VARIOUS ARTISTS ``A Very Special Christmas'' (A&M 3911) - This is the one everybody's talking about - a benefit for the Special Olympics that features some of pop music's biggest stars: U2, Bon Jovi, Whitney Houston, the Pretenders, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, John Cougar Mellencamp, Bob Seger, Stevie Nicks, the Eurythmics, and the Pointer Sisters. Run-D.M.C.'s rap number, ``Christmas in Hollis,'' and Sting's contrapuntal ``Gabriel's Message'' are among the best, along with Bryan Adams's foot-stomping blues ``Run Rudolph Run,'' and Alison Moyet's affecting version of ``The Coventry Carol.'' Madonna's ``Santa Baby'' is a hoot. THE FORESTER SISTERS ``A Christmas Card'' (Warner Bros. 25623-1) - The Foresters blend their voices in a collection of traditional carols and contemporary songs (``An Old Christmas Card,'' ``Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree,'' etc.). Good all around, with a nice country feel. Best of all are their shimmering harmonies on old carols such as ``The First No"el,'' ``Silent Night,'' and ``Away in a Manger.''
REBA McENTIRE ``Merry Christmas to You'' (MCA-42031) - Simple, straightforward, captivating versions of Christmas favorites like ``O Holy Night'' and ``I'll Be Home for Christmas'' by country-and-western's favorite songstress. Also includes ``The Christmas Guest,'' a story-song by Grandpa Jones, and a spoken introduction to ``Silent Night,'' telling how the song originated. Mel Torm'e's ``Christmas Song'' gets a bluesy treatment, and there's a nice instrumental of ``White Christmas'' with acoustic guitar, pedal steel guitar, and fiddle.
CELIA LIPTON ``Merry Christmas With Love'' (Independent Record Corp. CMLS 1392) - A homey offering from Miss Lipton, whose cozy voice lends a nice touch to a collection of Christmas favorites such as ``Sleigh Ride,'' ``Jingle Bells,'' and ``White Christmas,'' as well as a few lesser-known songs: ``Child,'' ``Puppet on a String,'' and ``I Dreamed a Lovely Dream.'' Too bad the arrangements are so unimaginative.
AIR SUPPLY ``The Christmas Album'' (Arista AL-8528) - Soft-rock duo lend their voices to an album of traditional Christmas songs and originals. The two aren't particularly strong singers and are often painfully flat. But they shine on the two originals, which are more suited to their style: ``Love Is All'' and ``The Eyes of a Child.'' The best part of this album are the rich orchestral arrangements by John D'Andrea. Almost makes you wish it was an instrumental album. Includes ``Silent Night,'' Torm'e's ``The Christmas Song,'' ``Winter Wonderland,'' and others.
DWIGHT YOAKAM ``Santa Claus is Back in Town'' (Reprise 45 RPM) - This single (not available on any album) has Yoakam singing his Santa song, a finger poppin' down-home shuffle blues. On the flip side, he says a Christmas Eve nighty-night to his cohorts, the Babylonian Cowboys, with Al Perkins joining him on ``Jingle Bells.''