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Listonmania: Best Christmas CDs 2009 Edition

If you're looking for some yuletide music to play at your Christmas parties this year, you still have time to run out to your local CD store and search out some of the real holiday-themed gems that came out this year.

Before we get into our recommendations on how to add a little extra musical spice to your egg nog-fueled Christmas Eve festivities, a quick note on two discs to avoid: Bob Dylan's Christmas in the Heart and Neil Diamond's A Cherry Cherry Christmas.

Who would have thought that these two would both end up desecrating so many holiday favorites? Hearing Dylan's assault on "The Little Drummer Boy" and Diamond's characteristically overblown take on "White Christmas" is enough to put the humbug into St. Nick himself.

OK, enough naughty. Onto the nice...

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Straight No Chaser's Christmas Cheers
This a cappella group from Indiana mixes the traditional ("We Three Kings") with the interestingly unconventional ("You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch") to create of the best Christmas collections in recent memory. This disc may have National Public Radio written all over it, but what it lacks in indie credibility it more than make up for in skill and sheer joyfulness.

Wynton Marsalis's Christmas Jazz Jam
Jazz hepcat Marsalis hasn't made a holiday CD in two decades and this recent offering makes one wonder why he waited so long. Sticking mostly to traditional chestnuts, Marsalis and his fine band do wonder to interesting gospel areas with "Go Tell it on The Mountain" and "Mary Had a Baby."

The Irish Tenors' Christmas
At first glance, one might get the erroneous impression that this would be your conventional holiday, operatic mish-mash. But wait: This record oozes cool. This heralded trio takes on such uncommon fare as The Pogues' "Fairytale in New York" and even succeeds in making warhorses such as "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" sound fresh.

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