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Dreck the Halls 

CL's sound + vision holiday guide

This holiday shopping season, we here at CL consider it our civic duty to provide a brief but handy list of items to sate the ever-ravenous music fans on your -- Christmas? Hanukkah? Kwanzaa? (Eid) al Adha? -- list. MC Kris Kringle may be urging your materialism to take a more rampant (and blingtastic) turn, but these gifts should still flummox the herd of soccer moms at the mall:

OH MI BOD: Cum on feel the noize to the vibrations of your favorite hot mp3s this season. Easily jacked into your own iPod, this white and chrome device will have your 'ho 'ho 'hos spreading for XXX-mas cheer, digital style. -- Kandia Crazy Horse

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GUITAR FLY SWATTER: Strum 'n' Swat Jam out while enjoying a pest-free Dixie home with this unbreakable plastic guitar fly swatter. No one ever said you couldn't swat in style. This gift comes in black and is approximately 14" x 5." -- Maria Fisichello

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MR. DARCY IS THE ARCHETYPAL DARK, ROMANTIC ANTIHERO, FA-SHIZZLE -- and so is the literary figure who propels literate, fanciful budding groupies towards lanky ax slingers. The DVD version of A&E's production of Pride and Prejudice offers the pleasures Jane Austen's now-gone 18th century era via a mini-series devoid of the commercial interruptions of the basic cable broadcast. Whether in one long afternoon or doled-out as snippets over an extended period, one can luxuriate in this charming comedy of manners presented with the kind of nuance that brings us closer to the experience of reading the novel while simultaneously providing all the enjoyment that cinema affords the eye -- especially with the good-looking cast (Darcy = Colin Firth!) and the vistas of England's stately homes and green-and-pleasant land. -- Dr. Camara D. Holloway

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RED, WHITE & CRÜE:Vince Neil turns Dr. Peelgood? Well, Vince Vineyards is now offering red and white wines courtesy of the infamous Crüe frontman and apparent Sideways understudy. Forget smack and gack -- your holiday dining requires Neil's inaugural vintages: 2002 Vince Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon & 2003 Vince Sonoma County Chardonnay. Available exclusively from the online Vinesse Wine Shop, this grape will turn your yule cheer all the way up to 11. -- KCH

JAM CRUISE: Rock the Boat Rock your way to beautiful beaches on Jam Cruise 5. Enjoy live entertainment from 34 bands while visiting Turks and Caicos Islands and the private island Cayo Levantado beginning Jan. 1, 2007. Turks and Caicos is known for their coral reefs and great fishing while Cayo Levantado offers breathtaking natural rainforests and excellent whale watching. -- MF

eMUSIC SUBSCRIPTION: Music makes the world go round. Start the holiday spirit off right and buy your loved one an eMusic subscription. With over 2 million songs to choose from, there is no doubt you will find the perfect Christmas cheer for any audience. Begin with a free trial and score 25 free downloads for your iPod or any mp3 player. Songs are only 33 cents or less after the first 25 so you can download enough Christmas songs to keep you in the spirit all year! -- MF

OH HELL TO THE NO! T-Shirt: Loud and Clear Don't even bother asking the question because the answer is "Oh Hell To The No!" Referencing Whitney Houston's crackish co-starring turn on Being Bobby Brown, you can keep the memory of their doomed, New Jack Swingin' marriage alive with Whitney's catchphrase "Oh Hell to the Naw!" emblazoned proudly across your chest. Say Hell No in sizes medium to triple extra large (depending on how loud you want to yell it; the larger, the louder). -- MF

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HOMICIDE -- LIFE ON THE STREETS is the most rock & roll show to ever emerge from network primetime, despite not resembling anything like Shindig! or Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. Homicide's rockist veneer comes from its hard, edgy aesthetic and true grit. That the show abided as long as it did outside the edgier realm of cable programming is a miracle in and of itself.

For 122 episodes (plus a 2000 telefilm), NBC's Homicide featured a magnificent ensemble of actors comprising the complex cast of "murder police" working in a Baltimore precinct. Inspired by David Simon's non-fiction tome Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, the resultant show is considered the most realistic cop drama ever aired, riveting for its breakout star, Andre Braugher ("Frank Pembleton"), stalwart leader "G" (Yaphet Kotto), and guest appearances from James Earl Jones, Robin Williams, Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Rock, Moses Gunn and Aerosmith's Joe Perry among others.

As we approach the holiday season and begin to contemplate gift acquisitions, do yourself the favor and consider the new Homicide box set for your more enlightened rocker/hard-to-shop-for friends who might appreciate it; these seven seasons are a must for diehards. I say box -- the set's literally a file drawer's full of all episodes, the 3 crossovers with Law & Order and the belated Homicide movie, immediately invoking the "Rosebud" that was the Adina Watson case for neophyte detective Tim Bayliss (the extremely hot and ever complex Kyle Secor). Great tunes too! -- KCH

HARD ROCK HOTEL: Smoke the Joint! Party with the rock stars at the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel. One of the most popular performance venues in Las Vegas, The Joint welcomes acts like Wolfmother, Senses Fail, and the cast of Rock Star: Supernova to its stage this holiday month. Get more rockin' info below. -- MF

Boxes o' Blues

John Lee Hooker

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Shout! Factory

Big Bill Broonzy

Amsterdam Live Concerts 1953

Munich Records

Box sets, by their very nature, are for completists. You're fond of a particular artist, or a particular genre, or a particular decade (Hey man, is that Freedom Rock?), and, like any good completist, you wanna get your grubby little hands on whatever musical farts, blips, and burps you can from the obsession of your choice. Put another way, if a song is a short story and an album a novel, then a box set is something like Proust's seven-volume Remembrance of Things Past: only for the exceedingly well-read or the chronically underemployed. (The better to take it all in, of course).

Two new box sets, the 2-CD Broonzy's Amsterdam Live Concerts 1953 (Munich Records) and John Lee Hooker's 4-CD Hooker (Shout! Factory), take this completist conversation one step further. Both, it should be noted here, come highly recommended, in particular the Hooker set. But both sets, in keeping in line with most traditional blues (the Hooker set's first song was recorded in 1949) vary little in structure from song to song, with the exception being the fourth and last Hooker disc, which features collaborations with Van Morrison, Robert Cray, Carlos Santana and others.

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The Broonzy set boasts amazing sonic clarity to be over a half-century old, with the big man in full growl. His picking hadn't yet slowed either; one of the forerunners of the electric blues, he shines particularly bright on two rags, a stomp, and the ascendant standard "Glory of Love." Broonzy's blues come at you hard and fast (particularly evident here on "When The Sun Goes Down" and "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad"), and, more often than not, were mostly penned by the man himself. Perhaps most striking about this set is Broonzy's frank asides (to, it should be noted, a mostly white audience) about the reality of racism in his native America. As is often said, you're never more a native than when you're in exile.

Hooker, containing four discs and 84 tracks total, suffers a bit more for rhythmic repetition, but Hooker's vocal inflections -- alternately grunts and howls and whispers -- keep things carton-fresh. A bedrock for any collection of 20th Century popular music, there are way too many memorable tracks to list here, but suffice it to say the discs, put together chronologically, might best have been compiled in Johnny Cash Love/God/Murder fashion, with separate discs for Women and Lack Thereof, Driftin', Poverty and Hope. To know John Lee Hooker is to know second-generation blues in America, and most of rock & roll. What more can you ask of a box set? -- Timothy C. Davis;

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