Various Artists

Now That's What I Call Christmas! [Universal]

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The Now series is known for crossing the boundaries of record labels in its attempt to provide definitive collections of hits -- usually from contemporary hits, but also of different eras and styles from the past (at least in its U.K. incarnation). Thankfully, the double-disc, 36-track collection Now That's What I Call Christmas! lives up to the series' reputation by collecting an abundance of pop holiday classics, from Bing Crosby ("White Christmas") and Nat "King" Cole ("The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)") to Britney Spears ("My Only Wish (This Year)") and Boyz II Men ("Silent Night"). While it's true that the modern material doesn't quite live up to songs that are proven perennials -- after all, they simply haven't had the time to become part of the national play list -- this is still a very impressive collection because it does hit almost all of the familiar radio staples while providing some good modern-day cuts. That doesn't mean that it's a perfect collection or that everybody will like every cut -- and yes, that's true with newer entries by Michael Bolton and the Big Yard Family, but with each year, I grow more baffled by the success of "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" and how it seems to get more annoying with each Christmas (must be the magic of the season) -- but anything that has Elvis' "Blue Christmas," Sinatra's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," Dino's "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!," Perry Como's "(There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays," Johnny Mathis' "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," Burl Ives' "A Holly Jolly Christmas," Gene Autry's "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," Bobby Helms' "Jingle Bell Rock," the Beach Boys' "Little Saint Nick," Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime," Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town," and Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" is likely to find a welcome place in almost every listener's holiday collection.

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