Manufacturer: Michael W Smith
Brand: Capitol Christian Distribution
Three-time GRAMMY winner Michael W. Smith ushers in the Christmas season with the September 30 release of MICHAEL W. SMITH & FRIENDS: THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS, featuring an all-star lineup of guests inclusing Vince Gill, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Amy Grant, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Nettles, Bono and Michael McDonald. This star-studded album is full of timeless carols, holiday favorites and new versions of some of Michael's most loved Christmas songs.
Manufacturer: Manhattan Records
Brand: Manhatten Records
Celtic Woman Warms up Winter with 'A Christmas Celebration'. Featuring singers ChloI Agnew, Orla Fallon, Lisa Kelly and Meav NI Mhaolchatha, and fiddler MairEad Nesbitt, the album is a joyous celebration of the Christmas season, performed by this Irish supergroup that has captured the imagination of fans across America.
OhmygodtheBackstreetBoysrule!!!!!! OK, with that out of the way, let's review The Hits--Chapter One, which is one-stop shopping for the hunky pop group's three American albums--their 1997 self-titled debut, 1999's Millennium, and 2000's Black & Blue. The first disc really shines with "As Long as You Love Me," "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)," and "All I Have to Give," capturing the Backstreet Boys' essence: sunny pop under the influence of blue-eyed soul. "I Want It That Way," from the second album, is an undeniable classic, while "The Call" has a deliciously frenzied sexual urgency and a strong, danceable beat. But the other tracks are uneven with the oddball fan-appreciation anthem "Larger Than Life" surrounded by somber, predictable ballads. The new single, "Drowning," is same-old same-old: lazy moaning over a drum machine. The Hits--Chapter One might be an optimistic name for this '90s retrospective. The future is cloudy for chapter two. --Courtney Kemp
Reissue of the pop crooner's 1963 Christmas classic. Highlights include "White Christmas", "Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season", "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year", "The First Noel", & "O Holy Night". This was one of the best-selling Christmas records of the 1960s, and with good cause! Somehow, without the fatherly image of Bing Crosby, or the svelte croon of Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett, or even the reverent innocence of Perry Como, Andy Williams managed to make a holiday institution! This collection of Christmas songs is full of standards normally identified with other artists, but armed with an average tenor and lots of exuberance, Andy Williams made them his own. His "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" is the most exhilarating version of the song there is, and even his "White Christmas" and "O Holy Night" are more than just passable. This is not only Williams's best Christmas collection, this is one that should be in every holiday music collection. --Steve Gdula
Manufacturer: SBME SPECIAL MKTS.
Brand: Kenny & Dolly Once Upon a Christmas
This country-music dynamic duo went pop Top 40 with this holiday hit in '84. Along with White Christmas and a medley featuring Winter Wonderland; Sleigh Ride , and other favorites, they sing Dolly's own Once upon a Christmas; A Christmas to Remember; With Bells On; I Believe in Santa Claus , and more!
Manufacturer: EMI / Universal / Sony Music Entertainment
The title doesn't lie, even if it does sounds like a hyperbolic pitch from an old late-night cable TV ad. With 36 tracks of various genres spread over two discs, Now That's What I Call Christmas might be the best, most eclectic "value-plus" holiday record ever released, assuming your tastes embrace crooners such as Cole, Crosby, and Como, plus contemporary boy bands such as Boyz II Men, as well as the ubiquitous. In between there are the sumptuous classics by Bobby Helms, Brenda Lee, the Beach Boys, Elvis, and Burl Ives on disc one, balanced on disc two by more recent standards, including Bruce Springsteen's live version of "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" and John and Yoko's "Happy Xmas (War is Over)." You're not obligated to like everything here, but that's why Santa invented the forward button on your CD player. The title doesn't lie, even if it does sounds like a hyperbolic pitch from an old late-night cable TV ad. With 36 tracks of various genres spread over two discs, Now That's What I Call Christmas might be the best, most eclectic "value-plus" holiday record ever released, assuming your tastes embrace crooners such as Cole, Crosby, and Como, plus contemporary boy bands such as Boyz II Men, as well as the ubiquitous Britney Spears. In between there are the sumptuous classics by Bobby Helms, Brenda Lee, the Beach Boys, Elvis, and Burl Ives on disc one, balanced on disc two by more recent standards, including Bruce Springsteen's live version of "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" and John and Yoko's "Happy Xmas (War is Over)." You're not obligated to like everything here, but that's why Santa invented the forward button on your CD player. --Martin Keller
Manufacturer: Flashback Atlantic
Brand: joy to the world
Joy: A Holiday Collection is a Christmas album originally released by Jewel in 1999. The radio-only single "Joy to the World" was released in November the same year. The album has been certified gold and platinum by the RIAA, with sales of over 1 million.
Jewel ~ Joy - A Holiday Collection Jewel has concocted an intriguing and at times beautifully inspired holiday album, playing it straight with a big orchestra and backing voices for the first half of the record with standards such as "Joy to the World," "Winter Wonderland," "Silent Night," as well as a lovely rendition of "Ave Maria." Things finally get sparkling in the last half where Jewel does a low-key, kid version of "Rudolph" and sings her own compositions. Her moving "Face of Love" and "Hands" are certain to become holiday standards, capable of being sung in a country, pop, gospel, or R&B vein and deserving of an audience as wide as the nation itself. The record's centerpiece, however, seems to be a six-minute-plus medley that mixes "Go Tell It on the Mountain" with the recent hit "From a Distance" and her own "Life Uncommon." Nonetheless, her stunning adaptation of "Gloria" inspired, in part, by Bach's B-Minor Mass, two tracks later is as powerful and lovely a Christmas vocal performance as you will find anywhere. Produced by the legendary Arif Mardin, Joy is destined to become a holiday classic. --Martin Keller
CD has a few marks, but plays perfect. Booklet NM. Elton John doesn't seem like a natural choice to write for a Disney musical, but he rose to the task on The Lion King, transcending his usual penchant for the softest of soft rock. Sir Elton's collaboration with Tim Rice (former writing partner of Andrew Lloyd Webber) helps connect the soundtrack to the theatrical lineage of all Disney musicals--so much so that, like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King was eventually adapted for Broadway. Undistinguished songs like "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" are far outnumbered by stirring, stately tunes that lent the film so much of its sense of pageant and play. --John Sanchez