Garth Brooks and George Strait

Xmas Records

Record Reviews

Garth Brooks

The Magic of Christmas (Capitol)

George Strait

Merry Christmas Wherever You Are (MCA)

Why is Garth Brooks glowering like Glenn Danzig on the cover of The Magic of Christmas? Maybe it was that big Chris Gaines lump of coal. At any rate, he sounds as full of the Christmas spirit as he looks; about the only things that sound like his motor was revving at all are "Baby Jesus Is Born" and "Go Tell It on the Mountain," and that's probably just the gospel choir. The rest are by-the-numbers revisitations of pop Christmas standards ("The Christmas Song," "Silver Bells," "White Christmas") that suggest Brooks is aiming to supplant Andy Williams as the MOR Yuletide King. The serious religious stuff ("God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "O Little Town of Bethlehem") is a little less wooden, but not much. There's a big ol' smile from George Strait on the cover of Merry Christmas Wherever You Are, but only 30 minutes of music, and nothing that necessitates making a Yule log out of that copy of Merry Christmas Strait to You. "Jingle Bell Rock," "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth," and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" are all pleasant enough, but the title-track centerpiece is just flat-out depressing, more so than even Dwight Yoakam's "Santa Can't Stay." You'd think with all the albums these guys have sold, they'd sound a little merrier. Must be tough being a big country superstar. Sniff.

(Both) **

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