holiday albums

TRL Christmas

Various Artists

Atlantic Records

**

Here’s to a totally synthetic Christmas. Forget Bing Crosby, here comes MTV. With its Total Request Live Christmas mix, MTV brings together pop and rock artists to make a generally dissatisfying album. The performances included on this this album range from teeny-bop pop to rock to orchestral.

Willa Ford contributes her bad-ass blonde image with “”Santa Baby, Gimme Gimme Gimme.”” Her hypersexuality exudes itself through sensual beats a la Britney Spears, and knowing that “”she wants to be bad”” adds a twist to her lyrics.

Her pop presence is accompanied by the likes of *NSYNC with “”I Don’t Wanna Spend One More Christmas Without You.”” *NSYNC, the MSG of music, manages to create another inexplicably tasty tune.

Mark Mcgrath sings “”Little Saint Nick”” in the usual jovial Sugar Ray tone. Other bands, like Blink-182 with “”I Won’t Be Home For Christmas”” and Weezer with “”The Christmas Song,”” show us what good rock is. All three of these bands stay true to their unique styles.

Despite the bad tracks like comedian Jimmy Fallon’s “”Snowball,”” this LP manages to surprise. Angela Via does soar through “”Christmas Wish”” with a gifted voice. Speaking of gifted voices, Christina Aguilera does absolute honors to “”Angels We Have Heard On High,”” blending time-honored songs and popular teen culture in the pure syrup of her angelic vocals.

The CD ends with “”Christmas Canon”” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, a track too conservative, too musically rich and too good to be on this mix. MTV, though valiant in its attempt to filch our green by playing off holiday spirits and the hopefully waning pop music rage, has managed to degrade Christmas.

— Eugene Kym,

Staff Writer

Reggae Chanukah

Alan Eder and Friends

mr. e. records

****

Listeners looking for Hannukah music have traditionally faced dauntingly slim pickings: the number of quality collections of Hannukah-themed music is ridiculously low. Sure, nearly every pop star on MTV feels obligated to share his or her Christmas cheer with the listening audience, but such is not the case for those who celebrate Hannukah.

However, celebrators of Chankah need despair no longer! The best thing to happen to Channukah since the advent of gelt is here, and it’s really rastafied.

“”Reggae Chanukah”” seems like quite a juxtaposition at first glance. Traditional holiday songs in Hebrew are set to distinctly African, Carribbean and Latin beats.

But the history of Jewish people and that of the African people and diaspora have notable similarity, with their respective survivals of enslavement and persecution. After all, African-American slaves in the 19th century identified with and sang stories of ancient Israel. Now modern Jews are returning the favor and contributing to cross-cultural cross-pollentation.

The album combines these cultures with delightful success. This is not your zaydeh’s Hannukah music: In the newly created original pieces, the artists liberally borrow from Bob Marley’s themes of perseverence and liberation and his lyrical and musical styles. The West African dance drumming, which grooves beneath a medley of “”Hanerot Halalu,”” “”S’veevon,”” “”Chanukah”” and “”Oh Chanukah,”” will invigorate the festival of lights. And the hilarious “”Latke Song”” offers listeners a samba/mambo spin on Channukah — from the holiday’s premier taste treat’s enthusiastic perspective.

The album can be hard to find in record stores or from online retailers, but ships within 24 hours from http://www.reggepassover.com (yes, they have irie jams for the seder as well).

— Claire J. Vannette

Senior Staff Writer

Christmas Jazz

Various Artists

Verve

****

When they say “”The Very Best of Christmas Jazz,”” they mean it. As Ella Fitzgerald croons “”Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,”” the listener is swept back through the years to when we sat as small children by the fireside to watch the “”Rudolph Christmas Special”” on television.

With Louis Armstrong’s “”Zat you Santa Claus,”” we are thrown into a world of raspy blues and tinny trumpets. Mel Torme gives us the warm and traditional “”The Christmas Song,”” taking us into a world where “”chestnuts roast[ed] on an open fire”” and “”Yule-tide carols [were] sung by a choir.””

And it doesn’t stop there. Fourteen tracks of pure quality Christmas tunes flow out in smooth streams of harmony when the CD is played on a stereo system. The variety of exceptional jazz artists such as John Coltrane, Dinah Washington and Count Basie liven the tracks of this compilation.

The compilation of various songs won’t just put you in a Christmas mood. These songs will serenade you into a deep-seated spirit of Christmas and bestow the holiday cheer that sometimes seems so out of reach.

The CD’s booklet brings an originality as well, with some interesting trivia regarding each song. For instance, the CD explains that the story of Rudolph was a poem originally composed and intended as a holiday marketing gimmick for the Montgomery Ward departmemt store chain in 1939. Now the song is reported to have sold more than 50 million records and has been recorded over 300 times.

Having already been released in October, “”Verve Presents: The Very Best of Christmas”” will be a perfect addition to your music collection. It’s something you can keep for years to come and still find use for it every time the holidays roll around.

— Sabrina Morris,

Staff Writer

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