First-time Christ­mas croon­ers Doug Gal­lant

Eric Clapton, John Le­gend re­lease Christ­mas al­bums

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ENTERTAINMENT -

Mu­sic plays an in­te­gral role in the cel­e­bra­tion of Christ­mas at my house.

So much so that I of­ten bump up the start of the Christ­mas sea­son by a month or more to ac­com­mo­date the mu­sic I’ve pulled off the shelves for one more go round.

Ev­ery year those of us who cel­e­brate this sea­son of joy and light brush the dust off Bing Crosby’s “White Christ­mas” and a host of other sea­sonal of­fer­ings and play them re­peat­edly from late Novem­ber to the New Year.

The emo­tional at­tach­ment we feel for this mu­sic ex­plains why we’re al­ways pre­pared to make room for one more ver­sion of “Jin­gle Bells” or “Rudolph The Red Nosed Rein­deer,” de­spite the fact many of us al­ready have more Christ­mas mu­sic than we would ever have time to lis­ten to.

If you are al­ways ready to make room at Christ­mas for some­thing new, you might want to con­sider one or more of this year’s new of­fer­ings.

“Happy Xmas” - Eric Clapton

The leg­endary Bri­tish blues­man’s first ma­jor foray into Christ­mas mu­sic is a mix of sea­sonal stan­dards and hol­i­day themed orig­i­nal ma­te­rial that just begs for an arm­chair, a crack­ling fire in the fire­place and a large mug of spiked eggnog.

Clapton augments stan­dards like “White Christ­mas”, “Away In A Manger”, “Jin­gle Bells” and “Have Your­self A Merry Lit­tle Christ­mas” with tracks like “For Love On Christ­mas Day”, a gor­geous bal­lad that speaks to the sad­ness of be­ing with­out the one you love on what for many is the hap­pi­est day of the year. I’m also re­ally par­tial to “Christ­mas In My Home­town”, which speaks to the de­sire to spend the hol­i­days sur­rounded by the sights, sounds and fa­mil­iar faces of Christ­mas past.

As you might ex­pect the ar­range­ments on this record are not tra­di­tional ar­range­ments, but Clapton makes them work.

(Rat­ing 3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

“A Leg­endary Christ­mas” John Le­gend

This soul/R&B star has also thrown his hat into the ring this Christ­mas for the first time.

Le­gend went with a mix of Christ­mas stan­dards and orig­i­nal ma­te­rial, but the mood on this set is much more up­beat, up­beat to the point of be­ing a party record.

Le­gend’s voice is ideally suited to the kind of hol­i­day fare that made artists like Nat King Cole and Frank Si­na­tra sta­ples of the sea­son, so he aces ma­te­rial like “Have Your­self A Merry Lit­tle Christ­mas”, “Christ­mas Time Is Here” and “The Christ­mas Song (Chest­nuts Roast­ing On An Open Fire)”. But where he re­ally shines is when he serves up some of the more soul­ful orig­i­nals penned for the record and on cov­ers of ma­te­rial like “What Christ­mas Means to Me”.

I should note that like Clapton he’s opted to veer away from the more tra­di­tional ar­range­ments for some num­bers, so don’t ex­pect to hear a Mel Torme take.

(Rat­ing 3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Doug Gal­lant is a free­lance writer and well-known con­nois­seur of a wide va­ri­ety of mu­sic. His On Track col­umn will ap­pear in The Guardian ev­ery sec­ond Satur­day. To com­ment on what he has to say or to of­fer sug­ges­tions for fu­ture re­views, email him at dpa­gal­[email protected]

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO Blues icon Eric Clapton has just re­leased his first full-length Christ­mas record­ing which he sim­ply called “Happy Xmas”.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Soul/R&B artist John Le­gend has just bowed his first ever Christ­mas record, A Leg­endary Christ­mas.

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