Last week, Pop Stops looked at new Christmas albums from Rosie O'Donnell, Christina Aguilera, Linda Ronstadt and others. This week, we look at some more collections of Christmas songs to rock up your holiday, mellow it out and remind you of those classic Christmases of yore.

 

ROCK 'n' ROLL CHRISTMAS:

Lynyrd Skynyrd - Christmas Time Again Lynyrd Skynyrd
Christmas Time Again
(CMC)


The Southern-fried rockers offer an album of mostly original holiday songs with swamp boogie feel. The rock arrangements don't always bring to mind Christmas, but this CD does add a classic rock spice to the holiday.

The album should really be titled Lynyrd Skynyrd and Friends Skynyrd actually presents nine songs (including the standards "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Greensleeves" and the Chuck Berry classic "Run Run Rudolph") and then turns the CD over to Charlie Daniels who rocks through "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" and .38 Special, who provide an upbeat, sleigh-bell pounding original in "Hallelujah, It's Christmas."

The inclusion of the other two bands makes sense under the Skynyrd banner; Skynyrd and .38 Special are led by Van Zandt brothers and Charlie Daniels helped put Skynyrd back together after a plane crash literally ripped the band apart. The best original comes in Skynyrd's "Mama's Song," a tender ballad remembering lost loved ones on Christmas:

"One day I know we'll be together
when the lord brings me to you
then I know I will be in heaven
when my eyes can rest on you
but until then I will remember all the good times that we shared
I hang a star upon this tree for you
mama, on Christmas day I know you'll be there too."

There's also a nicely picked "Classical Christmas," an instrumental acoustic guitar gem.

 

COLLECTIONS OF CHRISTMAS CLASSICS:

Martha Stewart - Home for the Holidays Various Artists
Martha Stewart Living: Home for the Holidays
(Rhino)
½


After an album of Halloween sound effects, Stewart continues her new relationship with Rhino Records by offering a collection of holiday songs, both classic and modern. Kudos to Stewart and the Rhino group for putting together a diverse album of holiday songs that doesn't just dip into the well for the same Bing Crosby, Brenda Lee, Gene Autry standards that have been repackaged ad nauseum every year. Bing Crosby does turn up here, but in his modern classic duet with David Bowie on "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy." Oldies include Eartha Kitt's "Santa Baby," Charles Brown's "Merry Christmas Baby," and Judy Garland's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Emmylou Harris' "The First Noel"and Greg Lake's haunting "I Believe in Father Christmas" are rescued from '70s obscurity, The Pretenders' "2000 Miles," Nicolette Larson's "Oh One Bright Star (This Is Christmas Night)" and Ray Charles' "Christmas Time" are unearthed from the '80s, and the '90s offerings, including The Roches' "Silver Bells,"Dan Fogelberg's "What Child Is This?" Loreena McKennitt's "Good King Wenceslas" and Jane S iberry's beautifully avant "Are You Burning, Little Candle?"

 

Various Artists - A Season of Song Various Artists
A Season of Song Vol. 1
(Sony)


If you don't already have a handful of Christmas albums covering the "oldies," Sony offers this collection, which includes Burl Ives' "A Holly Jolly Christmas," Johnny Mathis' "Do You Here What I Hear?,"Doris Day's "Deck The Halls,"Andy Williams' "Joy To The World," Jim Nabors' "I'll Be Home For Christmas, Bobby Vinton's "O Holy Night," Mel Torme's definitive version of "The Christmas Song" and Gene Autry's "Here Comes Santa Claus (Down Santa Claus Lane)," among others.

 

Various Artists
Intimate Portrait: Christmas Belles
(Lifetime/Rhino)
½


Another collection spotlighting the Christmas songs of yore, this one, as its title implies, features only women singers.

Included are Ella Fitzgerald's "Sleigh Ride,"Judy Garland's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,"Julie London's "Warm December,"Lena Horne's "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!,"Brenda Lee's "Papa Noel,"Doris Day's "Silver Bells," June Christy's "Love Turns Winter Into Spring,"Eartha Kitt's "Santa Baby," as well as songs from Rosemary Clooney, Pearl Bailey, Nancy Wilson, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan.

 

Various Artists
Mambo Santa Mambo: Christmas From the Latin Lounge
(Rhino)


This one really reaches back. Except for a lukewarm holiday parody of Lou Bega's "Mambo No. 5" in The Flashcats' "December Twenty 5," all of the songs here are lifted from the heydays of cha-chaing, mamboing orchestras. Copyrights range from 1953-1960, which means all of these tracks are in mono and sound pretty "thin" by today's standards. But it does give you a feeling of "holidays past" with a palm tree warmth. Included are The Joe Loco Quintet's "Jingle Bells," The Enchanters' "Mambo Santa Mambo,"Billy May's "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer - Mambo," Tina Robin's "Winter Wonderland Cha Cha," Bill Darnel &The Smith Brothers' "We Wanna See Santa Do The Mambo," and many more. The Skip-Jacks, Hugo Winterhalter, Little Bobby Rey, Celia Cruz, Hernando Hopkins, Ricky Vera & Steve Allen, Frank Petty Trio and Jimmy Boyd also appear.

 

MELLOW CHRISTMAS:

Caroline Peyton - Celtic Christmas Spirit Caroline Peyton
Celtic Christmas Spirit
(Green Hill)


Aside from "I Saw Three Ships,""The Coventry Carol" and "In The Bleak Midwinter" you probably won't recognize a lot of these ancient Celtic hymns (or the language they're sung in), but the music is spiritually uplifting and makes a fine background for any gathering about the tree with its soaring vocal choruses, lightly chiming bells and gentle piano, whistle, bodhran and string accompaniments.

Peyton, whose vocals have been used in the Disney films Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame has a lilting, soft delivery that melds right in with the warm tones of the Celtic instrumentalists. Think of the sound of Enya and the melodic theme from Titanic. This is the kind of airy music you hear when you walk into a "Nature" or "Natural Wonders" store - calm, soothing and agelessly beautiful.

 

Ottmar Liebert
Christmas + Santa Fe
(Epic)


Spanish guitar guru Liebert offers a relaxing New Age-ish south of the border instrumental Christmas album. Each track features a classic Christmas carol, paired with new themes written by Liebert arising from that carol. Consequently, every track has a divided title, including "Santa Dancing/Deck The Halls,""Celebration/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "Holiday Buleria/Greensleeves,""Dig The Wonderland/Winter Wonderland,""Snow White/Silent Night" and eight more.

This is a warm fireside Christmas disc perfect for popping corn or roasting chestnuts.

 

KIDS CHRISTMAS:

Looney Tunes - Kwazy Christmas The Looney Tunes
Kwazy Christmas
(Kid Rhino)


This disc for the kids might keep them entertained for a while. It includes Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck and the rest of the Looney Tunes cartoon characters cracking jokes and singing classic carols like "Deck the Halls,""O Christmas Tree,""Frosty the Snowman," "The Little Drummer Boy," "Feliz Navidad," and more.

That's all for this week! Pop Stops wishes all of its readers a Merry, Musical Christmas!