New Seasonal Offerings Compete For Attention

Ever year, artists and labels pull together holiday music releases in hopes of striking perennial silver and gold, and 2004 can be considered a banner year for seasonal fare. Thanks to new albums from

Ever year, artists and labels pull together holiday music releases in hopes of striking perennial silver and gold, and 2004 can be considered a banner year for seasonal fare. Thanks to new albums from Vanessa Williams and Jessica Simpson, reissued material from Frank Sinatra and Stevie Wonder and compilations featuring everyone from modern rockers to teenyboppers, the songs of the season are everywhere.

• Jessica Simpson, "Rejoyce-The Christmas Album" (Columbia). Expect to hear Simpson and husband Nick Lachey performing selections from the set on a new variety special they will host Dec. 10 on ABC.

• Vanessa Williams, Silver & Gold" (Lava). Includes a guest appearance by Brian McKnight on "Joy to the World."

• James Taylor, "James Taylor: A Christmas Album." Exclusively available via Hallmark retail stores, the 11-track set finds the singer/songwriter joined by Natalie Cole for "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and trumpeter Chris Botti on "Winter Wonderland."

• Clay Aiken, "Merry Christmas With Love" (RCA). By selling 270,000 copies last week, the former "American Idol" contestant set a record with the biggest debut sales week of any holiday album in the SoundScan era, which began in 1991.

• Chris Isaak, "Chris Isaak Christmas" (Wicked Game Records/Reprise). The crooner's first holiday collection features 11 traditional songs and five originals, including a duet with Stevie Nicks.

• Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, "Everything You Want for Christmas" (Vanguard). Amidst the originals and obvious covers like James Fox's "'Zat You Santa Claus?" is a notable version of "Mr. Heatmiser," from the Rankin/Bass animated Christmas special "The Year Without a Santa Claus."

• Dionne Warwick, "My Favorite Time of Year" (DMI). The veteran vocalist is joined by Gladys Knight, BeBe Winans and Dave Koz on her first album of Christmas music.

• Stevie Wonder, "The Christmas Collection" (Motown/Universal Chronicles). A 14-track, career-spanning album from the 2004 Billboard Century Award honoree.

• The Statler Brothers, "The Christmas Collection" (Mercury/Universal Chronicles). A compilation of 11 cuts from the veteran country vocal quartet, including a medley of "Silent Night," "O Holy Night," "The First Noel" and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."

• Frank Sinatra, "The Frank Sinatra Christmas Collection" (Reprise). Classics from Ol' Blue Eyes, including a newly assembled version of "Silent Night" he recorded in 1991, and never-before-released duets with Bing Crosby.

• Afroman, "Jobe Bells" (HH Records). A stoner-friendly view of the holidays including "O Chronic Tree" and "Violent Night."

• Cherish The Ladies, "On Christmas Night" (Rounder). Traditional Irish favorites and carols from a top-notch women's ensemble.

• Dwight Twilley, "Have a Twilley Christmas" (Digital Musicworks International). An EP of six new original holiday songs from the veteran singer/songwriter, including "Christmas Stars" and "Santa Claus' Favorite Christmas."

• Brian Setzer, "Boogie Woogie Christmas" (Surfdog). A reissue of the former Stray Cats frontman's 2002 set, with new recordings of "Cactus Christmas" and Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run."

• Emmylou Harris, "Light of the Stable" (Rhino/Warner Bros.). An updated version of the singer/songwriter's 1992 holiday collection with new recordings of "There's a Light," "Cherry Tree Carol" and "Man is an Island."

• Judith Owen, "Christmas in July" (Dog on the Bed Music). Released, as its title suggests, in July, this six-song EP features special guest appearances by actor/comedian Harry Shearer and singer/songwriter Julia Fordham.

• Trans-Siberian Orchestra, "The Lost Christmas Eve" (Lava). The rock opera phenomenon completes its Christmas trilogy. Also available in box set that includes "Christmas Eve and Other Stories" and "The Christmas Attic," as well as the DVD "The Ghosts of Christmas."

• George Huff, "My Christmas EP" (Word/Curb/Warner Bros.). The five-track debut from the third season "American Idol" finalist leans heavily on Huff's gospel background.


• "Have a Merry Chrismukkah! -- Music From the OC: Mix 3" (Warner Sunset/Warner Bros.). The Fox series spins off another modern rock compilation, this one with holiday tracks from the Raveonettes, Jimmy Eat World, Eels and more.

• "Ultimate Christmas 2" (BMG Strategic Marketing). This collection earns its "Ultimate" moniker with cuts from such superstar talent as Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, Alan Jackson, TLC, Santana, R. Kelly, Christina Aguilera and 'N Sync.

• "The Polar Express" (Warner Sunset/Reprise). Alongside favorites from Crosby, Sinatra and the Andrews Sisters are cuts from Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, Josh Groban and this holiday film's star voice, actor Tom Hanks.

• "Radio Disney-Jingle Jams" (Walt Disney Records). To warm the cockles of the teen and tween set, this release gathers holiday favorites from Hilary Duff, the Beu Sisters, Aaron Carter, Ashlee Simpson, Stacie Orrico and more.

• "Rockin' Christmas Party, Volume One" (Digital Musicworks International). Collecting holiday classics from a classic era, this set boasts cuts by Ron Dante, Lou Christie, Tommy Roe, Gary Lewis and Bobby Vee.

• "A Windham Hill Christmas -- I'll Be Home for Christmas" (Windham Hill). From George Winston to Liz Story and Jim Brickman, this 14-track set collects ethereal and soothing tracks from the label's best.

• "The Very Best of Celtic Christmas" (Windham Hill). The venerable label taps the Emerald Isle's rich traditional music across 19 tracks from such storied artists as James Galway, Altan and Donal Lunny.