Various Artists - Soul Train Christmas (Epic)

A surprisingly loveable, though shamelessly slushy, R&B take on the festive season, courtesy of both contemporary and long-serving members of soul constabulary. Boyz II Men provide the opening twinkler "Let It Snow", but Stevie Wonder, James Brown and the Isley Brothers weigh in with goodies too. An album which overflows with good vibes and crooning. HHH

Queen Pen - My Melody (Interscope) Queen Pen, aka Lynise Walters, has leapt from the Brooklyn housing projects to the hip-hop scene with a little help from BLACKstreet's Teddy Riley, who has produced her debut album. Her voice is dark and with a sensuous rasp similar to Li'l Kim, but there are more dimensions to her ghetto life rhymes. She proves smarter than rappers with far more experience and she manages it without the slickness of contemporary funk heavyweights. HH

Various Artists - Merry Axemas - A Guitar Christmas (Epic) Take a bunch of sweet Christmas ditties that have never done a second's harm to anybody, deliver them into the hands of guitar virtuosos and watch the slaughter commence. Instead of adding to the likes of "Silent Night", "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Joy To The World", Steve Vai, Jeff Beck and Joe Satriani demolish their beauty turning them into Bohemian Rhapsody-style epic monsters. Truly naff. H

Garth Brooks - Sevens (Capitol) The patron saint of traditional Nashville (below) had the pick of songwriters for Sevens resulting in a shiny, commercial but essentially soulless crop of songs to ensure Garth adds to his 62 million record sales. His voice is seductively emotive, but his vocals bop along to honky-tonk nonsense like "Cowboy Cadillac". Gals and booze, lovin' and fightin', all professionally packaged. HH

Angela Lewis