Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas Music


It is finally that time of year again, although some started back on November 1st. Pull out the Christmas music. What albums do you own? The stuff you grew up with or some of the new stuff that comes out every year. It is a shame that most artists feel the freedom to pop into the studio at some point in their career and cash in on an easy album. (Some, like Amy Grant, have done this so often that they are now releasing Greatest Hits Christmas Albums!) Why bother cutting your own version of a song that has already been given the definitive treatment? Or at least why record a version that does not surpass anything done before?

The height of Christmas album history has to be the two decades between Bing Crosby’s first ever album, Merry Christmas (1945) and the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965). The definitive album to end all Christmas albums was released near the end of this golden age, The Andy Williams Christmas Album (1963). (His first, not his second one.)

That is not to say that there have not been worthy albums since then. The past two decades have seen some great albums as well. Michael W. Smith’s Christmas (1989) (his first, not his second one) showcased his songwriting skills over his vocal talents. Steven Curtis Chapman’s (first, not second Christmas album, although his second is not bad) The Music of Christmas (1995) has some great interpretations of old classics and some truly new classics of its own. Point of Grace’s A Christmas Story (1999) (again, their first, not their second) has a classic sound with good new offerings. Mercy Me’s The Christmas Sessions (2005) manages to rock while sounding traditional.

On a guilty pleasure level, Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas (1996) is great, and Trans Siberian’s Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 is a single worth listening too. If you already own the greats and want more, Straight No Chaser is an a cappella group taking a page from Bing Crosby’s playbook and making their first ever album a Christmas one: Holiday Spirits (2008). For those just wanting a track off iTunes, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones have a great version of Linus and Lucy out this year.

Worst ever Christmas song? Paul McCartney: Wonderful Christmastime (1979) Yechk!

5 comments:

  1. Hey! Did you grow up in my house? Bing Crosby and Andy Williams---it just doesn't get any better than that. Unless it's the Three Chipmunks old version! ha!

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  2. The first Christmas CD I bought after leaving home was Andy William's. I had to have it to really have Christmas. I think it is pure nostalgia, some of those child harmonies on there sound off sometimes (Away in a Manger?) but I grew up with it. To be honest, I don't have Bing's cd, and never have! I actually prefer Andy Williams' version of White Christmas!

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  3. Excuse me, but the greatest Christmas album EVER would belong to the king, Elvis Presley. When he sings, Here Comes Santa Claus, you know Christmas is really right around the corner.

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  4. Yeah, I read that his was the most sold Christmas album of all time, but I can honestly say this: I have never heard a Christmas song of his!

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  5. OH, Here are the good ones! How did I miss this?
    You left out Perry Como!
    I COMPLETELY agree about McCartney's terrible Wonderful Christmastime!!
    I never sent you Josh Groban's Noel, which I meant to get you while you were here! SO good! or did I bring you a copy?

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