I’m somewhat famously Scroogish about Christmas music. Fifteen years ago, the radio started playing Christmas music (earlier and earlier every year) ad nauseum this time of year, and even though I haven’t listened to the radio (to any meaningful degree) for a good six years now, I’m still not over feeling that I’ve heard too much Christmas music. At least, of a certain variety, because the radio (and retail establishments) do tend to play a certain type.
But I like Christmas–and I do have particular Christmas albums and songs I enjoy.
1) A Christmas Album by Michael Crawford – I mean…Crawford! He brings all that emotional heft and incredible range of notes to Christmas music and it’s beautiful. It’s also mostly non-“certain type” songs. His “Journey to Bethlehem” medley of a good dozen religious songs is breath-taking, and his “O Holy Night” is SO Crawford. There’s a repeated refrain of “O night divine.” The first time I listened to this song, after a good dramatic “O night divine,” I thought–no, it’s Crawford, he’s going to go bigger. And sure enough, he repeats it one more time even more dramatically.
2) John Denver and the Muppets – On the possible other side of the spectrum…this really is the Muppets singing Christmas carols, with occasional accompaniment by John Denver. Miss Piggy squawks indignant about “piggy pudding” (“no, no, figgy pudding”) and throughout “Little St. Nick” you can hear Animal yelling, “Run, run, reindeer!” in the background. It’s great fun, and there’s a few more heartfelt moments too.
3) That Holiday Feeling by Steve and Eydie – This is at least half “certain type” songs so I’m not entirely sure why it’s my one exception. Maybe the two of them just really sound like they’re having so much fun. Or maybe there’s some inner child that loved this album long ago and gives it a pass now.
4) All of Amy Grant’s, but especially Home for Christmas – Grant sings a nice medley of religious songs and ones that kind of sound like “certain type” songs, but are not actually the same ones that get played over and over and over again. And “Grown-up Christmas List” nearly brought me to tears this year.
5) “Snoopy’s Christmas” which is just a song, not a full CD. Snoopy confronts the Red Baron on Christmas Eve; the Red Baron forces him to land behind enemy lines, and just when he thinks all is lost–the Baron wishes him “Merry Christmas,” they share a toast and fly off again. It’s sort of the Snoopy version of Joyeux Noel, and quite lovely actually.
6) Because It’s Christmas by Barry Manilow – This one is pretty good but also amuses me…mostly because Manilow being Manilow, King of the sad “I loved her and lost her” songs, manages to get four of those onto a ten-track Christmas CD. The best is “I Guess There Ain’t No Santa Claus,” featuring the lines, “Sugar plums in my head, only me in my bed,” and “They sure got it right when they sang ‘silent night.'” In a way, I admire the whole thing–because clearly he did a Christmas album his way!
That actually might speak to all my favorites. They all have a very distinct sound, all very different from each other and, by and large, different from the Christmas music the world wants to push on me every December.
What’s your view on Christmas (or holiday) music? Love it, hate it? A little of both? And…any recommendations?
4 thoughts on “Favorites Friday: Holiday Albums”
My favorite is “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, with the complete soundtrack to the Peanuts Christmas special. I just love the jazzy feel of it, and the mix of songs. I like Amy Grant, too. Her albums are a good mix of traditional, popular, and new Christmas songs.
Good choices for Christmas songs and albums. Another that I’d recommend is Susan Boyle’s The Gift, but only if you’re in the mood for songs that inspire you. You won’t find Jingle Bells or Santa Baby here. Just eight great Christmas classics, plus Auld Lang Syne and a beautiful rendition of the Prayer of St. Francis, all in Susan’s incredible voice.
I own various different recordings of a few favorites: Oh Holy Night, Silent Night, Angeles We Have Heard on High, Joy to the World, and a few others. I also own several by Pentatonix, Home Free, and Peter Hollens. And I also love JD and the Muppets, and Snoopy’s Christmas!
I feel the same about the stuff they play on the radio. I’ve managed not to listen to it at all this year and thus avoided those overplayed songs that I really hate. And with the wide range of Christmas songs and artists who have Christmas albums, I find it hard to understand why they have such a small library and play the same ones over and over. I swear my own personal Christmas music library is bigger than the radio’s.
I like the Pentatonix albums (they have three now). Garth Brooks & the Magic of Christmas… it was the first Christmas album I bought and it just isn’t Christmas without popping that in first thing and starting off with ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.’ Bing Crosby’s ‘Merry Christmas’ of course. And then a compilation CD I picked up for cheap at Target (you know the kind?). ‘A Crooner’s Christmas’ featuring the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, and others.