As in most years, it’s a bountiful season for Christmas music. Here’s a look at the best of the new releases:

Kelly Clarkson: “Wrapped In Red” (RCA Records) – Clarkson’s tendency to over-sing (“Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “My Favorite Things” and “Every Christmas”). keeps this much-anticipated holiday album from being all it could have been. A couple of original tunes, “4 Carats” and “Just For Now,” are high points. Still, “Wrapped In Red” is a well-intentioned, but overblown effort. – Rating: ★★½

Mary J. Blige: “A Mary Christmas” (Verve/Interscope/Matriarch Records) – Blige has softened her tough, street-wise image so much that she even can make a Christmas album with producer David Foster – king of the big mushy ballad. Foster puts his touch on lushly orchestrated versions of “My Favorite Things,” “The Christmas Song” and “Do You Hear What I Hear.” Blige, though, still shows a little edge on the sassy “This Christmas” and a jazzy “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” – two highlights of this well-executed, well-sung, but safe effort from Blige. – Rating: ★★★ 

Various Artists: “Duck the Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas” (EMI Records Nashville) – It turns out the “Duck Dynasty” gang has some musical talent, as “Duck The Halls” is one of the season’s most refreshing and enjoyable holiday albums. “Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Christmas” and “Hairy Christmas” show plenty of down-home humor, while Missy Robertson showcases a lovely voice on several tunes. Maybe if this “Duck Dynasty” thing loses its shine, the Robertsons will have a future in Nashville. – Rating: ★★★½

Leona Lewis: “Christmas, With Love” (RCA Records) – The British singer (and 2006 winner of “The X Factor”) successfully puts a Motown spin on “White Christmas,” “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” and the originals “Mr. Right“ and “One More Sleep,” creating an album that should be a holiday favorite for years to come. – Rating: ★★★★ 

Jewel: “Let It Snow: A Holiday Collection” (Somerset Group) – Jewel has a couple of twangy moments on “Let It Snow,” but mostly sticks with a oft-done pop template. Still, her singing is easy on the ears and a few creative touches (especially on “The Christmas Song” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”) elevate this pleasing collection. – Rating: ★★★½

Susan Boyle: “Home For Christmas” (Columbia/Syco Music) – The voice that floored all of England on “Britain’s Got Talent” in 2009 is back with her second Christmas album, “Home For Christmas.” Boyle’s voice is still special, but some predictable and stodgy production does her no favors here. – Rating: ★★★ 

Bad Religion: “Christmas Songs” (Epitaph Records) – The punk veterans put a charge into the holidays, rocking through eight holiday standards in a crisp 19 minutes. – Rating: ★★★★ 

Johnny Mathis: “Sending You a Little Christmas” (Columbia Records) – One of the classic voices of Christmas, Mathis duets with Billy Joel, Natalie Cole, Gloria Estefan and Susan Boyle on a satisfying sixth holiday album of his storied career. – Rating: ★★★½

Brandon Heath: “Christmas Is Here” (Reunion Records) – One of Christian music’s rising stars, Heath does the expected parcel of Christmas hymns, but happily he also shows a lighter side, poking fun at the earlier-by-the-year arrival of the Christmas shopping season on “The Day After Thanksgiving” and remembering one of the most wondrous parts of being a kid on “Momma Wouldn’t Lie To Me.” – Rating: ★★★ 

Erasure: “Snow Globe” (Mute Records) – Erasure puts its trademark synth-pop touch on several seasonal standards – without getting too kitschy – then ups the ante with a healthy complement of original material. Two such tunes, “Loving Man” and “Brooklyn,” are standouts, and help make “Snow Globe” pretty special. – Rating: ★★★½

Jim Brickman: “The Magic Of Christmas” (Somerset Group) – Brickman does the expected here – plenty of solo (or near solo) instrumental piano performances of holiday standards mixed with a few vocal tunes. Brickman’s gentle sound may be too light for some, but with “The Magic of Christmas,” he gives his fans what they want. – Rating: ★★★ 

Tamar Braxton: “Winter Loversland” (Streamline/Epic Records) – Having made a strong 2013 comeback album, “Love And War,” Braxton is back with a holiday album that is soulful, at times even sensual (“Santa Baby”) and finds Braxton giving a few standards some fresh vocal wrinkles (“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”). – Rating: ★★★½

Various Artists: “Festivus 2” (Highline Records) – This CD assembles holiday tunes from 16 under-appreciated alternative rock acts. Winners here include “Good King Wenceslas” by the Lilys, the cheeky “Baby Jesus Was The First Glam Rocker” by the Glam Chops (featuring Eddie Argos of Art Brut, perhaps the best known artist on this album), Ulysses’ “I Wish You A Merry Christmas,” Darling Boy’s Byrds-ish “Thank God It’s Christmas” and the Priscillas’ “One Christmas Wish.” There are a few misses but mostly “Festivus 2” is an inspired package of Christmas tunes. – Rating: ★★★½

Various Artists: “The Best Man Holiday” (RCA Records) – Even if “The Best Man Holiday” doesn’t connect with moviegoers, the star-studded soundtrack should. R. Kelly, Charlie Wilson, Jordin Sparks, Fantasia and Ne-Yo all deliver winning performances. – Rating: ★★★½

Whitney Wolanin: “Run, Run Rudolph” (TopNotch Records) – Rocking versions of the title song, “Frosty The Snowman” and “Silver Bells” (a particularly creative arrangement of this standard) make for a short but sweet holiday EP. – Rating: ★★★½

Note on star ratings: Five is an instant classic, four is excellent, three stars is good enough to own, two is spotty quality, one is poor (or best used as a Frisbee or for skeet shooting).

Alan Sculley is a freelance writer.

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