Home For the Holidays / Anne Murray / Mannheim Steamroller

Home For the Holidays

Songs to Get You Into the Spirit

Martha Stewart Living/Rhino

You’d have to try really hard to ruin holiday music and even Martha Stewart’s stamp of “approval” on her Home For the Holidays can’t mar it. Most of the tracks are well-loved classics — David Bowie and Bing Crosby’s (classic) duet of “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy,” Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Eartha Kitt’s purry and playful “Santa Baby,” and the soft, jazzy “Merry Christmas Baby” by Charles Brown and Band.

The two standout tracks are The Pretenders’ “2000 Miles” (a song I never really considered “holiday” fare, but which fits nicely) and Celtic siren Loreena McKennitt’s gorgeous treatment of “Good King Wenceslas.”

No Martha Stewart project would be complete without her trademark hints and tips, and the libretto includes a recipe for sinful looking Cheesecake Brownies, instructions on how to make your own snow globes, and a home decorating tip on turning old baking pans into wall sconces. Entertaining and practical, just as Martha would like to think of her self.

Anne Murray’s What a Wonderful Christmas is exactly what you’d expect — traditional arrangements that complement her pleasant voice on this 32-song collection. All the favorites are here — “Silver Bells,” “Away in a Manger,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” are only the tip of the iceberg. Five tracks, including “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and “Silent Night,” feature the London Symphony Orchestra, yet they don’t sound symphonic. This two-CD set is innocuous and harmless enough that it won’t irritate the living hell out of you if you hear it in steady rotation.

Remember what I said about trying hard to ruin holiday music? Somehow Mannheim Steamroller manages to do it. I had no desire to hear my favorite carols elevator-music-jazzed up, and the sleepy treatments of “Do You Hear What I Hear?,” “Winter Wonderland,” and “The First Noel” are enough to make you want to skip Christmas all together.

Rhino Records: http://www.rhino.com • Martha Stewart: http://www.marthastewartliving.com • Anne Murray: http://www.annemurray.com • Mannheim Steamroller: http://www.mannheimsteamroller.com

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