My appreciation for the musical stylings of Michael Bublé is well-known around here. Once again, I give all credit to daughter Dev for tipping me off on what I was missing back in 2003 when she was a senior in high school. Someone had lent her their CD of Bublé's self-titled third album and she had become obsessed, a trait she picked up from her proud papa. When I found a copy of the album in Borders later that year, it had an EP attached - an EP of Christmas songs! Though Michael released another EP in 2010, this one teasingly titled A Holiday Gift For You, there were no Holiday or Christmas songs to be found but my temporary disappointment was fully assuaged the very next year when the album Christmas was released. It has been a seasonal favorite here ever since as well as the five(!) TV Christmas specials he's done since 2011. Michael's got another special ready to air on December 20th, 2016 though it doesn't appear to be a Christmas or Holiday themed special but rather a celebration of his latest album Nobody But Me. So what we have here at The Hideaway for Christmas 2016 is what I'm proclaiming a Bublé Void which other artists have attempted to fill with their own swinging or jazzy Christmas music though we'll probably listen to the Christmas - Deluxe Special Edition and his Christmas single from last year more than any of the discs below.
2016 has been a big year for Christmas albums from country artists with nearly a dozen albums featured in my listening "research". I've already featured albums by Jennifer Nettles and Kacey Musgraves (HERE) and today, I'm trotting out Brett Eldredge's Holiday offering Glow. Brett's biggest selling single to date is 2012's platinum-certified "Don't Ya" though his most-played track on Spotify to date is 2015's "Drunk on Your Love". Brett first showed up on my Christmas music radar in 2014 with a twangy live version of "What Christmas Means To Me" from the CMA Country Christmas show (hosted by Nettles). I enjoy Brett's voice though he sounds more like a soul singer than his bro-brethren on country radio and for his Christmas album, he drops the country trimmings in favor of swingin' big band arrangements which certainly conjure up visions of Bublé if not the Chairman of the Board himself if you squint your ears. If you like what you hear and wanna hear more, Glow is currently available at Target with three exclusive tracks.
This album was a total surprise this year, seemingly arriving unheralded. (As well as un-Mauded.) I've given it a couple of spins but it still feels insincere which is probably an unfair criticism. The three voices blend well enough - who knew Meredith from The Office could sing? - and the music is well performed and recorded by what sounds larger than the credited Quintet. I've added the title track to my Christmas Mix this year but doubt I'll be returning to the album this year.
Having never heard of Laura Pausini before this year, I was in no rush to listen to her 2016 Christmas offering Laura Xmas but I am glad I did. She's an Italian singer who has failed to crack the English-language market in her three decades as one of the world's biggest selling artists. Instead, she's carved out a nice niche by recording albums both in her native tongue and en español. The arrangements here are just a little different than the usual swingin' Holiday fare and Laura's voice is strong and her English is better than my own. Interestingly, she covers "Oh Happy Day" by the Edwin Hawkins Singers which is not exactly a Christmas music staple but a rather interesting choice much like the rising prominence of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". The album closes with an Italian version of "Astro del Ciel" aka "Silent Night".
While only half of the tracks have Laura singing Spanish, this version of the album, titled Laura Navidad, is my favorite one to listen to though I just added the English versions as bonus tracks on a Super Deluxe playlist.
If you were to ask me what my pre-season pick was for favorite Christmas album in 2016 having not heard any of the contenders yet, I would have told you I was most looking forward to Christmastime In New Orleans by The NOLA Players, an all-star assemblage of some of Crescent City's most talented musicians. Maybe my expectations were too high but my first listen was a disappointment. The songs and their arrangements seem to be caught in between that swingin' big band sound most of the other albums featured today fall under and the boppin' jazz sound one might expect from this album's title. It is a fully instrumental album if that guides your sleigh and maybe I've been too harsh to judge. I've read several positive reviews and as with Bowie's Blackstar earlier this year, I get the feeling I'm missing out on something, that the album is really good and I'm just not hearing it that way.