Various Artists

A Merry Little Christmas: A Holiday Sampler from Elektra & EastWest

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A label sampler that will please virtually everyone in small, carefully measured doses but please no one in its entirety, A Merry Little Christmas patches together seven songs that would never have co-existed if not for two unstoppable forces: Christmas and major-label ineptitude. Consider it the musical equivalent of unwrapping presents: To get to the Red Ryder BB gun, you've got to wade through socks and bunny suits first. Let's start with the crap: slick, overbaked production renders Natalie Cole's "No More Blue Christmas," En Vogue's "Silent Night," and Men at Large's "Holiday" virtually unlistenable by any measure -- even the Boys Choir of Harlem's rendition of Donny Hathaway's contemporary classic "This Christmas" suffers from more glaze than a holiday ham. Nanci Griffith's lovely "On Grafton Street" is much better, but its lyrics make only passing references to the yuletide season -- unless Griffith is pining over Jesus, this sad love song doesn't really deserve inclusion here. That leaves Freedy Johnston's elegiac, poignant take on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and, finally, the gift that keeps on giving -- Ween covering "Silent Night" as though they were addled, phlegmatic Jewish geriatrics. Mazel tov!