Celtic Woman's fourth holiday collection, which features the talents of Chloë Agnew, Lisa Lambe, Máiréad Nesbitt, and for the first time since 2007, Méav Ní Mhaolchatha, arrives just a year after 2011's German-exclusive Celtic Family Christmas. Offering up the usual mix of amiable holiday pop ("I'll Be Home for Christmas," "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "Winter Wonderland") and triumphant, faith-based classics ("Joy to the World," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "We Three Kings"), Home for Christmas doesn’t deviate at all from the formula, which after selling over six-million records worldwide, shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.–by James Christopher Monger
Christmas is vocalist Michael Bublé's first full-length holiday-themed album since his 2003 EP Let It Snow. As with that album, Christmas features Bublé backed by small ensembles as well as his big band and orchestra, and includes a handful of classic Christmas songs. In that sense, the album is a rather old-school affair, with Bublé in prime Bing Crosby-meets-Dean Martin vocal style tackling such chestnuts as "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," "Silent Night," and "I'll Be Home for Christmas." There are also some fine, contemporary, if still retro-sounding, pop moments here including Bublé's duet with the British female pop trio the Puppini Sisters on "Jingle Bells," and his inspired, slightly melancholy reworking of Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You." Ultimately, Christmas is a warm and inviting album that showcases Bublé's impeccable vocal chops.
Every year since 1987, there's been A Very Special Christmas record of one sort or another, the proceeds of which go to the Special Olympics. This year's A Very Special Acoustic Christmas is as great as any previous year's efforts, even though it's deliciously unplugged. Country music superstars like Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson, and Wynonna are balanced by such legendary country and bluegrass figures as Earl Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, Ricky Skaggs, and Willie Nelson (doing a version of Charles Brown's "Please Come Home for Christmas" that's almost as haunting as Brown's). Throw in the father of newgrass Sam Bush's sparkling "Let it Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!," Tift Merritt's sensual "I'll Be Home for Christmas," and a handful of other luminaries and you get a 16-tune acoustic set long on value that ends with multi-Grammy-winner Norah Jones singing "Peace".