Music Article

The Xmas Files

Hanson, SWV, Jim Brickman and more have Christmas albums out this year

The URL said it all: www.secretsanta.com. Little did we know that in transmitting our Christmas wish list to the North Pole, we would stumble upon a cache of internal memoranda from the C&C Music Factory (Mr. & Mrs. Claus, to you). Memos marked ''for elves' eyes only,'' detailing Santa's emphatic, often caustic, instructions regarding new holiday-music product, flashed across our screen. Mr. C's mission statement would have chilled even the Abominable Snowman: ''Bottom line: If fourth-quarter profits don't make a dent in our debt load, little heads will roll!'' Before our link was abruptly terminated, we managed to download a few sensitive files. Now, with finished discs (and documents) in hand, EW rates their holiday-worthiness — and the elves' long-term employment prospects.

HANSON: Snowed In

MEMO FROM MR. C: ''It's been too stinkin' long since those Beach Boys put a tiger in Santa's GTO tank! And Taylor is turning into a real soul singer, for Prancer's sake. So have those Hanson lads cook me up a collection that'll not only satisfy their li'l contemporaries but even grab grown-ups who remember the days when Brian Wilson, Phil Spector, and Otis Redding got something extra in their stockings for their efforts.'' A-

SWV: A Special Christmas

MEMO FROM MR. C: ''Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men, New Edition...Mrs. Claus gave it up for the slammin' work they did on past soulful Christmas records. So don't be droppin' any more of that hardcore R&B science on Mrs. C this season. Get me SWV: Sisters Without Vitality. We'll rake in the adult contemporary coin by including wack readings of classics like 'My Favorite Things,' smothered in cheesy synths. Word.'' C-

VARIOUS ARTISTS: A Very Special Christmas 3

MEMO FROM MR. C: ''Talk about your mixed Santa bags! Find me a sleighful of superstar acts that have the least in common — I'm talking Enya and Patti Smith — for another charity go. Make sure the Smashing Pumpkins cut the dullest, most treacly tune ('Christmastime') of their career: Last year, we had to put Dancer to sleep after some pumped-up munchkin moshed on his paw, and we don't want that again.'' B-

VARIOUS ARTISTS: A Home For the Holidays

MEMO FROM MR. C: ''Thanks to city manager Jack Frost's tireless efforts, homelessness at the North Pole is at an all-time low. But kids without cribs across America still need our help. Noted social activists Richie Sambora, Redd Kross, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Wendy and Carnie Wilson have called to offer their services... Gimme a break! We worked the A-list talent onto the Very Special Christmas project.'' C+

DWIGHT YOAKAM: Come On Christmas

MEMO FROM MR. C: ''I don't know about the masses, but Santa wants to hear 'Run Run Rudolph' with a Farfisa organ, so get to it! I know, I know — the usually imaginative Yoakam will sound like he's sleepwalking through much of this one, but even slight idiosyncrasies in his drolly rockin' arrangements of the classics will help keep me alert when I cross Iraqi airspace on Christmas Eve.'' B+

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