was still sporting a full mane of hair and recording for Columbia/Sony when he released his last holiday album -- This Is the Time: The Christmas Album
-- in 1996. Now, a sheared Bolton
has moved to Concord, a jazz label, and has taken another stab at the holiday album on A Swingin' Christmas
. The album's strongest selling point is that it gets right to the heart of the holiday song tradition, avoiding self-penned novelties and obscure carols for holiday favorites that everyone knows and loves. That means that fans who appreciate Bolton
's vocal style, from his quiet rasp to his over-the-top dramatics, will now have his versions of ten classic Christmas songs in one place. Despite these qualities, however, some listeners may wish for something a little more invigorating. While Bolton
may be inspired by the material, the production and arrangements are by the numbers, and while the title -- A Swingin' Christmas
-- conjures up visions of jazzy big bands from yesterday, the result more often reminds one of a big band from a late-night talk show. Perhaps the biggest detraction for fans, however, is how short the album is at just 33 minutes. In other words, by the time one has poured the eggnog and cuddled up beside that significant someone, it will be time to get up and put another album on. Hardcore fans, however, will probably be unperturbed: repeat buttons, after all, were made for a reason.