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Holiday Sampler

Reviews of holiday box sets of The Band, America's Funniest Home Videos, The Pixies and "The Great American Baseball Box." Plus the top five nontraditional holiday albums.



America's Funniest Home Videos: "Home for the Holidays" DVD (Sony), $14.98

There's a fine line between funny home videos and Faces of Death snuff footage. That's part of what makes us laugh at painful human mishaps like people falling through Christmas trees and catching on fire. This potential stocking-stuffer features three different holiday blooper specials — two hosted by foul-mouthed comedian Bob Saget (in his family-friendly mode), and another 2003 show by newcomer Tom Bergeron. Unless you've been living in a monastery the last 20 years, you know exactly what this is like — you're bound to crack up at something.

The Pixies "Sell Out" DVD (Rhino/Wea), $19.98

One of the most influential rock bands of the '80s recently reunited to cash in on its catalog of great songs. If you know an indie rocker who may have missed the band's two shows in Virginia, then you can get a good idea of what they were like by watching this live DVD documenting an ecstatic 2004 show from France. The Pixies hardly miss a beat, sounding exactly like the "soft-now-loud" punk-pop geniuses of their younger days.

The Great American Baseball Box (Shout Factory), $59.98

I never could get into watching "America's pastime." To borrow from George Carlin, for me it's "like watching two flies [copulate]." But it's a fun game to play, and there are plenty of diehard fans. These are the folks who would love this four-CD set featuring many of baseball's greatest moments in all their nostalgic glory. Most baseball junkies I know are statistic freaks, so they might appreciate strolling down memory lane with traditional baseball music (disc one), classic game highlights (disc two), legendary players' memories (disc three) and comedy and commercials (disc four). I wanna know: Where's the CD for lewd fan behavior and the various mating calls of the elusive Cracka-Jack vendor?

Top Five Nontraditional Holiday Albums

Duke Ellington "Three Suites" (Sony)

You haven't heard "The Nutcracker Suite" until you've heard it swing. Jazz great Duke Ellington's orchestral genius really shines on this enchanting classic.

"A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Original Sound Track Recording of the CBS Television Special" (Fantasy)

Composer/pianist Vince Guaraldi turned on generations of kids to the beauty of melodious jazz with passion, warmth and humor — and his music has only grown in stature. This CD features the serene, hymnlike holiday classic, "Christmas Time Is Here." A must have for snowy window-watching.

"A John Waters Christmas" (New Line Records)

Fans of John Waters know who they are. If you like kooky, untraditional songs concerning Christmas, this album is loaded. Plenty of inspired lunacy from the relatively tame Chipmunks (whom Waters has "the hots" for) and the Christian guilt classic, "Happy Birthday Jesus," by frightening Little Cindy, to the rare 45 nugget, "Santa Claus Is a Black Man" by AKIM and the Teddy Van Production Company. Another winner from Baltimore's favorite son.

"A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector" (Abkco)

If you can get over the fact that legendary rock producer Phil Spector is now best known as a wigged-out actress-killer, then you might appreciate this wonderful traditional Christmas album he put together in 1963 with soul singers from his stable, including The Ronettes and Darlene Love from the Crystals. Go back in time and let this infamous whack-job work his studio magic.

"The American Song-Poem Christmas: Daddy, Is Santa Really Six Feet Four?" (Bar None)

Like some of today's "national poetry" contests, the infamous song-poem scam of the 1970s consisted of companies who lured everyday folks into paying for their own amateur lyrics to be published and recorded by karaoke-level bands. Here, obscure holiday numbers like "Santa Came on a Nuclear Missile" and "Randy the Lil Elf" will (in no time) have you giggling and snorting mashed potatoes like a little piggy. — B.B.

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