Various Artists

A Classic Rock Christmas [Sanctuary]

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This quickie holiday compilation bears a deceptive title. There is little actual "rock" music here and the adjective "classic" is arguable at best. It is undoubtedly Christmas music, although mullet-headed hard rockers will not want to fire this up as background for their frenzied air guitar excursions. Those hoping to rally some REO Speedwagon "Ridin' the Storm Out" bluster will have to settle for a sappy Kevin Cronin ballad, "I Believe in Santa Claus," that wouldn't pass muster in a grade-school holiday pageant. Similarly, Styx kicks the set off with "All I Want," borrowing liberally from Gary Glitter and the Beach Boys while managing to sound nothing like themselves. Styx's Tommy Shaw returns for a schlocky, synth/harpsichord-heavy "12 Days of Christmas" -- aided by his Damn Yankees cohort, Jack Blades -- that also is rock-free. Grand Funk Railroad's Mark Farner, whom you should at least be able to count on for some raucous guitar shenanigans, also disappoints with a solo, keyboard-driven original weeper, "Mary (The Return From Calvary)." The song seems to last twice as long as its six-minute length. The few diehards who still remember the dry humor of '70s Saturday Night Live guest Father Guido Sarducci don't justify the reappearance of his 1991 "Santa's Lament." It wasn't terribly funny the first time around; 11 years later it's even less so. And so it goes. Emerson, Lake & Palmer is represented by a track apiece from Greg Lake and Keith Emerson. The latter tosses off a pleasantly jazzy "Silent Night," which is nearly derailed by a gospel choir, while Lake needlessly reprises his 25-year-old chestnut "I Believe in Father Christmas." The only track that vaguely redeems the album's "rock" title is Eddie Money and Ronnie Spector's exuberant "Everybody Loves Christmas," originally released in 1997 on a difficult-to-find single. Otherwise, a lump of coal might be preferable to finding this collection under a classic rocker's tree.

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