Music Roundup: New Holiday CDs

Filed under: Holidays, That's Entertainment, Shopping, Music

At the end of every year, we see a new slate of holiday CDs. Some will be entertaining new takes on the Christmas music we all know and love; some will be lame retreads. Here are five new holiday discs made to please the kiddies.

Uncle Rock: Express Your Elf
Robert Burke Warren (a.k.a. Uncle Rock) can generally be counted upon to take a classic kids' song, rough it up, and churn it back out as pure, bare-bones rock music. Here, though, he takes a surprisingly conventional approach, giving us some very nice acoustic covers of "Feliz Navidad" and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear." He even successfully tackles the iconic "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." His three original tunes, though (especially the raucous "Too Many Presents") prove to be the picks of the bunch, though.

Various Artists: Putumayo Presents A Family Christmas
World music label Putumayo puts their signature melting-pot spin on this absolutely joyful compilation. These are all songs you've heard before, but with a delightful spin that comes from their interpretation through different musical genres. Kate Rusby puts a Celtic twist on "Here We Come A-Wassailing," Brave Combo layers a polka beat under "Jolly Old St. Nick," and the soulful Leon Redbone performs one of the best version of "Let It Snow" ever.


The Hipwaders: A Kindie Christmas
This funky trio gives us a full album of original holiday-themed tunes that features just as much groovy bass as it does jingle bells. There are a few beautifully earnest beautifully earnest ballads, like "There's Too Much Good," but most of the album is bouncy up-tempo stuff that, despite it inherent rock-ness, fits nicely into the classic Christmas canon. They even introduce their own answer to Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer -- Jacinto, the Christmas Vicuna.
Danny Alderman, Yosi, and Kevin Kammeraad: ...And a Happy New Year
Each of these men has delivered great children's CD individually, but here they team up for a not-so-serious, multi-denominational holiday celebration. There's an interesting mix of rock-tinged originals and jokingly performed classics (like a version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" that starts off with a pickle and gets stranger from there). And Yosi tosses in a handful of Hanukkah songs as well. Not every track will light your Yule log, but some are flat-out fantastic, especially the kickin' punk version of "Frosty the Snowman" and a sped-up, electric rendition of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" -- which is apparently this year's favorite song to cover.


Various Artists: A Very Special Christmas 7
It's hard to believe that when this celebrity compilation anthology series began back in 1987, it had contributors like Bruce Springsteen, The Pretenders, and U2. This most recent addition's lineup feels like it's just the nominee list from the Kids' Choice Awards. Thirty percent of the performers have series on Disney Channel -- and I'm pretty sure all of them were born after the release of the first A Very Special Christmas. Maybe I'm being a Scrooge by comparing this seventh installment to the original (or any of the ones in between). Pitting Vanessa Hudgens and Kristinia DeBarge against the likes of Sting and Madonna isn't really a fair fight. Still, most of these performers don't do too much to make the songs their own, and too many of the singers are backed up by generic, synthetic Christmas sounds. The country acts fare best here, including a sweet-and-warm rendition of "Let It Snow" by the Carter Twins and a beautifully ethereal "Silent Night" by the band Gloriana. Miley Cyrus, whooping and shouting her way through "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," has arguably the poorest showing. Of course, none of this has any bearing on the essential fact that tweens will love this CD.

AOL Christmas Music, Incredible Christmas Light Displays

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.