of Christmas favourites like “Come All Ye Faithful”, “White Christmas”, and “Have Your Self A Merry Little Christmas”, this collection is ruined by ear-splitting vocals, and deafening drum and guitar sounds. This is too much crap to take in all at once. (Sony BMG) — JG

RATING: 0.5 OUT OF 5