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Deck the halls with music

Who hasn't recorded a Christmas album?

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When I was little, my brother and I would always run into our parents' room on Christmas morning to wake them up and "see if Santa came." Now, for the last few years, whenever I'm at my parents' house on Christmas morning, I get woken up bright and early by the sounds of Christmas music. It never fails and, perhaps, it's payback.

Actually, this year, it happened on Thanksgiving morning. I guess everyone is getting into the holiday spirit a little early this year. (If you looked at the cover of this issue, you'll notice I had to do my part for the holidays early, as well ... but I digress.)

It seems like everyone and their cousin is putting out a holiday CD. Among those releasing seasonal music this year: KT Tunstall, Taylor Swift, Josh Groban, Michael Bolton, Keith Sweat, even Johnny Cash and a whole bunch more.

How many different versions of "Rudolph" do we need? I understand it when artists twist up the originals a bit -- Twisted Sister had a surprising hit with their 2006 release, Twisted Christmas and the Brian Setzer Orchestra got it swingin' with 2005's Dig that Crazy Christmas.

There's also a new collection of music done in a holiday style with "Wreck the Halls." The three discs put a Christmas spin on music from Metallica, Green Day and AC/DC.

...And Christmas for All! takes Metallica songs such as "Nothing Else Matters," "Master of Puppets" and "The Call of the Ktulu" and puts them in a instrumental atmosphere along the lines of "Jingle Bells."

Hell's Bells of Christmas gives the holiday treatment to "You Shook Me," "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" and "Whole Lotta Rosie," among others.

Even Green Day gets into the mix for The Green Days of Christmas.

So, instead of the usual fare of holiday hits, maybe you can convince the relatives to play some of these tunes. While they're enjoying the instrumental feeling of the holidays, you can be humming along to "Brain Stew" or "Thunderstruck."

At least it's worth a shot, right?

OTHER HOLIDAY GIFTS: It may be too late to score a pair of tickets to the Avett Brothers concert here in Charlotte on New Year's Eve, but there are plenty of other gifts you can give to people. Pearl Jam has continued to release a hell of a lot of live albums, and their recent set, Live at the Gorge, adds to a growing collection. Tori Amos is releasing most of her U.S. Tour concerts online at www.toriamos.com. There's also a Heavy Metal Box Set and a 16-CD set by Pink Floyd called Oh By the Way. If you're more of the reading type, there are new autobiographies by Eric Clapton and Slash and The Heroin Diaries of Nikki Sixx. Photo books are also popular and new "Family Albums" of Elivs Presley and Frank Sinatra offer a look at life offstage. You can also find books of lyrics by Tom Waits and Sting.

Need a better idea? How about a gift of music lessons. With so much crap filling the airwaves these days, it's obvious that more people need to learn how to play instruments, sing or get behind the scenes and create better music. I remember my father getting drum lessons as a gift from my mother because she was tired of him tapping on just about everything he passed by. Have a friend or sibling that can't stop singing off-key? Get them a vocal coach.

Though maybe the best gift of all would be not to buy them the new Britney Spears album, or take away the ones they already have.

Happy Holidays!

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