NEW RELEASES DELIVER SEASONAL SOUNDS FROM BOOGIE TO BLUEGRASS.
Holiday music is the soundtrack for seasonal memories.
Everyone has favorites that bring comfort and joy. But each year
a new batch of holiday music arrives as artists bid for a classic
and record companies feed off consumers' appetites. Buyer beware:
Most of this year's holiday goodies will be consigned to bargain
bins for eternity.
So you don't have to listen to bad holiday music, we put together
a panel of Santa's helpers who weeded through dozens of new releases
and then rated 14 of the best.
No album pleased every judge, and the ratings varied wildly on
some. The one thing that came through: Holiday music is a matter
• "ChristmAcoustic II," Scott
Whitney (Whitney Communications)
Style: solo acoustic guitar. Comments:
"A great gift if you want to give a present from California."
Highlight: bossa-nova-informed versions of "The
Christmas Song" and "Angels We Have Heard on High."
Humbug: With a solo guitar CD this good,
why didn't Scott Whitney put his name on the cover?
• ``Boogie Woogie Christmas,'' the Brian Setzer Orchestra
Style: Retro rock, swing. Comments: ``Get some champagne, grab
your partner and swing!'' ``This is the party record of the year
-- you'll want to turn it up and dance!'' Highlight: Setzer teams
with Ann-Margret on ``Baby, It's Cold Outside.'' Humbug: Did we
need a swing version of ``The Nutcracker Suite?'' Bonus: Setzer
brings his holiday show to the Flint Center in Cupertino on Dec.
• ``A Windham Hill Christmas,'' various artists (BMG)
Style: ``new age.'' Comments: ``Touches the heart and makes you
glow with good cheer.'' Highlight: Alex de Grassi's ``Christ the
Apple Tree/Once in Royal David's City.'' Humbug: For this kind of
music, it's hard to beat George Winston's ``Winter.''
• ``The Ultimate Classical Christmas Album of All Time,''
various artists (Sony)
Style: classical and traditional. Comments: ``A classical Christmas
sampler certain to please almost every family member.'' ``These
are wonderful performances of holiday music in the classical and
religious style.'' Highlight: Frederica von Stade singing ``Lo,
How a Rose E'er Blooming.'' Humbug: ``Something my church choir
director would make us play.'' Also, poor recording quality and
bad cover art.
• ``Time-Life Treasury of Christmas Music,'' various artists
Style: traditional. Comments: ``Classic performances of the classic
hits.'' Highlight: traditional classics from Bing Crosby, Perry
Como, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, et al., plus the Chipmunks, Charles
Brown, Eartha Kitt and Eva Cassidy. Humbug: Corny cover art. Some
low-quality recordings. ``The key is: How much of this do you already
• ``Bluegrass and White Snow: A Mountain Christmas,'' Patty
Style: country. Comments: ``A good country Christmas CD.'' ``If
you are going to sing traditional songs, you'd better have a good
voice. And this woman can really sing.'' Highlight: ``Silver Bells.''
Best production of any of the recordings. Humbug: ``Feel an urge
to start line dancing.''