Album Reviews: Oh glee, Christmas is coming!

Various Glee: The Christmas Album

**

The cast of high school misfits drama Glee have been more industrious this year than Santa's elves. The Christmas Album is their seventh long-player since February.

As we've come to expect from previous CDs, it's a more than competently sung collection by the likes of Chris Colfer, Lea Michele and Jenna Ushkowitz, very much in the vein of a glitzy Broadway musical.

It is also a bit like eating an entire cheeseboard in one sitting, with all the queasy side effects.

The one saving grace of this Christmas album is a re-rub of Deck The Halls, performed – in homage to Beyonce's Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) – in juddering R&B style.

The Puppini Sisters

Christmas with the Puppini Sisters

****

The party will certainly be swinging at the Puppini Sisters' house if this festive offering from the 1940s-style vocal trio is anything to go by.

An uproarious big band take on Elton John's Step Into Christmas opens proceedings, followed by a sultry rendition of Santa Baby and a finger-popping version of Here Comes Santa Claus.

An accordion brings a touch of Gallic flair to Last Christmas while Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas is You is transformed into a ragtime jamboree.

The highlight is the celestial three-part harmonies in Oh Holy Night. The track even features tubular bells – really, what more could you ask?

Mariah Carey

Merry Christmas II To You

**

Speaking of Mariah, the queen of pop-R&B this month belatedly follows up her 1994 collection Merry Christmas.

Expect plenty of vocal gymnastics, massed choirs, no-expenses-spared orchestration and the regular jingle of sleigh bells.

It's a Christmas album with all the trimmings – plus an "extra festive" re-recording of the 12 million-selling All I Want For Christmas is You.

If slickness is what you're seeking this season, this is definitely for you.

James Brown

The Complete Christmas Collection

***

The Godfather of Soul made several Christmas records in his 50-year career – here they are wrapped up into one shiny double-CD package.

Some of them are admittedly a little hokey but the best cuts from the late 1960s – Merry Christmas Baby, Let's Make Christmas Mean Something This Year – smoulder with soulful intensity.

And in Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto he displays an astute social conscience.

A grittier alternative to A Christmas Present from Motown. DS

Voices

Chant From Avignon

***

If you're of the opinion that the true meaning of Christmas has got well and truly lost in an avalanche of touchscreen gadgets, fibre-optic trees, huge tins of chocolates and two-bottles-of-spirits-for-20 offers then where better to turn for some spiritual nourishment than the nuns of the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation in Avignon, France – a Benedictine order established back in the 6th century whose delicate way with Gregorian chant has brought them to the attention of Decca Records.

Recorded with as little intrusion on the secluded lifestyle of the nuns as possible – the record deal was struck through a grille – the CD effectively transports the listener to a place of contemplative calm. If you're sufficiently moved you can even go to www.chantfromavignon.com and submit a prayer to the nuns. If it's one about keeping those X Factor finalists out of the charts, amen to that. MR

Paul Draper. Picture: Tom Sheehan

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