There is one column I look forward to every year, my holiday piece. I don’t know what it is about the holidays that brings out the need for everyone to rehash the same dozen or so tunes that have been rehashed more times than the charred resin in my college roommate Jeff’s oversized bong. Anyhoo, here’s the best and the worst saccharin-laced, yuletide sendups coming to assault your ears this holiday season. Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la… oh forget it…
Sheryl Crow, Home For Christmas
No one does annoyingly inoffensive pabulum better than Hallmark records, so Sheryl Crow, with all her personal triumphs over things like depression and her failed marriage to Lance Armstrong, makes a perfect bedfellow. Too bad none of that pain seeps into the sounds on this album, which lacks originality. The title track is blander than cheese sandwiches on white bread for dinner with Bryant Gumbel. Blech.
Elliott Yamin, My Kind of Holiday
Elliott Yamin placed third on the fifth season of American Idol, which is why no one has any idea who he is, or even knows that this is, in fact his second holiday album, and he’s Jewish. On behalf of my Jewish brethren everywhere, I’d kind of like to beat him to a pulp along with Barry Manilow.
Faith Hill, Joy to the World
I was surprised to learn that this was Faith Hill’s first holiday outing. I mean, from the over-produced sound to the heavy-handed arrangements to the self-important grandiosity to the phoned-in vocals, you’d think she’d done this before.
Rahsaan Patterson, The Ultimate Gift
If there was one album to spin at your party this Christmas, chuck all the old crap, burn the Mannheim Steamroller and play this one. Patterson’s sublime R&B approach to eight originals and a few covers (Marvin Gaye, Paul McCartney, to name a few) is something I would actually listen to without a double-rum eggnog in my hand. It’s smooth, soulful and sounds refreshingly honest.
Enya, And Winter Came
What?!? ENYA?!? On my BEST list? No, I’m not hanging out with Jeff and his bong, Enya lands here specifically because she at least took the time to craft a bunch of original tunes for this one. One of the tunes is even in Gaelic and another in Latin, so I can be bored to tears in two completely different languages.
Elvis Presley, Christmas Duets
It’s timeless and classic and still sounds genuine. On this one, he’s joined by Martina McBride, Olivia Newton John, Carrie Underwood and LeAnn Rimes. Three decades after his death, Elvis is still more relevant than most of today’s holiday bandwagoners.
Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas
I just have to add this one to the list, because when I get into music geek best-of discussions, this is always at the top of the holiday album list. More than 40 years after its release, this collection of reverently-cared for jazz selections remains the quintessential holiday soundtrack. It at once captures the wide-eyed whimsy of youth and the slightly melancholy adult realization that youth is gone all at once.