Colbie Caillat Christmas in the Sand/Universal Republic
As one of the more popular members of the current crop of female singers, it was really only a matter of time before Colbie Caillat recorded a holiday album.
One would think that where Caillat’s warm, friendly voice was involved, the end result would be an excellent album of Christmas songs.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work out that way.
To be fair, there is plenty to like on “Christmas in the Sand,” especially the album’s title track, which is one of four Caillat originals included here.
With its imagery of suntan oil mixed with peppermint candy canes, “Christmas in the Sand” is easily one of the best new holiday songs to come along in a while, and it’s especially well-suited in places like the Lowcountry, where we’ve all worn shorts on Christmas Day at one time or another.
“Mistletoe,” another Caillat original, gets the job done simply by being delivered in much the same way Caillat did her radio hits such as “Bubbly” and “Realize.”
The biggest problem with this album is the lackluster delivery of the classics.
Her duet with Gavin DeGraw on “Baby It’s Cold Outside” just might be the most unromantic delivery of that Christmas song ever.
A try at “Merry Christmas Baby” that features help from Brad Paisley is a bit better, but still relatively flat.
And after hearing her version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” you’ll likely be reaching for the superior Jackson 5 version to wake yourself back up.
In truth, Caillat would have done well to have released an EP of her original holiday tunes, since that is solely where this album’s strengths lie.
Key Tracks: “Christmas in the Sand,” “Mistletoe,” “Happy Christmas”
CeeLo Green CeeLo’s Magic Moment/Elektra/Asylum
If Colbie Caillat’s holiday album is half-baked, then by comparison CeeLo Green’s Christmas CD is over-the-top campy.
That’s pretty much how CeeLo rolls, as evidenced by his success with Gnarls Barkley and as a solo artist with songs such as “Forget You” (as the radio-friendly version is titled).
CeeLo has one of those voices that begs to be let loose, like a well-tuned race car on an open track. When he belts out a holiday classic like “White Christmas” or “Please Come Home for Christmas,” you realize just how great a vocalist this guy is.
Highlights of “CeeLo’s Magic Moment” includes a collaboration with Rod Stewart and Trombone Shorty on “Merry Christmas, Baby,” a subdued — for CeeLo at least — version of “River” and a smoldering version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Christina Aguilera, his fellow judge on the TV show “The Voice.”
In typical CeeLo style, there are a few nice surprises, most notably the appearance by The Muppets on “All I Need is Love.”
Throughout the album, CeeLo doesn’t get too caught up in the sentiment of the more serious songs, but also doesn’t let that amazing voice get away from him.
Too often CeeLo is looked upon as some sort of R&B novelty act, but in truth, the guy has a serious set of pipes, and knows a thing or two about arranging a song.
“CeeLo’s Magic Moment” has the potential to become a holiday classic itself.
Key Tracks: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “Please Come Home For Christmas,” “Merry Christmas, Baby”
Various artists Holidays Rule/HEAR Music
New compilations of Christmas songs by popular artists are almost always a mixed bag.
I love the classic “A Very Special Christmas” albums from the ’80s, but for every hit like Run-DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” on that classic album, you also have to deal with something like Sting’s insufferable “Gabriel’s Message.”
The new “Holidays Rule” compilation is no exception to this rule.
When it kicks things off with a lukewarm take on “Sleigh Ride,” you start to wonder what you might have gotten yourself into.
Fortunately, things recover quickly when The Shins launch into their cover of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.”
Rufus Wainwright and Sharon Van Etten give “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” a timeless, classy feel, while Paul McCartney turns in a lovely version of “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire).”
The album hums right along with acts such as Black Prairie, The Civil Wars and Calexico covering classic holiday tunes, but nearly stops dead with a couple of duds: “We Need A Little Christmas” by AgesandAges and “That’s What I Want for Christmas” by Holly Golightly.
Irma Thomas applies the paddles and brings the album back to life with “May Ev’ry Day Be Christmas,” and, with a couple of exceptions, the collection is rounded out by excellent renditions of songs performed by Fruit Bats, Y la Bamba, The Head & The Heart and Andrew Bird.
There’s a lot of great stuff here, certainly enough to warrant a purchase if you’re looking for a holiday album with a bit of a hipster edge to it.
Key Tracks: “Wonderful Christmastime,” “(Everybody’s Waitin’ For) The Man With The Bag,” “Senor Santa”
By Devin Grant