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You know, I say this almost every year - what's the big deal? Another year, another Christmas, ho hum, yadda yadda yadda. Usually, however, by December 25 I have gone totally nuts, buying dozens of CD's, a handful of rare vinyl treasures, and more MP3 downloads than will fit on a standard hard drive. So, we'll see.

What's New?This year more than ever, though, I have found very little to get excited about. Maybe all the good old stuff has been reissued. (Not true, but the major labels, at least, seem to have gone about as deep as they are ever going to go.) Maybe I'm not really interested in new music. (True, but I'm old and already own too many records. So shoot me).

Mostly, though, with the advent of MP3's, the best stuff comes very late in the season - sometimes right before Christmas - and comes in very small packages - singles or EP's. So, watch this page for the latest and greatest, and I'll do my best to keep up - for an old guy, that is!

Christmas treeNew Music

My first reaction to the new music coming out this holiday season is that it's going to be a "Very 80's Christmas." That's mainly because of the new album by Tracey Thorn of Everything But The Girl, Tinsel and Lights, but also thanks to new singles by Marcella Detroit of Shakespeare's Sister and Limahl of Kajagoogoo. The Tracey Thorn LP is really big news for Christmas buffs, mostly because it's a serious record by a talented singer - not some tossed off holiday fluff (not that we don't appreciate a good toss...). Tinsel and Lights is a little sedate for my taste, but it includes two original songs plus quite a few very interesting covers - including unexpected songs by the White Stripes and Scritti Politti - and merely one seasonal standard ("Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"). I also should point out that the American version also includes EBTG's minor classic "25th December" (1994).

Gary U.S. BondsOn the complete opposite end of the musical spectrum, early 60's rocker Gary U.S. Bonds has finally released his first holiday album, Christmas Is On! The high-energy singer of such classics as "Quarter To Three" (1961) and "Twist, Twist Senora" (1962) has remained active throughout the intervening 50 years, though his only other period of relative notoriety came when he recorded two great albums, Dedication and On The Line, in the early 1980's after being rediscovered by none other than Bruce Springsteen. Bonds waxed a holiday single back in the day ("Call Me For Christmas," 1963), but Christmas Is On! is all new stuff, including several new compositions. (That said, Bond recorded two of the songs, the title track and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" - an original song, not the traditional tune - back in 2006 for a movie called A Merry Little Christmas, which was retitled The Town That Banned Christmas for release on video.) Gary is in great voice, particularly for such a veteran, and the arrangements and production are typically robust and boisterous.

Like Gary U.S. Bonds, Rita Coolidge hasn't had many hits in the last few decades, and she's just released her first-ever holiday album, A Rita Coolidge Christmas. Coolidge was truly a big deal in the 1970's, first as a soulful, sexy, hippie mama when she was perhaps best known for her association with Joe Cocker (she sang on Mad Dogs & Englishmen) and Kris Kristofferson (with whom she recorded and later married), and then as a prolific pop hitmaker in the waning years of the decade (see Delta Lady: An Anthology). A Rita Coolidge Christmas doesn't break new ground (by a long shot), and Rita's voice has aged more than her looks (hubba, hubba!), but the album achieves a pleasant blend traditional and modern sounds. The songs are mostly standards, but Rita wrote one track, "Circle of Light," with her sister, Priscilla, while another is an original song by Tim Veazey, "Love in This Room."

Another late bloomer, Stax soul man Eddie Floyd - who recorded "Knock On Wood" (1966) and "Raise Your Hand" (1967) - has finally recorded a Christmas record - perhaps as revenge for being shut out of the classic Soul Christmas so many years ago. Last year, Floyd previewed a couple of tracks for free, promising a whole album this year. True to his word, he presents I'll Be Your Santa. Sorta in the same vein, 70's soul singer Bunny Sigler (now a gospel artist) has released his first-full length holiday album, When You're in Love At Christmastime. Way back in 1975, Sigler waxed a lengthy version of "Jingle Bells" for the Philadelphia International label - it has never been anthologized, by the way.

Jigsaw SeenOne album I never dreamed I'd be touting on these pages is the Jigsaw Seen's Gifted. It's not that I don't like the band. In fact, I considered them one of the leading lights among a jillion bands plying power pop these days. It's not that the band hasn't demonstrated an interest in Christmas music - they'd previously recorded three singles and an album. The surprising part is that the album, Winterland, came out just last year! Winterland was hardly a traditional Christmas album - it was more of a concept album about the season which includes Christmas. Without actually saying so, Gifted would appear to be a sequel more than a separate work altogether, and the music is typical of what we've come to expect from the Jigsaw Seen. That is, it's more progressive, introspective, and challenging than most power pop - more like a brooding Big Star ballad than a slap-happy Raspberries single - but excellent throughout. (Quick note to power poppers - the new Bill Lloyd EP The Day After Christmas includes two vintage nuggets plus two rootsy new recordings.)

Not as much to my liking - but just as unusual - is Time is Passed by the Foxtails Brigade. This Oakland-based band is fronted by guitarist and vocalist Laura Weinbach and directed by former Bright Eyes multi-instrumentalist Anton Patzner. They describe their music as "an ornate kind of chamber pop," which seems fair, and they describe the album as "a sort-of-Christmas album to keep you company while you're bummed," which is more than accurate. While I'm very fond of the mordant track "I'm Not Really In The Christmas Mood This Year," I find the album as a whole to be too much "chamber" and not enough "pop." Originally released in 2011 and sold exclusively through Bandcamp for download, Time is Passed is widely available this year - including on CD. They've also posted several entertaining videos from the album.

I've also spotted a few interesting various artist collections including Festivus (ha!) from London-based indie Highline Records; A Very Merry Christmas Compilation from New Jersey-based indie Mint 400 Records (not to be confused with Chicago-based Minty Fresh); Ornamental, a 2-CD set from storied goth label Projekt; and A Christmas Gift For You From Elefant Records, compilation of twee indie pop from a Spanish label that includes a muscular track from 80's English modern rockers the Primitives, "You Trashed My Christmas."

If you live in Austin, Texas - or if you love root rock, country, and blues - you'll dig Holiday HAAM Jam, Vol. 2, a benefit for the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians that's perhaps even more star-studded than last year's inaugural edition. If you have teenagers, Now That's What I Call Today's Christmas is actually a fairly decent survey of recent holiday hits (Carly Rae! Justin! Lady Gaga!) - and there's a new Glee Christmas album (sorry 'bout that). But, I think kids of all ages will enjoy Holidays Rule! which features a who's who of hip, young alternative acts - oh, and Paul McCartney. In countries other than America, it's apparently called "Christmas Rules!" Sheesh - maybe those knob-gobblers on Fox News are right about the "War on Christmas."

Lest the obvious go unstated, I should point out that some really big (or formerly big) names have released Christmas albums this year, including "Fuck You" balladeer Cee Lo Green, Motown writer/producer Kem, British siren and tabloid fodder Katherine Jenkins, country favorites Lady Antebellum, 80's heartthrob Richard Marx, Branson mainstays The Oak Ridge Boys, talent show judge Blake Shelton, post-prog merchants Trans-Siberian Orchestra, geriatric hair band Twisted Sister, and legendary-rocker-cum-cabaret-singer Rod Stewart. The thing is, I could not care less.

Rod StewartOr maybe I could, because the Rod Stewart album, Merry Christmas Baby, is particularly unsettling. I always go back to what Greil Marcus said in the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll: Rarely has a singer had as full and unique a talent as Rod Stewart; rarely has anyone betrayed his talent so completely. And, that was in the 1970's - long before Rod reinvented himself as a crooner (and made a mint by so doing). Fitfully, Stewart has tried to dispel Marcus' condemnation - albums like Tonight I'm Yours (1981) and When We Were the New Boys (1998) found Rod struggling to show himself still relevant. But, he ultimately abandoned those efforts and hopped on the gravy train full-time.

I mean, I like Christmas albums. I own a thousand of them. But, I also agree with Greil Marcus. Rod Stewart's early career - with the Jeff Beck Group and The Faces, and his first half-dozen solo albums - represents some of the best rock 'n' roll ever made. So, Merry Christmas Baby feels like just another piece of the betrayal. You made your bed, Rod. (If you really must, I can recommend the title track - a duet with Cee Lo Green - and the lone original song, "Red-Suited Superman," featuring Trombone Shorty. And, of course, fans of Stewart's Great American Songbook series will love it. But, that's not my point.)

This years most unusual Christmas album? Well, that might be Incense & Chia Pets by The 60's Invasion which reimagines classic rock as holiday music. For instance, the Rolling Stones' "Get Off Of My Cloud" becomes "Hey Dude (Get Off of My Roof!)." As is often case, the execution doesn't quite do justice to the concept, but it's a pretty funny concept. Much less silly, and more esoteric, is December by Scala & The Kolacny Brothers. Scala is a Belgian women's choir under the direction of Stijn Kolacny and accompanied by Steven Kolacny, and they are known for ethereal, a cappella reinventions of pop songs (for instance, the version of Radiohead's "Creep" featured in The Social Network.) Then, there's the trippy choral-pop of Polyphonic Spree, who always sounded to me a bit like the North Texas version of Oklahoma's Flaming Lips; Holidayland is their first full-length Christmas record. And, finally, Sufjan Stevens has released another 5-CD box of original holiday compositions, Silver & Gold. Apparently, he's never had a thought he didn't set to music, record, and release. Two words, Sufjan, plus a hyphen: self-edit.

Most ridiculous Christmas album? Danny and Sandy from Grease are back! Yep, John Travolta & Olivia Newton John have recorded This Christmas, which is just standard, boring, off-the-shelf holiday product - no more offensive than normal. I got two gripes, though. First of all, that album art is over-the-top, even if you meant it tongue-in-cheek (mmmm, cocoa). Second, there's no Christmas version of the Grease anthem "Summer Nights"!? C'mon - "Winter Nights" - how obvious is that? I am hopelessly disappointed in you.

Finally, I'd feel guilty if I didn't mention the two new Very Special Christmas albums, 25 Years Bringing Joy To The World and Today's Top Christian Artists Bringing Peace On Earth. The former is a 25th anniversary edition of the legendary album featuring all new music, and the former is, well, exactly what it says it is. Neither floats my boat one bit - "hip" they are not, although 25 Years features a new Cheap Trick track that I simply must get my mitts on.... But, they benefit the Special Olympics, so buy one - or just make a donation.

Christmas treeReissues

Roberta FlackI'm not sure I'm going to buy any older, reissued Christmas albums this year. Given that I already own too many, I should be happy. But, I haven't said that in, like, 30 years. It's like A Year Without A Santa Claus, only with record collecting. The simple fact is, almost every significant album reissued this year is either something I have little interest in, or I already own a perfectly adequate copy of it. We may have actually reached the bottom of the barrel - though I still own nearly one hundred LP's just begging for reissue, if the labels are looking for ideas....

Anyway, many of the biggest releases are fairly straightforward reissues of older albums. I already got 'em, but if you don't now's your chance! Roberta Flack's Christmas Songs is a new version (plus one new track) of The Christmas Album (1997), which had already been reissued once before as Holiday (2003). The Ultimate Christmas Collection by Chicago is a repackage of What's It Gonna Be Santa? (2003) and O Christmas Three (2011) with no new material, and this year's Christopher Cross release is simply (yet) another iteration of his 2007 album with new artwork - that's four covers and counting. The classic Vince Guaraldi soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas has been remastered for, I believe, the third time, with two bonus tracks not included on the last version. The Donnie Iris Christmas album from a few years ago, Ah! Leluiah!, formerly sold exclusively through his website, is now widely available, and James Taylor's 2004 effort, At Christmas, has been reissued with two bonus tracks. Finally, three solid, out-of-print albums are now available for download - Freddy Fender's Christmas Time In The Valley, the alt.rock anthology A Lump of Coal, and the excellent A Motown Christmas Carol.

As my masthead makes plain, I enjoy holiday music that rocks, rolls, swings, and twangs. That doesn't leave a lot of room for easy listening. Too bad for me, because this happens to be a banner year for easy listening - though much of it is simply reissuing material already reissued on CD. The upstart Real Gone label has reissued "Complete Christmas Collections" for Perry Como and Doris Day, both previously available (with minor differences) through Collector's Choice. Similarly, their Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme album, That Holiday Feeling (1964), is a straight reissue of an earlier CD release, including the bonus tracks. However, Real Gone's Percy Faith release, The Complete Music of Christmas, represents something largely new - the entire contents of his two "Music Of Christmas" LP's from 1954 and 1958, in original mono and stereo, respectively.

Elvis PresleyFriday Music imprint Relayer has compiled two smooth, 2-for-1 releases from the Capitol vaults. Their Ferrante & Teicher release includes both Snowbound (1962) and We Wish You A Merry Christmas (1966). This material has already been issued twice by Capitol, first as their own 2-for-1 CD (1992) and then as a collection (minus a few songs) called Christmas Is So Special (2000). Sadly, though, yet another year goes by without a reissue of the piano duo's true lounge classic, Adventures In Carols (1956). However, Relayer's Jackie Gleason CD represents the first time that Merry Christmas (1956) and 'Tis The Season (1967) have been available in tandem. They were, however, sweetly remastered and reissued separately by Capitol in the 1990's. Universal, meanwhile, has quietly reissued semi-classics by Jack Jones , The Weavers, and Burl Ives as MP3 downloads.

The Sony/BMG/Legacy label took a very different approach with their "Classic Christmas Album" series. Here they created a kind of "Christmas Greatest Hits" for several artists who have recorded a fair amount of holiday music. These included Doris Day, John Denver, Barry Manilow, Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, and Luther Vandross, as well as, I grudgingly concede, Kenny G (ack!). Most of this material is mined from the vaults of Columbia, Epic, RCA, and Arista Records, and the albums succeed to varying degrees. The Doris Day and Elvis Presley volumes seem fairly pointless given that previous discs have compiled their complete Christmas recordings - so who needs highlights? Most of the others, though, include singles, soundtrack cuts, and other rarities that will entice collectors, and all of them serve as good introductions for novices. (The estate of John Denver, I should point out, has also released a little EP of Christmas music called Live in Hershey, PA.)

Here's one I really would be excited about if I didn't already own it all - an imported special edition of Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector containing the album I selected as the one of the greatest Christmas records of all time (read more) plus a jam-packed disc of the legendary producer's early 60's "Wall of Sound" hits with the Ronettes, Crystals, Darlene Love, and more. If the only thing you know about Phil Spector is that he murdered somebody (which he did), you owe it to yourself to check it out.

'Twas the Night Before HanukkahFinally, in a true sign of the times, Capitol Records has issued another volume in their generally superb Ultra-Lounge Christmas Cocktail series - but only as an MP3 download. Ultra-Lounge Christmas Cocktails Vol. 4 includes a few tracks not widely available, but it's hard to imagine that many buyers are gonna rush out to download it - unless they are anal retentive, obsessive compulsive collectors (which means there's a purchase in my near future).

Speaking of MP3's, one really, really overdue reissue this year is Funky Christmas, a 1976 collection from Cotillion Records with two songs each by Luther Vandross, the Impressions, Margie Joseph, John Edwards, Willis Jackson, and jazz saxophonist Lou Donalson. Despite the name, this album is less a formal funk record than the spiritual heir to Soul Christmas, the landmark 1968 LP from Atco Records. From a different perspective, though, Funky Christmas is one of old school soul music's lasts gasps - a final stab at relevance in a world increasingly enamored with disco and, well, funk. Never mind, though - it's great! Funky Christmas has never been reissued during the digital era, so the clean MP3 remastering by Rhino/Atlantic is appreciated - but I sure wish they'd put it out on CD.

To the contrary, Death Might Be Your Santa Claus has been released exclusively on CD and LP by Legacy, the reissue arm of Sony/BMG, but it will be hard to locate. It was produced exclusively for Record Store Day on Black Friday - so if you ain't got one, you ain't likely to get one. Too bad, since it's quite delightful even though it treads on relatively familiar ground to most collectors: old blues and gospel by Bessie Smith, Lightnin' Hopkins, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Victoria Spivey, plus sermons like the one that lends the collection its title. Happy hunting!

If there's an exception to my opening pronouncement that there's nothing much to get excited about this year, it's 'Twas the Night Before Hanukkah. I discovered after I wrote this page, but it's a truly phenomenal, unprecedented package - easily the most impressive reissue of the season, even if it will appeal to a very limited audience. Subtitled "The Musical Battle Between Christmas and the Festival of Lights," this deluxe package from the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation features one disc of Jews singing Hanukkah songs and another of Jews singing Christmas songs, plus an essay by noted rock critic Greil Marcus. This is a subject I have long been fascinated with (see Jews for Jesus: Christmas Songs by the Chosen People) so this is pretty much a dream come true. Artists range from Woody Guthrie and Dinah Shore to the Ramones and Bob Dylan. Oi, vey!

Christmas treeSingles

Dropkick Murphys
Woggles
Stephie Colpan
Cornershop
Leon Russell
Hollyberries
Lis Loeb
Starlings, TN
Starlings, TN

Unlike the LP or the CD, there's nothing inherent to online digital media that lends itself to the long-form album. One song, two, three, whatever - it's all the same. And thus, the single, or the short-form EP, is becoming the standard of the age. Albums? We don't need no stinkin' albums! Further, thanks to these newfangled computer machines, most 7th graders know how to write, record, and distribute a song in a very short time frame. Not surprisingly then, some of the best Christmas stuff (and a whole bunch of crap) has been arriving closer and closer to December 25. Within those parameters, here's the best what I've found so far - but much more is probably on the way.

  • No Assholes On Christmas (Stephie Coplan & The Pedestrians)
    This youngster made a bit of a splash his year with her song "Jerk," and this one is much in the same vein - a hearty, Ben Folds-derived groove and some in-your-face, sick-of-men-and-their-shit lyrics. Great art? Nope. Great single? Absolutely.
  • Every Year So Different (Cornershop featuring Trwbador)
    Many years after their hit "Brimful Of Asha," this Indian-infused British group returns with a holiday song almost (if not quite) as infectious. The understated vocals are handled by Angharad Van Rijswijk of the Welsh duo Trwbador, which I suppose is how you spell "Troubadour" when texting. Interestingly, the track originally featured Sinead O'Connor, but things didn't work out (surprise, surprise) and Cornershop asked Trwbador to fill in.
  • Holiday 2012!! (Marcella Detroit of Shakespeare's Sister)
    This digital single contains two songs, "It's Still Christmas" and "O Hanukah," neither of which strays terribly far from the lush, soulful, synth-pop Shakespeare's Sister was known for back in the 80's. "It's Still Christmas" has the stronger message, but "O Hanukah" is more musically engaging. Last year, by the way, Ms. Detroit released a 4-song EP, Happy Holidays, that I overlooked.
  • The Season's Upon Us (Dropkick Murphys)
    This dystopian holiday screed by Massachusetts-based Irish punk rock band Dropkick Murphys was released as a single in advance of the group's album Signed and Sealed In Blood, and it paints a pitiful picture of the pain we inflict on one another in the name of home and hearth. "Some families are messed up while others are fine," sings Al Barr, "If you think your's is crazy, well you should see mine." It just gets worse from there.
  • Santa's Supersonic Flying Rocket Sled (Hollyberries)
    This stealthy California outfit has previously graced us with two great Christmas singles, (I Wanna Go) Surfin' With Santa! (2009) and (Let's Have A) Surfin' Christmas Holiday! (2010) - both of them masterminded by studio wiz Kip Brown. Kip's still in charge (writing, producing, arranging, and most of the playing), but this time the lead vocals are handled by 11-year-old and 13-year-old sisters Alyssa and Jo Anna Edmison, plus a special guest appearance by Knack bass player Prescott Niles. By the way, "(Let's Have A) Surfin' Christmas Holiday" has been remixed and reissued this year as "(C'mon A) Surfin' Christmas Holiday."
  • I Feel It In My Bones (The Killers featuring Ryan Pardey)
    I've never been too crazy about any of the Killers' annual Christmas singles - a tradition since 2006. I give them big credit for taking an askew perspective on the holidays (sometimes downright twisted) but none of the songs have been terribly catchy, and a few have been uncomfortably silly. That said, all of them have been a hoot, and this one - marking the return of Pardey's vengeful Santa - is no exception. Besides, it benefits AIDS research.
  • London for Christmas (Limahl of Kajagoogoo)
    Yes, Kajagoogoo - you remember, "Too shy-dee-shy, hush hush, eye to eye." They were one of the 80's most notorious one-hit wonders, and yet the band and lead singer Limahl managed to carve out something resembling a career. Limahl looks about the same, though understandably a little longer in the tooth - and his famously poofy haircut has been shorn - but he is in strong voice. Musically, "London for Christmas" is more torch song than new wave, yearning for the comfort of The Big Smoke for the holidays.
  • A Holiday Song (Lisa Loeb)
    Nerd goddess Lisa Loeb - best remembered for "Stay" from the movie Reality Bites - recorded one of the more beguiling versions of "Jingle Bells" for Maybe This Christmas back in 2004. I haven't been able to preview "A Holiday Song" yet (available December 4), but I'll bet it's just as good.
  • And The Salvation Army Band Plays (Helen Love & Ricardo Autobahn)
    The Damaged Goods label from England has released a long and tawdry series of Christmas singles, and a couple of years ago they compiled many of them on A Damaged Christmas Gift for You. Now, one of their frequent flyers, Helen Love, has joined forces with Ricardo Autobahn (one half of the Cuban Boys) for a new single. A very limited run of the 45 will be available through the label, and the rest of us can download the track from all the usual places.
  • Merry Christmas (Wherever You Are) (Lower Than Atlantis)
    This bracing track from UK rockers Lower Atlantis - largely unknown this side of the Pond - is easily one of the best things I've heard all season, but it's not be available in the United States. Curses! We can watch the video on YouTube, but you have to be English (or, rather, in England) to buy it on iTunes or Amazon.
  • Happy Hanukkah (Matisyahu)
    Here's a weird one - a (formerly Hasidic) Jewish rapper working in the reggae-derived "dubstep" genre releases a Hanukkah single to benefit Hurricane Sandy relief. Great song, in many ways, though it's a world away from the roots reggae I am generally drawn towards. Lion of Judah, indeed.
  • Xmas Has Been X'ed (NOFX)
    These second wave punks (now elder statesmen of a genre that eschews age) originally released "Xmas Has Been X'ed" on their 2012 Fat Wreck Chords album Self Entitled. Then they released a 7-inch single with special artwork (available at Interpunk) that includes a non-LP b-side ("New Year's Revolution") and a new version of "Wore Out The Soles Of My Party Boots," a song first recorded for their retrosprective album, The Greatest Songs Ever Written (By Us) (2005). Finally, shortly after the New Year, they made it available for download. Never let it be said that punks can't market their product....
  • A Christmas Song (Gilbert O'Sullivan)
    Don't get me wrong, I think "Alone Again Naturally" (1972) is one of the greatest pop singles ever - a consummate statement of existential angst, and catchy as hell. But, Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Christmas Song" (1974) is hopelessly drippy, and not particularly catchy - which is even worse. Still, it's an important record for 70's buffs, and this digital release - made in conjunction with The Very Best Of Gilbert O'Sullivan: A Singer And His Songs - is one of the first times it's been widely available to American fans.
  • A Fairytale of New York (The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl)
    In honor of this modern classic's 25th anniversary, Rhino Records is reissuing it as a single with the original track joined by an instrumental version and a video - all for three bucks! You've probably heard it. If not, prepare to drop your jaw.
  • Slipping Into Christmas (Leon Russell)
    This classic 1972 non-LP single is finally available again - 40 years after it reached #4 on the Billboard Christmas Chart. If you like Leon Russell - who was among the hottest, hippest rock stars of his day, even if he's just a strange old man these days - you'll love this song, as well as its more traditional b-side, "Christmas in Chicago."
  • The Holidaze (Starlings, TN)
    Much to my surprise, Starlings, TN actually reside in my hometown, Austin, having moved here from Nashville where they formed from the ashes of several punk bands. I was also surprised that they had previously released a holiday record in 2010, The Christmas EP, featuring hypnotic treatments of "Blue Christmas" and "Silent Night." "The Holidaze" is their first original Christmas song," and it's a keeper - an alarmingly accurate take on the dark side of the season. "Me and my brother out behind the barn were toking a joint 'cause that's our poison," sings leader Steven Subblefield, "makes it easier to smile in the family portrait, and that's the Holidaze.
  • Santa We're Through (Stratocruiser)
    I've become a fan of this Carolina band, watching from afar as they doggedly pursue a sound somewhere between Big Star and Collective Soul. What drew me to them was their Christmas music, which they give away most years and compile for sale on a regular basis. "Santa We're Through" is singer/songwriter Clay Howard's rousing spin on "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."
  • Santa Is Coming (Ho, Ho, Ho) (Woggles)
    This garage rocker from demi-legendary Woggles has been kicking around it was first recorded in 2007 and first released as part of a 2010 4-song, 7-inch Wicked Cool EP available only to members of Little Steven's Underground Garage. Now, the rest of can enjoy its funky, grungy groove.

Other singles of note include:

Christmas treeMy Christmas List

Anyway, the list below is a look at the new albums that I think will be of interest to people who love holiday music that rocks, rolls, swings, or twangs - meaning that it is neither a list of my recommendations nor a comprehensive list of new releases. Hope you find it useful. What have I missed? Drop me a line...

Randy Anthony

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Adams, Edie The Edie Adams Christmas Album
- taken from her mid-50's performances on the Ernie Kovacs TV show
2012 image buy  
Arioli, Susie Christmas Dreaming
- acclaimed jazz singer with pianist Jordan Officer
2012 image buy  
Atkins, Chet Songs for Christmas
- reissue of 1961 RCA classic, plus bonus tracks from early singles
2012 image buy review
August Burns Red Sleddin' Hill 2012 image buy  
Bonds, Gary U.S. Christmas Is On!
- first-ever holiday album from pre-Beatles rocker
2012 image buy  
Burnett, Carol A Carol Burnett Christmas
- soundtrack from three Christmas episodes of "The Garry Moore Show" in the early 1960's - not, as you might presume, from her long-running TV show
2012 image buy  
Caillat, Colbie Christmas In The Sand 2012 image buy  
Chicago Ultimate Christmas Collection
- repackage of "What's It Gonna Be Santa?" and "O Christmas Three"
2012 image buy  
Chipmunks A Chipmunks Christmas
- all new artwork; 18 tracks, mostly from their 50's and 60's Liberty recordings
2012 image buy  
Como, Perry Complete RCA Christmas Collection
- 3-CD reissue and expansion of 2010 2-CD set
2012 image buy  
Coolidge, Rita A Rita Coolidge Christmas
- little known fact: Coolidge voiced a part in the 1980 animated special The Christmas Raccoons, starring Rich Little (and Rupert Holmes!!!)
2012 image buy  
Crosby, Bing 10 Great Christmas Songs
- Capitol budget compilation
2012 image buy review
Cross, Christopher A Christopher Cross Christmas
- reissue of 2007 album with (yet) another cover
2012 image buy  
Day, Doris Classic Christmas Album
- from the Sony/BMG vaults; nice but pointless considering...
2012 image buy  
Day, Doris Complete Christmas Collection
- Real Gone reissue of 2008 Collector's Choice CD; new cover art and one additional track
2012 image buy  
Denver, John Christmas EP Live in Hershey, PA, December 6, 1990
- part of a series of live releases from Windstar
2012 image buy review
  The Classic Christmas Album
- from the Sony/BMG vaults; collection from his three holiday albums and more
2012 image buy review
Don Tiki Hot Lava Holiday Songs (EP) 2012 image buy  
Faith, Percy The Complete Music of Christmas
- 1954 and 1958 Columbia LP's plus bonus tracks, reissued by Real Gone Music
2012 image buy  
Fender, Freddy Christmas Time In The Valley
- reissue of Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad (1977) now available as MP3 download
1991 image buy review
Ferrante & Teicher Snowbound/We Wish You A Merry Christmas
- 2-for-1 Relayer/Friday Music CD reissue of 1962 and 1966 Capitol LP's
2012 image buy  
Fitzgerald, Ella 10 Great Christmas Songs
- Capitol budget compilation
2012 image buy  
Flack, Roberta Christmas Songs
- reissue of her 1997 album plus new track
2012 image buy  
Floyd, Eddie I'll Be Your Santa
- legendary soul man records first Christmas album
2012 image buy  
Foxtails Brigade Time Is Passed
- now available as both CD and MP3
2011 image buy  
Gleason, Jackie Merry Christmas/'Tis The Season
- 2-for-1 Relayer/Friday Music CD reissue of 1956 and 1967 Capitol LP's
2012 image buy review
Green, Cee Lo Cee Lo's Magic Moment 2012 image buy  
Guaraldi, Vince A Charlie Brown Christmas
- yet another new edition of the classic soundtrack, remastered with two bonus tracks
2012 image buy review
Iris, Donnie Ah! Leluiah! The Christmas Album
- originally sold exclusively at his website
2010 image buy  
Ives, Burl Christmas Eve With Burl Ives
- newly available as MP3 download
1957 image buy  
Jenkins, Katherine This Is Christmas
- British singer and tabloid fodder
2012 image buy  
Jigsaw Seen Gifted
- the band's second holiday album in as many years
2012 image buy  
Jones, Jack White Christmas
- newly available as MP3 download
; MCA reissue of 1964 Kapp LP
1987 image buy  
Josi, Christian & Pat Dinizio (Smithereens) Holiday 2012 (EP) 2012 image buy  
Kem What Christmas Means
- Motown singer, songwriter, and producer
2012 image buy  
Kershaw, Sammy A Sammy Klaus Christmas 2012 image buy  
Lady Antebellum On This Winter's Night
- expansion of their 2010 EP, A Merry Little Christmas
2012 image buy  
Lawrence, Steve & Gorme, Eydie That Holiday Feeling!
- Real Gone reissue of easy listening classic plus two bonus tracks
1964 image buy  
Lee, Peggy 10 Great Christmas Songs
- Capitol budget compilation
2012 image buy  
Lloyd, Bill The Day After Christmas (EP)
- MP3 download includes two older songs and two new recordings
2012 image buy  
Looney Tunes Have Yourself A Looney Tunes Christmas
- reissued on Warner Brothers' new WaterTower soundtrack label
1994 image buy  
Lunch at Allen's Zuzu's Petals: A Lunch At Allen's Christmas
- a collective of Canadian singer/songwriters Marc Jordan, Murray McLauchlan, Ian Thomas, and Cindy Church
2012 image buy  
Manilow, Barry The Classic Christmas Album
- from the Sony/BMG vaults; collection from his three holiday albums and more
2012 image buy  
Marx, Richard

Christmas Spirit (2012)
- includes all songs from The Christmas EP (2011)

2012 image buy  
McCreery, Scotty Christmas with Scotty McCreery
- American Idol contestant
2012 image buy  
Nelson, Willie Christmas With Willie Nelson
- reissue of "Hill Country Christmas" (1997)
2012 image buy  
  The Classic Christmas Album
- from the Sony/BMG vaults; includes all of "Pretty Paper" (1979)
2012 image buy review
Nunn, Gary P. Christmas Time In Texas 2010 image buy  
Oak Ridge Boys Christmas Time's A-Coming 2012 image buy  
Perri, Christina A Very Merry Perri Christmas (EP) 2012 image buy  
Platters A Classic Christmas
- merely the classiest version of some latter-day recordings reissued Lord-only-knows how many times
2001 image buy  
Polyphonic Spree Holidaydream: Sounds of the Holidays, Vol. 1 2012 image buy  
Presley, Elvis The Classic Christmas Album
- from the Sony/BMG vaults; nice, but pointless considering his other releases
2012 image buy review
Scala & Kolacny Brothers December
- known for ethereal choral reinventions of pop songs; supposedly, Rhino is releasing a domestic CD version, but no date has been set...
2012 image buy  
Shelton, Blake Cheers, It's Christmas 2012 image buy  
Sigler, Bunny When You're in Love At Christmastime
- 70's Philadelphia International singer, now gospel artist
2012 image buy  
60's Invasion Incense & Chia Pets: A 60's Christmas Celebration!
- classic rock reimagined as holiday music
2012 image buy  
Stevens, Sufjan Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10
- 5-CD boxed set recorded 2006-2010
2012 image buy  
Stewart, Rod Merry Christmas Baby
- also issued in special edition with three extra tracks
2012 image buy  
Taylor, James James Taylor at Christmas
- new edition of 2004 album with two new tracks
2012 image buy  
Thomas, B.J. Hooked On Christmas
- reissue of That Christmas Feeling (2005)
2012 image buy  
Thorn, Tracey Tinsel and Lights
- Everything But the Girl singer
2012 image buy  
Tracy, Jill Silver Smoke: Star of Night
- gothic chanteuse on Projekt Records
2012 image buy  
Trans-Siberian Orchestra Dreams Of Fireflies (On A Christmas Night) (EP) 2012 image buy  
Travolta, John & Olivia Newton-John This Christmas
- Danny and Sandy from Grease are back performing holiday songs to benefit their favorite charities (autism and cancer research, respectively)
2012 image buy  
Twisted Sister

A Twisted Xmas: Live In Las Vegas
- half Christmas songs, half heavy metal hits

2012 image buy  
Vandross, Luther The Classic Christmas Album
- from the Sony/BMG vaults; includes all of "This Is Christmas" (1995)
2012 image buy  
Vaughn, Billy Christmas Songs
- Essential Media CD-R and MP3 reissue of Mistletoe LP
1978 image buy  
Wakely, Jimmy Merry Christmas from Jimmy Wakely
- Essential Media Group reissue of 1958 Shasta LP
2012 image buy  
Weavers We Wish You A Merry Christmas
- now available on MP3
1951 image buy  
Williams, Andy The New Andy Williams Christmas Album
- now available as MP3 download
2007 image buy  
Williams, Vanessa Christmas With Vanessa Williams
- reissue of "Silver & Gold" (2004)
2012 image buy  
soundtrack A Christmas Story
- 1983 classic first issued in 2009, now on new label; also issued for first time as MP3 download
2009 image buy  
soundtrack A Christmas Story: The Musical
- 2011 Broadway adaptation of classic 1983 comedy
2012 image buy  
soundtrack Glee: The Christmas Album 3 2012 image buy  
soundtrack How The Grinch Stole Christmas
- complete audio track of 1966 TV special
2012 image buy review
various artist Cashing In On Christmas Vol. 4
- another rousing set of punk from Black Hole Records; available in MP3 and vinyl
2012 image buy  
various artists Christmas Gift For You From Elefant Records
- compilation of twee indie pop from Spanish label includes muscular track from 80's English modern rockers the Primitives
2012 image buy  
various artists Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector (Special Edition)
- imported version, same as above plus second disc of Spector's earth-shattering "Wall of Sound" hits
2012 image buy  
various artists Christmas With Al Jarreau and Friends 2012 image buy  
various artist Christmas With Natalie Cole and Friends
- above two compile jazz, R&B, and more from Sugo Records; "friends" include Patti Austin, Marilyn McCoo, Al Jarreau, Vanessa Williams, and the Pointer Sisters
2012 image buy  
various artists Christmas With The Rat Pack
- latest edition of oft-reissued CD featuring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.
2012 image buy  
various artists Death Might Be Your Santa Claus
- produced by Sony/BMG/Legacy for 'Black Friday' Record Store Day
2012 image buy  
various artists Festivus
- indie rock from London-based Highline Records
2012 image buy  
various artists Funky Christmas
- classic Cotillion Records LP finally reissued as MP3 download
1976 image buy  
various artists Gotta Love The Holidays
- star-studded, 10-track collection benefits the Larry King Cardiac Foundation
2003 image buy  
various artists Have Yourself a Funny Christmas
- 2-CD import combining novelty tracks with vintage classics
2012 image buy  
various artist Holiday HAAM Jam Vol. 2
- benefit for the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians
2012 image buy  
various artists Holidays Rule
- a who's who of hipster alternative acts (plus Paul McCartney) from Hear Music; in countries other than America, it's called "Christmas Rules"
2012 image

buy

 
  Isn't The World Enough?? A Nettwerk Christmas
- alternative pop label releases another of numerous Holiday compilations
2012 image buy  
various artists Lump Of Coal
- alternative rock collection from First Warning Records now available for download
1991 image buy review
various artists Mint 400 Records Presents A Very Merry Christmas Compilation
- MP3 download from New Jersey-based indie; not to be confused with Chicago-based Minty Fresh Records...
2012 image buy  
various artists Motown Christmas Carol
- fine 23-song compilation, now available as MP3 download
1995 image buy review
various artists Now That's What I Call Today's Christmas
- latest volume of long running series
2012 image buy  
various artists Old School Christmas Classics
- part of a long series of soul, funk, and rap collections from Thump Records
2012 image buy  
various artists Ornamental (A Projekt Holiday Collection)
- 2-CD set from storied goth label
2012 image buy  
various artists The Real... Christmas
- imported 3-CD set of traditional classics from Sony/BMG
2012 image buy  
various artists Santa's Got Mojo 2: An Electro-Fi Christmas Blues Celebration
- sequel to 2002 Electro-Fi Records disc
2012 image buy  
various artists 10 Great Country Christmas Songs
- Capitol budget compilation
2012 image buy  
various artists 10 Great R&B Christmas Songs
- Capitol budget compilation
2012 image buy  
various artists 'Tis The Season To Be Gotee, Too
- second volume of Christian alt.rock
2012 image buy  
various artists 'Twas the Night Before Hanukkah: The Musical Battle Between Christmas and the Festival of Lights
- deluxe package from the Idelsohn Society featuring one disc of Jews singing Hanukkah songs and another of Jews singing Christmas songs
2012 image buy  
various artists Ultra-Lounge Christmas Cocktails Vol. 4
- new volume available only as MP3 download
2012 image buy review
various artists A Very Joma Christmas
- new edition with bonus tracks
2012 image buy  
various artists A Very Merry Golden Records Christmas
- modern celebrities lend their voices to vintage children's recordings; companion to 20 Spooky Songs and other Golden Records reissues from the Verse Music Group
2012 image buy  
various artists A Very Special Christmas: 25 Years Bringing Joy To The World
- 25th anniversary edition of landmark album featuring all new music
2012 image buy review
various artists A Very Special Christmas: Today's Top Christian Artists Bringing Peace On Earth 2012 image buy review

 

Previous Years. We've been compiling this "what's new?" list for awhile, going back to 2004 (Chris Isaak, Dwight Twilley), 2005 (Diana Krall, Brian Setzer), 2006 (Aimee Mann, Bootsy Collins), 2007 (Smithereens, Darlene Love), 2008 (Weezer, Pretenders), 2009 (Bob Dylan, Los Straitjackets), 2010 (James Brown, Shelby Lynne), and 2011 (Killers, Carole King). Christmas Tree

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