On November 22, 2001, Jesse Colin Young celebrated his 60th birthday -- he turned 60 the same year that fellow folkies Bob Dylan and Joan Baez turned 60. At that point in his life, the veteran singer/songwriter had nothing left to prove -- had he retired in 1975 or 1980, Young would have left behind an impressive catalog. Nonetheless, it was nice to see Young continuing to record and perform in the early 2000s. This CD, which he recorded in early 2002, finds a 60-year-old Young putting his distinctive folk-rock spin on familiar Christmas songs -- not only American Christmas pop standards that were written during the 20th century, but also, traditional European carols that pre-date the American Christmas pop tradition. "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (which gets an especially bluesy makeover) are examples of American Christmas pop, whereas "Silent Night," "O Come All Ye Faithful," and the haunting "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" are among the European carols that Young performs. And whether a song has an American or European background, Young has a way of making all of the material sound personal -- whether the folk-rocker is turning his attention to Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" or "O Little Town of Bethlehem," there is never any doubt that Songs for Christmas is a Jesse Colin Young album. Young, in fact, is as distinctive and recognizable at 60 as he was at 30. Songs for Christmas falls short of essential, and isn't recommended to casual listeners who would be better off starting out with a best-of collection of his '60s and '70s output. Nonetheless, this is a solid, pleasing effort that Young's diehard fans will appreciate.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson