Ten Christmas 2009 albums span genres from classical to comedy

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The Independent Culture

Every year as tree ornaments are dusted off, old chestnuts are dug up with musical acts releasing their interpretations of holiday tunes. Great as gifts and perfect for setting a merry mood over Christmas season, these 2009 additions to the collection might deliver a new classic.

Neil Diamond, A Cherry Cherry Christmas (Columbia)
The title track of A Cherry Cherry Christmas references old Neil Diamond hits, hopefully turning his new original song into a old holiday favorite. With unmistakable vocals taking on the standards, Diamond performs his renditions of "White Christmas," "Deck the Halls," "Jingle Bell Rock," "Winter Wonderland," "Amazing Grace" and comic Adam Sandler's "The Chanukah Song."

Bob Dylan, Christmas in the Heart (Sony)
The legendary Bob Dylan surprises everyone with a collection of 15 traditional holiday favorites, both secular and religious. Like a novelty record, his grizzly vocals crank out "Little Drummer Boy," Gene Autry's "Here Comes Santa Claus" and the rollicking "Must Be Santa" as well as "Adeste Fideles." Not surprisingly, proceeds from sales go to the Feeding America charity.

Sting, If On a Winter's Night (Deutsche Grammaphon)
Sting's new release is a collection of songs meant to conjure up the winter or "season of spirits." He takes traditional British carols and lullabies as a starting point. A wide range of guest instrumentalists are featured playing such traditional instruments as Northumbrian pipes and metal string Scottish harp. English folk songs, lullabies and a couple well-known carols

Andrea Bocelli, My Christmas (Decca)
Lush arrangements produced by the legendary David Foster. Bocelli's soaring tenor spans genres with duets, such as "Blue Christmas" with country queen Reba McEntire, "What Child Is This" with Mary J. Blige, "The Christmas Song" with Natalie Cole, and "Jingle Bells" with The Muppets.

REO Speedwagon, Not So Silent Night (Sony Legacy)
A rock mix of Christmas carols and covers of Elvis's "Blue Christmas" and John Lennon's"‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)" mixed together for this harder version of the holidays. REO's late 1970s big sound works well with choirs and Kevin Cronin's melodic vocals fit tunes like "Silent Night."

Tori Amos, Midwinter Graces (Universal Republic)
On this thematic seasonal album, celebrating the solstice, as opposed to a Christmas record, Amos reworks traditional carols and hymns, such as "Comfort and Joy" and "What Child," in her signature style. Her original songs "Snow Angel" and "Our New Year" are also mixed in. (US Release: November 10)

The Priests, Harmony (RCA Victor)
Two tenors and a baritone, these three Irish Catholic priests perform light classical fare from "O Holy Night" to Vivaldi's "Gloria" with rock producer, Mike Hedges (The Cure). There's Hadyn, Schubert, traditional Christmas songs in Irish and Spanish, and Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Pie Jesu." (US Release: November 24)

Alma Mater, Music from the Vatican with Pope Benedict XVI  (Universal)
A collection of original modern classical music by world-class composers, Stefano Mainetti (a Catholic), Simon Boswell ('undeclared'), and Nour Eddine (Muslim). This unusual record deal features Pope Benedict XVI reciting and singing passages in Latin, Portuguese, French, and other languages with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Recorded in St Peter's Basilica, the album's proceeds benefit music education for underprivileged children around the world. (US Release: November 24)

Straight No Chaser, Christmas Cheers(Warner Bros)
Last year's YouTube sensation with a funny version of "The 12 Days of Christmas," this inspired a cappella group perform amusing versions of "Rudolph," "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch" and more including their 'hit' "12 Days."

Jackson 5, Ultimate Christmas Collection (Epic Record)
The same 1970 collection, plus six more bonus tracks and an unreleased Christmas song by Michael, "Little Christmas Tree."

(All albums currently on sale in the US if release date not otherwise specified.)