The Drop: Chronicle’s guide for the music store

Various ArtistsFred Claus: Music from the Motion PictureWarner Brothers RecordsFour out of five stars

While the Vince Vaughn-helmed holiday flick “Fred Claus” discovered coal in its critic-stocked stocking this year, the film’s soundtrack definitely makes the nice list. From Johnny Mercer’s rendition of “Jingle Bells” to The Ronettes’ “Sleigh Ride,” the compilation is packed with holiday hits from an era before the equation of Christmas albums equal quick bucks for boy bands and aging R&B divas. The list of classics goes on: Doris Day, Jackson 5, Russ Morgan, Elvis Presley. Finally, we have a Christmas film soundtrack that takes an enjoyable journey into Christmas past and not crass consumerism’s future.

Isley Brothers Featuring Ronald IsleyI’ll Be Home for ChristmasDef Jam Music GroupThree out of five stars

In more than 50 years of Top-40 chart topping, The Isley Brothers have steered clear of the cliché Christmas album, and the brothers’ first, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, proves they still intend to do that. With production from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, as well as jazz guitar mastery via legend Doc Powell, I’ll Be Home for Christmas‘ diverse blend of pop standards (“Santa Claus is Coming to Town”), holiday classics (“Silent Night”) and soulful love songs (“I’m in Love,” “What Can I Buy You?”) covers the X-mas bases without sacrificing the family’s deeply soulful style. Spin the “Isley Christmas Medley” around your significant other this coming holiday season and prepare for gifts of a uniquely intimate nature.

Toby KeithA Classic ChristmasShow Dog NashvilleThree out of five stars

Keith’s A Classic Christmas is to holiday music what the Wal-Mart blowout sale is to the true spirit of the season. If you’re a Toby Keith fan, you’ll likely kill to defend this record’s honor. If not, this is not for you. Country flair abounds in the fiddles of “Silver Bells” and honky-tonk strut of “Frosty the Snowman” as Keith belts these 20 Christmas classics into submission. Non-country fans will likely have a hard time reconciling the Nashville flair of many tracks with reverent Christmas celebration.

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