Alan Jackson

Let It Be Christmas

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Alan Jackson returned just months after the zeitgeist-defining, blockbuster success of "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)," with his holiday album, Let It Be Christmas. Jackson has always been a bit of a traditionalist, but it's still kind of surprising just how traditional this album is, recalling seasonal records from the '50s and '60s instead of the glitzy, lavish productions of the '80s and '90s. This is a brilliant move, actually, since the warm, intimate arrangements that dominate the album give Jackson's rich baritone a perfect counterpoint, even when he stretches out with big-band arrangements on occasion (where Garth Brooks sounded lost surrounded by blaring big bands on The Magic of Christmas, Jackson glides into the lazy swing of "Winter Wonderland" and "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town"). Smartly, these are almost all popular classics, apart from the title song which is a nice original from Jackson in the vein of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "White Christmas," meaning it's closer to traditional pop than country music. Out of all country music, it's closest to Western swing when it veers toward big bands, but there's not even a touch of countrypolitan here -- it's all Sinatra and Johnny Mathis. Instead of sounding incongruous, it's a perfect fit for a warm crooner such as Jackson, and by concentrating on classics, Let It Be Christmas is much stronger than most contemporary Christmas album. In fact, this is the best holiday album, regardless of genre, in many a moon. It has a rich, burnished feel that's perfect for snowy nights by the fire and the Christmas tree.

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