YOU can tell it’s almost Christmas when greatest hits collections and CDs by singing stars with beaming smiles and perfect teeth start piling up on your desk.
This year’s contenders for the “ideal gift” title include Boyzone’s farewell album (reviewed here by Claire Sherratt), Sheridan Smith’s latest, a ballad-packed offering by Josh Groban and a typically-romantic outing from Michael Bublé.
In the collectable category is a stylish retrospective of Tom Petty album tracks and the 23rd compilation album from the mighty Fleetwood Mac.
Let’s start with the Bublé...
You know what you’re going to get with the Canadian charmer, and his delivery remains as smooth as a Baileys on Christmas Eve.
This generation’s Harrick Connick Jnr pays homage to Nat King Cole with When I Fall in Love and Unforgettable, invites Loren Allred to join him for Help Me Make it Through the Night and pours his heart out with the in-denial Love You Anymore.
There are few surprises here, and I reckon he’s played it too safe by falling back on covers of classics, but your Bublé-loving friend or relative should be more than happy to be opening this on Christmas Day.
If Bublé is a safe option, Josh Brogan is even more secure. I always thought he was a musical theatre star, given his enunciated, polished delivery and the fact his last album was a homage to stage classics, but the Canadian has rarely trod that path.
His latest is pretty bland, to be honest, but there are a few highlights.
Duets feature strongly but retreading Snow Patrol’s Run (notably covered by Leona Lewis) is a mistep.
Sheridan Smith is hastily carving out her own niche as Miss Versatile, be in starring in West End musicals, putting in stirring turns in TV dramas or showing plenty of style and sass on record.
Album No 2 finds her at her flexible best, from growling like a panther on the prowl to cheekily charming.
Part Cilla, part Shirley Bassey, there’s soul, swagger and style to Our Sheridan.
Turning to the hits collections, I love a bit of Tom Petty as much as the next music fan, but this is one for the diehard.
Comprising four CDs of album tracks, previously unreleased songs and live outings, An American Treasure is great to look at — presented in the form of a small hardback book — but is quite an investment for anyone but the generous gift giver or the Petty devotee (don’t expect Learning to Fly or Free Fallin’).
Last up is Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop, a celebration of the legendary group’s 50 years in the business.
We’re on more familiar ground here — three CDs packed with every single release and plenty of other tracks from the Sixties onwards.
There’s one song for every year, and of course not everyone is a winner, but fans will enjoy hearing the band’s sound evolve over time.
And the middle segment of CD2 — featuring Don’t Stop The Chain, Dreams and Go Your Own Way from seminal album Rumours — is about as impressive a salvo of pop-rock classics as you could hope for.
Fleetwood Mac may have churned out a hatful of greatest hits albums in their time, and long-time followers will have most or all of these songs already, but this collection makes a strong case for being considered essential.
If you can’t get enough of that infectious bass riff from The Chain or you love a bit of Second Hand News, grab yourself a copy. Or better yet, get some brownie points for buying one for someone you love and just borrowing it on the sly!