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Music Reviews: Santa's Reindeer Deliver a Musical Mix of Holiday Pix

'Tis the season for traditions, and a tradition this reviewer began two years ago enlists the aid of Santa's reindeer in choosing excellent children's music as special gifts for the holidays. Children's music is evergreen so we're reaching deep down into Santa's bag for some musical treats that would be-hoof you to listen to.

So grab your gift list and pen and hold on tight 'cause here we go for more reindeer droppings!

Dasher here Just got in from my morning run to Reykjavik and back and ready for my rubdown. But not before I tell you about my buddy Buck Howdy's Giddyup! (Prairie Dog Entertainment, $13.99 CD; www.buckhowdy.com ). Can't tell you how many times I've heard Giddyup, a fine trail mix of classic and original western tunes with the Buck Howdy spin. Did you know that Dale Evans wrote "Happy Trails"? I did not know that! Oh, there's also a song about "Baked Beans" that had Dancer almost cracking an antler!

Hi, I'm Dancer and, no, I didn't crack an antler as we call it, but it was funny. My picky wicky after dance practice - I want to be on that Dancin' with the Bears show - is one of the best storytellers around, Bill Harley. He's got a new retrospective CD of some of his best stories and songs from the past 25 years of his career called One More Time (Empyrean Records, $15 CD; www.billharley.com ). There's nothing like curling up in front of a warm fire with your favorite CD on the box! Harley's stories will have Mom and Dad snorting marshmallows out their noses!

Oh gross! High-ho, I'm Prancer and I prefer the more delicate things in life but I have a secret passion for folk music! That's why I'm picking Tom Chapin's Some Assembly Required (Sundance Music, $15 CD; www.tomchapin.com ). Fine new songs, excellent musicians, terrific production and guest stars like Vanessa Williams, Dan Zanes and Laurie Berkner make this CD a winner! Well, back to my needlepoint, ta ta.

Vixen here and let's get some doe's in the mix - get my drift? Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer's Scat Like That: A Musical Word Odyssey (Rounder Records, $14.98 CD; www.rounder.com ) fits the proverbial bill. Fun-filled, upbeat tunes from two award-winning veterans that educate as they deftly entertain with songs about pirates, tongue twisters, limericks and riddles. And if you can keep up with the "Pig Latin Polka Dance," you're a better reindeer than I!


Whew! I'm Comet - just got through cleaning the stalls - and I'm ready like Freddy to share my pick, the latest Ralph's World release called Green Gorilla Monster & Me (Mini Fresh Records, $15 CD; www.ralphsworld.com ). Great pop hooks, infectious rock rhythms, and strong vocals support clever songs that the folks could handle even on long car trips. This CD is clean!

I'm Cupid and someone that has always touched my heart is Mr. Rogers. The beloved sweater-wearer's Songs From The Neighborhood (Memory Lane Syndication, $14.95 CD DVD, $17.95 Keepsake Package; www.songsfromtheneighborhood.com ) will touch your heart too. Mr. Roger's gentle, loving, heartfelt songs still offer a safe oasis to return to again and again. This special tribute utilizes the talents and vocal stylings of Amy Grant, B.J. Thomas, Bobby Caldwell, Crystal Gayle, Donna Summer, Roberta Flack and a host of others. The arrangements are terrific! Did you know that Santa has a sweater just like the one Mr. Rogers' mother knitted for him? It's true, I think. Love you, Mr. Rogers!

Who's that, Donder over yonder? I just love saying that, anyhoo, call me Donny, like the Osmond. OK, I'm going to serious up and tell you about a couple of musical artists that were displaced by Hurricane Katrina - Johnette Downing (Music Time, Wiggle Worm Music, $15 CD; www.johnettedowning.com ) and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas (World Fiesta - Celebrations in Story & Song, The Story Connection, $17 CD; www.storyconnection.net ). Many of their performance resources and sources of income have disappeared. You can help them by purchasing their fine CDs and books, or bringing them to your town for a show or two.

It's Blitzen time! And I'm excited to tell you about Craig Taubman's Inscribed - Songs for Holy Days (Sweet Louise Productions, $15 CD; www.craignco.com ). New melodies, beautifully performed, for the Jewish High Holidays that "respect the tradition and move the worshiper."

And what about the most famous reindeer of all? He dug out a couple of plums from Santa's sack: J.P. Nightingale's The Wonder of the Written Word and Around the World With J.P. Nightingale (Nightingale Notes, $13 CD each; www.jpnightingale.com ). These guys are the best Oh, and I'm supposed to say that this reviewer wrote and performs a lot of the songs. Rudolph can be bought!

- Happy Holidays from John Wood and all the Reindeers!

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