Top Christmas Record Choices Guaranteed to Bring Yuletide Cheer!

Christmas -- A time of joy, a time of giving, a time when record companies can repackage golden oldies or artists can release an extra album showcasing all the old favorite stamped with their own personal style.There are more than 100 different Christmas titles in circulation, according to my local record store's CDs in Print book, and this season there are 30 new Christmas records being added! That's a lot of Yuletide cheer for anyone to digest. And it's not like it's such a simple task to wade through this lot either. There is everything from the biggest Christmas machine around, Mannheim Steamroller to Michael Bolton's new disc featuring a duet with Placido Domingo. Feeling for my fellow human being this time of year I've waded through several new releases so you don't have to spend hours at the listening booth yourself. I'm sure you can find something better to do, like attend one of those office holiday parties and crocked on the eggnog.So here we go -- The Top Christmas Record Choices Guaranteed to Bring Yuletide Cheer!VARIOUS: A CLASSIC CARTOON CHRISTMAS (NICK AT NIGHT RECORDS)The kings of repackaging and regurgitating our nostalgia for us, Nick At Night has moved into the world of records. And like a really good rerun of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, this collection of well known Christmas songs from your favorite Cartoon specials is just, well, great.It's been awhile since I've sat and watched many of these programs but all the memories came rushing back when I heard Burl Ives sing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Holly Jolly Christmas". The surprises don't end there either. Did you know that Jimmy Durante sang "Frosty the Snowman" or that Mickey Rooney and Keenan Wynn sang "Put One Foot In Front of the Other"? How about Fred Astaire singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"?Most of these songs brought back fond memories but the ones that I listened to with new appreciation were the three tracks from A Charlie Brown Christmas. All these cool jazz songs were performed by Vince Gualardi who did the music for the Charlie Brown cartoons. It's funny how when you're six you don't have the appreciation for jazz that you may later develop.Other tracks of note include the rockin' selections from A Muppet Family Christmas performed of course, by the Muppets. But the funniest tune has to be "You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch" from The Night the Grinch Stole Christmas, with that deep, deep voice singing lines like "...you're a bad banana with a greasy black peel...".VARIOUS: ROCK FOR CHOICE, O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL (COLUMBIA RECORDS)If there is an alternative music lover on your list or just someone who likes to rock a little harder at Christmas time this is the record to get. I loved this compilation! The variety of artists and the choice of songs were exciting and really shot new life into a genre of record that can get stale year after year.Henry Rollins opens the CD with his apocalyptic version of " ' Twas the Night Before Christmas" which features Rollins strangely processed vocals over a haunting bass line and wartime sound effects. As the story crescendos the wartime terror gets louder and louder until -- Santa nukes us all. Wow! What a listening experience.Other artists included in this collection include Sponge, Bush, Julianna Hatfield, and the Dance Hall Crashers doing "I Did It For the Toys", a very naughty Christmas tale. L.A.'s Wool deliver a real punk rock Xmas anthem called "Xmas It's Christmas". Shudder To Think threw me for a loop with the only Hanukah song contribution, an all Hebrew version of "Al Hanisim".Included in this collection is a funky Luscious Jackson tune ("Queen of Bliss"), Mike Watt and Co. doing "The Little Drummer Boy" and the Presidents of the United States of America doing a song called "Christmas Piglet" which is all about a pig and snow as far as I could tell. The Cranes do the Lennon/Ono "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" and Face to Face do a traditional countrified version of "Blue Christmas".The CD closes with Deep Forest spinning one of their trademark world beat/trance grooves this time featuring Wes Madiko, an African singer extraordinaire.On the whole this CD is also well worth it and with Rock For Choice, you know some of the proceeds will go towards working to keep choice an option for women.ESQUIVEL!: MERRY XMAS FROM THE SPACE AGE BACHELOR PAD (BAR/NONE RECORDS)The new found darling of the lounge set, Esquivel's reissued Christmas song collection is definitely a trip to another time and space, baby. He does all the season's hits here from "Jingle Bells" and "White Christmas" to "Here Comes Santa Claus" all in his trademarked space-age arrangements (from a time when "Space Age" really meant something.)This record is a complete package for your next oh-so-hip party. It opens with Esquivel! greeting you and complimenting you on your suit ("The cut is impeccable"), handing you a drink and showing you the band. Some of the arrangements feature lush vocals others are purely big band instrumental tracks featuring the xylophone, vocal scatting and organs. He closes by wishing you farewell as he gets on his spaceship over the haunting noise of the Theremin.I found that really sitting down and listening to this much Esquivel! at once was a bit trying -- having it on in the background and tuning in and out was much easier. Maybe in space things would be different....Where's my martini dear?VARIOUS: CHRISTMAS COCKTAILS (CAPITOL RECORDS)Speaking of Martinis, Capitol Records has gone through their vaults once again, jumped on the lounge bandwagon to come up with Christmas Cocktails a collections of big band and lounge-style Christmas songs by a host of great artists.The eighteen tracks on this album lead off with "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Mambo" by Billy May which is sure to get your party started. One of my favorite all time singers, Miss Peggy Lee, comes next with a stunning version of "Winter Wonderland". Ray Anthony does a twistin' version of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" which will surely get the blood flowing even before you've had all that egg nog.One of the kings of the sultry soul voice, Lou Rawls sings "Christmas Is" and I cannot really do justice to the sound of his voice singing "Ho Ho Ho Ho!" Close your eyes and just imagine it....Other tracks feature a very sexy-sounding Julie London singing "I'd Like You For Christmas" and an upbeat Kay Starr doing "(Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man with the Bag". "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus/Jingle Bells" is a Bossa Nova inspired instrumental medley by Eddie Dunster which reminded me of all those nights skating at the rink as a child.Other artists include Jackie Gleason, Nancy Wilson and Nat King Cole doing "The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)".I'd have to say that this "Hi Fi Holiday Cheer From Santa's Pad" collection is well worth it too. Another good choice for your holiday revelry.Merry Christmas!

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