Of this year's yield, the well-fortified two-CD set "Now That's What I Call Christmas!" is one of the few winners, if only because of its dollar-per-good-track ratio. (I picked it up for $16 and change.) Disc one leans heavily toward the traditional side, featuring favorites like Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)," Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" and Dean Martin's "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" The hits just keep on coming from household names: Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys and Burl Ives. "Now" packs enough of the golden greats to please even the oldest old-schooler.
Thankfully, the producers didn't take the project too seriously, opting to include Elmo & Patsy's career highlight, "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" among the time-honored gems (and rightfully so).
Disc two is a far more contemporary affair, boasting artists relevant in this half of the century, as well as those who are hot this week. It kicks off smartly with John & Yoko and The Plastic Ono Band's politically charged epic, "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," hands-down my favorite holiday track, followed by my least favorite, Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." All-star collective Band Aid belts out another modern-era wonder, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" Paul McCartney's yearly gift-giver "Wonderful Christmas-time" follows, as does Harry Connick Jr.'s "(It Must Have Been Ol') Santa Claus."
Then it all comes crashing down, as the end of "Now" favors forgettable entries from terminally uninteresting pop shills Gloria Estefan, 'N Sync, Michael Bolton, Boyz II Men and Britney Spears. Still, there's a solid 70-plus minutes of Christmas fun.