Christmas CDs to banish Grinchly thoughts
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From CNN Interactive Writer Jamie Allen
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Still searching for tidings of comfort and joy amid honking holiday traffic? Trying to ward off a bad case of the Grinch?
Nothing cures a case of the Christmas blues like holiday music. And there are plenty of new Christmas CDs to choose from this year.
From swingin' St. Nick to a party pack on how to throw a cool Christmas party, we've tracked down some of the best offerings to help send you to your Christmas gatherings in good spirit.
Perhaps the most original release this year comes from Rhino Records. "Yuletide Soiree" contains two CDs of music -- a collection of holiday favorites like Bing Crosby's "White Christmas," Judy Garland's "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," Charles Brown's "Please Come Home For Christmas," Thurl Ravenscroft's "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch," and Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run." But that's just the beginning.
This plate-sized package also contains a booklet that is a complete guide to Christmas fun. Based on three different party themes ("Tree-trimming Party for 12," "Elegant Christmas Eve Dinner for 8," "Casual Christmas Day Buffet for 25") the booklet helps plan and decorate for the chosen party, then gives recipes for holiday meals and suggestions for Christmas games to play.
For feasting, there's a shopping list to go along with recipes for holiday eats like "Slightly Spicy Glazed Pecans," "Killer Eggnog," "Tipsy Raspberry Trifle," "Classic Prime Rib with Yorkshire Pudding," and the party favorite "Naked Gingerbread Men."
Need a game to get party-goers away from the dinner table? "Yuletide Soiree" offers several suggestions (complete with rules), like "Yule Whispers" or "Not An Obstacle Race." (Note: these games work better for folks who are merry with eggnog, which means designated drivers will think they're completely childish.)
After dinner is done and the games are finished, there is inevitably a call for caroling. With Rhino's package, you don't have to embarrass yourself by singing in front of neighbors; you can embarrass yourself in front of other party guests. The end of "Yuletide Soiree"'s second CD features five songs sans voices, so everyone can engage in Christmas karaoke. The Rhino booklet even provides lyrics for those who forget. This is the point when you should have the video cameras rolling.
Swing, Santa, swing!
There are other releases on music shelves as well, covering several styles to meet tastes.
Squirrel Nut Zippers (Mammoth) bring the swing craze to the North Pole with "Christmas Caravan." This collection of mostly original tunes strays from the traditional Christmas bells and "peace, love, joy" that mark so many releases these days. Instead, SNZ offers new titles like "Indian Giver," "Hot Christmas" and "My Evergreen."
"Gift of the Magi," a duet between lovebirds Jim Mathus and Katherine Whalen that sounds like a mix between old Hank Williams and a traditional Christmas hymn, shows the eclectic range of SNZ and is worth a second listen.
Gone are her days as teeny-bop queen, but Cyndi Lauper is still having fun with "Merry Christmas ... Have a Nice Life" (Epic). A blend of novel and traditional music, this CD shows off Lauper's trademark skyscraping voice, which translates to Christmas enthusiasm in songs like "Early Christmas Morning" and "Christmas Conga."
Shawn Colvin, fresh from her Grammy-winning latest effort "A Few Small Repairs," is taking to the Christmas beat with "Holiday Songs and Lullabies" (Columbia). She recorded the album when she was eight months pregnant. Critics have said Colvin's style doesn't meld well with holly-jolly tunes. But fans of Colvin will find their own reasons to sing along on songs like "In the Bleak Mid-Winter," "Christmas Time Is Here," and "All Through the Night."
Hitmaker Babyface has taken his overwhelming talents (numerous Grammys for both producing and singing) and put together a solid CD called "Christmas with Babyface" (Epic). Songs like "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," "White Christmas," "Silent Night" and "Winter Wonderland" get the Babyface treatment, a mix of quiet class and cool jive that emerges into pop-factory enjoyment.
For folks who are not in the mood to try anything new, there's been a new push to market the music from that traditional must-see TV special, "A Charlie Brown Christmas." The Vince Guaraldi Trio made the accompanying music behind the animated Peanuts gang Christmas tale, and the Fantasy Records CD features Guaraldi's reworking of several classics, along with original songs like the party-favorite "Linus and Lucy" (that's the catchy piano tune that everyone in the Peanuts play kept dancing to).
Listening to the work of Guaraldi away from the cartoon format, it's easy to see why the self-described "reformed boogie-woogie piano player" who died in 1976 is considered one of America's best jazz artists. Along with "A Charlie Brown Christmas," Guaraldi's Peanuts work can also be heard on "Charlie Brown's Holiday Hits."
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