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Fill those stockings with music


Want to spread some holiday joy to the world – or at least to your friends – but don’t know where to start? Try these seasonal selections.

Various artists

“Merry Arizona,’ out of four. This disc is a slam-dunk if you’re looking for a homegrown holiday gift, and not just because it kicks off with Phoenix Suns’ star Wayman Tisdale delivering a sax-soaked R&B version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.’

Besides Tisdale, some of Arizona’s best musical talent – mostly of the Phoenix-based variety – have contributed tracks for this disc, a benefit album for United Cerebral Palsy.

Glen Campbell delivers a reverent “Silent Night,’ Jerry Riopelle bares his blue-eyed soul on “O Come All Ye Faithful,’ the Azz Izz Band gives “Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ the reggae treatment and Sister Sledge wraps her soaring voice around a “O Holy Night/The Christmas Song’ medley.

Other featured artists include the Phoenix Bach Choir (doing a hilarious “Twelve Days of Arizona Christmas’), the Jeff Dayton Band, Turning Point, Alice Tatum and the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra.

Note to producers: Include some Tucson artists next year for “Volume 2.’ Maybe a little blues guitar magic from Rainer, some modern rock from Giant Sand or a bit of choral magic from the Arizona Repertory Singers.

“Merry Arizona’ is available at Target, ABCO, Albertson’s, Basha’s, Best Buy, Circle K, Safeway, Smith’s, Smitty’s and Southwest Supermarkets.


“An All-4-One Christmas,’ Atlantic, 1/2. The silky ‘n’ seamless harmonies that made “I Swear’ into a chart-topper remain intact here. The foursome alternates between a cappella renderings of classics (“Silent Night,’ “The First Noel’) and jammin’ R&B renditions of new and familiar tunes (“This Christmas,’ “Santa Claus is Coming to Town’). The group’s vocals glisten, but the whole affair comes off sounding just a little too polished to really stir your soul.


“Invocation,’ Atlantic, 1/2. How odd it is that this choral group’s Celtic, chant-like music is so steeped in medieval pagan traditions, because it’s ethereal beauty is perfectly suited for Christmas. “Invocation’ was inspired by writings of Irish poet Amergin, in particular his two poems, “Invocation’ and “Wind on the Sea.’ This is beautiful music, sometimes pulsing and powerful, other times calm and tranquil, but always glorious.

Glen Campbell

“Christmas with Glen Campbell,’ Laserlight, . Given that Campbell’s 1993 “Home for the Holidays’ set was such a snooze fest, hopes for this all-new collection weren’t high. What a surprise then to find the Rhinestone Cowboy simply glittering on this disc.

The songs may be Christmas chestnuts, but Campbell invigorates them with country-pop punch. From the banjo-pickin’ fun of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,’ which opens the album, Campbell runs through swinging versions of “Winter Wonderland,’ “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ and “Frosty the Snowman.’ He even adds a riveting bagpipes solo to “I Saw Three Ships.’

Ambrose Karels

“Gregorian Chant Christmas,’ Invincible Records, 1/2. Hey, hey, it’s more of the monks. Just in time for Christmas. So if you’re not monked out, take a chants on this deeply resonant disc, which even includes rare English translations of the Latin verse.

Various artists

“Superstars of Christmas,’ Capitol Records, 1/2. Capitol celebrates the season with a dozen holly-jolly tunes; eight from the vaults, three newly recorded. Of the new stuff, Willie Nelson redoes his own “Pretty Paper’ in fine fashion and Richard Marx contributes the energetic rocker “You’ll Never Be Alone.’ But Jon Secada’s live version of “O Holy Night’ drowns in its own overblown orchestration. The classics included are all holiday staples, from Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime’ and John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War is Over)’ to the Beach Boys’ “Little St. Nick’ and “Frank Sinatra’s “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.’

Gary Hoey

“Ho, Ho, Hoey,’ Zoo, 1/2. Even Santa Claus won’t be able to resist rockin’ around the Christmas tree to Hoey’s feisty guitar instrumentals, including “The Twelve Days of Christmas’ and “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.’ It’s no wonder Hoey was picked “Best New Talent’ in Guitar Magazine’s recent readers’ poll.

Kim Robertson

“Celtic Christmas II,’ Invincible Records, . Nowhere does the spiritual heartbeat of the Celtic people beat harder than within the strings and wood of the Celtic harp. And few players bring such grace and beauty to the instrument as Robertson. The simple majesty of her playing shines on classics like “Silent Night,’ as well as such gems as the Italian “El Tutu’ and the Spanish “Ala Nanita Nana.’

Various artists

“Winter, Fire and Snow,’ Atlantic, . How many versions of “Silent Night’ do we really need? That’s what the folks at Atlantic figured when they enlisted such diverse artists as Robbie Robertson, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Andreas Vollenweider to dream up some new holiday music. While no instant classics emerged, there are some darn solid tunes here, including Jane Siberry’s “Are You Burning, Little Candle?,’ Phoebe Snow’s “Merry Christmas Baby’ and The Gipsy Kings’ “Los Peces En El Rio.’

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