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Christmas Music In Brief

Sarah McLachlan's basic sound—all music-box tinkle and formless angelic moan—represents the best and worst of Christmas music itself, so it's not surprising that her Christmas album Wintersong (Arista) is alternately charming and enervating. McLachlan does right by "What Child Is This?" and "Christmas Time Is Here," which have an essential melancholy well-suited to her wispy presence, but McLachlan lacks the earthy sensuality to pull off the directly engaging "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" or "I'll Be Home For Christmas," and her attempts to craft holiday originals sound a lot like her attempts at Christmas medleys: mushy and random… C+

What can be said about The Klezmatics' Woody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukkah (Jewish Music Group)? It is as advertised: a set of Guthrie-penned pro-Hanukkah lyrics set to The Klezmatics bouncy, rootsy klezmer music. Live, this would probably be a lot of fun, but as recorded, Happy Joyous Hanukkah sounds flat and rote, like a lot of hidebound trad music does in the studio. The band gets bonus points for playing this project straight, but the results are mostly dim… C

Carl Tanner has one of those operatic voices that in the right context can be profoundly dramatic, and in the wrong context can wring the life out of any melody in a five-mile radius. In other words, he isn't the kind of guy who should be singing "White Christmas," as he does on Hear The Angel Voices (TMG), and he really shouldn't be let near fragile classical carols like "Adeste Fidelis" either. Tanner's better at songs like "Mille Cherubini En Cora," which would make a nice communion anthem at some high-church midnight mass. He also does a creditable "Little Drummer Boy," for reasons that are impossible to figure… B-

Okay, imagine what you think a Christmas album recorded by Twisted Sister in 2006 would sound like. Got it? Well, that's about what A Twisted Christmas (Razor & Tie) sounds like. Played almost entirely straight, it's neither better nor worse than it ought to be. C —