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FILE - This March 1, 2012 file photo shows Cee Lo Green performing at the Caesars Entertainment "Escape To Total Rewards" concert in Los Angeles. Singer-rapper CeeLo Green will release "CeeLo's Magic Moment," a Christmas album, on Oct. 30 from Elektra Records. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, file)
The ‘Tribune’s’ annual best — and worst — holiday music
Holiday albums » The Tribune’s guide to the best — and worst — of end of the year releases is here.
First Published Dec 14 2012 10:34 am • Last Updated Apr 08 2013 11:33 pm

Chris Isaak said he spent six months on his 2005 album "Christmas." In the holiday album business, that’s unheard of — no one spends that much time on a holiday album.

Isaak recalled talking to a friend and fellow musician about the time he spent perfecting his superb holiday album. The incredulous friend told him that his band had recorded a holiday album in less than a week, and only did it in the first place because they were contractually obligated to deliver one to record label.

At a glance

Are Christmas albums dead?

In an age of iTunes and Pandora and other on-demand web radio stations, have the industry of pop stars churning out Christmas albums fallen apart? Or are Salt Lake City music lovers still tied to to holiday music-listening habits of yore? Send thoughts to David Burger at dburger@sltrib.com, with the words “holiday music” in the email subject line.

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Staff members of The Salt Lake Tribune have, once again, reviewed most of the new holiday albums released in time for Christmas (and Hanukkah) to separate the whole-grain wheat from the white-bread chaff.

As in past years, there were a number of high-profile musicians releasing holiday albums this season, including Lady Antebellum, Cee Lo Green, Scotty McCreery and Colbie Caillat.

As in past years, it becomes obvious what albums people like Isaak release, and what albums people like Isaak’s friend release.

The Good

Barry Manilow, "The Classic Christmas Album"

Grade: A

This isn’t new material — the 16-track compilation features songs from Manilow’s three previous Christmas albums — but that’s OK. This is a great collection of songs that you can appreciate, play as background music or sing along to.


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Amy B. Hansen, "Piano Noel Classics"

Grade: A-

Hansen, a Utah native and a gifted pianist, performs nine familiar — yet fresh-sounding — Christmas carols from "Away in a Manager" to "Silent Night." It’s the perfect music for anyone who want to slow down, sit by a fire, sip a hot drink (or glass of wine) and simply watch the twinkling lights on the tree.

Tracey Thorn, "Tinsel and Lights"

Grade: A-

As half of the British pop duo Everything But the Girl, Tracey Thorn always showed exquisite taste, and that quality appears over and over again on this delightful collection of songs that does its best to stay away from the tried-and-true-and-boring. With two new holiday songs, the album includes well-selected covers from Randy Newman, Sufjan Stevems, Jack White and Martin Sexton, as well as one of the prettiest renditions of Joni Mitchell’s "River" in recent memory. Understated but comfortably confident, this album is one of this season’s best.

Jonathan Coulton & John Roderick, "One Christmas at a Time"

Grade: A-

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