For many musicians, the lure of the Christmas songbook is hard to resist. Despite the challenge of reworking well-worn (and, in some cases, worn out) songs, each year a few dozen acts try to make something fresh out of these seasonal favorites. This year's crop is heavy on female-fronted pop, but within that milieu one can find jazzy sophistication, folksy warmth and pure pop sweetness. Whether you're a stickler for vocal perfection or a connoisseur of off-the-wall holiday jams, chances are good that something on this list will add a little joy to your holiday soundtrack.
Pink Martini Joy to the World Better Known As: Multilingual pop-classical troupe fronted by chanteuse China Forbes. Sounds Like: Classic vocal jazz and elegant pop Christmas albums of yore, but with a much wider breadth of influence. Forbes, her band mates and several special guests tackle songs in English, Japanese, Hebrew, Italian and French, touching on holiday traditions from all corners of the globe. The disc manages to be ridiculously ecumenical even while maintaining a distinct, comforting aesthetic. Notable Tracks: The Martin Denny-esque "Little Drummer Boy" features some lovely cocktail piano, and the Japanese translation of "White Christmas," featuring Saori Yuki, is music-box perfect. Perfect Seasonal Soundtrack For: Your all-inclusive, non-denominational holiday cocktail party.
Christopher Cross A Christopher Cross Christmas Better Known As: The angel-voiced Texan who softly rocked the early-'80s adult contemporary airwaves with such hits as "Sailing" and "Ride Like the Wind." Sounds Like: Sappy, gooey reworkings of holiday standards, not that you could expect much else from Cross. Still, his voice remains undiminished and is a good fit for these feel-good favorites. There are also a few original tunes. Notable Tracks: Though he sounds like a Muppet on more than a few of these tracks, Cross is strong and subtle on the White Christmas chestnut "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep." Perfect Seasonal Soundtrack For: The imaginary Christmas episode of the late, lamented Yacht Rock.
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