The wickedly cool Isaak has made the Christmas disc of the season. The singer-guitarist brings a playful, retro charm to old faves like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" (a duet with Stevie Nicks), while also stocking this CD with five of his originals, including the rockabilly-tinged "Hey Santa!" and the whimsical "Gotta Be Good."
JESSICA SIMPSON, RELOYCE: THE CHRISTIMAS ALBUM
There is little cause for rejoicing with Simpson's set, which is about as bland as fat-free fruitcake. Worst is her cringe-worthy version of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," on which she tries to go gospel. But "Baby, It's Cold Outside," a duet with hubby Nick Lachey, is cutesy fun.
CLAYAIKEN MERRY CHRISTMAS WITH LOVE
With his choirboy voice, Christmas chestnuts like "Winter Wonderland" fit the Claymeister like a fleece-lined glove. But his maudlin tendencies get the best of him on some Hallmark-card material.
VANESSA WILLIAMS SILVER & GOLD
How good it is to hear the always classy Williams back with her first new recording since 1997, On her second holiday collection, Williams's lovely, warm voice graces classics like "Silent Night." But less shiny are her attempts to get in the gospel spirit.
LEANN RIMES, WHATA WON DREFUL WORLD
A traditional yuletide disc by Rimes, with her sumptuous voice, might have been wonderful. But she glitzes it up, trying to out-Dion Celine by oversinging even the title song, to which Louis Armstrong brought such subtlety.
DIONNE WARWICK MY FAVORITE TIME OF THE YEAR FAVORITE TIME OF THE YEAR
Tasteful, festive and seamlessly arranged, Favorite Time includes 13 songs that Warwick decorates with R&B, gospel and smooth-jazz trimmings. Her durable alto lends elegance to timeless tunes like "Joy to the World."
FRANK SINAIRA THE FRANK SINATRA CHRISTMAS COLLECTION
Evoking the family fun of a classic '60s-era variety show, these 18 holiday tunes, culled from earlier albums and a TV special, feature special guests like Bing Crosby and Nancy Sinatra. So don the cardigan, string the popcorn, and let this disc of vintage gems such as "Go Tell It on the Mountain" and "White Christmas" make your day merry and bright.
CLINT BLACK, CHRISTMAS WITH YOU
All 12 songs on Black's country nod to the season are new. But it's hard to imagine any of them becoming standards. The title cut, dedicated to "our troops who won't make it home this Christmas," generates the most warmth.