If the sounds of Christmas mean "Jingle Bell Rock" or "Blue Christmas" to you rather than "Silent Night," this celebration of the season's secular songs should be under your tree this year. Although Christmas records date back to the dawn of recorded sound (a barbershop-style "Jingle Bells" waxed in 1902), the success of Bing Crosby's 1942 "White Christmas" (for many years the largest-selling record of any kind) set the standard secular Christmas song themes of home and nostalgia and revealed the huge audience for holiday music. Marsh and Propes thoroughly survey the extensive body of recorded Christmas pop music, from mainstream hits such as Nat King Cole's "Christmas Song" through efforts from such unlikely spreaders of holiday cheer as Spike Jones, Jimi Hendrix, and Madonna, right up to recent all-star charity releases such as "Do They Know It's Christmas." They also offer 10-best lists of songs from different pop subgenres (doowop, rhythm-and-blues, novelty), and dozens of color record jackets. Most of these records may not be exactly timeless, but more of them are reissued every year, it seems, so this little volume may become as much a Christmas standard in libraries as any song it extols. Gordon Flagg
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