Rachael Ray

How Cool Is That Christmas

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Despite her many abilities as chef, traveler, and television talk show host, Rachael Ray is in fact not singing or playing any sort of musical instrument on How Cool Is That Christmas. Rather, the album is a collection of her favorite Christmas songs, most of which fall into the "modern traditional" category ("Winter Wonderland," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas") and are performed by older, classic artists like Billie Holiday, Doris Day, Elvis Presley, and Willie Nelson, though young jazz singer Jane Monheit is also present with the scatty "The Man with the Bag." And though all of the songs are in English, Ray pays tribute to her heritage (that and her recipe for Christmas pasta) with a song about "Dominick the Italian Christmas donkey" by Lou Monte. She chooses Sinatra's version of "White Christmas" over the more famous one by Bing Crosby (although the late singer is featured in his duet with David Bowie on "Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth," which is generally titled "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy") and a smooth jazzy cover of "Auld Lang Syne" by Argentine sax player Gato Barbieri. The most consistent factor in the album (besides the holiday -- but not religious -- theme) is the overall good-naturedness of the songs, which are bright and upbeat, much like how Ray presents herself, and which means that How Cool Is That Christmas is a lot of fun, and at just over 30 minutes long, very much fits the schedule that Ray and her audience have. Hey, you could probably make a meal along with it.

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