New Christmas Music from CeeLo, Rod Stewart, Tracey Thorn, Paul McCartney, The Shins

CeeLo's Magic Moment

This week’s Halloween’s costumes didn’t even make it to cold storage when – WHOOSH – winter’s chill came roaring in, bringing with it a rush of Christmas albums. Take down the orange and black and yank the “Monster Mash” 45 off of your record player; it’s time for holiday-themed albums by CeeLo Green, Rod Stewart, Tracy Thorn, and a compilation with none other than Paul McCartney.

As far as we’re concerned, CeeLo is the new king of ho-ho-ho. The grainy-voiced Gnarls Barkley singer aka the guy who made a naughty five million copies selling hit of “F**k You,” just released CeeLo’s Magic Moment (Elektra), a soulful work with Green belting out the season’s finest songs by himself (“Silent Night,” “White Christmas”), with his Voice (singing competition) co-judge Christina Aguilera on a sexy “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, and Rod Stewart for an artfully raucous R&B rendition of “Merry Christmas, Baby.”

Rod the Mod, a guy who’s never met a cover tune that he didn’t like (I’m referring to his five big selling Great American Songbook albums) has his own holiday-themed album out this week, also called Merry Christmas, Baby (Verve). Stewart surprisingly tackles old holy classics (“Silent Night”) and slow reverent songs (“We Three Kings”) along with a few Tin Pan Alley standards (“When You Wish upon A Star”) and the rocking secular likes of “Blue Christmas” and “Red-Suited Super Man.” Silly stuff, but a solid stocking stuffer.

Much warmer and charming is Tracey Thorn’s Tinsel and Lights (Merge). Whether singing solo (albums such as Out of the Woods and A Distant Shore) or with her partner Ben Watt in the alt-pop duo Everything But The Girl (1982–2000), Thorn’s voice is the loneliest, loveliest instrument, a bassoon amidst a field of violins and harps. That same instrument brings the dual sounds of woe and effervescence to a series of holiday standards (“Hard Candy Christmas”), as well as self-penned new classics.

Lastly (for now), there is Holidays Rule (HEAR), a Christmas compilation that would be an icicle-filled indie-rock delight (The Shins, Calexico, Fruit Bats, Punch Bros) if it weren’t for a few crooners: Rufus Wainwright’s yodeling take on “Baby, It's Cold Outside”, soul great Irma Thomas’ loving “May Ev'ry Day Be Christmas”, and pop godfather Paul McCartney, a veteran of the Christmas song stakes, who tackles a crackling version of “The Christmas Song” that rivals Nat King Cole in the “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” department.

Posted on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 7:35 AM