Do you ever get tired of hearing Nat King Cole croon about “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” during the Christmas season?
Yeah, neither do we.
“The Christmas Song” — especially the version delivered by Cole in 1961 — is one of those amazing holiday staples that people return to year after year, generation after generation. Others on the treasured short list include Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here,” Johnny Mathis’ “Sleigh Ride” and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”
So, go right ahead and turn up the Christmas classics as Dec. 25 draws nearer. Yet, maybe, save a few spins for more recent holiday releases.
There’s certainly never any shortage of new Christmas recordings, as acts from all different genres decide to offer up their takes on the holiday songbook and perhaps provide a few original tunes as well.
Here’s a look at some of the top new Christmas albums released in 2022. All are readily available in stores and an online on various retail and streaming sites.
‘Everybody Knows It’s Christmas,” Chris Isaak
Let’s kick things off on a California note and recommend folks spend some time with the second holiday offering from this Stockton-born troubadour, who previously rang the jingle bells on 2004’s popular “Christmas.” Isaak proves once again to be a natural at Christmas crooning as he rolls in retro/Sun Records style through a mix of holiday standards and original compositions. There’s a lot to like here, but the version of “O Holy Night” stands out as the real keeper.
‘Christmas at Home,’ Michael W. Smith
The Grammy-winning artist, who has sold more than 18 million albums in a career that dates back to the late ‘70s, has a long and successful track record with seasonal recordings. This latest offering — which follows such previous winners as 1989’s “Christmas” and 1998’s “Christmastime” — is an EP that features six newly composed originals, including one song — “Freeze the Frame” — that ranks among the biggest holiday tearjerkers of recent years. “Christmas at Home” is also a family affair, with Smith’s children and even grandchildren taking part in the recording.
‘Santa Baby,’ Alicia Keys
The multiplatinum-selling singer-songwriter-pianist excels in every aspect of her career. So, it should come as no surprise to learn that her first Christmas album is terrific. Keys’ voice sounds marvelous on this collection of seven standards — including “The Christmas Song,” “Please Come Home for Christmas,” “Christmas Time Is Here” and, of course, the title track – and four original cuts. The first single from the album is the Keys-composed “December Back 2 June.”
‘Louis Wishes You a Cool Yule,’ Louis Armstrong
How can it even be possible that it’s taken until this year for someone to release the first compilation of Armstrong’s Christmas recordings? We figured that this would have happened back in, say, 1962 — not 2022. Oh, well, this is truly a case of better late than never as fans can now enjoy such seasonal Satchmo efforts as “Cool Yule,” “’Zat You, Santa Claus?” and “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” (performed as a duet with the equally legendary Ella Fitzgerald) all in one place. It also includes a track of him reciting the famed poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” recorded just months before his 1971 passing.
‘This Is Our Christmas Album,’ Switchfoot
The San Diego alt-rockers are back with their 11th studio album, which also happens to be their debut holiday offering. The descriptively titled “This Is Our Christmas Album” — which, according to a news release, “was inspired by everyone from the Beach Boys to Black Flag” — delivers a mix of originals and such seasonal favorites as “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” And if the weather outside is frightful, you can get a warm blast of Golden State sun by pushing play on the standout track “California Christmas.”
‘The Manger,’ Anne Wilson
No, we’re not talking about the similarly named lead singer of Heart — whose first name doesn’t have an “e” in it — but rather the contemporary Christian music star who rose to fame with the chart-topping debut single “My Jesus” in 2021. Wilson is one of the genre’s top young talents, with a classic country vocal style that she puts to fantastic use on this six-song EP — which might just be the best holiday offering of 2022. The six cuts (and especially the first five) are all well worth listening to over and over again, but it’s the tender version of “O Holy Night” that we just can’t get enough of here.
‘A Very Backstreet Christmas,’ Backstreet Boys
This amazing “boy band” — whose members are now all in their 40s and, in one case, 50s — finally enters the seasonal sweepstakes with its 10th studio album. And it appears Backstreet Pride is still alive in 2022, given that “A Very Backstreet Christmas” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Holiday Albums chart back in October. The Boys deliver the harmonies on a nice batch of classics (“The Christmas Song,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” etc.), some relatively newer material (including “Last Christmas,” from Wham!) and even a couple of originals.
‘A Family Christmas,’ Andrea, Matteo and Virginia Bocelli
The holiday season has been very good to Andrea Bocelli, the famed Italian tenor whose first seasonal selection — 2014’s “My Christmas” — has sold more than 3 million copies in the U.S. Now, he returns to the Christmas songbook with the help of his two of his children — Matteo and Virginia — so fans can hear that musical talent truly does run in the Bocelli family. Bocelli’s classical-pop crossover style isn’t for everyone, but If you liked “My Christmas” then you’ll probably also dig “A Family Christmas.” (Although, just to be clear, you don’t get a Muppets duet on the latter.) Bocelli, by the way, performs Dec. 1 at the Chase Center.
‘Milk & Cookies: A Merry Crowder Christmas,’ Crowder
The Texarkana singer-songwriter sounds like he’s having a blast as he rambles through such fun tracks as “The Elf Song” and the long-overdue ode to Mrs. Claus, “The Ballad of Mrs. C (She’s Sick of the Beard).” Yet, there’s also a more serious and heartfelt side to the equation, on which listeners can hear on the likes of “I’ve Heard About You” and “Your Praise Goes On.” In all, it’s another winner for the artist known for the chart-topping Christian singles “Good God Almighty” and “In the House.”
‘One More Christmas,’ Girl Named Tom
Fans of the TV talent competition “The Voice” will be happy to know that this folk outfit — which took home the top prize in Season 21 under the tutelage of coach Kelly Clarkson — has released a nice little holiday effort. The three siblings — Caleb, Joshua and Bekah Liechty — showcase some mighty impressive vocal harmonies as they jingle their way through such numbers as “Winter Wonderland” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
‘A Nelson Family Christmas,’ Nelson
The album lives up to its title, featuring not just the twin rockers – Gunnar and Matthew Nelson – but also holiday tunes recorded by father Ricky Nelson and grandfather Ozzie Nelson. The album also features contributions from longtime friends Carnie and Wendy Wilson, who are the daughters of legendary Beach Boy Brian Wilson. The Nelson brothers — whose 1990 self-titled debut proved to be a double-platinum smash that delivered four Top 30 singles — stick with such classics as “Joy to the World” and “Holly Jolly Christmas” here.
‘Christmas Ballads,’ Dave Koz & Friends
On his eighth holiday outing, the smooth jazz master explores the romantic side of the season as he offers up such ballads as “Merry Christmas Darling” and “Ave Maria.” The performances, of course, are top-notch, as Koz makes music with three incredibly talented Friends — David Benoit, trumpeter Rick Braun and guitarist Peter White. And, yes, Koz is supporting the album with his annual Christmas tour, which touches down Dec. 21 at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa and Dec. 22 at the San Jose Civic. See davekoz.com for details.
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