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Christmas Near and Far-Out

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However well-worn, these songs own the season, and it's good to have some of the area's brightest musicians light them up in a variety of idiosyncratic ways, from Modern Groove Syndicate's funky "Sleigh Ride" to First Impressions' eggnog- smooth "Christmas Song." The Devil's Workshop's anarchic "Jingle Bells" is actually a romp through the entire songbook; their alter ego Swiss Swank Account's quick-change arrangement of "Here Comes Santa Claus" is a standout.

Not everything works. But in all, "Miracles" is a worthy addition to any Richmonder's holiday playlist. If you don't buy it, you have a moral obligation to give an equal amount to the Children's Miracle Network, so you might as well do the right thing and get the music. hhhh — Peter McElhinney



William Hung "Hung for the Holidays" (Koch)

Going to U.C. Berkeley doesn't make one a genius. But acquiring wealth and fame from a monotone singing style that resembles a billion other karaoke rejects probably does. One thing is certain, fame-whore William Hung is still cashing in on the celebrity status gained from his likeable, earnest performances on "American Idol."

Like Mr. Hankey and the Chipmunks before him, Hung has now released his own traditional Christmas album, including a quasi-pornographic title that adds to the cheese quotient.

Ever wished you could hear "Silver Bells" or "The Little Drummer Boy" sung by an Asian immigrant who just had the contents of his inner ear removed? Well, here's your chance. Admittedly, there is a certain pleasure in hearing these traditional hearth songs butchered (as well as Queen's ubiquitous sports anthem, "We Are the Champions," reinterpreted as a wailing dirge), but how much you can actually listen to this album depends on your own threshold for gimmicky music. For some, this is camp gold to annoy loved ones around the fireside. For others, it's a musical lashing akin to seeing Polaroids of your parents turning tricks by candlelight in Abu Ghraib.

Shatner & Hung, A Tale of Two Williams Tour, anyone? hh — Brent BaldwinHowever well-worn, these songs own the season, and it's good to have some of the area's brightest musicians light them up in a variety of idiosyncratic ways, from Modern Groove Syndicate's funky "Sleigh Ride" to First Impressions' eggnog- smooth "Christmas Song." The Devil's Workshop's anarchic "Jingle Bells" is actually a romp through the entire songbook; their alter ego Swiss Swank Account's quick-change arrangement of "Here Comes Santa Claus" is a standout.

Not everything works. But in all, "Miracles" is a worthy addition to any Richmonder's holiday playlist. If you don't buy it, you have a moral obligation to give an equal amount to the Children's Miracle Network, so you might as well do the right thing and get the music. ***1/2 — Peter McElhinney



William Hung "Hung for the Holidays" (Koch)

Going to U.C. Berkeley doesn't make one a genius. But acquiring wealth and fame from a monotone singing style that resembles a billion other karaoke rejects probably does. One thing is certain, fame-whore William Hung is still cashing in on the celebrity status gained from his likeable, earnest performances on "American Idol."

Like Mr. Hankey and the Chipmunks before him, Hung has now released his own traditional Christmas album, including a quasi-pornographic title that adds to the cheese quotient.

Ever wished you could hear "Silver Bells" or "The Little Drummer Boy" sung by an Asian immigrant who just had the contents of his inner ear removed? Well, here's your chance. Admittedly, there is a certain pleasure in hearing these traditional hearth songs butchered (as well as Queen's ubiquitous sports anthem, "We Are the Champions," reinterpreted as a wailing dirge), but how much you can actually listen to this album depends on your own threshold for gimmicky music. For some, this is camp gold to annoy loved ones around the fireside. For others, it's a musical lashing akin to seeing Polaroids of your parents turning tricks by candlelight in Abu Ghraib.

Shatner & Hung, A Tale of Two Williams Tour, anyone? ** — Brent Baldwin

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