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December 17, 2011 2:08AM

Michael Buble has known for “about 30 years” that he wanted to make a holiday album. But the Canadian crooner, whose “Christmas” has emerged as this year’s seasonal smash, was in no rush.“I wanted to establish myself as an artist first, so that I could really make a quintessential record,” says Buble. “I’m not going to make another one — this is the Christmas album, not a Christmas album. I put everything I had into this.”

He featured songs from the disc on his NBC special “A Michael Buble Christmas” earlier this month. NBC just announced that it will air an encore presentation at 8 p.m. Wednesday (locally on WMAQ-Channel 5).

Buble’s efforts have paid off so far. “Christmas” has been the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 for three consecutive weeks, and also tops the magazine’s traditional jazz and holiday charts.

Music critic J.D. Considine, a contributor to Canada’s Globe and Mail, isn’t surprised that the lush-voiced Buble, like Mariah Carey and Josh Groban before him, would score with yuletide fare. “His sound conjures up styles that are older than he is, so he can generate a sense of nostalgia, but without seeming hokey.”

“Christmas” features mostly old favorites, from “Silent Night” to “Santa Baby,” with one new song, “Cold December Night.” But Buble also mixes things up a bit texturally, serving “Blue Christmas” with a gritty New Orleans feel and having a playful Shania Twain join him for a doo-wop-laced “White Christmas.”

Buble, who will be the “Saturday Night Live” musical guest this weekend, says his aim was “to make something that would be comforting and bring back a lot of warm memories, but also to take risks. It was a long process, about six months of going over arrangements for the perfect duets.”

One track, a slowed-down, anthemic reworking of Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” elicited concern. “Some people said, ‘Everyone knows her version; why would you mess with it?’ But I think if you approach it with sincerity and integrity, people are open to something different.”

Another number, “Feliz Navidad” pairing Buble with Mexican diva Thalia, is a tribute to his wife of nearly nine months: Argentine actress Luisana Lopilato, 24, whose courtship with Buble was traced in his first book, Onstage Offstage, released in November.

The newlyweds have big Christmas plans. “I’ll have about 50 people over, from all over the world, and for four or five days, we’ll eat and drink too much. My sister’s husband’s brother-in-law, who’s from Mexico, will spin records, and I have a friend who loves to play Christmas music; he’s Jewish. We’ll sing along and stuff ourselves with turkey and empanadas.”

After the festivities, Buble will wrap up his current tour, with stops in South Africa and South America, among other places.

“Then I’m going to take some time to be with my wife, who’s making a couple of movies,” he says. “She took time off to be with me on tour; now it’s my turn to sit on a set and rub her back. I’m looking forward to getting out of the public eye for a bit.”
http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/music/9466950-421/michael-buble-embraces-the-holiday-spirit.html

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