The coolest Christmas album of 2012 arrives courtesy of Cee Lo Green. Cee Lo’s Magic Moment (Elektra) is a savvy collection of well-loved tunes that, musically, are all over the map. Cee Lo never gets lost, however, and manages to pull off traditional jazz on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a sexy duet with Christina Aguilera; suave funk on Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song”; rollicking rockabilly on Chuck Berry’s “Run Run Rudolph”; and Stax-style grooves on “Merry Christmas, Baby” with Rod Stewart and Trombone Shorty. It’s like buying a Christmas compilation, only it’s just one guy effortless jumping from secular to sacred across genres.
If you’re inclined to a country & western-flavored Christmas, there are a couple of offerings. Blake Shelton’s Cheers, It’s Christmas (Warner Bros.) has a traditional feel, and offers a couple of swell duets with Miranda Lambert and Kelly Clarkson. (Michael Bublé pops up, too, if you like that sort of thing.) Lady Antebellum’s On This Winter’s Night (Capitol) is really lovely. They achieve a modern version of the classic Nashville guitars, harmonies and orchestral string arrangements that’s fresh and engaging.
There isn’t anyone else quite like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. They’re like Kansas crossed with the Longines Symphonette crossed with the Transformers. (And they’re coming to the Times Union Center on Dec. 13, by the way.) Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night) (Universal) is another strange brew of sweet melody, heavy-metal gestures and prog-rock moves.
Someday, some critic is going to have a breakdown writing a comprehensive critical review of Rod Stewart’s incomprehensible career. I will pass on that grim task, and only say that if you dig Stewart’s late-career crooner moves, then Merry Christmas, Baby (Verve) is perfect.
Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta have a reunion on This Christmas (Universal). They’re still charming together, and while his voice hasn’t gotten any better, it isn’t any worse, either. And Newton-John is as ingratiating as ever.
Finally, let’s begin a look at this year’s 5-EP, 58-track holiday extravaganza with a quote from the artist:
“This is the true horror-show catharsis of Christmas: the existential emptiness that perseveres in the heart of modern man as he recklessly pursues his search for happiness and comes up empty handed.”
Of course, this is Sufjan Stevens’ Silver & Gold (Asthmatic Kitty). If you like what Stevens does, this is your kind of Christmas fun.