By New Times
By Derek Askey
By Mark Deming
By Serene Dominic
By Jason Keil
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
When it comes to rock recordings, there are two that may never be topped. From 1990 comes the IRS Records compilation, Just in Time for Christmas, which includes the dB's "Home for the Holidays." A year later, First Warning Records released Lump of Coal, which includes Rollins' search-and-destroy "Twas the Night Before Christmas" as well as cuts by Drunken Boat, the Odds and Young Fresh Fellows.
Rhino Records may well be the king of Christmas-music companies, offering some 20 discs of the stuff. Its best, though, is the incomparable Blue Yule, a survey of Christmas blues numbers by 18 different artists including Lightnin' Hopkins, Louis Jordan and John Lee Hooker. Filled with nothing but essential cuts, this bargain-priced disc will always be the standard against which Christmas blues CDs are measured.
The other Rhino collection worth having is the two-CD Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits compilation. Every Christmas-music hit is here, from Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" and Bobby Helms' "Jingle Bell Rock" to "The Chipmunk Song." Fans of soul and R&B music will want to ferret out Atlantic's Soul Christmas compilation. There you can find Otis Redding's cover of "White Christmas," Solomon Burke's "Presents for Christmas" and King Curtis blowin' "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?".
No matter what happens in this or any other Christmas season, the ultimate in Christmas-music albums was made in 1963. That's when boy genius/wall-of-sound guru Phil Spector (like Henry Rollins, another completely unlikely candidate) rounded up Darlene Love, the Ronettes, the Crystals and Bobb B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans and cut A Christmas Gift for You. The good news is that this long-out-of-print recording has been digitally remastered for CD by the sunglass-encrusted master himself. Until this year, the only way to get this album was to buy an inferior, nonremastered copy or to purchase the Spector boxed set, Back to Mono. This year, though, both the cassette and CD are available individually. There is no higher Christmas-music pleasure than hearing Darlene Love do "White Christmas" or the Ronettes belt out "Frosty the Snowman.