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The ‘Tribune’s’ annual best — and worst — holiday music
Holiday albums » The Tribune’s guide to the best — and worst — of end of the year releases is here.


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The quirky duo got together in August to record a traditional holiday album, until they realized they hated traditional holiday songs. So they wrote their own and created one of the most fun holiday albums in recent memory, with songs such as "2600" (about getting an Atari 2600 video-game system under the tree), "Christmas in Jail" and the off-the-charts oddball "Wikipedia Chanukah," which features a Casio-generated dance beat with Roderick reciting the Wikipedia entry for Hanukkah. While much of the album sounds as if it was recorded quickly without a filter — which isn’t necessarily a negative — still it’s refreshing to hear people not take themselves, or the holidays, too seriously.

At a glance

Are Christmas albums dead?

In an age of iTunes and Pandora and other on-demand web radio stations, have the industry of pop stars churning out Christmas albums fallen apart? Or are Salt Lake City music lovers still tied to to holiday music-listening habits of yore? Send thoughts to David Burger at dburger@sltrib.com, with the words “holiday music” in the email subject line.

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Various Artists, " ’Twas the Night Before Hanukkah"

Grade: A-

Subtitled "The Musical Battle Between Christmas and the Festival of Lights," this two-CD set presented by the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation is fascinating as well as pleasant. The first CD features 17 Hanukkah songs (including one by Woody Guthrie), many thought to be long-lost. The second CD features 17 Christmas songs sung by Jewish performers (including Bob Dylan, The Ramones and Sammy Davis Jr.). This compilation serves as a songbook that tells a uniquely American story.

Various voice actors, "It’s a SpongeBob Christmas! Album"

Grade: A-

Yes, this is a collection of gimmicky Christmas songs. But they’re such good gimmicky songs. They include numbers from the new stop-motion-animation special along with some older songs — and it’s a hoot. You’ll be hooked by the time you hear the second track — "Don’t Be a Jerk (It’s Christmas)." Adults will have fun and kids will love this.


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Jenny Oaks Baker, "Noël: Carols of Christmas Past"

Grade: A-

The Utah-born violinist presents 10 traditional carols in new arrangements by frequent collaborator Kurt Bestor. There’s a cross-cultural twist on several tracks, such as former Celtic Woman vocalist Alex Sharpe’s performance of "Silent Night" and the Balkan stylings of the Kitka women’s choir on the Irish carol "Patapan." But Baker really shines on her own, on tracks such as "We Three Kings" and the Vivaldi-inspired "Angels We Have Heard on High."

Various Artists, "An Average JoesMuddy Christmas"

Grade: B+

Average Joe’s Entertainment is a record label specializing in country music, founded by the unconventional country rapper Colt Ford in 2008. As you’d expect, this is an unconventional holiday album, with Christmas tunes and new songs from artists such as Montgomery Gentry (who presents his rendition of Robert Earl Keen’s gut-busting new classic "Merry Christmas From the Family"), Bo Bice, Josh Gracin and LoCash Cowboys. "Nappy Holidays," by Nappy Roots, is the best Christmas rap song since Run-DMC’s "Christmas in Hollis." Good fun all around.

Rod Stewart, "Merry Christmas, Baby"

Grade: B+

It’s something of a mild shock to hear the foremost progenitor of 1970s disco hits turn in a menu of Christmas tunes. Stewart’s sandy-yet-sultry voice makes an awkward fit for "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," but it’s more than intimate enough for "Silent Night." That fact that Stewart acquits himself more in style throughout the repertoire is due in part to the tantalizing cast of his duet partners. If Stewart partnering with Michael Bublé and Ella Fitzgerald doesn’t float your holiday tune-boat, there’s always Mary J. Blige singing "We Three Kings."

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