Carroll County Times

Holiday happenings: 2012 Christmas music album guide

Even though Christmas is still two months away, this year's holiday music releases are already starting to hit shelves.

Trust me, I know. I visited Target in Westminster last night. They have a huge selection of Christmas music out already. And Christmas lights if you need those already. Don't forget your inflatable reindeer either, sure to confuse Trick-or-Treaters if you put them out right now.

Anyway, it's a great year for those who enjoy holiday music and are looking for new albums. Several new options exist, particularly for country music fans.

Here's a quick look at some of the new holiday albums coming out this year. I'll be reviewing the ones I can get my hands on. I've already gotten a few.

"A Very Special Christmas 25th Anniversary, Bringing Joy to the World"

Artist: Various artists

About: The latest compilation album in the series features Michael Buble, Christina Aguilera, Train, Martina McBride and more. Added bonus: All proceeds from the sale of this album go to the Special Olympics.

Noteworthy tracks: Buble's "It's Beginning to look a lot like Christmas" is soulful, McBride's "Please Come Home for Christmas" is a beautiful version. I've seen McBride's Christmas show live before. It's a must-see.

Status: Already released price: $9.99

Brandon's anticipation (on scale of 1-10): 7. A lot of solid singles are part of this collection.


"A Very Perri Christmas"

Artist: Christina Perri

About: The up-and-coming singer-songwriter released a six-single Christmas EP this summer. I received an advanced copy to review, and it's a solid, easygoing album that I'd love to decorate my Christmas tree to while listening along.

Noteworthy tracks: Perri's version of "Ave Maria" is beautiful, and I enjoyed her take on John Lennon's classic "Happy Christmas (War is Over)."

Status: Already released price: $5.99

Brandon's anticipation (on a scale of 1-10): 6. I'm not overwhelmed because it's just an EP, but there's not a weak single in the six she recorded.

"Cheers, it's Christmas"

Artist: Blake Shelton

About: This 14-track album features several traditional favorites. Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire and Pistol Annies contributed to the album.

Noteworthy tracks: "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" sounds like an awesome Lambert-Shelton duet and Cee-Lo Green appears on "Merry Christmas Baby."

Status: Already released price: $11.99

Brandon's anticipation (on a scale of 1-10): 10. The snippets I've listened to make this sound like the best holiday country album released since Faith Hill's.


"Christmas in the Sand"

Artist: Colbie Caillat

About: Kenny Chesney, the man behind "All I Want For Christmas is a Real Good Tan," must approve of this idea. Caillat, the breezy singer-songwriter, is photographed on the beach (in a red one-piece) for this album's cover. Expect 10 covers of holiday classics along with the "Christmas in the Sand" original.

Noteworthy tracks: Her version of "Auld Lang Syne" should be catchy. This album would have been lacking if she didn't take on "Santa Baby." Don't worry. She did.

Status: Already released. price: $9.99

Brandon anticipation (on a scale of 1-10): 5. It's definitely worth a listen. I'd like to know more about the duets you hear on the snippets before making a final judgment.

"Christmas with Scotty McCreery"

Artist: Scotty McCreery

About: The 2011 "American Idol" winner releases his first holiday album this year, and it's sure to be popular with a crowd that is decidedly younger than me. He'll rock iTunes with singles like "Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Winter Wonderland."

Noteworthy tracks: "Holly Jolly Christmas" is old-school country. The snippet I heard was rocking and, well, fun. "Mary did you Know" is tender and shows McCreery's surprising range.

Status: Already released price: $9.99

Brandon anticipation (on a scale of 1-10): 7. Honestly, it would be higher if there weren't so many other potentially terrific country holiday albums coming out this year. If you're a fan of old-school country, this one will be for you.

"Holidays Rule"

Artists: Various

About: What a cool album title, eh? This underrated compilation album has a little bit of everything, from the Fun's upbeat "Sleigh Ride" to The Civil Wars' "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."

Noteworthy tracks: You get a Paul McCartney track ("The Christmas Song"), which is always welcome. I also liked AgesAndAges' version of "We Need a Little Christmas," a delightful holiday single that rarely makes the cut on albums.

Status: To be released Oct. 30 price: $12.70

Brandon anticipation (on a scale of 1-10): 5.5. It's a solid jazzy holiday album. I liked some of the tracks and was generally different about a few others.

"Magic Moment"

Artist: Cee-Lo Green

About: The "Forget You" singer released his first holiday album this year. It's a full 14 tracks, which means you're definitely getting your money's worth. He also managed to fit in Rod Stewart, Straight No Chaser and The Muppets into his album.

Noteworthy tracks: "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," which features Straight No Chaser, has just got to be good. "Merry Christmas Baby," a duet with Rod Stewart, has just got to be interesting.

Status: To be released Oct. 30 price: $9.99

Brandon anticipation (on a scale of 1-10): It's just a 6 for the album as a whole, but a 9 for the duet with Straight No Chaser, one of the best A cappella groups I've ever heard. Nice choice.

"Merry Christmas Baby"

Artist: Rod Stewart

About: Stewart is one of music's biggest names to release a holiday album this year. He's got a nice selection of upbeat holiday selections and more traditional tunes on it.

Noteworthy tracks: His version of "We Three Kings" ought to be very distinctive and worth listening to, as should his version of "Blue Christmas."

Status: To be released Oct. 30 price: $9.99

Brandon anticipation (on a scale of 1-10): Right now it's a 5.5, but I'd like to hear more about this album before making a final verdict.

"Now That's What I Call Today's Christmas"

Artists: Various

About: The "Now" franchise is back with yet another album featuring today's hottest artists. The list of participating artists is impressive. It includes Carly Rae Jepsen, Mariah Carey, Train and Carrie Underwood. It's a big album with 18 tracks.

Noteworthy tracks: I can't be rational about Underwood. I love her music, and her version of "The First Noel" is the best I've ever heard. As a bonus, you get the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's tremendous "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo," which has become arguably the rock anthem for the holidays.

Status: Available price: $13.75

Brandon anticipation (on a scale of 1-10): 7.5. It's not the best "Now" holiday offering ever released, but there are some terrific singles on this album.

"On This Winter's Night"

Artist: Lady Antebellum

About: Lady Antebellum, the hottest group in country music today, releases their second holiday album in three years. They released a six single-EP in 2010. If the full album is as good as the EP, we're in for a real treat.

Noteworthy tracks: I haven't heard snippets yet, but you'd think "This Christmas" and "The First Noel" would be a great listen.

Status: To be released Oct. 22 price: $9.99

Brandon anticipation (on a scale of 1-10): 10. I'm buying this the first day it comes out. Lady A's harmonies make beautiful Christmas music breathtaking.

"The Classic Christmas Album"

Artist: Barry Manilow

About: Manilow crammed about as much holiday music as he could into this album, which is a full 16 tracks. He cheerfully covers some popular Christmas ditties, including "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays" and "Rudolph."

Noteworthy tracks: He gets a nod for adding a selection from Handel's "Messiah" into his album and the catchy "The Christmas Waltz," which you don't often see.

Status: Already released price: $6.99

Brandon anticipation (on a scale of 1-10): 7, and that grade is ratcheted up a few spots because of the tremendous value. At just $6.99, this is as good a value as any this holiday season.


"This Christmas"

Artists: John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John

About: The Grease stars reunite in a surprising way for a holiday album I honestly never even considered would be released. But here it comes, complete with tracks featuring Kenny G and Barbra Streisand.

Noteworthy tracks: I'm not sure how Kenny G fits in to "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," but I'm curious to find out. He's performing on the track. Streisand is part of "I'll Be Home for Christmas."

Status: To be released Nov. 13 price: $13.78

Brandon anticipation (on a scale of 1-10): 6. My theater friends will be much more eager, however.

"This is Christmas"

Artist: Katherine Jenkins

About: Without question, my favorite holiday albums are those with a classical feel to them. Jenkins, the Welsh mezzo-soprano, has a gorgeous voice, and this 10-track album is glorious. I can't say enough nice things.

Noteworthy tracks: "In Dulci Jubilo" is angelic and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" is delicate and beautiful. She even pulls off "Deck the Halls," the type of single you wouldn't expect on an album like this.

Status: Available

Brandon anticipation (on a scale of 1-10): 10. Even though it's just 10 tracks, this album is exactly what you want to be listening to while unwinding with family before heading to a Christmas Eve night service.

Noteworthy omission: It appears we won't be getting a third Christmas album from "Glee." Online rumors leaked a possible track list, but that's been proven to be false. It's a shame. Whether you like "Glee" or not, their first two Christmas albums were terrific, and their debut Christmas album is among my all-time favorites.