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What's New?This has been quite a year in many ways. Have we been naughty or nice? History may not be kind, but at least there's a lots of exciting and/or hip Christmas music filling up our collective stocking. As I explained last year, I'm not looking closely anymore at newly recorded holiday music so I can focus on cataloging, studying, reviewing, and sharing the piles and piles I already own. But, I've compiled a list of reissues and new albums, a meager handful of singles, and my Top 10 - and I'll be adding to this page throughout the season. For all the new stuff, I happily refer you to websites like Mistletunes, Christmas Underground, Stubby's House of Christmas, Christmas A-Go-Go, and others.

What am I missing, intrepid readers? Drop me a line...

Before we get to the good stuff, however, a quick word about so-called "public domain" releases that have been stealing an increasing amount of the spotlight in recent years - including this year. Until recently, in much of the world, musical copyrights extended only back 50 years. Once a recording entered the public domain, anyone could release it commercially. For years, labels like Document and Jasmine used this law to release all sorts of rare-but-classic jazz, blues, and country music. No one seemed to care, so more power to 'em. But, once rock 'n' roll music by people like Elvis Presley began to "go public," things started heating up. When it came time for the Beatles to do the same, the European Union finally toughened up the statutes to 70 years.

Boogie Woogie Santa Claus Christmas Up North Rootin' Tootin' Santa Claus

But, that leaves a lot of music up for grabs, including a lot of classic Christmas records. I try to avoid public domain stuff - much of it is crap, particularly in the digital realm - but it's hard to know what you're dealing with sometimes. It's gotten to the point where some of the most interesting reissues - on paper, at least - are from the public domain. The Boogie Woogie Santa Claus and Rootin' Tootin' Santa volumes I list below, for instance, look fantastic but are probably public domain releases. Another such collection, Christmas Up North, is unspeakably cool: rare Christmas songs by Canadian roots artists on 10-inch vinyl. And, without a doubt, all were compiled with great love - by former Bear Family staffer Richard Weize, no less. No one gets rich selling this stuff, after all.

For their part, Jasmine released attractive, two-disc collections of country music and vintage pop this year, and a label called Midnight compiled a sharp 25-track rhythm 'n' blues CD. Another label, Clear Cut, released (count 'em) eight volumes in a series called Cool Blue Christmas, and in many ways, they look wonderful. How do they sound? Well, caveat emptor.

Anyway, I say all that to explain what, in another sense, you will not see in this page - or most of my other pages. Record collecting can be a perplexing avocation sometimes... Happy holidays all the same, and please follow me over at the Facebook!

Randy Anthony

Top 10Hip Christmas Top 10 (Plus One)

BeatlesBeatles / The Christmas Records
This first-ever (legal) reissue of the Beatles' fan-club recordings is this year's 500-pound gorilla of holiday music. The only problem is that Capitol has reissued it exclusively as a 7-inch colored vinyl boxed set priced in the $75 range. True, it's pretty darn cool, but it feels like the label is forcing hard-core collectors (c'est moi) to pay a premium, leaving people who'd have preferred CD or digital (or less costly) options out in the cold. Merry Krimble, indeed.

Cheap TrickCheap Trick / Christmas Christmas
For me, this is this year's prize. I've loved this band since we were all young men and, while they've recorded a few Christmas songs over the years, this is their first whole album. Christmas Christmas is less than perfect, but it does what any good holiday album should do: translate the sounds of the season into the artist's milieu - in this case loud-but-melodic - and not the other way around.

Percy FaithPercy Faith / Music of Christmas
For several years, we've had a bonanza of easy listening classics thanks largely to the major labels opening up their vaults to indies like Real Gone Music, the label that has reissued this widely acknowledged 1959 masterpiece - itself a stereo rerecording of a 1954 mono LP - with bonus tracks. Other notable muzak reissues include Robert Shaw's Christmas Hymns and Carols Volume II (1952), two 1955 albums by Fred Waring & The Pennsylvanians, an MP3-only edition of Walter Schumann's Christmas In The Air! (1951), and Dean Martin's 1966 Christmas Album in its original format on CD for the first time ever.

Butch WalkerMinus 5 / Dear December
I've barely heard a lick of this, but anything by the Minus 5, their mastermind Scott McCaughey, or his other band, Young Fresh Fellows, brings a smile to my face and a wiggle to my hips. As usual, Scott is accompanied by his famous friends including M. Ward, Chuck Prophet, Kelly Hogan, and members of Death Cab for Cutie, R.E.M., the Decemberists, the Posies, and more. Scott recently suffered a stroke, so purchasing this album, contributing to his medical fund, or simply send your happy thoughts means a little more than usual.

Lisa MycholsLisa Mychols / Winter Is Here (EP)
With her 1990 album Lost Winter's Dream, Lisa Mychols became a holiday hipster queen. Nearly decades later, she's back with a brand new digital EP, Winter Is Here, and she hasn't lost a step! The lead track, "Wake Up Christmas," also appears on Santa's Got A GTO Vol. 2 (below). Available only on Bandcamp as a digital download.

Smokey RobinsonSmokey Robinson / Christmas Everyday
As the only Motown artist to record two Christmas albums (with the Miracles, of course), Smokey has earned his holiday bones. That was roughly 50 years, but on his third seasonal outing he still looks and sounds great. Christmas Everyday is an Amazon original with guests Trombone Shorty, Take 6, the Dap-Kings, and Us The Duo.

Connie SmithConnie Smith / Joy to the World
Despite being a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Smith isn't well known outside the genre - or much at all to its younger fans. That doesn't mean she ain't deserve the kudos (check out her greatest hit, "Once A Day"), and it's about time that this, her 1975 Christmas album, was finally reissued on compact disc. Real Gone Music adds a 1986 duet with Willie Nelson as a bonus track.

SupremesSupremes / The Ultimate Merry Christmas
I've purchased this album three times - LP, CD, remastered CD - and I guess this means four. While I have to caution that the group's 1965 Merry Christmas is the least of all Motown Christmas albums, it's still the frickin' Supremes. More to the point, Real Gone's remastered, two-disc expansion includes every previously released permutation plus more, for a total of 50 tracks!

Bloodshot RecordsBloodshot Records' 13 Days of Xmas
In the back of my mind, I've been wondering when this would happen. Now I know. Just about the coolest record label in the world has released an album of (I think) all new, mostly original Christmas music. The usual suspects show up - Jon Langford, Barrence Whitfield, and Kelly Hogan - plus a raft of younger artists sure to thrill roots rockers everywhere. Happily available on CD, MP3, and vinyl.

Christmas On The CountrysideChristmas On The Countryside: 27 Honky Tonkin' Christmas Country Songs
This CD is Bear Family Records' follow-up to last year's Big City Christmas, which collected obscure pop and R&B holiday tracks from the label's vast catalog. Christmas On The Countryside is the exact same concept, but with country music - which I'll bet you'd already figured out. Anyway, by definition, that means almost none of it is truly "rare," but you would have had to buy literally thousands of dollars of boxed sets to get it all - so, God bless us every one!

Rodney on the RockRodney On The Rock Presents Santa's Got A GTO Vol. 2
Ka-boom! Boy, am I excited about this! Rodney Bingenheimer, aka Rodney on the Rock of Los Angeles radio station KROQ, has released a sequel to Santa's Got A GTO, his marvelous holiday paean to punks and misfits toys from the Sunset Strip and beyond. Available from Amazon on vinyl with download card or MP3 album, or direct from Gearhead in vinyl with download card or download card only.


New AlbumsNew Albums

SinglesSingles & Tracks

Previous Years. We've been compiling this "what's new?" list for awhile, going back to 2004 (Chris Isaak, Dwight Twilley), 2005 (Diana Krall, Brian Setzer), 2006 (Aimee Mann, Bootsy Collins), 2007 (Smithereens, Darlene Love), 2008 (Weezer, Pretenders), 2009 (Bob Dylan, Los Straitjackets), 2010 (James Brown, Shelby Lynne), 2011 (Killers, Carole King), 2012 (Rod Stewart, Polyphonic Spree), 2013 (Salsoul Orchestra, Nick Lowe), 2014 (Blue Rodeo, Earth Wind & Fire), 2015 (Sharon Jones, Brian Setzer) and 2016 (Loretta Lynn, Frankie Valli). Christmas Tree

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