“Does your jingle need a jangle? Is your Christmas spirit in a tangle? Here are a few holiday hits you might admit, are the best of old and the newfangled.”
OK, admittedly not my best work—poetry was never my strong suit, though like most of us I appreciate the poetry found in all music and the power it has to change our moods, reflect our feelings, and keep us company if we’re down. Perhaps this time of year, more than any, music has the power to restore and renew. Whatever Christmas means to you, some of the music played only around this time of the year is worth a listen. Though I appreciate the slow, contemplative ballads of Christmas, I can also appreciate rockin’ party tunes and new arrangements of old classics. Here are a few favorite albums and individual songs that stand the test of time.
Harry Connick Jr. “When My Heart Finds Christmas” (Album) This 1993 gem contains 14 songs that transport the listener through the full gamut of Christmas emotion. From the nostalgic “Sleigh Ride” through the soothing title track, to the spiritual (“The Blessed Dawn of Christmas,” “Little Drummer Boy,” “Ave Maria,” and “O Holy Night,”) to the New Orleans-inspired, party-friendly “It must have been ol’ Santa Clause,” and “Let it Snow.” This is the twelfth best-selling Christmas album of all time, going triple platinum with more than 3 million copies sold. Trust me on this one.
Vince Guaraldi Trio “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (Album) You’d have to be living under a rock to not know this is the 50th anniversary of the “A Charlie Brown Christmas” TV special, which first aired in 1965. While the world fell in love with the sweet simple story of the Peanuts gang, and the everyman Charlie Brown, it was the jazz soundtrack that most resonated with so many. A simple Jazz trio with piano, stand-up bass and drums was all that was needed to seal the deal in making the instrumental jazz selections of the film’s soundtrack magical. Once again, from the sacred to the secular the music of this album captures the Christmas experience in what is the tenth best-selling Christmas album with some 3.5 million copies sold. Only a real Grinch would dismiss this classic.
Elvis Presley “Elvis’ Christmas Album” (1957) Ranking at number one, this is the best-selling Christmas album of all time, with more than 10 million copies sold. The King reigns supreme. Plenty of authentic rockabilly along with Christmas and gospel classics make this a winner for most. If you’re not fully sold on the “all Elvis” prospect of a 12-song set, consider at least “Blue Christmas,” “Santa Claus is back in town,” and “Here Comes Santa Clause,” this is Elvis and the Jordanaires at their finest.
Bob Rivers “I Am Santa Claus” (Album 1993) For the profane (and very funny) check out these reimagined Christmas classics from former Seattle-based radio personality Bob Rivers. “Walkin’ ‘Round in Women’s Underwear” to the tune of “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland,” and the heavy metal “I Am Santa Clause” to the tune of “Iron Man,” plus a whole lot more Christmas ridiculousness.
Train “Christmas in Tahoe” (album 2015). Just when you thought you’d heard everything, now you can add Train to the long train of rock artists making Christmas music. With a mix of classics and originals, the album is a bit of an oddity, but the catchy “Shake Up Christmas” music video has already garnered 43 million YouTube views. Also noteworthy is Train’s cover of the Donny Hathaway R&B classic “This Christmas.”
This is a tiny sampling of the Christmas fare available to anyone with a smartphone, tablet, or even a CD plyer. In the digital age it’s never been easier to buy singles and arrange them in your own custom playlist. Sample songs, blow a few bucks on the ones you like and let the music of the season speak to you of the sacred, the secular, and the joy of the season.
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