Christmas (Take A Ride) (CD)

Good Golly Miss Claus! Mitch Ryder may be without his Detroit Wheels, but at 73 years old the blue-eyed soul legend is still going strong. It’s not that we haven’t heard enough Christmas albums in our life, but being a living legend without one to his name, the man has earned it, dammit! These days his voice is a bit more subdued; more soulful rasp than wild shriek, but he knows how to play to his strengths: Christmas (Take A Ride) features covers of Christmas standards new and old all done in an energetic ‘60s R&B fashion, which means plenty of bright horns, brittle guitars, and a stomping backbeat. Hell, the lead single is a cover of raucous garage rock legends The Sonics’ very own “Santa Claus,” cavernous reverb and fuzz guitars intact. He even manages to make “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” somehow sound a little less stupid. In fact, his take on the most annoying of novelty songs is downright listenable, which is a feat unto itself. The only knock on Christmas (Take A Ride) is the lack of a song titled “Devil With A Red Dress,” which seems like an egregious missed opportunity, though Ryder has left the door open to the possibility of a Christmas sequel. Don’t leave us hanging, Mitch.

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Christmas In Valhalla (CD)

Muscle-metal hero THOR dropped a Christmas album this year, featuring all original songs with titles like (the hilarious) “Slay Rider” and “Not So Little Drummer Boy.” Recorded with the same band from Beyond the Pain Barrier, these upbeat, straightforward rockers will lighten up many a home this holiday season, whether or not they're familiar with Mr. Jon Mikl Thor. Highlights include the catchy “Gonna Have a Rockin' Christmas” and the pseudo ballad “It's Christmas Time Again.”

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Shatner Claus: The Christmas Album (CD)

Stardate: the night before Christmas. That's right Shatner fans, at last the Captain of the Starship has landed in the North Pole, with an impressive crew of guest stars, taking the Christmas album where no Christmas album has gone before. Take, for instance, Shatner's duet of "Jingle Bells" with Henry Rollins, sounding like a tightly wound but enthusiastic caroler, and featuring boozy, new lyrics that may take a couple of listens to fully understand. Or take Shatner's oddly syncopated, quasi-scatted "Little Drummer Boy," which finds the veteran Star Trek actor in one of his most committed roles. ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons gives Shat's "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" some Texas-blues swagger, while Brad Paisley adds some country-twang to the Elvis classic "Blue Christmas," which features spoken word interludes that further illustrate in more literal terms just why and how they're having such a bad Christmas. One of the more surprisingly fitting pairings is on "Silent Night," featuring none other than Iggy Pop. Perhaps in retrospect it makes sense, but who would have thought that the beat-poem-on-quaaludes style of Shatner's rantings would fit so nicely with Iggy's Berlin-era-style crooning? And of course, what Christmas album would be complete without an aggressively inspirational rendition of "Feliz Navidad?" Certainly not this one.

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