The former Ronettes singer's voice is inextricably linked with the holidays thanks to her prominent role on her ex's "A Christmas Gift for You" rock holiday classic collection. She's wisely opted not to try recreating Phil's signature wall of sound on this five-song EP, but blends vintage R&B, smooth jazz and easy listening on five modestly charming originals written for her. Her voice isn't the force of nature it once was, but it still oozes sincerity.
Various Artists "Gift Wrapped II: Snowed In" ( Warner Bros.)
A something-for-everyone grab bag like this virtually assures that hardly anyone will connect with everything. The 21 tracks span Devo's loopy Euro-dance original "Merry Something to You," David Foster's shopping-mall pop arrangement of "Carol of the Bells," Tegan and Sara's rodent-friendly update of "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" and the Flaming Lips' work-in-progress live run-through of "Little Drummer Boy." Available as an iTunes download and a limited edition vinyl double-LP set.
Various Artists "Now That's What I Call Christmas! 4" (EMI/Universal/Sony)
The marquee number on this fourth edition of the cross-label compilation is Rihanna's new reggae-soaked original "A Child Is Born." The two-CD set of contemporary and classic holiday tracks also pulls in Lady Gaga's festive 2008 single "Christmas Tree," but the majority of the cuts on the disc billed as "superstars of today" have appeared previously, just as most tracks on the second disc featuring stars of "yesterday," including Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley and Johnny Mathis et al., have been recycled endlessly, making this set relevant primarily to those who've never bought a holiday collection in their lives.