Few musical things are more heartwarming and disposable than a great Christmas album.
Think about it: Apart from whack-jobs who get the holiday bug around Halloween, the soonest most people buy a Christmas album is the day after Thanksgiving. And (though some Clay Aiken fans may insist they will play his new one year-round) most people pack away their faves after New Year's Day.
That's roughly a month to enjoy your $10-$20 purchase - which typically is more than enough If you overdo it before Christmas Eve, you'll be tearing your hair out to "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer."
There are durable classics, to be sure. Several - Barbra Streisand's A Christmas Album, Johnny Mathis' Merry Christmas, The Andy Williams Christmas Album - have been remastered and reissued recently by Sony Legacy.
Yet every year, the record industry dumps another fresh load into stores.
So here's a word of warning to those in the market for holiday music - stay away from these (unless you want something to go with your Clay Aiken CD):
Easy target though Jessica Simpson may be, this time she's earned the ire: Her well-intended Rejoyce: The Christmas Album (Columbia) proves only what an awful vocalist she is. Passable on pop fluff, she's flat-out abominable on Christmas tunes that demand much more than breathiness and nasal moaning. Even worse: a duet with hubby Nick Lachey on "Baby It's Cold Outside," perhaps the worst rendition ever.
Don't go near Play's Play Around the Christmas Tree (Sanctuary Urban) - unless synthetic teen-pop knockoffs are your idea of a jolly holiday. And beware of Rockin' Christmas Party, Volume One (DMI), which doesn't let on that its recordings of Gary Lewis, Bobby Vee, Ron Dante and Lou Christie are recent - and therefore inferior.
Lots who love Yanni also love Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This year producer Paul O'Neill and his 60-piece crew have gone all out, issuing The Lost Christmas Eve in a single-disc edition and the box set The Christmas Trilogy (both Lava/Atlantic). Someone you know may well play it twice while opening presents. We'd rather suffer through a 24-hour marathon of Jessica Simpson.