In the Philippines, the run-up to Christmas usually begins in September, long before the so-called “Christmas creep” commences after Thanksgiving in the United States. When the “ber” months come, you’ll hear radio stations playing Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire),” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.”
Those carols were the most-performed Yuletide tunes in the first five years of the 21st century, and they continue to figure prominently in the holiday albums of today’s most popular recording artists—like Kenny G, who puts his saxophone to good use in “The Classic Christmas Album,” his all-instrumental, 16-song collection.
If you prefer your carols sung, those five songs—along with 11 other cuts—are also showcased in Rod Stewart’s first Yuletide offering, “Merry Christmas, Baby,” which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 two weeks ago.
Along with the album’s only original tune, “Red-Suited Super Man” (which Stewart co-wrote with David Foster), you don’t want to miss his delicious collaborations with Michael Buble (“Winter Wonderland”), Mary J. Blige (“We Three Kings”), and Ella Fitzgerald, who is ingeniously “resurrected” in “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?,” her seamlessly realized “virtual” duet with the 67-year-old, raspy-voiced singer!
Juris’ all-OPM “Paskong Puno Ng Kasiyahan” is energized by her empathetic reworking of Ariel Rivera’s “Sana Ngayong Pasko” and Kuh Ledesma’s “Nakaraang Pasko.” But, the thematic and musical pertinence of her seven-track repertoire is fortified further by newly minted tracks that capture the essence (“Christmas Time”) and festive spirit (the title track) of the Yuletide season.
Arnie Mendaros’ hitbound “Ilang Pasko Pa Ba?” channels the melancholy of “Miss Kita Kung Christmas” with a luscious sound that is as memorable as its interpreter’s impeccable singing. Juris likewise skillfully maneuvers her way through the beautifully layered melodic development of Yugel Losorata’s “Paskong Wala Ka.”
Unfortunately, in “Mas Maligayang Pasko,” she makes a misstep by choosing technical proficiency and a mannered delivery over spontaneity.
The delectable voice of 12-year-old classical crossover artist, Jackie Evancho—second-place winner of “America’s Got Talent’s” fifth season—is perfect for the appealing repertoire of “Heavenly Christmas,” her second Yuletide compilation.
Evancho’s carefully placed, angelic trills soar before they comfortably settle on the tricky notes of “Ding Dong Merrily On High,” “Walking In The Air,” “Away In A Manger,” “Believe” and “What Child Is This?”
Taylor Swift’s rereleased EP, “Sounds of the Season,” features covers of Wham’s “Last Christmas,” Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby,” a countrified “White Christmas,” and a melodically adjusted “Silent Night.”
The album also draws attention for Swift’s self-penned, original tunes—the somber “Christmases When You Were Mine” and the celebratory “Christmas Must Be Something More.”