June 18, 2019

Gwen Stefani – You Make it Feel Like Christmas – Interscope

By Kristi Kates | Dec. 15, 2018

Stefani ups the ante on the holiday by releasing a special deluxe edition of this set that includes five new tracks, including two original holiday tunes penned by Stefani (the winsome “Secret Santa” and “Cheer for the Elves,” a nod to Santa’s little helpers). Her covers of Christmas classics are also nicely on point, with both “Winter Wonderland” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” adding in buoyant horns; her duets with Mon Laferte (“Feliz Navidad”) and her significant other, Blake Shelton (the title track) add plenty of holiday cheer to this fun audio treat. *** ½

James Newton Howard – The Nutcracker and the Four Realms - Disney
The unique take on the classic "Nutcracker" story (the 2018 film version starring Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman) deserved an equally unique score, and it definitely got that, thanks to Howard’s work. Opening with the sweeping title track, the score meanders beautifully through the entire storyline, with orchestral highlights including “Clara Finds the Key,” the rampaging “Bridge Fight,” and “Queen Clara,” plus a gorgeous duet in the pairing of Andrea Bocelli and son Matteo performing “Fall on Me.” *** ½ 

Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas (Remixed and Expanded Edition) – Fantasy Records
Kids of any age will appreciate this beautifully remastered edition of what is perhaps one of the most recognizable holiday soundtracks of all time, outside of the usual Christmas carols. In addition to full versions of many of the tunes that were included in the classic Charlie Brown Christmas TV special, you’ll also find three delightful bonus holiday tracks (Halloween/Thanksgiving) that weren’t available on the original 1965 vinyl album, and an accompanying digital booklet to maximize your Charlie Brown holiday fun. ***


Jessie J – This Christmas Day – Lava Music
For her fifth studio album, British pop diva Jessie J has chosen to record this Christmas effort, a decently upbeat collection of seasonal tunes that Jessie reportedly recorded in only two weeks, in between tour dates earlier this year. You’ll only find one original song — the pleasant-enough title track, on which Jessie wrote the lyrics — but it’s her soulful singing approach (and smart collaboration choices with the likes of Babyface and Boyz II Men) that make her covers stand out, from the zingy “Man with the Bag” to the Darkchild-produced “Jingle Bell Rock.” ***


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