Do You Hear What I Hear?

Another year, another rich haul of Christmas CDs. But instead of coming up with just another essay about holiday music, this time around we decided to help out the ailing economy — not to mention you frazzled holiday shoppers out there — by assembling a Christmas CD buying guide. We’ve taken a few of the best records we got this yuletide and matched ’em up with a friend or family member on your list. All so you wouldn’t have to.

If your loved one …

… has a mullet and likes to shred on air guitar: Santamental, Steve Lukather and Friends.

Highlights: Sammy Davis Jr.’s sampled vocal on “Jingle Bells,” Edgar Winter duet on “Winter Wonderland,” Eddie Van Halen’s fiery ax rippin’ shit up on “Joy to the World.”

… is a terminally depressed ’60s drug casualty: What I Really Want for Christmas, Brian Wilson.

Highlights: outstanding cover art, quasi-Caribbean arrangement of “Deck the Halls,” beautiful harmonies and easy-to-understand words of “Auld Lang Syne,” damn-near baroque rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

… is your frumpy-maiden great-aunt: Regis Philbin Christmas Album.

Highlights: One and only one — “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which features both a terrible Donald Trump cameo. Hell, come to think of it, the whole CD has train-wreck appeal — to cite just one painful example, Pat Boone never whitened and neutered any tune more than Regis and his wife, Joy, do here with the once hypersexy “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

… is someone you wish would die a slow, painful death by “music”-induced brain hemorrhage: The Greatest Holiday Classics, Kenny G.

Highlights: You can say one thing for Mr. G — the sound of his sax sure is, um, recognizable. But then, so is the sound of a grackle colony in an uproar, and I’d rather hear that than this any day.

… has a fully functional margarita machine on his or her bedside table: Christmas Album, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.

Highlights: Pretty much the whole enchilada, from the samba-fied, almost Beach Boys-like opener of “Winter Wonderland” to the stately choir and lone trumpet of Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” that winds things up. It’s hard to believe, but this thing was out of print for years. Kudos to Shout Factory for bringing it back.

… is a high-ranking member of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club: Carolina Christmas, the Marshall Tucker Band.

Highlights: Without a doubt, “Christmas in Custody,” a first-person narrative of the consequences of a second DWI in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

… screams “Fuck you,” slams the door in your face and blasts Saosin and UnderOath CDs: Taste of Christmas, various artists.

Highlights: From First to Last’s “Christmassacre,” which disses Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy and features the refrain Santa’s go-ing to diiieeee!

… is the sort of Ned Flanders-raised 8-year-old who is home-schooled and not allowed to read Harry Potter because of the “occult” overtones: The Incredible Singing Christmas Tree, Veggie Tales.

Highlights: musically, absolutely none. However, it’s amusing to ponder the near-certainty that within five or so years, virtually all of the kids force-fed this cloying drivel will be cranking hardcore tunes like “Christmassacre” on the down-low.

… is more a Bart Simpson type of 8-year-old, in body or mind: Pull My Finger: Jingle Smells, various (f)artists

Highlights: It’s not just a fart record — it also features burps. And it’s not just a Christmas record, either — there’s a “Stinky Dreidel” in there, too. Actually, it’s kind of amazing how these people put together fart sounds to carry the melodies of these carols; it’s reminiscent of some of those 1960s records by synth pioneers Robert Moog, Jean-Jacques Perrey and Gershon Kingsley. And because Rabelais, Dante, Chaucer and Joyce all refer to farts in their work, you could make an argument for this as high art. But we won’t be making that argument here.

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