We are deep into the holiday season, so I figured I would share with you some of my favorite Christmas albums. My tastes are pretty orthodox for the most part when it comes to Christmas music, but for me these albums conjure up images of Christmases past: opening presents by the Christmas tree, feeling all warm and cozy, and a cold and snowy New Hampshire winter. All very “A Christmas Story.” (by the way, yesterday I read a very entertaining “where are they now” article about the cast of “A Christmas Story”. Check it out)
One more important point too…it’s absolutely essential that you try to listen to these album on vinyl at least once. The crackling and popping of the needle on a record adds to the overall experience. So here are a few of Trav’s All-Time Holiday Faves:
Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas: This is, of course, one of the coolest Christmas jazz albums ever, and I’m happy to say that I’m the one who introduced this album into the catalog of my family’s holiday essentials. I don’t have to say too much about this one, since it’s such a complete classic that includes “Christmas Time is Here” and “Linus and Lucy,” as well as a beautiful jazzy version of “O Tanenbaum,” and the lovely impressionistic waltz “Skating.”
Johnny Mathis, Christmas with Johnny Mathis: Johnny Mathis recorded a lot of Christmas albums, but this one stands out for me because a)It’s the one my parents owned, so we listened to it all the time, and b) It has Johnny singing “The Hallelujah Chorus” by Handel, which is totally awesome. His version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” is cool too. I seem to remember a version of him doing “Hark the Herald Angels” sing too, but it’s not on this record. I also don’t remember this album cover, the original having more like a head shot, so maybe this cover is a re-release? I’m not a Johnny Mathis fan by any means, but this music is so damn warm.
Brenda Lee, Jingle Bell Rock: Brenda Lee was an early 60’s pop star that didn’t ever achieve major critical respect, but I’m surprised when someone is not familiar with this album, since it had the quintessential versions of “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” There are some other lesser known songs too such as “Marshmallow World,” “Strawberry Snow,” and “The Angel and the Little Blue Bell,” that are really very pretty and kind of bittersweet too.
Elvis Presley, The Elvis Presley Christmas Album: As with Johnny Mathis, I’m not an Elvis fan, but one can’t deny that this album is a classic. One thing I noticed is all the songs clock in at under 3 minutes…just tune after tune of holiday cheer with Elvis! Of course there’s “Blue Christmas” which everyone knows, but no Christmas is complete without hearing Elvis get down on “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” I’m also surprised when people say they’ve never heard “Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me,” sacrilege! I have to also comment on this album cover…let’s take a random picture of Elvis, superimpose it amidst some holiday icons and blammo! You’ve got yourself a Christmas album.
The Carpenters, Christmas Collection: Although I’ve gotten into The Carpenters in more recent years, I can remember listening to many of these songs on the radio as a child, bundled up in the back of my parents’ car going to visit relatives on Christmas Eve. I’m blown away by how much Christmas music The Carpenters actually recorded. They must have really liked Christmas! I can’t say that I’m into all of this stuff right across the board – and a little of The Carpenters goes a long way for me, but a song like “Merry Christmas Darling” is really cool because it hits the mark and it’s an original…a perfect example of their mastery of songwriting. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” are also beautiful.
Happy Holidays everyone!