Review Basket: Christmas CDs

Here are a handful of new Christmas CDs that have crossed my desk that might be worth your time... and even possibly in time for you to listen to before, you know, Christmas... For the most part, the CDs below are going to be of greatest interest to the artists' fans, but if you're looking for a Christmas album that might be especially of interest to kids, you might want to start here. (If you're looking for Christmas CDs in general, by all means go here -- goodness, that is impressive.)

Transient

Austin's Biscuit Brothers released their first Christmas CD, Have a Merry Musical Christmas, this year, and fans of the slightly goofy and slyly educational TV show will not be disappointed. For the most part, it's Biscuit Brothers originals -- a funny Tiny Scarecrow on "The Best Christmas Ever, " a sweet and jazzy "Together (a Christmas Waltz)," an expanded vocal role on "Have a Merry Musical Christmas." It's all appealingly goofy. Might not be the best entry point for a listener unfamiliar with the Brothers, but it's a fun cookie of a CD nonetheless.

Transient

From the folks who brought you 2006's awesome Family Hootenanny CD comes Holiday Hootenanny, a 2007 collection of tunes from Detroit-area artists benefiting Detroit's Capuchin SoupKitchen. Definitely not a traditional CD in most senses of the word -- if you're looking for a swinging Ella Fitzgerald or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, keep looking because even the most traditional tunes sound off-kilter in Danny Crow-Haw's brief interludes here. While not as awesome as the first CD, the last 3 tracks -- American Mars' Dylanesque "The Little Baby Jesus," co-producer's Deanne Iovan's band the Come Ons' "More," and Ultimate Ovation's awesome rendition of "It's Christmas" (which reminds you where Motown was founded) -- are almost worth the price of the CD by themselves. Sample here.

And there's more...

Transient

Mr. David is allowing people to download his 2-song EP Mr. David's Christmas Memories for free (with encouraging people to donate to UNICEF, or buy the physical CD and make a donation). The original title track has a Beach Boys vibe and Mr. David-ian lyrics like "Army of snowmen / on the tennis court" -- it's a very impressionistic (and memory-based) view of Christmas. His cover of "Frosty the Snowman" is pleasant, too... Again, if your family's a fan of Mr. David's other music, you'll like this little present as well.

Mr. Ray released a 3-song EP Peacebird this year. Three original tracks of poppy holiday-themed music, broadly multicultural. "Time for the Holidays" is a rocker, "The Christmas Bells" is a Grinch-ian tale set to pop music, and "Peacebird" is a gentle ending to the CD. (Listen here.)

Transient

Finally, Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang's 'Tis the Season to be Rockin' is actually from 2004, but as they say in the used car business, "it's new to you" (probably). As Christmas CDs go, it's pretty inclusive, with a fun "Channukah Medley" and "All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)" redone as "All I Want For Kwanza" (with the 7 principles thrown in for good measure). But fans of Gwendolyn's rockin' pop and voice (with the addition of other silly-voiced friends) will enjoy these well-done versions of secular favorites (and a few sweet originals). (Listen here for samples.)