No we didn’t spend 12 days listening to nothing but Christmas albums. Trust us, that would have been unbearable. We did, however, hole up in a conference room one evening with a stack of yuletide discs and pray for daylight.
Our first observation was that few performers really attack the Christmas standards with any sort of oomph. And once we’d heard band after band tread through the same old songs, we wondered how we could possibly sum up these individual locusts of the seasonal plague known as holiday albums. But then we realized that once we explained to whom we’d give these CDs as gifts, you’d be able to figure out for yourselves what the albums were like.
Read on knowing that you were spared listening to all of these.
1. Various artists (incl. Amy Grant, Jaci Velasquez, and Cindy Morgan), One Silent Night (Word) Or as we renamed it: The Williamson County Christmas album, Get Off My Lawn. Give this to your friends who live in a gated communityjust like many of the singers on this record.
2. Various artists (incl. Ini Kamozi and Michael Doucet), A Putumayo World Christmas (Putumayo) This world-music Christmas album proves that “Christmas album” in any language translates to “crap.” Give this to the Starbucks clerk who always gets your latte order wrong.
3. Ottmar Liebert, Christmas + Santa Fe (Epic) With Ottmar on the stereo, one is magically transported to Proffitt’s department store. Give this to your friend who finds the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album “too aggressive.”
4. Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti, Three Tenors Christmas (Sony Classics) As predictable as Metamucil-fueled bowels, the Three Tenors regulate themselves into any festive occasion. This trio could never be accused of excessive subtlety. If they didn’t already get this disc with their PBS tote bag, give this to your friends with the Symphony “Pops” Series season tickets.
Hey, we’re just getting warmed up.
5. Various artists feat. Vonda Shepard, A Very Ally Christmas (550) Eschewing the mildly traditional route of having singers sing songs, the brains behind this collection have enlisted the cast members of Ally McBeal to bequeath us with carols. Assuming he or she can appreciate the irony of Robert Downey Jr. singing “White Christmas,” give this to your favorite 12-stepper. Drug addiction, eating disorders, heck, even anger management is covered by this motley crew.
6. Lonestar, This Christmas Time (BNA) Perhaps the only people decent enough to inject some enthusiasm into their obligatory disc of Christmas songs, Lonestar have created the perfect gift for a relief pitcher...or anyone else with that hairdo. (Hockey players are naturally included.)
7. Ricky Van Shelton, Blue Christmas (Audium Entertainment) Give this one to the guy who installed your gas-log fireplace.
8. Various artists, All-Star Christmas (Epic) This one opens with a bang. When you’re cramming your Xmas CD with a potpourri of pompous twits, nothing says you mean business like putting the high-priestess of caca up front. That’s right, Celine Dion tears out of the gate before you can even throw back a sip of eggnog. That brutal assault is followed by all the riffraff of the musical world: Charlotte Church, Donny Osmond, Wham!, Cyndi Lauper, andif Celine’s the high priestess, he must be an altarboyBilly Gilman (but more on him later). Give this disc to your “Secret Santa” at work.
9. David Phelps, Joy, Joy (Spring Hill Records) No, we didn’t know him either, but that didn’t stop us from listening to his disc. What stopped us from listening to his disc was listening to his disc. We will say he apparently put some thought and effort into his collection. Give this to a person who owns the cast album to CATS, or who appeared in a community theater production of it. Of course, if you know any such person, spare yourself the wait and buy a second copy for yourself.
10. Various artists (incl. Neal McCoy, Kenny Rogers, and Don Williams), BelieveA Christmas Collection (Warner Bros.) Believe is simply agonizing because the tracks look like they might be decent, with some older country stars singing traditional holiday songs. However, like so many cowboy hats, it is only fit for a tourist. Give this to one.
11. Various artists, Sleigh Me (Atomic Magazine) Atomic Magazine put together a nice little holiday disc with the postmodern swing-band sounds of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and the rest. This was the most lively record we spun. If you were to buy one Xmas record this year (besides the Christina Aguilera disc, natch), this might be the one. Still, give it to your buddy who cried when he heard that Martini’s was going out of business.
12. Billy Gilman, Classic Christmas (Epic) The Supreme Being of tired Christmas albums has blessed Billy Gilman something fierce: The sickeningly sweet cash-in on a freakish child. The belabored attempt at panache from said child. The castrato voice. The obligatory duet with Charlotte Church where you can’t tell whose voice is whose. Yes, this is the Christmas album you give to a NAMBLA member.
We don’t recommend anyone else try to make it through these albums in one sitting. William was practically speaking gibberish as we rounded out the seventh hour. But if you wanted to know just what to give that person in accounting whose name you drew out of a hat, thank goodness for us, eh? Yes, our work here is done this year. You may all rest easy unless you recognize your description above. Then, I guess, you know what’ll be in your stocking.
It only seems fitting to close with a piece of wisdom from Norm McDonald, who once summed up the Kenny G Christmas album this way: “Happy Birthday, Jesus. Here’s some crap.”
Just so you know, you accidently put Scarlett's name instead of Juliette's under Glenn. I…
my girl and I hadn't been that much into all the TV shows when we…
I second the nomination of Richie Richington for sacrificial Tennessee lamb. And dammit, it sure…
Oh yeah! Wentworth Miller and his wife Sienna Miller. I think they're probably gone forever…
what about the richie couple? my money is on one of them - the wife?…