Hazy, Hot, and Humid? Merry Christmas!

Snoweverywhere_8 What a day : NJ train late, NYC subways halted, temperature headed to 97º, humidity already at 5,000%. By the time I melted in to work today (having walked/sweated 20 blocks, my chestnuts long since roasted), I wasn't merely ready to let it snow. I wanted to demand a blizzard.

Time for Christmas CDs!

Ct_3 Yes, believe it or not, the Yuletide is rising, with several holiday releases already announced. But this year's prize for Earliest Pitch of a Christmas CD goes to Jeanne O'Keefe at the L.A. office of the Lippin Group, who on May 15 - yup, three months ago, when it was still spring - e-mailed me about The Secret of Christmas, the first holiday album from Captain & Tennille.

Due in stores October 2, it features several originals by Toni ("Tahoe Snow," "Christmas in California," "Boogie Baby Christmas," "The Christmas Star") as well as standards like "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "Here Comes Santa Claus," and "Silent Night." And for fans of "Muskrat Love," there's "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas," Hippo_3 whose credits include: "Hippopotamus by Daryl Dragon." Then there's "Daryl of the Bells," which, according to Toni, is "a real musical trip through Daryl's mind!" Well, hey, since the weather outside is biteful, I'm more than willing to take that trip, hoping that love will freeze us together!

Also announced so far:

Various Artists: Monster Ballads Christmas
(Razor & Tie), Sept. 11
All-new from, among others, Billy Idol ("Christmas Love"), Stryper ("Winter Wonderland"), and Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmeister ("Santa Claus Is Coming to Town").

Raul Malo: Marshmallow World & Other Holiday Favorites
(New Door/UME), Sept. 18
Founder of the Mavericks "will help ring in the holidays with a swinging set of holiday classics," says his press release. Recorded live in the studio, the tracks include "Feliz Navidad," "White Christmas," "Blue Christmas," and "Not So Merry Christmas." He's also launching a Christmas Party Tour. For dates, scroll to the bottom of the tour link at raulmalo.com.

Jim Brickman: Homecoming
(SLG Records/Savoy Label Group), Sept. 25
Among the guests joining the pianist are Lonestar's Richie McDonald (vocals on "Coming Home for Christmas"), Peter White (guitar on "I Heard the Bells"), and the late Gerald Levert (vocals on the title track). Two original instrumentals: "Thanksgiving" and "Bethlehem."

Twisted Sister: A Twisted Christmas Live
(DVD, Razor & Tie), Sept. 25
Filmed last year at New Jersey's Starland Ballroom, this includes TS hits plus songs from A Twisted Christmas. Proceeds from that CD, totaling $17,000, were recently donated to Autism Speaks/Cure Autism Now.

Various Artists: Christmas Break: A Relaxing Classical Mix
(Telarc), Sept. 25
Just what it says, courtesy of artists like pianist Michael Chertock ("Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"), harpist Yolanda Kondonassis ("Angels We Have Heard On High"), and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir ("I Wonder as I Wander," "Whence Is That Goodly Fragrance?").

Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker: Favorite Selections,
with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra/Erich Kunzel
(Telarc), Sept. 25
Attention, multichannel merrymakers: also available on surround SACD.

Mindy Smith: My Holiday
(Vanguard), Oct. 9
"Follow the Shepherd Home" and the title track are two of the six originals on the singer/songwriter's album, recorded in Nashville. And among the traditionals, "Away in a Manger" features Alison Krauss on harmony vocals.

Last but not least, here's a real doozy . . .

Darlene2003_4 Darlene Love: It's Christmas, Of Course
(Shout! Factory), Oct. 2
Although she sang the classic "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" for Phil Spector's 1963 Christmas Gift to You, this is her first holiday album.

But this ain't no ordinary holiday album. Check out the track listing:

1. Christmas All Over Again (original artist: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers)
2. Who Took the Merry out of Christmas? (The Staple Singers)
3. Christmas Wish (NRBQ)
4. Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto (James Brown)
5. Please Come Home for Christmas (Charles Brown)
6. 2000 Miles (The Pretenders)
7. Christmas Is the Time to Say 'I Love You' (Billy Squier)
8. What Christmas Means to Me (Stevie Wonder)
9. Christmas Must Be Tonight (The Band)
10. Thanks for Christmas (XTC)
11. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
(John & Yoko & The Plastic Ono Band w/the Harlem Community Choir)
12. Night of Peace (original song)

Darlene Love sings XTC? Star of wonder! -Ken Richardson