By Gillian G. Gaar
Christmas Party (Rhino) is the first ever holiday album by The Monkees. It’s the older stuff that fares better here: Michael Nesmith’s slide-guitar take on “The Christmas Song,” the pop-fest of Mickey Dolenz’s “Wonderful Christmastime,” Peter Tork’s inventive “Angels We Have Heard On High” (featuring banjo!), and two tracks by the late Davy Jones, “Silver Bells” and the Hawaiian classic “Mele Kalikimaka” … Smooth song stylist Engelbert Humperdinck brings you his first holiday record in almost 40 years, Warmest Christmas Wishes (OK! Good Records). Perfect for listening to as you sip eggnog by the fire in the company of family and friends. There’s a nice take on “White Christmas” and a plea for peace in “I’m Not Dreaming of a White Christmas” … Real Gone Music has some great holiday reissues. The Complete Christmas on the Ponderosa brings together Christmas on the Ponderosa and Lorne Greene’s Have a Happy Holiday. Yes, it’s seasonal music from the cast of Bonanza, featuring the entire Cartwright family! Along with standards like “Deck the Halls” and “Jingle Bells” are Western-themed numbers like “Santa Got Lost in Texas.” The Greene record, making its CD debut, also includes his 1966 single “Must Be Santa.” ...Poet-songwriter Rod McKuen was ubiquitous during the 1960s and 1970s, writing hit songs for others, and releasing his own records. New Carols for Christmas: The Rod McKuen Christmas Album returns on CD after being out of print for 20 years. It’s a more esoteric release that doesn’t have anything as conventional as “Winter Wonderland,” but introspective pieces like “As We Traveled Through Vermont” instead, and the melancholy “Who Knows Where We’re Going.” A duet with Petula Clark on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a bonus track. …Are you a fan of the Los Straitjackets’ surf-rock? Then pick up a copy of Christmas Collection Songbook (Yep Rock), which compiles all the Christmas-related tracks they’ve released since 2002: classic carols (“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”); modern fare (“Jingle Bell Rock”); and a rockin’ live version of “Linus and Lucy” … XO Publicity has a special holiday gift: free downloads of their XO For the Holidays compilations featuring their artists, including indie acts like Judge Jackson featuring Billy Bob Thornton, and Pat Kearns (of Blue Skies for Black Hearts, who also appear), among others. Head to: xopublicity.com/xo-holiday-compilations-2 … Mitch Ryder delivers his first ever holiday album, Christmas (Take A Ride) (Goldenlane Records). He brings a nice dose of Motor City grit to standards like “Blue Christmas” and “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” along with unexpected choices like “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” and “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” … Les McCann’s cleverly titled A Time Les Christmas (The Abrahams Company) puts a soulful, jazzy spin on the likes of “Let It Snow,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Great for late-night listening sessions, when the lights are low.
Read about a lot more Christmas Music releases in our full year-end ‘Christmas Music Roundup’ — including an in-the-sprit interview with crooner Engelbert Humperdinck — by picking up the latest issue of Goldmine, on the newsstand now (select Barnes & Noble, Books A Million and indie record stores) until January 7.