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Anyway, closing with Styx's Tommy Shaw leading an almost-acoustic session of John Lennon's "Merry Xmas (War Is Over)" signals Metal Xmas has gone on a bit too long, but overall, it's a hoot. A who's who of all-star metal maniacs — Alice Cooper, Lemmy, Ronnie James Dio, Dave Grohl, Tony Iommi and about a dozen others — acquit themselves quite nicely on a broad range of postwar Christmas pop, "Silver Bells" to "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"

Not to be missed are Testament's Chuck Billy and Anthrax's Scott Ian totally Panteraizing "Silent Night"; Dio, Iommi and friends turning "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" into the blackest of Sabbaths; Ratt's Stephen Pearcy and L.A. Guns' Tracii Guns' sleazoid Sunset Strip hit-and-run "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"; and the one-of-a-kind threesome of Lemmy, Grohl and ZZ Top's Billy F. Gibbons's sleigh-bells boogie "Run Rudolph Run."

Alice Cooper comes close, in full Million Dollar Babies mode on a sinister "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," but stealing the show here is Houston's own dUg Pinnick. Assisted by Dokken shredder George Lynch, the King's X front man (see Playbill) steps up and flat nails "The Little Drummer Boy" — away in a manger, the little Lord Jesus is rocking his face off. Pa rum pa pum pum.

Various Artists, Little Steven's Underground Garage Presents Christmas a Go-Go (Wicked Cool): One thing about Christmas songs, every single artist ever to pick up a guitar or drumstick seems to have recorded at least one, a company that apparently includes Joe Pesci, Soupy Sales (kids, ask your grandparents) and garage gods the Electric Prunes. Guaranteed, Christmas a Go-Go is the only place you'll hear Bob Seger and his pre-Silver Bullet band the Last Heard do a kick-ass James Brown on the Mitch Ryder-worthy "Sock It to Me Santa."

It's a Little Steven production all right. No Springsteen, but Keith Richards kicks things off with his appropriately ragged rendition of mentor Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run," followed quickly by the Ramones' leather-jacket Yuletide classic "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)" and Darlene Love's thrilling tower of Spectorian song "All Alone on Christmas."

Steven throws in a couple of ribald R&B numbers for pointers on what to do when the children are nestled all snug in their beds. Alabama soulman Clarence Carter advises, "I ain't like old St. Nick, he only come once a year" on "Back Door Santa," while Memphis's Rufus Thomas, amid waist-deep bass and "Ball of Confusion" horns, warns, "What I got for you mama, it ain't just a toy" on "I'll Be Your Santa."

The Fab Four deserves a tip of the stocking cap for its seamless adaptation of "Silent Night" to the tune of the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood," as do the Chesterfield Kings for spinning "Adeste Fideles" and "Pretty in Pink" into a tasty power-punk candy cane. The Cocktail Slippers' neo-Go-Go's "Santa's Coming Home" begins "Snow is falling from the sky..." — and it really was snowing when the song came on! — and ends in a gloriously Lush-like chorus. (Think "Ladykiller.")

Steven digs up the Kinks' teddy-boy carol "Father Christmas" — "Give us some money / We've got no time for your silly toys — and then there's Pesci's "If It Doesn't Snow on Christmas": "Which one of you little creeps stole the candy canes?" Marone. Even so, to borrow a bit from the Underground Garage radio program, Christmas a Go-Go is definitely the coolest album in the world this week, and the very rare holiday album worth spinning all year long.

chris.gray@houstonpress.com

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