Holiday CD Round-Up!

Twisted Sister, Rachael Ray, Christmas in the Northwest 9, and Merry Christmas from the Sonics, the Wailers, and the Galaxies.

Twisted Sister

A Twisted Christmas

(Razor & Tie)

Most musicians phone in Christmas albums. Not Twisted Sister. In fact, it could be argued that A Twisted Christmas is the Kiss-mimicking outfit's most innovative album to date. Don't get me wrong: I love Twisted Sister. I wanted to rock when they wanted to rock. But charismatic frontman Dee Snider's band will never deliver anything more or less than power chords, cymbal rattles, and a sanitized version of heavy metal that made 'em big on MTV back when big hair and makeup was in for dudes. Given their musical limitations, it makes sense for Twisted Sister to play against type lyrically, and no one would ever dream of associating the band with Christmas. In fact, this album subverts the Christmas spirit itself. Take the Twisted spin on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas": It starts with Snider aping the Jackson 5, singing very sweetly. But then the track devolves into the band members shouting: "Ho-ho-ho, let's go!" Similarly, "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" rips the drumbeat, guitar riffs, and melody directly from "We're Not Gonna Take It." Simply put, this is a Christmas album for people who hate Christmas, which means it should find a wide audience. MIKE SEELY

Various Artists

Christmas in the Northwest 9

(Children's Music Fund Inc.)

Christmas 1985. My dad was working as a video editor at KIRO (they always had the best Christmas parties—with presents! I even got a Baby Sitters Club book one year) and part of the after-work highlights for us, his kids, was when he'd show us what he'd been toiling over all day. As our TV options were limited to Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers, anything on a VHS tape was cool to us ("A movie!"), so he'd throw it on and we'd sit, transfixed, watching over and over again. This time it happened to be a holiday montage set to the quintessential Seattle seasonal song: "Christmas in the Northwest." From the magical opening tinkle of piano keys at the opening, we were hooked. It didn't matter what was happening on the screen—the song was transporting our hearts and minds directly into the epicenter of the season's spirit. The uplifting, inspirational, and addictively catchy chorus stayed with us all year. We sang our favorite song with fervor through spring, summer, and fall until it inevitably came back around again and again and again. Twenty-one years later, the compilation CD still benefits a whole stocking full of children's charities and always includes a version of our favorite tune by Brenda Kutz White. It wouldn't be Christmas without it—for as the song goes: "If you take away the presents/Well, we'll still have a tree/For Christmas in the Northwest/Is a gift God wrapped in green!" AJA PECKNOLD

Rachael Ray

How Cool Is That: Christmas

(Epic)

You've got to admit, Ray-Ray has some good ideas. Like her cheddar-studded turkey burgers, a sensible and tasty recipe from that cookbook about eating healthy without going to extremes. Too bad, then, that the label geniuses at Epic let her compile a holiday mix so off-the-wall in its inclusion of disparate ingredients (Buster Poindexter's "Zat You, Santa Claus?" three moves away from Willie Nelson's "Blue Christmas") that it becomes audible goulash. A fine ruby borscht—warm and soothing— was almost achieved with classics from Billie Holiday, Doris Day, and Aretha Franklin—not to mention the exquisitely good choice of Ol' Blue Eyes' "White Christmas." But then she gets Showtunesy with a Jane Monheit number and downright stupid with Lou Monte's "Dominick the Donkey" (that's "the Italian Christmas donkey" for those not familiar). It's like throwing a fistful of cilantro into the meat-tastic Christmas pasta recipe in the liner notes. "It worked for Martha"might be the logic for our Queen of Quick, who is no doubt hee-hawing her way to the bank. RACHEL SHIMP

The Sonics/ The Wailers/ The Galaxies

Merry Christmas

(Out of print, but legendary)

The most rockin' Christmas LP of all time was made by Northwesterners! Go figure. Remember the Ramones' holiday masterpiece "Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight)"? Well, this is like that single, except it's fiercer, older, and performed by Northwesterners. With the exception of the Galaxies' garage-lite numbers, Merry Christmas From the Sonics, the Wailers, and the Galaxies is pure Christmas jeer. The raucous Sonics rip the holidays apart with their "Don't Believe in Christmas" (sounding a little Chuck Berry–ish), in which singer Gerry Roslie dismisses Jesus' b-day because he can't get sexually satisfied. Later, on "Santa Claus," he snidely rattles off his Christmas list ("I want a brand-new car/ A twangy guitar/A cute little honey/And lots of money" to which a presumably less-materialistic Santa replies, "Nuts!" The Wailers come in a close second on equating Christmas vacation with sexual pleasures with "She's Coming Home." But their overall performance is no match for the Sonics' vitriol. Same goes for the Galaxies, who sound kind of like the Association and churn out songs our moms would like. The Sonics' frenzied Christmas put-downs, however, will make you wish you could hijack the Starbucks CD player every time they play Sarah McLachlan's Wintersongs. BRIAN J. BARR

 
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