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Mary J Blige: A Mary Christmas (Verve)

When I am annually supervising the stable lad and the scullery maid dressing the tree at the Forth Estate, it has become our custom to give a spin to the Destiny's Child Christmas album, always a toe-tapping start to the season.

This year, however, Beyonce, Kelly and Michelle will have to join the queue, because Mary J has brought out a Yule disc that sets a new benchmark for those who like a bit of soul carolling.

The choice of songs is the first Noel triumph, with really well-known ones rubbing shoulders with less familiar favourites such as Donny Hathaway's This Christmas (which Chris Brown and Christina Aguiliera have also had a go at) and hits from stage and screen that are associated with the season. These include a big Broadway version of My Favourite Things and a lovely duet with Barbara Streisand on When You Wish Upon A Star.

Ms Blige also supplies some beautifully accented French on Petit Papa Noel and Silent Night in Spanish, but the killer track is a glorious big band version of Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer that starts with her "C'mon, bass" instruction to the big fiddle's pacy intro and ends with an unarguable "That was fun!"

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