There are a ton of holiday albums out there, with more and more coming out every year...everything from the cool and kid-friendly Burl Ives singing "Frosty the Snow Man" to something obscure and horrific, I'm sure.
That being said, I don't seek out many "new" holiday albums, as I tend to cling to childhood memories or old familiar ways.
But I do have a definite favorite that I throw on...and also one that I loathe beyond words.
So then, let's start with the good stuff first.
The award for "The BEST holiday album of all-time" goes to Merry Axemas: A Guitar Christmas, put out in the 1997 by various rock artists.
This album has some great quality tunes on it, and provides a potpourri of variety; from rocking renditions to acoustic layered compositions. It features some classic guitarists from Jeff Beck and Eric Johnson to Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Joe Satriani, and Steve Vai.
It also showcases my favorite Canadian son, Alex Lifeson, in a somber and moving acoustic version of "The Little Drummer Boy" that builds in layers to a beautiful spectrum of acoustic guitars. I remember thinking at the time that the song was as interesting of a choice as the way it was played with delicate sensitivity, and couldn't help but notice how it was chosen and arranged on the heels of Neil Peart losing his daughter Selena in a car accident the summer before. All said, the song showcases Lifeson's acoustic guitar work as good -- if not better -- than any Rush project.
Now, let's let the freak show begin...the award for "The Most Annoying Holiday Music EVER" goes to Manheim Steamroller's Christmas Celebration, which came out in the early 1980s (ya think?) and has since been reissued.
This thing is so ridiculously dated it's embarrassing to write about, let alone throw on in the CD changer. It's a bloodbath of synthesizer cheese, to say the least.
I believe the 80s revival of elevator music can be traced back to the release of this album, because all the elevator music lovers went running in screams of horror back to their favorite section after hearing this abonimation of Christmas music.
In particular, "Deck the Halls," the one that was popular on the radio (and still can be heard, unfortunately) is especially annoying. I believe the last time I heard it, cheese bled from my ears...literally.
To add to the annoyance, I have a family member who loves the stuff. Relishes in it. Friggin' bathes in it...so I just tolerate it and enjoy the "fest o' cheddar."
Happy holiday shopping, everyone!