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Christmas album review: 'NOW Christmas'

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'NOW Christmas' by various artists

Rating:
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ARTIST: Various
TITLE: “NOW Christmas”
LABEL: UMe Records
STYLE: Eclectic Top-40 Christmas

NOTABLE: Like the endless “NOW That’s What I Call Music” compilations that roll out at least twice a year, the Christmas versions are making annual appearances. This 2-CD set follows last year’s “NOW That's What I Call Today’s Christmas.”

Reaching back to the 1940s to begin with Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” and including the new Johnny Mathis and Susan Boyle duet, “Do You Hear What I Hear,” “NOW Christmas” attempts to gather nearly every essential Christmas song on one collection.

HIGH POINTS: With 32 songs representing many genres and every decade from the 1940s to today, there’s something for just about everyone here. All of the songs are taken from the best available master tapes, so even the older tracks sound great.

It’s nice to see classical selections like “March from The Nutcracker Ballet, Op. 71 (Act I)” by The Philadelphia Orchestra, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” by the Royal College of Music Chamber Choir, and “Hallelujah Chorus” by the Robert Shaw Chorale, included.

It's hard to argue with most of the song selections. Many of the great voices of Christmas music – including Crosby, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and Andy Williams – are represented by a signature holiday song. The second CD features pop and rock Christmas classics from Brenda Lee, Bobby Helms, Gene Autry, Donny Hathaway, and others.

LOW POINT: With so many of these “NOW…” titles on the market, listeners are bound to be confused. There’s always a lot of overlap in each “new” version, so if you have any of the earlier volumes, you probably have many of the “classic” songs included. To make matters worse, there's a new three-disc British version of “NOW That's What I Call Christmas” out this year as well.

Any attempt to create a definitive collection of Christmas music on two CDs is bound to come up short. It's easy to think of at least a dozen Christmas songs that should have been included. Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" and Trans Siberian Orchestra's "Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)" immediately come to mind.

A few of the selections that are included – Maroon 5’s weak cover of John Lennon's “Happy Christmas (War Is Over),” Jean-Pierre Rampal’s “Greensleeves (What Child Is This?),” and a version of “Jingle Bells” by André Rieu & His Johann Strauss Orchestra – are decidedly nonessential.

If you don’t have any of the previous incarnations of this series, this is an excellent collection in and of itself.

GRADE: B+

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