Two kinds of people are likely to pick up a CD called The Regis Philbin Christmas Album. The first are genuine Philbin fans, who'll buy anything that bears the mark of his exuberant personality. The second are smart-asses, who think even the title of the record is funny. Philbin and producer Steve Tyrell do what they can to give comfort to both camps, including openly inviting the snark crowd by serving up a duet with Donald Trump on "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer." Philbin and Tyrell probably don't realize that mockers will gravitate closer to the album's one original, the painfully sincere "Where Do We Go For Christmas?" (written by actor-restaurateur Frank Pellegrino). From the opening lines—"There's a spirit within us / We know it as Christmas"—to the inspired rhyme of "kissin'" and "reminiscin'," the song is as cutesy as it is toxic.
At the same time, people who buy The Regis Philbin Christmas Album because they like Philbin will be well-served. Philbin doesn't have the most expressive voice in pop-music history—he sounds like he's burying his chin in his chest to get the deepest tone imaginable—but his voice is amiable and in tune, and it's framed well by Tyrell, who runs an understated choir and some tasteful synthesized orchestration behind a tight piano-guitar-drums cabaret combo. This is old-school Christmas, New York style, with a Murderers' Row song lineup: "White Christmas," "Let It Snow," "Silver Bells," "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," and so on. When the season is over, the CD can be comfortably packed back into the Christmas tub, right next to the candy-cane advent calendar and the talking-reindeer ornament.