By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
So does Bing Crosby. Crosby is the Jimi Hendrix of holiday music: He waxed so many Christmas songs during his lifetime that his record company will probably be able to keep putting out a steady stream of new compilations until the next millennium. On A Merry Christmas With Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters (MCA), Der Bingle and the Andrews gals aren't always heard together; indeed, they're teamed on just six of 20 tracks, with individual showcases accounting for the difference. But nostalgists won't care a whit when Crosby is buh-buh-buh-ing on "You're All I Want for Christmas" and the Sisters are gallavanting through sprightly baubles like "Jing-A-Ling, Jing-A-Ling."
Lifetime Music Presents Intimate Portrait: Christmas Belles (Rhino) proves that maxim many times over. An intelligently chosen compendium, the CD shines thanks to the inclusion of songs by Ella Fitzgerald ("Sleigh Ride"), Julie London ("Warm December"), Peggy Lee ("Christmas Carousel"), Lena Horne ("Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!") and many others. It's a pleasure from start to finish--and although it isn't quite as consistent, Martha Stewart Living: Home For the Holidays (Rhino) comes close. The disc stumbles at times--my first choice to sing "White Christmas" definitely would not have been Melissa Manchester--but it succeeds overall by juxtaposing old reliables like Eartha Kitt's "Santa Baby" and Charles Brown's "Merry Christmas Baby" with less-played-out selections by Emmylou Harris ("The First Noel"), the Pretenders ("2000 Miles") and the Roches ("Silver Bells"), plus newer items by Loreena McKennitt ("Good King Wenceslas") and Jane Siberry ("Are You Burning Bright, Little Candle?").
Oh, yeah: I still regard Martha Stewart to be a demon from the fieriest village in hell--but I liked the CD enough to keep it anyway. This truly is the season of miracles.
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