I’ve been listening to MB’s Christmas a lot…

…but not necessarily for the right reason. Let me start out by saying that I’m a big Bublé fan … not a gushing fanboy but I genuinely enjoy the vast majority of his work. I’ve seen Michael several times over the past few years … the guy puts on a hell of a show and he’s done a great job bringing a lot of energy and attention to the American Songbook.

So it’s with a heavy heart that I tell you I’m a little disappointed with his Reprise Records Christmas – Michael Bublé release. Michael delivers some outstanding MB renditions of holiday favorites here, but too few to float this album into the top tier of standards holiday albums … (another cringe).

The bottom line is that of the fifteen songs on the track list, only five stand out as top notch MB winners to me. There are a couple of  additional numbers that are solid … the other eight tracks don’t suck (well, with the exception of the “White Christmas” duet with Shania Twain … oh my) they just come in somewhere between nice-ish numbers to phoned-in meh.

But the good is very good indeed so let’s go there…

The classic songs…

..is where Bublé hits his stride on this album. After opening with a “just OK” version of “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”, Michael cranks out a superbly arranged and very MB version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”. He follows it up with a cool up-tempo “Jingle Bells” accompanied by the lovely and talented Puppini Sisters adding some fun Andrews Sisters spice to the ‘bells mix… very cool!

Then it’s off to track eight for “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”. Here MB plays it traditionally straight but this song just sets up perfectly for Michael’s vocal style and the string arrangements compliment him in fine fashion.

Sticking with the stellar slice of the track list, I was dumbstruck by MB’s version of “Silent Night”. Again a basically straight-up rendition with virtually no embellishment but he does a wonderful job on the vocals and again is complimented by excellent string and piano accompaniment … and a very nice choir section. There’s just not a lot of room to make a song like “Silent Night” stand out (lot’s of ways to screw it up) but Michael pulls it off masterfully.

“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” rounds out the fab five tracks. I’m always twitchy about this number because it is a personal favorite that I don’t like to see mucked with … MB does it up very nicely. It’s another song that clearly lays out there perfectly for him … his vocals are pure and the simple guitar, piano and string arrangements are perfect. It’s like MB is standing next to your fireplace singing just to you.

Then there are the other ten songs…

“Ave Maria” is nice … a tough song done well. For me this song was stolen by Harry Connick Jr (When My Heart Finds Christmas) but MB does well with it here. Likewise “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is pretty good with a lot of Bublé feel. “Blue Christmas” was Zydeco’d up a bit too much for me but not bad … it’s growing on me.

Most of the remaining songs are just OK from where I’m standing … It may not be fair, but I’ve come to expect a high percentage of winners from Michael Bublé albums and many of these just came off sort of phoned in or “not MB like”.

I always heard Bing Crosby hated “White Christmas”…

… but apparently not as much as Shania Twain hates it. MB does OK with a weirdly arranged, plodding rendition, but Shania just whacks this number in the forehead with two-by-four! She sounds like a yodeling Brenda Lee wannabe … get it out of my head!!!

Sorry, I just couldn’t do it…

Then there’s the last track — Feliz Navidad. Sorry, I didn’t listen to it. I grew up in San Antonio and heard this song 3 to 5 THOUSAND times a year every year of my childhood through early married life … I simply can’t listen to it again … not even one more time. This could be the best of the best — break through version of Feliz Navidad but I just can’t get there … I’m ruined.

Now if you’ll excuse me I really need to find something to listen to and get this yodeling sound out of my head!

Christmas – Michael Bublé (track List)

(Scoring from — to +++ with ~ in the “meh” middle)

1 It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – [3:27] ~
2 Santa Claus is Coming to Town – [2:51] +++
3 Jingle Bells (featuring the Puppini Sisters) – [2:40] +++
4 White Christmas (duet with Shania Twain) – [3:37] — (PLEASE MAKE HER STOP!)
5 All I Want For Christmas is You [2:52] +
6 Holly Jolly Christmas [2:00] ~
7 Santa Baby [3:52] –
8 Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas [3:51] ++
9 Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) [3:08] +
10 Silent Night [3:48] +++
11 Blue Christmas [3:43] ~
12 Cold December Night [3:19] ~
13 I’ll Be Home for Christmas [4:26] +++
14 Ave Maria [4:01] +
15 Mis Deseos/Feliz Navidad (duet with Thalia) [4:24]  (no score… can’t … listen…)