"CeeLo's Magic Moment" CeeLo Green (Atlantic Records)
CeeLo Green is certainly having a pop culture moment, but he can't sustain the magic throughout this uneven album of 14 Christmas cover songs. The opening track, "What Christmas Means To Me," kicks things off with a flourish of horns and keyboards, but by the time Kermit the Frog appears for "All I Need Is Love" and Straight No Chaser joins him for "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch," you'll be hitting the skip button.
In between there's a decent duet with fellow "The Voice" judge Christina Aguilera on "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and a rather bland rendition of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas."
All in all, a decent disc for the background music at a holiday party. Just keep the remote handy.
On This Winter's Night" Lady Antebellum (Capitol Nashville)
Lady Antebellum gave us a Christmas tease two years ago with "A Merry Little Christmas," an EP that had only a handful of tracks. On their first full-length holiday album, "On This Winter's Night," they show there's more where that came from, offering plenty of holiday cheer with their trademark gorgeous harmonies, interwoven with beautiful renditions of holiday staples.
The trio puts their unique stamp on songs like "All I Want For Christmas Is You," turning Mariah Carey's upbeat classic into a lovely, soulful slow groove; do Donny Hathaway proud on "This Christmas"; and give an emotional, stirring version of "I'll Be Home for Christmas." There's not a rendition on the album that disappoints. Lady Antebellum also offers an original song with the album's title track: their voices meld together beautifully on this tune about the true meaning of Christmas.
"Cheers, It's Christmas" Blake Shelton (Warner Bros.)
There's nothing wrong with Blake Shelton's new Christmas album, "Cheers, It's Christmas."
It's full of mellow, tasteful renditions of holiday classics and packed with featured performers. His wife Miranda Lambert appears on "Jingle Bell Rock" and her trio Pistol Annies lends a hand on "Blue Christmas." Reba McEntire shows up on "Oklahoma Christmas" and his former "The Voice" cohort Xenia makes two appearances. Even pop stars Kelly Clarkson Michael Buble make contributions.
The earnestness reaches a peak with an appearance by Shelton's mother, Dorothy Shackleford, on "Time For Me To Come Home."
"Holidays Rule" Various artists (Hear Music)
The perfect soundtrack for your hipster holiday party, "Holidays Rule" features classic Christmas tunes interpreted by indie rockers such as the Shins, Rufus Wainwright, the Civil Wars and fun.
Paul McCartney offers a warm, jazzy take on "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)," while the Shins' "Wonderful Christmastime" harkens to the Beach Boys' sunny sound. Wainwright, with Sharon Van Etten, turns in a sultry version of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" that makes listeners want to cuddle by the fireplace.
The party will be kicking when guests hear "(Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man With the Bag," an upbeat, horn-and-harmonica-tinged tune by Black Prairie featuring Sallie Ford. Other highlights include "Senor Santa" by Y La Bamba, which sets holiday sentiments to the tune of "Mr. Sandman," and Andrew Bird's happy, fiddle-enhanced version of "Auld Lang Syne."
"NOW That's What I Call Today's Christmas" Various artists (EMI/Capitol Records)
Let's keep it real -- listening to a Christmas album from one single artist can be tiring. Sure, sometimes it's magical. But most of the time it isn't.
That's why "NOW That's What I Call Today's Christmas" is so appealing. True, some songs borrow from singers' full-length Christmas albums, like Justin Bieber's "Mistletoe," Mariah Carey's "Oh Santa!" and Christina Aguilera's decade-old jam "Christmas Time." But this album has new tunes, too, and overall, the 18-track set is an adventure.
What's even better is OneRepublic on the warm "Christmas Without You" and Grace Potter & the Nocturnals on "Please Come Home for Christmas," the soulful 1960s number by Charles Brown. Potter's got grit, soul and much more.