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Holiday Gift Guide | Holiday

Aguilera Adds Trimmings


The holidays are for the kids, so they say, and since kiddie pop rules in 2000, it's no surprise that that's what dominates this year's batch of new yuletide releases. And a few albums will keep the grown-ups happy too.

*** CHRISTINA AGUILERA, "My Kind of Christmas," RCA. Like Whitney and Mariah, Christina never met a syllable she didn't like--to twist, bend and otherwise contort in excelsis. We expect "Merry Christmas, Baby" to smolder as sensually as she sings it here, but "Angels We Have Heard on High" and "O Holy Night" too? Mel Torme may be doing some grave-spinning over her discofication of "The Christmas Song," but that and upbeat new tunes make for a lively sonic mix.

** CHARLOTTE CHURCH, "Dream a Dream," Sony Classical. "The more the merrier" is the guiding principle for this teenage classical-pop crossover phenom. Celestial choirs and heavenly orchestras bloat nearly every tune.

** 1/2 BILLY GILMAN, "Classic Christmas," Epic. Strings blanket the landscape, occasionally overwhelming this 12-year-old's killer pipes. His vocal chutzpah proves more effective on the rockers than the ballads.

*** MARK MOTHERSBAUGH, "Joyeux Mutato," Rhino/Mutato Muzika. This chiefly instrumental outing has the feel of a bedroom studio session by a kid earnestly tinkering with his new synthesizer on Christmas morning. Loopy ambient electronic fun.

*** LINDA RONDSTADT, "A Merry Little Christmas," Elektra. Ronstadt emphasizes vocal sprightliness over her signature hearty, full-throated sound in this wide-ranging collection. She glows in such eclectic choices as the Aztec ballad "Xicochi, Xicochi."

** VARIOUS ARTISTS, "Another Rosie Christmas," Columbia. Legend has it there's abreed who enjoy hearing Rosie O'Donnell warble holiday tunes with the likes of Sugar Ray, Macy Gray, Smash Mouth, Marc Anthony, the Dixie Chicks and Ricky Martin. For the rest of us, the best things about her second seasonal album are that she often lies low, and that it raises money for the For All Kids Foundation.

** 1/2 SHEDAISY, "Brand New Year," Lyric Street. The spunky trio's chipper sound doesn't make for the most compelling country music, but it sounds just fine on these holiday tunes.

*** VARIOUS ARTISTS, "Platinum Christmas," Arista/RCA/Jive. Tracks by 'N Sync, Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and Aguilera make stocking-shopping for teen-pop lovers easy, while some genuinely involving cuts by Santana, Dido, Toni Braxton and Whitney Houston should keep the adults happy.

*** LYNYRD SKYNYRD, "Christmas Time Again," CMC International. If anything's more unlikely than the very idea of a Lynyrd Skynyrd Christmas album, it's how much fun the real deal is. With a little help from pals Charlie Daniels and .38 Special, Skynyrd makes the Southern rock twist work.

*** VARIOUS ARTISTS, "Ally McBeal--A Very Ally Christmas." Epic. Vonda Shepard carries most of the load quite nicely, while allowing her "Ally" co-stars to be singers for a day. Biggest surprise: Robert Downey Jr.'s nicely gritty version of Joni Mitchell's "River."

** 1/2 VARIOUS ARTISTS, "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," Interscope. New songs from Barenaked Ladies, Ben Folds, Smash Mouth and the Eels add a Grinch-ish counterpoint to the first half of this album. But once the Grinch loses his bite, so does the music, which moves into gooey ballads from 'N Sync and Faith Hill. The songs are followed by by James Horner's instrumental film score.


Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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