Aly & AJDecember means it's time to pull out the holiday CDs! When I'm in the mood, I don't turn on the radio but rather spin my own favorite artists who I want to hear crooning the holiday cheer. Some of them have Christmas songs they've written themselves, not simply the 5000th re-telling of "Jingle Bells." Every year there are new CDs of holiday music to enjoy and discover.

This year, Hollywood Records offers an upbeat pop-rock collection of holiday tracks from Disney kids Aly & Aj (Acoustic Hearts of Winter). Columbia Records has issued new holiday discs from Bette Midler (Cool Yule, which features a Christmas version of her hit "From a Distance"). Also available is a new holiday collection from James Taylor called "At Christmas." The disc includes both religious songs like "Go Tell it On the Mountain" and "Who Comes This Night," to more predictable offerings like "Winter Wonderland."

TimeLife offers soulful holiday collections, including Lou Rawls holiday album Christmas as well as songs from various artists in Classic Soul Ballads Christmas.

The latter CD features holiday offerings from the Temptations, Luther Vandross, Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin and more. The label also offers the kitschy collection Redneck Christmas (which boasts, "there's no place like a mobile home for the holidays!").

I'm especially excited to report this year that there are two new holiday discs from favorite artists of mine:

 

Blackmore's Night Blackmore's Night
Winter Carols
(A&M Records)

Singer Candice Night and Ritchie Blackmore (famed guitarist of Deep Purple and Rainbow) have been making Renaissance revival music now as Blackmore's Night for a decade. Since so many of our classic Christmas carols come from the Renaissance period, a holiday album is long overdue from the band.

Now at last, it's here! Winter Carols is a celebratory excursion through classic hymns as well as Blackmore's Night originals and some you may not have heard, like "Ma-O-Tzur," a traditional Hebrew song. Blackmore's acoustic guitar work is stirring throughout the jaunty arrangements. Night's vocals always are alluring.

Winter Carols offers a lilting stroll through familiar traditional fare such as "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "I Saw Three Ships," "Good King Wenceslas" and more. This is the perfect holiday album to make your living room feel like it's channeling the warm yule days of yore. For more information, check their website at www.blackmoresnight.com.

 

MannAimee Mann
One More Drifter in the Snow
(Super Ego)


Mann has enjoyed an eclectic, critically acclaimed career since leaving her classic '80s band 'Til Tuesday to pursue a solo career in the early '90s. She had minor hits with her first solo albums, and then scored big with her soundtrack in in the movie Magnolia. Her past few albums have been issued on her own record label, and now she's released a classic- holiday disc.

One More Drifter in the Snow is a marvelous Christmas release with the sound of a classic holiday album. It includes an easy-strumming original Mann holiday song "Calling on Mary," as well as classics like "White Christmas."

Mann's pure, yet always slightly melancholy vocal delivery works wonderfully on slow jazzy offerings like Jimmy Webb's “Whatever Happened to Christmas,” Mel Torme's “The Christmas Song” and the bittersweet string-laden “I'll Be Home For Christmas.” It also includes a fun duet on the Dr. Seuss classic “You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch” and a previously issued recording of “Christmastime,” a song co-written by her husband Michael Penn and frequent collaborator Jon Brion. This is what I'll be playing by the tree come Christmas Eve night!

For more information, check her website at www.aimeemann.com.