Christmas Notes 2013: Another Year, Another Pile of CDs

Once you've heard every Christmas song ever recorded, you've heard them all. I'm not sure whether I'm quite there yet, but I'm a hell of a lot closer than most people would ever want to be.

Since last year, I've assembled quite a few additional holiday CDs from the clearance racks of used book stores, yard sales, and occasionally from Amazon. Now that everything's been ripped, I'm ready to start the annual tradition of listening to the new and reporting what how it's different from what I already had.

Spoiler alert - with very few exceptions, it isn't.

So, without further ado, here's the "new" music:

We Wish You A Metal XMas and a Headbanging New Year (Various)

This is exactly what it sounds like - metal versions of Christmas songs. It's a compilation which includes Alice Cooper, along with a bunch of musicians I've never heard of because I don't own a lot of metal.

My one complaint is that some of the songs aren't really altered enough. I far prefer the tracks where the songs are utterly transformed. Fortunately, there are quite a few fitting that description, including good versions of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Silver Bells, and Rocking Round the Christmas Tree.

I'm always trying to expand the amount of "high energy" holiday music in my collection, so this is a welcome addition. Several of the songs have already found their way into various playlists.

A Heavy Metal Christmas (Christopher Lee)

In case there was any doubt, yes: THAT Christopher Lee. Saruman sings Heavy Metal Christmas songs. This only contains two tracks, Little Drummer Boy and Silent Night, but they're kind of amazing. I've always felt like Heavy Metal was missing something, and it turns out what it was missing was Lee's vocals.

In hindsight, it's kind of obvious.

Happy Holidays: A Very Special Christmas Album (Billy Idol)

I was excited to pick this up: I like all of Billy Idol's work I can think of, which is really just another way of saying I like the song, White Wedding.

This album isn't what I was hoping, but there are several good tracks. Too many are more or less traditional versions, but there are enough deviating from the norm to make it worth owning. I love his version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (but then I love almost everyone's version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, so take that with a grain of salt).

I'll never understand why musicians produce so many generic versions of classic songs instead of putting their spin on them. This isn't the time to demonstrate your range.

I'm sure that's the last time I'll be complaining about that.

Christmas with Solid Brass (Solid Brass)

This isn't a bad album of classical holiday music, but it is an album of classical holiday music, which means it's not exactly a new experience.

Love Actually (Various)

This is the soundtrack to Love Actually, which means it's almost entirely made up of love music, the majority of which doesn't have anything to do with Christmas besides being used in Love Actually.

I'd feel more conflicted about listening to this if I didn't despise love songs. Besides, if a song's used in something that's Christmasy enough, it becomes a Christmas song. The music behind Carol of the Bells didn't start out associated with Christmas, either.

Still, I'm going to remove everything from this CD other than the "pure" Christmas songs from my Christmas master list - I don't think they belong here. In the end, I guess that means I ended up with a couple crappy holiday pop songs and with a fake holiday pop song sung by Bill Nighy that's so intentionally crappy, it's actually awesome.

A Christmas Carol: A Dramatic Retelling of Dickens' Classic Tale featuring Lionel Barrymore and Orsen Wells

I picked this up on CD for a dollar, which is actually a dollar more than it's technically worth: the internet seems to think this is public domain. That said, it's a decent recording of the story with good voice acting. If you're looking for an audio recording of A Christmas Carol, this is a good one to choose. Of course... who needs a recording of A Christmas Carol?

I am Santa Claus (Bob Rivers)

This is definitely an album of mixed quality. As a rule of thumb, Christmas parody songs based on Christmas songs tend to be bad, while Christmas-versions of other songs are more promising. There are exceptions on both sides, but not many.

The standout, besides "I am Santa Claus" (which I already own), is a version of "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" that's sung to the tune of "House of the Rising Sun." Is that funny? No. But it's kind of awesome.

There are a few comedy bits worth hearing once, including a surprisingly clever commercial for "Manger 6." But, for each entertaining section, there are two tracks of filler. Do we really need "The 'What's it to Ya' Chorus"? Even with decent production values, parodies like these are humorless and pointless.

The Christmas Album (Neil Diamond)

Maybe my ears are just growing more discriminating as the season progresses, but I feel like this has a bit more of a distinctive sound than most "traditional" Christmas albums. There's definitely a lot of Neil Young's style in these versions, which gives them some value.

It'd have more value if I like Neil Diamond, but in the scheme of things, that's a relatively minor issue.

Joyous Christmas (Joyful Strings)

Oh, good. More generic classical holiday tracks. I was worried I was going to get bored listening to the thousand or so I already have, as opposed to getting bored listening to new ones.

This isn't bad - most classical holiday tunes aren't - but there's nothing distinctive about it.

Christmas (Chris Isaac)

Yet another attempt to recreate the magic of classic Christmas albums by singing classic Christmas songs in the same manner they've classically been sung for the past sixty years.

Sometimes I wonder if musicians realize we can still buy those albums. If I want to hear someone sound like Elvis singing Blue Christmas, I have the option of listening to Elvis, who does a better impression of Elvis than just about anyone.

I don't really want to listen to Elvis sing Blue Christmas, but that's not the point.

That aside, there's a version of "Hey Santa!" on here I like quite a bit and a few other tracks that are solid. Still, it feels like a missed opportunity: I love to have seen Issac do his own version of Christmas.

Santa Claus Lane (Hilary Duff)
My instinct is of course to complain about this being teen pop swill, which I think is a fair description. However, in the defense of pop stars like Duff, at least they don't try to redo sixty year-old tunes in the original styles. This is, for all its many faults, high energy, which was appreciated.

Not enough to listen to it again, but still.

A Lovely Way to Spend Christmas (Kristin Chenoweth)
Not every song on this album is about Jesus, but there's definitely a trend. The album covers several genres of music. It's not all bad, but there's nothing on here that really interests me.

Christmas in the City (Various)

This is a compilation of 70's Motown Christmas tracks, featuring several tracks by Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, and others. Shockingly, I think all but one or two of these tracks are new to my collection. That's rare these days, given how much holiday music I've collected.

There are a handful of songs sung traditionally, but most are original or remade in the artists' style. There are quite a few I like and a few I absolutely love - Marvin Gaye's Purple Snowflakes is fantastic, as is The Funk Brothers's Winter Wonderland.

I can't remember where I found this CD used, but I'm glad I came across it. There's some great music on this thing.

Miracles: The Holiday Album (Kenny G)

It's easy to hate Kenny G. I'll demonstrate: I'm doing so right now. But the upside of playing tepid elevator music is that at least his music is no more offensive than elevator music. It's not good, but it's not really annoying if you don't pay attention.

Innocuous is a good word for this album. There are plenty of bad ones that apply, too, but I'll save those for truly cloying CD's. I'm sure I've got quite a few of those coming up.

The Harlem Nutcracker (Dave Berger & the Sultans of Swing)

This is a good album, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed. Apparently, this version is expanded from the Duke Ellington original to fill more time. The tracks that seem to point to Ellington are exactly what I want, but most of the others deviate too much from the source material. Don't get me wrong - I want these to sound distinctive - but I feel like I should be able to tell what they're from.

Regardless, Danse of the Floreadores, Peanut Brittle Brigade, and Sugar Rum Cherry are all incredibly cool.

Elton John's Christmas Party (Various)

This is a collection of Christmas songs done by various rock and pop bands. Most are classics, but there are a few that are either new or obscure. The Ronettes do a pretty cool version of Frosty, there's a great instrumental version Jingle Bell Rock from the Ventures, The Crystals have a cool spin on Rudolph, 

Not every track is great (I could certainly do without Jimmy Buffett's Christmas Island), but there are a decent number of good songs on this thing; more than I'd have expected. It's about a 50/50 split between songs I'm glad to have and those I hope stay out of the rotation.

That's actually pretty good for a compilation.

A Contemporary Gospel Christmas (Various)

This is exactly what it sounds like, for better or worse. I'm not really a fan of Gospel music, so this didn't appeal to me. That said, anything fast paced is preferable to slow, peaceful music. Taste in music aside, I need to stay awake.

The 30 Greatest Christmas Movie Songs (The Hit Crew)

Let's make sure we're perfectly clear on how they're defining a "Christmas movie song." It seems to mean, any Christmas song that's been in one or more movie. By my math, that limits things down TO EVERY GODDAMN CHRISTMAS SONG EVER RECORDED.

About a quarter of these can reasonably be described as being associated with a particular movie. The collection includes such classics as "All I Want for Christmas is You" and "Put a Little Love in Your Heart." They slap "from Love Actually" and from "Scrooged" in the title to make it clear these are movie Christmas songs.

But they try to pass "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" off as being from A Miracle on 34th Street. Right.

Most of the tracks don't even make the effort. Sure, O Christmas Tree and  Greensleeves have been in holiday films - hundreds, I'm sure - but that doesn't make them "Christmas movie songs."

I'd also be remiss in omitting the fact that these are sung by "The Hit Crew," which I'm sure is a studio assembled collection of out-of-work singers. Hey, they're a hell of a lot cheaper than the people who made these songs famous.

Anyway, some of the recordings are God awful; others are fine for what they are, which isn't saying much.

A Christmas Album (Amy Grant)

Amy Grant's first Christmas album contains mostly synth-pop versions of classic (generally religious) Christmas songs. At least I can't claim Grant isn't putting her stamp on these tunes. I just wish it was a more interesting stamp. There are several new songs on here, as well. These are also synth-heavy, and they're even more religious.

Later on, I'll get to compare this to some of her later work. Can't wait for that....

Glee: The Music: The Christmas Album

There's something awful about Glee. I know some of you like this thing, but I find it... difficult to watch. Hearing the music removed from the show is even worse. It feels like everything bad about pop music condensed into a single point. Sure, some of it is fast paced - that's appreciated - but the music itself feels absurdly over produced.

Christmas in America (Kenny Rogers)

I don't know what's worse: this album, the title song of the album, or the fact I've actually heard worse songs with the same name.

I wasn't expecting anything great or even good. I mean, let's be clear: I was expecting this album to be physically and psychologically draining to listen to.

My expectations were too high.

Doctor Demento: Holidays in Dementia (Various)

This is a collection of novelty songs, some of which date back to the 40's. I went in not knowing what to expect, but - for the most part - I was pleasantly surprised. While most aren't all that funny, I found a good number to be charming. Part of that may be due to the fact I remember a handful from when I was young - nostalgia forgives a lot. But there are several that are at least decent. "Christmas Wrapping" by Waitresses is on here: I already have it, but it's a great holiday song regardless. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't laugh during "Christmas is Coming Twice this Year," about kids excited they're getting double the presents because their parents are divorced.

All in all, not a bad collection.

Christmas Roses: A Celtic Woman's Christmas (Various)

This compilation includes 24 songs, each by a different singer. I'm not sure what the background behind this thing is, but most of the singers' names seem formulaic and the three or four I searched for at Amazon only displayed the song on this album (in all cases, the same song appeared on other compilations).

No surprise that the quality isn't anything to get excited about: these songs are pretty generic. I've got a lot of "Celtic Christmas" music, and I don't hear anything to distinguish this over the others. In fact, I don't even hear much to identify these as "Celtic." I suppose some of the singers either have an accent or are faking one, but most of the songs haven't really been altered.

There are a handful of good tracks, but they're generally the songs that are always good (The Holly and the Ivy, God Bless Ye Merry Gentlemen, etc.).

The Christmas Album (Air Supply)

Air Supply really isn't what I want to be listening to right now. Or ever, for that matter. I'm not sure they're any worse than other soft rock groups, but it's not a genre of music I'm particularly fond of. There's just something that sounds fake about this music, like the singers aren't even trying. Though maybe I'm just being generous.

To be fair, this probably wouldn't bother me if it was the first Christmas album I listened to this year. But right now, a dozen or so CDs into the season, this is tedious beyond belief.

Home for Christmas (Amy Grant)

Huh. I dreaded this after hearing her first album, but... what a difference a decade and super-stardom makes. The first was extremely religious in nature and utilized bad synthesizers. This one has much better production values and much less Jesus. That isn't to say Grant's Christian music background is entirely absent: there's a new song in here that's very religious, and there are several classics which have Christian elements... but it no long comes off as the point of the album. This is more a traditional Christmas album than an attempt to pack as many references to the baby Jesus as possible on one disc.

Most of the music isn't great, but for the most part I don't find it cloying. It's a pretty standard mix of holiday songs done in a 90's pop style and old-fashioned tunes. There's even a few standouts, including a surprisingly cool instrumental version of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring I'll be dropping in a set list or two. I actually also like the religious song Grant co-wrote, Breath of Heaven.

That said, this does include a version of "My Grown Up Christmas List," the song I sometimes think was robbed of its rightful title as the worst Christmas song ever written.

Still, this really wasn't a bad album, which is far more than I can say for her first Christmas release.

Christmas Wishes (The Statler Brothers)

I had no idea who The Statler Brothers were when I picked up this album, and the picture on the front didn't fill me with confidence. I was pretty sure this was going be one of those situations where I expose myself to an hour of pain then, you know, complain about it in an interesting manner.

Turns out, these were the back-up singers for Johnny Cash, and the album is pretty good. There's a version of Jingle Bells on here that's particularly memorable.

That said, no one should ever sing "Whose Birthday is Christmas." Well, I'd make an exception if the singer made it perfectly clear the correct answer is Horus, but they didn't do that here.

Family Christmas (The Barklay Christmas Orchestra)

Who could ever have too much orchestral Christmas music?

That wasn't a rhetorical question. The correct answer is me. I have way too much classical Christmas music. WAY too much.

This is, like the vast majority of what's out there, fine. Nothing special, nothing memorable, nothing awful, just... fine.

I am so sick of fine.

New Country: Holiday Special 1995 (Various)

There were one or two songs on this compilation I liked: the rest didn't really leave me impressed or irritated. That probably counts as a win, all things considered.

Home Alone Christmas (Various)

This is a compilation of songs from Home Alone 1 and 2. I already have a bunch of these tracks, but not all of them and not on the same album. This way I can finally relive the experience that was the Home Alone movies anytime I want to. Granted, I've never wanted to relive that experience, but at least now I have the choice.

Big Band Christmas - Holiday Swing (Northstar Musicians)

This is just what it sounds like: swing versions of holiday classics. You'll notice I've got a lot of these this year - I found a small pile at a yard sale. I like this album. It's nothing surprising, but the songs are pretty good and high energy.

The Original Big Band Christmas (Various)

These are older Christmas big band songs, some of which I own. But some sound new to me, and there are definitely some great tracks. There's a version of "Merry Christmas Baby" by Sonny Parker that's fantastic.

In the Nutcracker Mood (Glenn Miller Orchestra)

This is a compilation containing swing versions of songs from the Nutcracker, along with a handful of classic Christmas songs. So far, it's my favorite of the big band jazz/swing holiday albums I picked up this year. At least in my opinion, it does a better job maintaining the feel of the source while transforming the style.

Christmas Songs by Sinatra (Frank Sinatra)

Thanks to dozens of compilations albums, I've already got about half of these tracks. The others are new to me. I'm not a huge fan of Sinatra, so these don't do a lot for me. Still, the completist in me is glad to be a little closer to owning every significant recording of Christmas music ever made.

A Fisherman's Christmas Carols (North Pole Fisherman's Association)

This is an album full of fishing-related Christmas song parodies intended to be given as a holiday gift to fishermen. It's a gimmick and a cash grab, but then again, isn't that the true meaning of Christmas.

To someone who doesn't like fishing (or fish, for that matter), the album isn't exactly all that relevant. I can't imagine I'd find it funny even if I loved the activity. On the other hand, the music is blue-grass and isn't badly done. Even better, the entire album clocks in at less than twenty minutes, so it's relatively painless.

In addition to the Christmas song parodies, there are a handful of songs about fishing that don't directly relate to the holiday. Overall, these are a little better than the others. I'm removing them from my Christmas set list, though: can't dilute the magic, after all.

Because it's Christmas (Barry Manilow)

I've never really known Manilow as anything other than a punchline in a joke. I'm not sure whether or not that's fair: he seems to be one of those singers who became successful to a such degree, he became an icon, and as a result couldn't be seen as anything else.

Regardless, I mainly find this album boring. It feels like a random mix of holiday songs. There are religious tunes alongside a very unambiguous Baby, It's Cold Outside: I'm not sure if that should be seen as brave or cheesy. Maybe both.

Almost all the songs are slow paced and lack energy. My understanding is that's kind of Manilow's style. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but quiet holiday music isn't exactly in short supply.

This Christmas (98 Degrees)

Apparently, 98 Degrees is one of those bands I would have hated in the late 90's, if I'd known who they were. Wikipedia describes them as an " adult contemporary boy band," which seems like an apt contradiction.

Personally, I find this music tedious and uninspired, but that's just my opinion. Objectively, it's fairly slow and straightforward. Keep in mind I'm disinclined to give music that fits that description much of a shot, so take my complaints as you will.

Naughty or Nice (Various)

I'm not actually certain about the title - I don't really feel like digging through a box of CDs to double check, so I'm just trusting the title as it appears on the MP3's. Regardless, this is a compilation containing both new (yet more Amy Grant) and old songs (Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, etc.).

I'm not sure what percent of this disc is new to my collection, but I'm pretty sure it's not more than 50%. The fact there's anything on here I don't have is impressive, though: it'd be more impressive if there was anything on here particularly good, but I'll take my victories where I can get them.

Christmas by Pianolight (Guy Maeda)

Classical Christmas piano music: I suppose there's much worse music out there. But, when you really think about, isn't it the absolute epitome of the word generic?

Christmas in Europe (Various)

More classical. Overall I found these a little more interesting to listen to, though that might just be a reflection of my mindset.

Christmas Songs - Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helms)

Helms was a classic country rock singer. Nothing wrong with this album: I'm dropping the songs into my holiday country set list.

A Putumayo World Christmas (Various)

This is a collection of world music with a focus on performers from tropical areas. As a genre, world music is extremely hit-or-miss, probably because its a manufactured category that can encompass anything that's foreign and not immediately identifiable in another popular category.

This collection is pretty cool, though. There's a track or two I don't care for, but most of the rest I at least enjoyed. A few are downright fantastic.

An Imperials Christmas (The Imperials [not really])

The Imperials are a gospel group that's been around since the 60's. They have a famous Christmas album called "Christmas with the Imperials."

This has nothing to do with that. This appears to be some kind of local recording of teenagers playing Christmas songs made about a decade ago. It looks like it was recorded for some sort of charity. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine.

The quality is decent for what it is, which - let's be honest - isn't saying a lot.

We Wish You a Merry Christmas (Floyd Cramer)

Even more classical Christmas music. Is it a good recording? Sure. Are the musicians talented? Obviously. Does this album offer anything to differentiate it from the countless others I've already sat through?

Hahahaha. Of course it doesn't.

Eight Crazy Nights (Adam Sandler)

I know what you're thinking: "Why in the name of all that's holy would you do this to yourself?" you're wondering. "Why would you buy the soundtrack to what may very well be the single worst movie you ever saw?"

Those are all very good questions, but they ignore one very important fact: this is Christmas. Okay, so technically it's Hanukkah, but isn't Hanukkah really part of Christmas, anyway?

Yes, the movie is awful. And the songs are awful. And they remind me of the movie, which is even more awful. But we can't pick and choose the elements of the holidays we like and ignore the others. I mean, if we did that, we'd... I mean, you can't just...

Wait a minute. Why the hell did I buy this piece of crap?

Nightmare Revisited (Various)

I first heard this album at a holiday gathering several years ago. It's a compilation of songs from A Nightmare Before Christmas redone by various bands and musicians. At the time, it was expensive, so I held off on buying the full album. I did pick up a few of my favorite tracks, then I got a few more on the Special Edition CD.

I came across the CD used for a few bucks earlier this year and grabbed it. I'm kind of regretting not getting this a few years ago. Even at full price, it would have been worth it to have had these tracks. This is the kind of thing that makes listening to an endless string of holiday music bearable.

The album ages well, too. As time goes on, the songs from Nightmare become more closely identified as Christmas classics, and these versions are distinct reinterpretations. I don't think there's a single bad track: this is quickly becoming one of my favorite new holiday albums.

Wrangle Cowboy Christmas, Vol X (Various)

Every year, I find I like more and more country music. Five years ago, I'd have hated this stuff. Maybe it's just that country music lends itself well to Christmas songs.

This short compilation features eight tracks, each by a different singer. Some I've heard of (Toby Keith, Reba McEntire), and others I haven't (SHeDAISY). It's a solid collection, over all. My favorite track is SHeDAISY's "What Child is This," though I enjoyed the entire album.

Holiday Traditions: Winter on the Moors (Jeff Victor)

The album itself is about as generic-looking as you can get. The music could be described as new age. But it's not entirely worthless. A few of the tracks are pretty cool. The rest... not so much. But that's how it usually goes.

Rockin' Christmas (Various)
I found this in a bargain bin at Fred Meyer for $2.50. I only had a few of the tracks, so I picked it up. This contains a wide range of music, everything from classic rock to blues to hard rock.

Highlights include "Hazy Shade of Winter" by The Bangles, "Feels Like Christmas" by Cyndi Lauper, and "Merry Christmas Darling" by The Fabulous Thunderbirds.

All in all, this is a solid album, and I'm glad I picked it up.

Christmas Sax (Various)
This is a smooth jazz Christmas album. I'm not sure it qualifies as bad, but it certainly is boring. I think I've heard some of these tracks playing in department stores.

Christmas (Jaci Velasquez)
I don't know what's worse: that this album features a song with Alvin and Chipmunks, or the realization that song was actually a pleasant break from the monotony of the slow-paced pop that permeated almost every other track.

This Winter's Night: A Celebration of the Winter Solstice (MotherTongue)
This is a neo-pagan Winter Solstice album. The Winter Solstice, as we all know, is an antiquated name for what we now call, "Christmas."

I'm sorry. I have to stop for a brief rant. If there are any wiccans, neo-pagans, druids, witches, vampires, beast-masters, or werehamsters reading this, pay attention: if you want Christmas to be pagan, you don't have to change anything. Christmas, as it is, couldn't be any more pagan if a magical elf drove around the world in a flying sleigh to place gifts beneath the branches of trees. You don't have to take this holiday back: it's already yours. YOU ARE ONLY STEALING FROM YOURSELVES.

Ah. That's better. Now, where was I? Oh yes. The album.

It's pretty good, actually. Or at least most of the tracks are: there are a few featuring spoken stories that are extremely idiotic, and there are a couple of tracks about the solstice that are essentially the neo-pagan equivalent of bad Christian music.

But the rest is basically supposed to sound like medieval music, which I can get behind. I made a new set list called "It's a Renfaire Christmas" and dumped the good stuff from this along with everything from the Medieval Baebes holiday album in it.

Christmas Caravan (Squirrel Nut Zippers)

This is a great album, though it's not quite what I expected. The style of the music varies greatly from song to song. There are few blues songs, along with several different types of jazz. I don't think there are any tracks I dislike, though some are more interesting to me than others.

Green Hill - Christmas Music Sampler (Various)

This is a new free Green Hill Christmas sampler, not to be confused with any of the free Green Hill Christmas music samplers they've given away in previous years. Actually, this might be better described as an update: some of the tracks are ones they've given away before. Is this a new album or a revision?

The album is filled with a hodgepodge of holiday elevator music, new age, smooth jazz, and similar tracks. Most of this threatens to put me to sleep, but there are a few tracks I like, starting with a version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Matt Belsante. There's also some solid songs by David Arkenstone, some of which I have from previous compilations.

What baffles me is what they hope to accomplish by giving this away. Some of it is as good as this kind of music can be, but I find it difficult to imagine anyone listening to the sampler and thinking they need more of the same. Even if you like the style, I'd think 20 free tracks of it would suffice for the holidays.

If you're looking for a collection of soft holiday music to play in the background, this album does have the advantage of being free.

Orthodox Hymns of Christmas (St. Vladimir's Seminary Chorale)

More choir music. At least I don't recognize these songs: they're traditional religious hymns, as opposed to the more popular music you get on most church choir arrangements. It's decent music, but... yeah. I've already heard enough Christmas classical and choir music to last a lifetime.

Traditional Celtic Christmas (Eric Rigler)

"Featuring Braveheart Uileann Piper, Eric Rigler" is printed on the front of the CD, which isn't the subtlest attempt I've ever seen to get attention. According to Wikipedia, Rigler's done a lot more than that: supposedly, when you hear recorded bagpipes on TV, he's usually the performer.

The tracks vary in quality. Overall, I like the bagpipe music the best, because it sounds a tad less generic. There's a track called "Baloo Lammy" I really like, largely because I don't recognize it, at all.

This is a decent album, but it's certainly more Christmas than Celtic. If you're looking for Celtic holiday music, there are far better options, starting with anything by The Night Heron Consort.

Happy Christmas, Vol.2 (Various)

This appears to be a compilation of Christmas songs performed by Christian Punk bands. I looked a few of the bands up on Wikipedia to try and figure out what the hell "Christian Punk" is: it sounds like these were primarily punk bands who got classified as Christian music because their members were, you know, Christian. That seems... odd to me, but then Contemporary Christian music has always been more about marketing than anything else.

There's not much "Christian" about this music: these are just rock and punk versions of Christmas songs, only about a third of which are religious in nature (and that's including things like God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen).

On top of that, the music is good. Really good, in fact. There's a fantastic version of "Santa Claus is Back in Town" by The Deluxtone Rockets, and the aforementioned "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Viva Voce is awesome. Sixpence None the Richer also have a great take on "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."

The whole album is pretty cool, in fact. There are a few weak tracks (there almost always are on compilations), but the majority are very good. I might have to track down some of the other volumes from this series: this is one of the best albums I got this year.

Apparently, Christian Punk Christmas music is a sub-sub-subgenre I should look into. Who knew?

A Santa Cause: It's a Punk Rock Christmas (various)

Hey! More punk! This compilation has some decent tracks - quite a few, in fact - but it's nowhere near as good as the punk Christmas album I just listened to. There's at least one band that appears on both: MxPx. They're singing about zombies this time (it's a good song: I think it'll become my second favorite zombie Christmas carol after Zombie Christmas, by Emmy the Great and Tim Wheeler).

Beside "Christmas Night with Zombies", I also liked The Mighty, Mighty Bostones "This Time of Year", Jason Gleason's "Sleigh Bells and Wine", and the A.K.A.'s "Christmas in Hollis." Most of the other tracks are solid, too: this is a good album... it's just not as good as the Happy Christmas, Vol 2.