If your loved one . . .
. . . has a mullet and likes to shred on air guitar: Santamental, Steve Lukather and Friends
Highlights: Sampled Sammy Davis Jr. vocals on "Jingle Bells"; Edgar Winter duet on "Winter Wonderland"; Eddie Van Halen's fiery axwork 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: The Regis Philbin Christmas Album
Highlights: One and only one -- "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," which features both a terrible Donald Trump cameo and an amusingly maniacal outro. Hell, come to think of it, all of this CD has train-wreck appeal -- to cite just one painful example, Pat Boone never whitenized and neutered any tune more than Regis and 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.
. . . drives a 1972 Camaro SS: We Three Kings, Reverend Horton Heat
Highlights: Nothing in particular. It's not a bad CD, but there's nothing unusual or unexpected here.
. . . has a fully functional margarita machine on his bedside table: Christmas Album, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
Highlights: Pretty much the whole enchilada, from the samba-fied and almost Beach Boys-like opener of "Winter Wonderland" through 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's been 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: Without a doubt, From First to Last's "Christmassacre," which disses Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy and features the refrain "San-ta'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. For me, though, I find it 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 reminds me a bit of some of those 1960s records by synth pioneers Robert Moog, Jean-Jacques Perrey and Gershon Kingsley. And since Rabelais, Dante, Chaucer and Joyce have all used farts in their works, you could make an argument for this as high art. But we won't be making that argument here.