Christmas albums are often festive and cheery, but Paul Anka's Songs of December takes a different approach. It's certainly a warm and inviting listen, but this is the album to play in front of a crackling fire on a winter's night -- Anka favors the meaningful ballad, with every note treasured, rather than the jingling carol with sleigh bells on every track. Helping him in this endeavor is a series of the best arrangers in the business, including David Foster, Johnny Mandel, and Chris Walden. Beginning with "Let It Snow," which is often taken at a brisk pace, Anka positively revels in a soft, slow, yet beaming chart. The strings are top-flight, with flutes and other woodwinds providing their flair. "The Christmas Song" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas" are similarly winsome and textured, and Anka never raises the tempo throughout the entire set, which completely radiates confidence and makes this a statement album (note the title) rather than just another Christmas album because management or label suggested it. Anka's in superb voice, as strong as singers one-third his age, but with the gravity and power of a man who's been performing as long as there have been Christmas LPs to listen to and treasure. ~ John Bush, Rovi

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