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Holiday albums arrive from from Bennett, Bieber, and Buble

December 14th, 2011 3:02 pm by Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times

Holiday albums arrive from from Bennett, Bieber, and Buble

In this Nov. 10, 2011 file photo, Canadian singer Justin Bieber poses for photographers prior to the Bambi 2011 media award ceremony in Wiesbaden, Germany. An attorney for Mariah Yeater, who claims Justin Bieber is the father of her baby boy, says her pat

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.

—"Glad Christmas Tidings" David Archuleta and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (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.

—"The Classic Christmas Album" Tony Bennett (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."

—"Under the Mistletoe" Justin Bieber (Island Def Jam)

The holiday music tradition is probably resilient enough to survive the head-scratching fare Justin Bieber serves up here: "The wise men followed a star/ the way I followed my heart. ... Imma be under the mistletoe/ Shawty with you," he sings in the title track. "Chestnuts on an open fire" it ain't, but his hip-hop version of "Drummer Boy" injects some adrenaline to that war horse. Best directed at those who are bedazzled by Auto-Tuned vocals, electronic keyboards and shiny objects.

—"Christmas" Michael Buble (Warner Bros.)

The breakout holiday sales winner of 2011, and why not? Any singer with a classic-sounding voice like this Canadian's, when accompanied by expansive big band and orchestra arrangements of the standard repertoire, grabs the inside track to the seasonal music market. Guest appearances from Shania Twain, Thalia and the Puppini Sisters help spruce up the mix.

—"Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album, Vol. 2" Glee Cast (Columbia)

If only "Glee's" formula for pop culture success — talented young singers belting (and cribbing) music beloved by their parents (and grandparents) — could be channeled for good. Phil Spector's classic Christmas album echoes loud and clear here, and if arrangements could be copyrighted, "Glee" producers probably would be answering to Bruce Springsteen's lawyers over the shameless lift of his version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town."

—"A Holiday Carole" Carole King (Hear Music)

The celebrated singer and songwriter wraps her perennially youthful voice around a batch of Yuletide songs, half of which are standards. King's humble voice occasionally struggles to bring distinctiveness to the most familiar numbers, but there's a comforting "Tapestry"-era warmth to the arrangements.

—"An Appalachian Christmas" Mark O'Connor (OMAC)

The esteemed fiddler and composer brings his inclusive merging of folk, country, jazz and classical music to this warmly elegant session. Guest singers James Taylor, Alison Krauss, Renee Fleming, Jane Monheit and Steve Wariner join on seven of the 16 tracks. A model of intelligence, heart and soul.

—"A Very She & Him Christmas" She & Him (Merge)

Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward understand that sweetness doesn't have to be sticky, and that simple usually trumps gaudy when it comes to holiday music. Their rendition of the yuletide classic "The Christmas Waltz" is humble and beautiful.

—"The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" Scott Weiland (Rhino)

The Stone Temple Pilots front man sounds like an alien intruder in a Norman Rockwell painting as he earnestly tries to croon holiday tunes such as "White Christmas" and the title track.

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