In the tradition of Christmas on Death Row, this 1996 holiday CD features Snoop Doggy Dogg's heartwarming rendering, "Santa Claus Goes to the Ghetto." Yes, Virginia, they're here: the anti-Perry Como yuletide collections, Class of 1997.

Stuffing stockings somewhere this Christmas, titles like: RuPaul's Ho Ho Ho..., Acid X-mas and The Soul Train Christmas. (Hanson's Snowed In, the bestselling new holiday album of the season, could be included in this off-beat list, depending on your sense of irony.)

So, hey, whatever happened to Perry Como? Or Bing Crosby, for that matter?

They're still there, along with perennials Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. But ever since producer Phil Spector built his "Wall of Sound" around traditional carols like "Silent Night" in 1963's landmark A Christmas Gift for You, record buyers have been open to holiday music that pushes borders and genres.

It's doubtful if anything pushes the borders this winter more than RuPaul's holiday effort.

"Celebrate Christmas with classic holiday songs and camp, RuPaul style!" trumpet the good folks at Rhino Records who have unleashed this 13-track collection in stores.

The material isn't all that outrageous--oh, sure, "Hard Candy Christmas" and "Funky Christmas (Christmas at My House)" don't really have a lot of church-organ potential--it's more the concept: America's favorite six-foot-plus-tall drag queen doing the chestnuts-roasting-on-the-open-fire thing. (You better work it, Santa.)

A Very Special Christmas is a veteran of working the season, rock-style. The charity effort, now in its third edition, offers big names doing little carols. The A Very Special Christmas III lineup, new in stores this year, includes the anti-Como likes of Smashing Pumpkins and Hootie & the Blowfish. Cody Ritchey of a Manhattan-based Tower Records store says the collection is the top seller of the season in his locations. The holiday albums, overall, being "pretty strong" sellers from late November up until December 24, he says.

Other notable new yuletide alternatives: Acid X-Mas, featuring holly-jolly cuts like "Nutcracker Suite (Dance of the Funky D.J.s)" from Street Beat Records, and The Soul Train Christmas Starfest Album, wherein En Vogue, Patti LaBelle and Kirk Franklin try out the Santa suit for a while.

And if you want, reach back all the way to last year for a neglected holiday "classic." Check out the CD reissue of Christmas in the Stars, an album (originally recorded in 1980) featuring the vocal stylings of Anthony Daniels. Yeah, that Anthony Daniels. The guy who wore the C3PO suit in the Star Wars movies.

May the force be with you.

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