This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.
The late, great Hunter S. Thompson once said, “When the going gets weird,the weird turn pro.” Or they make a Christmas album -- or both. Either way, any year that brings holiday releases from human Ken dolls Justin Bieber and David Archuleta, Stone Temple Pilots drama king Scott Weiland and the chipper cast of “Glee” certainly scores high on the “Seriously?!” scale. Here are the high and lowlights from the latest volley of holiday music albums.
*** Paul Anka, “Songs of December” (Decca). Now an elder statesman of old-school pop, Anka sounds fully in control of the myriad resources afforded him for his first holiday recording in half a century. Inventive arrangements contribute strongly to his approach as a genial latter-day compadre of Der Bingle or Tony Bennett. Nothing remotely revolutionary, but plenty of comfort food for the ears.
** David Archuleta and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, “Glad Christmas Tidings” (Mormon Tabernacle Choir). Anyone on your list who thinks Jerry Bruckheimer is too subtle? Here’s the holiday CD for them. The Mormon “American Idol” alum from Utah is surrounded by the choral army on his second Christmas collection, recorded live last year in Salt Lake City. His sweetness and charm come through best on the Spanish-language traditional “Los pastores a belen.” A PBS special of this performance is airing this month.
*** Tony Bennett, “The Classic Christmas Album” (RPM/Columbia/Legacy). These 18 tracks, largely drawn from Bennett's previous holiday releases going back to 1968, are every bit as consistently classy as we'd expect from the pop master. The CD also includes one previously unreleased recording of “What Child Is This.”