My eclectic Christmas music list is an unusual mix of Motown, early music, crooners, rock and novelty tunes. Maybe you will find something you would like to look up for yourself. I tried to divide them up into obvious categories, but still wound up tossing some stuff into the ever-popular Misc. pile. So without further ado, here we go.
One little ado, first: Hey, an album you can download for free online. It's from Stella Artois, a light jazzy mini-album of 8 tunes (4 one each side, ha). Go to the site the link takes ya, you have to key in a birthdate that shows you are over 21 because they sell alcohol. Then you get to the Stella Artois site, click on the album, and then you can listen and download. Download button will be in lower right. Very cute page and cute girl decorating the page. Should I tag this "hot chicks"? Anyway, you can listen while browsing my list.
Solo or Duet Vocalists
- Christmas with Julie Andrews -- To answer your first question, no, it does not include My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music. It is a collection of 14 traditional English carols. Some are familiar to us like O Little Town of Bethlehem. But some are just old English carols that Americans have never heard, like In the Bleak Midwinter, or See Amid the Winter Snow, or the very old Patapan. They are all beautifully arranged, and her pure voice sends us to another level. This is BTW her only Christmas album in her long career. Sony
- Snowfall, the Tony Bennett Christmas Album -- Bennett rarely misses and he does not disappoint. He is less dramatic in his interpretation than in his showstopper hits, more subdued, more moody. He sings My Favorite Things, in case you missed having it on Andrews album -- and also The Christmas Song by Mel Torme, White Christmas, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, plus a couple medleys (ten numbers in all). Great mood music for a friendly Christmas party. Columbia
- Perry Como Sings Merry Christmas Music -- This CD is packed with 15 tunes that run the gamut from religious to novelty hits like Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Perry always had perfect taste in arrangements and delivery; just listen to his voice alone and hear the simplicity of his phrasing. A master at work. RCA
- Doris Day, Personal Christmas Collection -- Doris had a wonderful, intimate style of her own, although her recording career suffered from not having access to outside conductors and arrangers like Nelson Riddle or the like. Her charm is that she always sounds like she is singing this just for you alone. This CD has 15 carols, a few of which are less commonly recorded like Toyland, Snowfall and Ol Saint Nicholas. Columbia
- John Denver & The Muppets, A Christmas Together -- Denver, Kermit, Miss Piggy and all the gang are featured in a bakers dozen carols, most of which are little-heard otherwise. How many albums ever include titles like The Peace Carol, Little Saint Nick, or The Christmas Wish? Plus Denver performs his own song, A Baby Just Like You, which was written with his own son Zachary in mind. Laserlight
- Elvis, If Every Day Was Like Christmas, and Elvis Christmas Album -- OK, he was not the only person to ever have two (or more) Christmas albums. This just gives us more Elvis to love. The first is a deluxe single red CD with 24 numbers and an interesting booklet about the making of the album. The second is a mere ten holiday tunes but includes Blue Christmas, Here Comes Santa Claus, and Mama Liked the Roses. The deluxe CD includes everything on Christmas Album except Mama Liked the Roses, but throws in more standards and a couple alternate takes for the audiophiles. Both RCA
- The Judy Garland Christmas Album -- Just eleven numbers, but three of them are medleys so the odds are good that your fave is in there somewhere. Ends with Over the Rainbow, her signature tune. This is an audio companion to the famous Christmas television special with Mel Torme, Jack Jones and her kids contributing to the musical talent quotient. Heartbreaking if you know the context of the program, but the performances by all are super. Laserlight
- Dean Martin in Seasons Greetings -- Dino puts some bounce in this album of a mere ten numbers, but makes them worthwhile. Mixed with standards like White Christmas and Let it Snow are wintry songs like Baby, It's Cold Outside, I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm plus a rare bluesy tune, The Christmas Blues. Good party music, too. CEMA (Capitol-EMI)
- Kenny & Dolly, Once Upon a Christmas -- Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton made a Christmas special together and this album was the result. The two country stars work well together as they revisited their roots in the Appalachians. Includes some standards but also some original songs written by Dolly: I Believe in Santa Claus, Christmas Without You, With Bells On, Once Upon a Christmas. (lyrics included) The latter should have become a standard because it was very well-written. RCA
- Linda Ronstadt, A Merry Little Christmas -- You would hardly expect the queen of torch rock to sing Christmas carols, too, but she does. Fourteen tunes and lyrics included so you can sing along to The Christmas Song, River, Xicochi, Lo How a Rose E're Blooming, Welsh Carol, O Magnum Mysterium and more. Rosemary Clooney is a special guest in a duet on White Christmas. Beautiful orchestrations. Elektra
- Kate Smith, The First Noel -- Kate Who?, you ask. Nowadays she is best remembered for introducing the Irving Berlin tune God Bless America during the dark days of the Great Depression. Kate was the beloved zaftig star of radio and television with perfect pitch. Think of her as Julie Andrews, but with a little more to love. Or think of her as a white Ella Fitzgerald. Twelve tracks of holiday standards like Deck the Halls, White Christmas, Joy to the World, Silent Night, Jingle Bells, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.
- Barbra Streisand, A Christmas Album and Christmas Memories -- Of the two, the first album is my favorite. It includes the popular twist on Jingle Bells?, White Christmas with the rarely heard intro, I Wonder As I Wander, Ave Maria and the Lords Prayer. The much later second album includes a mix of new and old -- Ave Maria, It Must Have Been the Mistletoe, What Are You Doing New Years Eve? The first one you can sit down and really listen to, while the second is just party music IMHO. Both Columbia
- Mel Torme, Christmas Songs -- Torme wrote one of the best-loved modern holiday standards, The Christmas Song (chestnuts roasting on an open fire). Finally you can listen to the Velvet Fog himself sing his own version of that and fifteen other tunes like Sleigh Ride, Good King Wenceslas, Silver Bells, White Christmas, What Child is This?, It Happened in Sun Valley. All are in his inimitable jazzy, scat-singing style for a full hour with the master. Bouncy tunes and a great band will keep you from falling asleep in front of the fireplace. Telarc
Classical, Early Music, Etc.
- Cambridge Singers, Christmas Day in the Morning -- A whole 23 old English, Cornish, Welsh, Irish, French carols, sprinkled with new tunes written by John Rutter, are crammed into this CD. Comes with lyric booklet. This one is for lovers of old carols and rarities. If you like old English carols or madrigals you will enjoy this unusual collection. -- BTW see my review and pictorial of a Madrigal Dinner. COLCD
- Sergio Franchi, The Heart of Christmas -- There are few opera singers who were also able to cross over and handle popular music. Sergio was one of them. He made several appearances on the old Ed Sullivan Show -- you might see him in a Sullivan Show anthology, look for the handsome Italian who busted the volume controls in the engineering room. This CD mixes some holiday standards with Italian carols. Away in a Manger, Ave Maria, Silent Night, Buon Natale, Panis Angelicus, O Bambino. I love his version of Ave because while he has the power to blow you away, he pulls back and has perfect control, ending the song with gentle Amen. BMG
- A Renaissance Christmas -- A trip back to the fabulous fifteenth century (What? You did not know it was fabulous?) for fourteen songs sung by the Pro Cantione Antiqua of London. Lyrics are in Latin, English, French; five songs are Gregorian chants. English songs: Hayl Mary Ful of Grace, Lullay lullow, Owt of Your Slepe, Ther Is No Rose of Swych Vertu. Includes lyric booklet. BMG
- Sweet Was the Song -- My absolute favorite album comes from the Smithsonian Collection. The Smithsonian Chamber Players sing 22 traditional carols, with baritone Max van Egmond featured. The ages of the songs vary from undated traditional songs like Greensleeves to the 17th century. I prefer the older songs, personally. This may have the widest range of sources of any collection -- French, English, German, Polish, Dutch, Spanish, Burgundian, even Basque. The Smithsonian has what is possibly the largest collection of music in its archives, so if you are a musicologist or have other reason to research obscure music, try checking their listings. Smithsonian
- Joy of Angels: Shaker Spirituals for Christmas & The New Year (Sampler Music) -- I believe I picked up this one and the dulcimer music tape while visiting the Shaker Village which is southwest of Lexington, Kentucky. This is very stripped-down production, so it was not as listenable as I hoped. But the historical value held my interest.
- Welcome Christmas: Holiday Dulcimer Duets (Kitty Paw Music) -- Oh, why not dulcimer music? Stop that laughing at me now. Kentucky has been just great at working to support the traditional Appalachian arts and crafts, from quilting to dulcimer making to woodcrafts. So it very nice to look at all the Kentucky companies on the credits list: Kitty Paw Music is in Versailles, and the dulcimer-playing couple live in Frankfort, KY. The Hutchisons play a program of English, Welsh, French, German and West Indies carols. Have never even heard of the Boar's Head Carol anywhere else. It was traditional at a madrigal Christmas dinner to bring in the boar's head on a platter and present it at each table, so I imagine this carol was sung at that time.
Motown, R&B, Jazz, Etc.
- Christmas with The California Raisins -- The voices for the raisins are provided by Buddy Miles, Ellis Hall and Niki Haris -- and these guys have mastered R&B. They do their versions of Jingle Bell Rock, White Christmas, Sleigh Ride, Frosty, Rudolph, and more. We heard too little of them in the Claymation special (see next listing) so it is a real treat to get a full album of this soulful harmony. Oh so cool. Priority Records
- Claymation Christmas Celebration -- This is the soundtrack from the very successful television special that featured the California Raisins. Those wrinkled grapes can really sing. Joining them in this set are some goofy bells in Carol of the Bells, and some R&B camels in We Three Kings Bop. The show won an Emmy, and it is ever a treat to watch on video. Atlantic
- Ella Fitzgerald, Ella wishes you a swinging Christmas -- Elle gifts us with an even dozen carols in her inimitable silken voice. Jingle Bells, Sleigh Ride, The Christmas Song, Good Morning Blues, Let It Snow, Winter Wonderland, Frosty the Snow Man, White Christmas and more. Ella was the hardest working jazz singer -- she generally toured 51 weeks of the year. I love her version of Silent Night but I have to put on a holiday assortment to find her recording of it. Verve
- Jingle Bell Jazz -- This is one of my favorite collections. Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Carmen McRae and more present jazzed up versions of holiday favorites. These guys can really cook. Columbia
- Silent Night: Gospel Christmas with Mahalia Jackson -- Mahalia had one of the most distinctive voices ever heard. She sang only gospels, yet she was the mascot of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. This CD has an even dozen gospel songs: In the Upper Room, Go Tell It On the Mountain, I Believe, Silent Night. Most of the songs, obviously, are not traditional Christmas standards. But she infuses every song with a deep conviction and profound feeling. Laserlight
- Soulful Christmas -- This is actually a 3-CD set of performances by every big name you can think of in the R&B or soul genre. Luther Vandross sings Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Aretha, Mahalia, Gladys Knight, Jackie Wilson, James Brown, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Temptations, Fats Domino, Lou Rawls, Nancy Wilson all contribute to this very soulful collection. If you cannot find something to love in this set, you are not even trying. Time-Life
Novelties and Misc.
- Caribbean (2) -- Christmas in the Islands, and Christmas in the Caribbean -- The first one has one side, 9 tunes on steel drums, and the other side with vocal versions of the same songs. So you get two different Caribbean-flavored versions of Rudolph, Marys Boy Child, Oh Holy Night, Junkanoo and Auld Lang Syne. The second has 18 carols, all performed on steel drums. Eighteen straight songs on steel drums is a little hard for me to take, so prefer the first one much better. It is OK if playing them all on a shuffler with five discs or something.
- Christmas Rarities -- Mel Blanc performs The Hat I Got For Christmas, Art Carney reads The Night before Christmas, Madman Michaels reads a humorous Polish version of The Night Before Christmas called Gwiazdor (literally Starman, it is the Polish name for St. Nick), Cary Grant read Christmas Lullabye. Not all are comic performances, not all are spoken word. But most are hard-to-find or rarely heard tunes and recordings. First Disc
- Dr. Demento presents The Greatest Christmas Novelty CD of all time -- The title says it all. If you simply cannot let the holidays pass without hearing the Chipmunk Song, if Spike Jones doing All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth just does it for you, if the singing dogs performing (if that is right word) Jingle Bells floats your boat, if Stan Freberg and Weird Al Yankovic are geniuses in your book -- then this is a must-have CD for you. Rhino
- In the Christmas Mood -- The Glenn Miller Orchestra gives a Big Band flavor to the holiday chestnuts like Sleigh Ride, Deck the Halls, Rudolph, Frosty, Silent Night. Eleven tunes in all. Get up and dance, willya. Laserlight
- Christmas with Liberace -- Sequin jokes aside, the man could play the piano. Just nine short tracks, but the production is wonderful. He reads Night Before Christmas, plays O Holy Night, Ave Maria, Gesu Bambino and more. CDY, made in Canada>
- Pan flute (2): Magic Christmas and A Panflute Christmas -- The first one has Dinu Radu playing the pan flute on 16 holiday carols like Jingle Bells, Little Santa Claus, Siciliano, Christ is Born, Awake Awake, White Christmas, Silent Night and more. Sure, you can laugh, but I think the panflute has a haunting quality. Sure makes for a conversation piece anyway. Radu is accompanied by a harpist. Oh, and the second has much the same, just ten songs like The First Noel, Away in a Manger, What Child is This, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Ode to Joy. Between the two of them, I think we have the whole holiday oeuvre covered.
- Yellowman, A Very Very Yellow Christmas -- Have you ever heard Jamaica Jamaica We Don't Got No Snow? How about Yellow Christmas, We Wish You A Reggae Christmas, Yellowman Rock? Oh, poor baby, you are sooo deprived. Produced by Doctor Dread. RAS Records
I just started playing some of this collection this weekend, instead of kicking off the Thanksgiving weekend. I am late! And I did not even list the collections or sets. At this rate, I might get through the whole thing by maybe Easter, if I am lucky.
Browse my equally eclectic Christmas movie collection at http://minnieapolis.newsvine.com/_news/2008/12/03/2173072-my-eclectic-christmas-movie-list-old-chestnuts-classy-stuff-and-misc