Holiday Album 2018: Women Ring In The Season

This is probably one of the most plentiful Holiday Album Seasons in the past 5 years. There is such a large number of good album covering a broad spectrum of music genres. 


Something’s Happening! A Christmas Album : CeCe Winans - One of the first album I jumped to listening when I saw it released is CeCe Winans first solo holiday album. CeCe’s first holiday album First Christmas, was with brother BeBe Winans back in 1993 and it still one of my all time top picks. Their silent night is probably one of the few R&B Silent Nights to get a 5. This season Cece Winans brings the holiday gospel sound to a whole new level. This album is certainly in my top 5 for this season. Her combination of choral stylings and amazing orchestrations really brightens up some holiday classics. Hark the Herald Angels Sing and Giving Season were quickly added to my holiday playlist. Her rendition of It’s Christmas will certainly be a title song on next seasons Christmas movie. Although I have to giver her Silent Night a score of 3.5, still prefer her duet with BeBe. Overall an album to check out. 


An Aaron Watson Family Christmas : Aaron Watson -  For his first Christmas Album, Aaron Watson went with, CUTE. The staple holiday songs like Have Yourself a Merry Christmas  and Silent Night are not the cliche strong points of an album here. Although I will say that I really enjoyed Lonely Lonestar Christmas. The album has several of his family members singing on it, including his three younger children singing Christmas Time is Here. Which was a total nod to Vince Guillardi’s Peanut’s classic. Sadly I cringed through most of the song. If you love country music, stick with Lonely Lonestar Christmas.  


It’s The Holiday Season: Martina McBride - This is McBride’s second holiday album and things didn’t go so well the first time. The first album was laid out with her moving from her country roots into the big band standards. For the second album, the overall sound was all big band numbers with some Andrew Sisters backup. At first listen, the continuous big band sound from song to song does get a little too sugary, sadly there’s no alternative takes or even any updated takes to the standards. I’m not sure how she managed to turn My Favorite Things into such a slow but Debbie downer tempo. Her voice sounds amazing but I don’t think this album should really have been made in this nature. Maybe she should’ve stuck with country. The album cover was also a miss as well. 


Happy Xmas: Eric Clapton - I really wanted to like this album but what you are left with in the end, is scratching your head like you had lice. The album is mostly blues based and a similar to McBride’s slower tempo album. The interesting part of this album is halfway through the album, on track seven, there is this random techno club song which is titled Jingle Bells. I had to check other websites to make sure Apple didn’t upload the wrong and no, Eric Clapton did a 90s techno take on Jingle Bells. So it could actually be that Apple has put in the wrong MP3 or MP four for the song. As for the Silent Night test, I fell asleep, I give it a solid 1 star. The album does have a few songs that slip into a little island reggae notes. If I had to pick one song on this test album it would be It’s Christmas. The energy is there but it’s not playlist worthy. 


Sound of Peace: The Christmas Collection : Michael McDonald - This album is true R&B sound and is chop full of really good songs for the season. I think the two take off hits that I’ve already added to my playlist and you should also are the tracks titled Peace and Oh Holy Night. The album gives a lot of upbeat brightness which is definitely needed this holiday season. McDonald’s album also features a few tracks that really add some flair to the holiday season. For example Winter Wonderland with Jake Shimabukuro playing a ukulele along with McDonald is truly an island treat. There is also the Christmas in the Bayou track which rocking out but if you are cooking a classic southern holiday dinner, this song should be on rotation. The crowning glory of that album that was his perfect rendition of Have Yourself a Merry Christmas.


Shatner Claus: William Shatner - Yes you read that correctly. William Shatner (Captain Kirk) has made a holiday album, what’s not to love? This album is pretty much a celebrity mishmash. Everyone from hard rock singers like Henry Rollins  & Iggy Pop to the classic 70s voice of Judy Collins jumped on the Shatner train. The spoken word Silent Night is certainly an interesting take, definitely not something you wanna rock out too. When you hear a song like jingle bells with his joyful belly laughter then followed by the death metal sound of Henry Rollins you kind of come to a screeching halt. The one song or spoken word performance that did catch my ear was Shatner’s Twas The Night Before Christmas featuring Mel Collins. It even caught my kids hear when they heard it. 


On This Holiday: Jessie James Decker - Decker dropped her album late this year and its a sophomore album for the country singer. Thankfully she didn’t make the same mistake as the first album and have two of the same songs. The one song that does stand out is Baby It’s Christmas, which is funny because Baby it’s Cold Outside was the big hit on her first album. In the end the album just sounds like it’s the second half of her recordings during her 2015 album studio sessions. 


This Christmas Day: Jessie J - This album is the crème de la crème of the 2018 season. The crowning glory of my top 5 for the season. I don’t think you can get any better than Jessie’s amazing vocal range in combination with a big band orchestra on a holiday album. Jessie opens the album up with a series of big band songs and then leads into a series of R&B ballads for the holidays. One of the best songs of the album is her duet of The Christmas Song with Babyface. Unfortunately Babyface spends most the song singing backup. Another duet song Winter Wonderland features my 90s favorite, Boys to Men. Her gospel rendition of This Christmas is a definite add to my playlist. For her rendition of  Silent Night, I have to give her five stars because her voice is just simply elevated beyond belief. It would’ve been amazing to actually see the three tenors and Jessie J perform a holiday concert. She could have seriously given Diana Ross or Julie Andrews’s run for their money.


Warmest Christmas Wishes: Engelbert Humperdinck - 6 Albums later and Engelbert is still going strong. The album is a pretty safe sell when it comes to Christmas albums. Humperdinck’s follower may be the grey hair set but to be honest the album is pretty good. He has his Neil Diamond moments on songs like Silent Night but he sounds pretty amazing for singer 50+ years into his career.

Christmas with My Friends VI: Nils Landgren -  Nils Landgren where the hell have you been all my life. This is Nils Landgren’s 6 edition to his Christmas with My Friends Anthology. I am totally shocked I have overlook Nils Landgren’s series of holiday albums for the past 12 years. The first album dates back to 2006, this Swedish musician has been pulling together global voices to  installment album titled Christmas with my friends is the hidden gem of the season. The albums are soulful collaboration of Jazz & Folk genre songs that bring you into the holiday spirit. Landren, a trombone player by trade, has pulled together some amazing vocalists as well as instrumental players to give a real special treat have a holiday album. Every season I try to find that one song on each album that is unique or is rarely ever chosen when compiling a hoilday/Christmas album. This album literally has10 songs that are rarely ever used. What’s even more interesting is my favorite songs aren’t even the top downloaded songs on the album. Who Comes at Night is certainly a favoritet but the jaw dropping song on the album award has to go to I Have A Dream, yes, the ABBA song. Who would’ve thought this what song would be perfect for a holiday album. The styling and vocals by Yohan Norberg is simply relaxing and just makes you want to smile. Especially since share just released a whole entire album honoring ABBA. 

A Legendar Christmas: John Legend - One of the most anticipated albums of the holiday season is John legend’s new album. Ok, yes this almost purely a Motown sound album with nod to the Motown greats like Stevie wonder and Marvin Gaye. Some of the classic Motown songs are a 50-50 split in terms of what is working. Purple Snowflakes was a definite fail while What Christmas Means To Me is a grand slam and an amazing duet with Stevie Wonder. More importantly what’s interesting about this album is that all the top downloads so far are the basic Christmas classics. The one song that is truly a John Legend sound, and I wish the rest the album had the same sound, was his rendition Waiting for Christmas. One man. One piano. By Christmas Eve is another song that fits into the Legend sound stylings. Another piece of perfection. And I will say Legends homage to Charles Brown's Please Come Home for Christmas belongs in a Chris Columbus Xmas movie soundtrack.

Songs for the Season : Ingrid Michaelson - This is the album that will be iconic, mark my words. The holiday album cover sets the feel for this album, her 40s attire on the cover is the perfect hint of what to expect. Listening to the album reminds me of my childhood and listening to Christmas albums at my grandmothers or parents houses, all those albums from the 40s and 50s by such greats like Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney. The song Let It Snow! hits all those memorable tones. Happy Happy Christmas is a real interesting twist on the album and I found myself adding so many songs from this album to my 2018 playlist from this album. She has a few duets but the highlight duet is All I Want for Christmas is you with Leslie Odom Jr. It’s such a slow and refreshing take on the song. A definite add to your holiday playlist.

Christmas Party : RuPaul - Saving the best for last. This album is obviously not your Christmas dinner hour or holiday breakfast album. The album is built off of the upcoming premiere of RuPaul’s new Holiday Special “RuPaul’s Drag Race Holi-slay Spectacular” which will air on Friday 12/7. This special for the RuPaul’s Drag Race will feature eight prior drag queens. Eureka O’Hara, Jasmine Masters, Shangela, Kim Chi, Latrice Royale, Mayhem Miller, Sonique, and Trixie Mattel. It looks too like there might be a Christmas theme to the show verySimilar to the format to Drag Race according to reports. The music in the show will pulled from this album and Rupaul second holiday album as well. What I love about Rupaul’s holiday albums is she uses interludes similar to the great Janet Jackson. Some of my favorite songs on the record our Christmas Cookies 2.0 and I have to point out the sampling of one of my top 90s songs PM Dawn’s Set Adrift on Memory Bliss in the song.. The album has a lot of fun holiday rap songs for your party and Christmas Party is a personal favorite. I even added it to my playlist for 2018. 

Honorable Mentions:

Chris Tomlin bring us a Christian country/ rock album. Pretty safe song selection. Silent night score is 2.  A pretty safe album. His it’s Christmas medley plays with classic hymns like Away in the Manger. Wish he went light on the background singers.

Brett Eldridge Honorable mention. Silent night scale is only at two. No original song selections or unicorns on this albums.