Director's Cuts Music Picks for the Holidays

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As music director of Weekend Edition Sunday, NPR's Ned Wharton supervises music continuity for the show, keeps tabs on what's new and noteworthy in the music world and produces many of the artist features heard on the program.

For this holiday edition of Director's Cuts, he presents his picks for the season...

'Tchaikovsky's Greatest Hit'

Detail from 'Tchaikovsky's Greatest Hit'

For those who just can't get enough of this holiday chestnut, this collection offers three fun renditions: a classic recording with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, a plucky version from the Modern Mandolin Quartet, a cartoonesque Spike Jones retelling from 1945, and an eight-hand, 40-finger version from a 1941 recording of the First Piano Quartet.

Listen: Nutcracker Suite: Overture

Listen: Nutcracker Suite: Russian Dance

Listen: Nutcracker Suite, Pt. 3 -- The Chinese Dolls/The Fairy Ball: ...

Listen: Nutcracker Suite: Waltz of the Flowers

Handel Messiah

Detail from 'The Robert Shaw Chorale & Orchestra: Handel Messiah'

Another holiday classic has been reissued this year: the Grammy-winning recording from 1966 by The Robert Shaw Chorale & Orchestra.

Listen: And the Glory of the Lord

Listen: Hallelujah Chorus

AM60: 'Big as the Sky'

Detail from 'AM60 - Big as the Sky'

Chris Root, perhaps better known in this country for his work with the retro Brazilianesque group Mosquitos (who, incidentally, have a new CD of their own this year), has been working with this group of his own for quite a while, but only now has the music been released in this country. "Big As the Sky" by A.M. Sixty also has a youthful and sunny sound, a kind of American tropicalia.

Listen: Summertime Girlfriend

Listen: Just a Dream

'SpongeBob SquarePants'

Detail from 'SpongeBob SquarePants Soundtrack'

If you can bear the tracks of SpongeBob himself singing, the soundtrack to the SquarePants movie does have some fun cuts that all ages might enjoy, including songs from The Shins, Wilco, The Flaming Lips and Avril Lavigne.

Listen: Spongebob Squarepants Theme

Listen: They'll Soon Discover

Daara J: 'Boomerang'

Detail from 'Daara J -- Boomerang'

From Senegal, Daara J leader Faada Freddy delivers an extraordinarily virtuosic rap called "tasso" — a rhythmic poetry tradition that goes back generations. The CD Boomerang evokes something like a South Bronx-Dakar musical axis.

Listen: Boomerang

Listen: Esperenza

Issa Bagayogo: 'Tassoumakan'

Detail from 'Issa Bagayogo -- Tassoumakan'

Recorded in Bamako, Mali's Issa Bagayogo creates ethereal grooves with a highly produced sound on the cd "Tassoumakan." He's known in his native land as "Techno Issa."

Listen: Kanou

Audio is not available

'38 Songs of Hope'

Detail from '38 Songs of Hope: Parkinsong Volume One'

Washington, D.C. lawyer Rob Litowitz honors his mother Selma with this collection of music to raise funds for Parkinson's Disease research. With the help of David Crosby, Rob contacted artists and secured music rights to an extraordinary 2-CD compilation that includes tracks from Bonnie Raitt, Alejandro Escovedo, Dar Williams, Dave Alvin and others.

Listen: Man in the Bed

Listen: Don't Lay Down

'The Beginning of Survival'

Detail from 'Joni Mitchell --The Beginning of Survival'

Joni Mitchell curated this collection of her own politically-oriented songs, remastered with pristine sound. The songs include "The Magdalene Laundries," "Lakota," "Cool Water" and others.

Listen: Lakota

Listen: Cool Water

'Refuge of the Roads'

Detail from Joni Mitchell 'Refuge of the Roads' DVD Cover

This DVD chronicles Joni Mitchell's 1983 concert tour, featuring high-energy performances of "Raised on Robbery," "Wild Things Run Fast," and "Solid Love," as well as a powerfully stark solo rendition of "Woodstock."

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SpongeBob SquarePants: Original Theme Highlights

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Album
SpongeBob SquarePants: Original Theme Highlights
Artist
Various Artists
Label
Sire/ Wea
Released
2004

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Tchaikovsky's Greatest Hit: The Ultimate Nutcracker

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Album
Tchaikovsky's Greatest Hit: The Ultimate Nutcracker
Artist
Various Artists
Label
RCA
Released
2004

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Handel: Messiah

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Album
Handel: Messiah
Artist
Robert Shaw
Label
RCA
Released
2004

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Big as the Sky

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Album
Big as the Sky
Artist
A.M. 60
Label
V2 Records
Released
2004

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Boomerang

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Boomerang
Artist
Daara J
Label
Wrasse Records
Released
2004

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Tassoumakan

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Tassoumakan
Artist
Issa Bagayogo
Label
Six Degrees
Released
2004

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The Beginning of Survival

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The Beginning of Survival
Artist
Joni Mitchell
Label
Geffen Records
Released
2004

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Parkinsong, Vol. 1: 38 Songs of Hope

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Album
Parkinsong, Vol. 1: 38 Songs of Hope
Artist
Various Artists
Label
Ryko
Released
2004

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