As one of the biggest-selling duos in pop music history, it makes perfect sense for Daryl Hall and John Oates to make a Christmas album: any artist with such enduring popularity certainly has an audience waiting to hear them singing seasonal songs, and they made one of the greatest Christmas videos of early MTV with their cheerfully silly "Jingle Bell Rock." That kind of built-in audience is one of the reasons musicians play it safe when they make holiday albums, but fortunately Hall  Oates…

As one of the biggest-selling duos in pop music history, it makes perfect sense for Daryl Hall and John Oates to make a Christmas album: any artist with such enduring popularity certainly has an audience waiting to hear them singing seasonal songs, and they made one of the greatest Christmas videos of early MTV with their cheerfully silly "Jingle Bell Rock." That kind of built-in audience is one of the reasons musicians play it safe when they make holiday albums, but fortunately Hall Oates…

Barry Manilow's second seasonal collection, following 1990's Because It's Christmas, was released on Columbia Records, but that label berth appears to be a one-off for the singer, who followed his long tenure at Arista by signing to the jazz independent Concord for his last album, 2001's Here at the Mayflower. Maybe Columbia offered a bigger budget, since Manilow is awash in strings on a set of holiday standards. Those strings are arranged festively, and Manilow is in an appropriately…

Barry Manilow's second seasonal collection, following 1990's Because It's Christmas, was released on Columbia Records, but that label berth appears to be a one-off for the singer, who followed his long tenure at Arista by signing to the jazz independent Concord for his last album, 2001's Here at the Mayflower. Maybe Columbia offered a bigger budget, since Manilow is awash in strings on a set of holiday standards. Those strings are arranged festively, and Manilow is in an appropriately…

Christmas 1984 is the first holiday album the Mannheim Steamroller released, and it remains their definitive work. Chip Davis never strayed from the clean, airy instrumental style that he exhibits here (and earlier perfected on his Fresh Aire albums), but it is here where it all sounded fresh. It's also where he had his best selection of songs, tackling a variety of classic carols like "Deck the Halls," "We Three Kings," "Good King Wenceslas," "Wassail, Wassail," "God Rest Ye Merry…

Christmas 1984 is the first holiday album the Mannheim Steamroller released, and it remains their definitive work. Chip Davis never strayed from the clean, airy instrumental style that he exhibits here (and earlier perfected on his Fresh Aire albums), but it is here where it all sounded fresh. It's also where he had his best selection of songs, tackling a variety of classic carols like "Deck the Halls," "We Three Kings," "Good King Wenceslas," "Wassail, Wassail," "God Rest Ye Merry…

The soundtrack to Scrooged features updates on Christmas classics as well as original material by Dan Hartman and Denise Love, Mark Lennon, Robbie Robertson, and Buster Poindexter. The album's sound, as well as its roster of artists, give it the feel of a time capsule buried in the late '80s, for better or worse. While Natalie Cole's "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" fares the best, most of the album, including Annie Lennox and Al Green's "Put a Little Love in Your…

The soundtrack to Scrooged features updates on Christmas classics as well as original material by Dan Hartman and Denise Love, Mark Lennon, Robbie Robertson, and Buster Poindexter. The album's sound, as well as its roster of artists, give it the feel of a time capsule buried in the late '80s, for better or worse. While Natalie Cole's "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" fares the best, most of the album, including Annie Lennox and Al Green's "Put a Little Love in Your…

Rivers twists standards into bawdy, sometimes hilarious spoofs -- "Do You Hear What I Hear" becomes "Didn't I Get It Last Year?"; "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" gets mauled into "I Came Upon a Roadkill Deer" -- plus some killingly accurate band parodies. The title track is rendered to the tune of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man"; "O Little Town of Bethlehem" is performed like the Animals' "House of the Rising Sun"; and it finishes off with the AC/DC-clone track "Jingle Hell's Bells." Satire…

Rivers twists standards into bawdy, sometimes hilarious spoofs -- "Do You Hear What I Hear" becomes "Didn't I Get It Last Year?"; "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" gets mauled into "I Came Upon a Roadkill Deer" -- plus some killingly accurate band parodies. The title track is rendered to the tune of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man"; "O Little Town of Bethlehem" is performed like the Animals' "House of the Rising Sun"; and it finishes off with the AC/DC-clone track "Jingle Hell's Bells." Satire…

Since Manilow released his previous delightful holiday album A Christmas Gift of Love in 2002, the legendary singer and entertainer became a Las Vegas staple and experienced a pop chart renaissance with his collections of greatest songs of the '50s, '60s, and '70s. True to its title, his engaging third Christmas CD is more swinging and jazzy than his other two, which had an interesting musical variety but were definitely more pop. Since his '70s heyday, the singer has done everything from…

Since Manilow released his previous delightful holiday album A Christmas Gift of Love in 2002, the legendary singer and entertainer became a Las Vegas staple and experienced a pop chart renaissance with his collections of greatest songs of the '50s, '60s, and '70s. True to its title, his engaging third Christmas CD is more swinging and jazzy than his other two, which had an interesting musical variety but were definitely more pop. Since his '70s heyday, the singer has done everything from…

Smokey Robinson  the Miracles' Our Very Best Christmas adds a classic Motown twist to holiday songs like "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "Let It Snow," "Noel," "Go Tell It on the Mountain," and "Believe in Christmas Eve." The Miracles' beautiful voices and harmonies give this album an extra Christmas sparkle. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi

Smokey Robinson the Miracles' Our Very Best Christmas adds a classic Motown twist to holiday songs like "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "Let It Snow," "Noel," "Go Tell It on the Mountain," and "Believe in Christmas Eve." The Miracles' beautiful voices and harmonies give this album an extra Christmas sparkle. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi

The Beatles never quite made a commercially released Christmas album, though they put together special singles for their fan club every year from 1963 to 1969, then compiled them as The Beatles Christmas Album, also just for the fan club, in 1970. These recordings were more spoken-word than musical, though there was a song, "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)," heard in excerpts on the 1967 record. It has been left to Ringo Starr to release the first full-length Christmas album from a Beatle…

The Beatles never quite made a commercially released Christmas album, though they put together special singles for their fan club every year from 1963 to 1969, then compiled them as The Beatles Christmas Album, also just for the fan club, in 1970. These recordings were more spoken-word than musical, though there was a song, "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)," heard in excerpts on the 1967 record. It has been left to Ringo Starr to release the first full-length Christmas album from a Beatle…

If you're going to invite a hipster recording artist into your home for Christmas, it may as well be Chris Isaak -- he's cool but he's also well-mannered, and can act sly enough for your thinks-she's-bohemian sister without scaring your Grandmother in the process. Like no small number of veteran recording artists, Isaak has cut an album of holiday tunes, cleverly called Chris Isaak Christmas, and while like most similar projects you get the sense that Chris didn't put quite the same amount…

If you're going to invite a hipster recording artist into your home for Christmas, it may as well be Chris Isaak -- he's cool but he's also well-mannered, and can act sly enough for your thinks-she's-bohemian sister without scaring your Grandmother in the process. Like no small number of veteran recording artists, Isaak has cut an album of holiday tunes, cleverly called Chris Isaak Christmas, and while like most similar projects you get the sense that Chris didn't put quite the same amount…

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