So it's after Christmas and your desire is to a) return misbegotten gifts b) keep the par-tay going (in line with the traditional 12-days extension, assorted pagan beliefs and the start of Kwanzaa) or c) find sonic solace for the holiday blues. Check these:
If you're a Southerner with hip-hop-mad offspring, satisfy your child's crunk wish with this cornucopia of crunk-tastic tracks. Crunk Hits (TVT; Rating: ***) covers all your bases for holiday party misrule -- especially Usher's deathless dancefloor monster "Yeah!" -- and might inspire your boss to order you a pimp chalice. Myself, I should be doing more of The Whip (instead of Cool Whip) to Lil Jon & the Eastside Boyz' enduring best jam "Get Low." Sure it's misogynistic -- but a marvel of such sentiment, nonetheless -- and I know he ain't talkin' 'bout me!
Any tweens or adolescent girls in your extended family you're trying to wean from the robo-cheese of Radio Disney? Check out The Like, a Los Angeles trio with two members who've not yet graduated high school. The well-pedigreed band -- all of these gals' fathers are rockbiz honchos -- enchants on their debut Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking? (Geffen; Rating: ***).
Inexplicable country heartthrob Kenny Chesney has somehow lived down the ignominy and innuendo of his brief marriage to Hollywood's A-list. So if you're a repentant husband from the NASCAR set, make amends with your wife by capturing her under the mistletoe with wee Kenny's The Road and the Radio (Sony BMG; Rating: ***) in hand.
Want something fun for the whole family? As Ozzy Osbourne and wife Sharon have already revamped themselves as America's favorite family -- a po-mo, goth Ozzie & Harriet, if you will -- the Dual Disc collection Under Cover (Epic; Rating: **) cannot help but unleash the mirth of young and old alike. Indeed, some of these tracks are as amusing as watching the fogged-in Ozzy lurch around his TV abode in the wake of dog poop -- see particularly John Lennon's "Woman." The sole successful song is the King Crimson cover "21st Century Schizoid Man"; shockingly, "Sympathy For The Devil" never ignites. The arrangements show a great lack of imagination, considering this is the vanity project of a major artist. This laugh riot should be a big seller for all the wrong reasons; what once-and-future rock snob wants to admit Under Cover is missing from his collection?
Any offspring of yours that belongs to Gen X or younger is probably unaware of the importance of traditional kaiso (calypso) to the genesis of hip-hop. School them this season with a collection of one of the mid-20th century's greatest proto MCs: the Mighty Sparrow. The postwar Trinidadian star's early work is collected on First Flight Early Calypsos from the Emory Cook Collection (Smithsonian Folkways; Rating: *** 1/2). First Flight is full of bravado, razor-sharp wordplay and high rhetoric -- in short, mad skillz that would make today's conscious rappers quake at their consoles. With their swinging orchestral backing and creolized vocals, much older calypso sounds quaint to postmodern ears. The acute ear will be aware that the fun, party-hearty "jump in the line" lyrics mask pointed social and political criticism of West Indian colonial regimes and their corrupt native compradors -- see "No, Doctor, No (The Situation in Trinidad)," "Gun Slingers," "Mad Bomber" and more. These tracks are evidence of sonic continuity rather than a dead aesthetic. As the Mighty One declares on "No More Rocking:" his music ain't nothin' but "rhythm and rhyme." So when's Snoop gonna steal from -- erm, sample -- tha Sparrow?
Whether you need to clear a room full of kin, get your kids out from underfoot or chill out after a long, hard day of baking Virginia hams and mince pies, the late jazz icon John Coltrane should do the trick. Especially the wild honking and wailing of his saxophone on "Afro Blue," the Disc One closing track of new Coltrane compilation One Down, One Up Live at the Half Note (Impulse; Rating: ****). Unless they're devoted parishioners of the Church of John Coltrane in San Francisco, your relatives may not thrill to the unfettered genius of one of America's last jazz giants, inured as they are to the lite sonic wallpaper of Kenny G. and his ilk (curly Kenny's got a Christmas album out too!). Any true music aficionado, though, should not fail to dig this live document of Coltrane's classic quartet -- McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), Elvin Jones (drums) -- in the final year of its run, 1965. The comp's version of "My Favorite Things" must rank as one of Coltrane's greatest recorded improvisations and it will release sublime sheets of sound throughout your abode, disseminating metaphysical pleasure you can buy. All players are at peak power, the fidelity trumps previous bootlegs and the legend of Trane rolls on intact.
Of course, the haunting, long ragas of Coltrane's influence Ravi Shankar could also scatter der kinder and provide a great chillout soundtrack. Get the Indian sitar master's The Essential Ravi Shankar (Columbia/Private Music/Legacy; Rating: ****) and try it.