Andrea Bocelli, "My Christmas"

Album Review

It's difficult to know which of Andrea Bocelli's duet partners on his first holiday album, "My Christmas," makes for the most unlikely match with the Italian pop-classical crooner. There's Mary J. Blige, who bends the melody of "What Child Is This" into new R&B shapes. There's also Reba McEntire, next to whom Bocelli couldn't sound less down-home, in a gently swinging version of "Blue Christmas." Of course, neither of those stars usually work in children's venues, nor are they made of felt-both of which are the case with the Muppets, who show up for "Jingle Bells." (More characteristic guests on the set include Natalie Cole, Katherine Jenkins and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.) Though there's no shortage of starchy church-service fare ("Angels We Have Heard on High," "Adeste Fideles"), much of "My Christmas" seems intended to show off Bocelli's previously disguised playfulness. That doesn't mean it's terribly playful-his version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" doesn't contain a drop of wit. But isn't it nice to hear the big guy try?-Mikael Wood