It doesn’t feel completely accurate to say that my wife and I like Christmas music. We freaking love it. We both come from homes that celebrated old school classics as well as newer material. As a result we have a pretty solid and impressive collection of Christmas music. In fact, we actually have an iPod dedicated specifically to Christmas music. When my wife got a new iPod, we took her old mini (which very appropriately is green), cleared out all the old stuff and loaded it up with holiday tunes. As soon as Thanksgiving’s over, we pop that bad boy on and dig those tunes until Christmas. I figured it would be a good time to lay down a list of some of my favorite records to listen to around this time. Hit the jump to dig these crazy tunes. The Time-Life Treasury Of Christmas is ESSENTIAL for Christmas music fans. This two disc set features 24 absolutely classic Christmas songs by the likes of Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Elvis, Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee and other greats. This is one my parents had that was always on regular rotation during the holidays. When I was away for the first time pre-Christmas in college, this album got me into the Christmas spirit and made me think of home. I’ll be honest, picking up both The Time-Life Treasury Of Christmas and the first Now That’s What I Call Christmas will lead to several track redundancies. The first disc of this set features plenty of the old school classics that I love while the second gets into newer territory ranging from John and Yoko and Bruce Springsteen to Britney Spears and Boyz II Men. Still, if you’re not familiar with some of the classics, this might be a good entry point.
Bing Crosby’s White Christmas compilation isn’t, as you might expect, the soundtrack to the wonderful film of the same name, but it does include many of the songs as well as other holiday offerings from Bing. Again, you’ll have a few repeat tracks if you buy all of the CDs I talk about here, but that’s not such a bad thing, is it? Anyway, picking up this record gets you some more deep cuts like my personal favorites “Christmas In Killarney” and “Mele Kalikimaka.” I believe there are several different Bing Christmas records, this is the one I have because it’s the one my parents had, but I’d recommend getting whichever one has the most tracks because when I think of Christmas, I think of Bing.When it comes to solo Christmas records, I’m also a gigantic fan of Neil Diamond’s The Christmas Album, but I’ve already written about that one here. Do note, though, that Neil’s also got The Christmas Album Volume II AND A Cherry Cherry Christmas. I haven’t fully researched this, but I believe the latter is a compilation based on the tracks from the previous two with the “new” track “Cherry Cherry Christmas.” If it were me, I’d buy the first two volumes for the full effect. Actually, I’ve got to pick up Volume II now that I think about it.
I’ve also already written about The Brian Setzer Orchestra’s Dig That Crazy Christmas which is a more recent favorite. I should note, though, that my wife is not a fan as Brian and his orchestra do a lot of original songs and she’s more a fan of hearing the classics. I disagree, but don’t worry, our relationship is strong enough to endure.
If you’re looking for a jazzy Christmas record that’s more low key than The Brian Setzer Orchestra’s but is still modern (or was back in 1993), give Harry Connick Jr.’s When My Heart Finds Christmas a try. You probably already know if you like HCJ or not, so you know if you’ll like this record. It’s a pretty smooth jazz take on some classics with a few new pieces thrown in, including the title track. This is another one that my parents got that became a staple in our listening experience and was probably the newest one at the time. I dig it enough to keep my eyes peeled for his other holiday records, though I’ll check to make sure it’s not the same stuff repackaged over and over again. I’m starting to notice a pattern as I write this: I like classic, often jazzy renditions of Christmas songs performed by talented crooners. As such, I had my eye on Christmas With The Rat Pack for a while before finally picking it up. Do note that this isn’t a record featuring Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin singing Christmas songs together, but instead a compilation of their individual performances. Three of the best singers ever singing some classics songs is aces in my book.Even owning Christmas With The Rat Pack, I still found myself picking up Christmas Songs By Sinatra because, well, I love Frank Sinatra. Between these two records, there’s a number of repeats, but that’s what happens when you buy Christmas records without doing research. At the end of the day, I don’t really care because we mostly listen to the Christmas iPod on shuffle in the car so I don’t really notice. In college, my buddy Eric Toth was a DJ at his college station. As such he got a ton of free records and would sometimes let me go through them and grab what I wanted. On one such occasion I snagged this version of Maybe This Christmas Tree, a compilation featuring The Polyphonic Spree, Ivy, Death Cab For Cutie, The Ravonettes, Lisa Loeb and Pilate. I dig most of the modern takes on classic tunes, though they can definitely get emo at times. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know most of the bands on this collection at the time that I got it and was woefully ignorant of The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York,” so for the longest time I thought Pilate wrote that song. I fell in love with it’s mix of despair and hope and actually prefer it to the original because it’s slower and takes more time with itself, though I probably would have liked the original better had I heard it first.
While this list has mostly been a boy’s club, one of the best solo Christmas records around has to be Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas. Mariah has the pipes to sing any Christmas song with just about anyone ever, so her covers of the classics are solid. But, better than that is the fact that this 1994 release added a new, fantastic song to the pantheon of holiday favorites: “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” As much as I love Mariah’s original, I’ve got to say the cover by the little girl in the fabulous Love, Actually gives vintage Mariah a run for her money. Much like how Mariah added to the ranks of classic Christmas music, director Jon Favreau added to the hallowed halls of Christmas movies with Elf. I adore this movie and quite enjoy the soundtrack as well. I do wish that the soundtrack included Zooey Deschanel singing the songs as they sounded in the film, but you can’t have it all, I guess. She’s got a great rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” on here though and I now associated Louis Prima’s “Pennies From Heaven” with the holiday thanks to its inclusion in this movie and on this record. It stands to reason, considering how much I liked Deschanel in Elf, that I’m a big fan of her group She & Him’s album A Very She & Him Christmas which came out last year. Like many other modern Chirstmas records, this one takes some classic tracks and gives them a few new twists and turns to make them unique to the performer. In this case, that translates into some slowing down and more bare bones recording. Deschanel and partner M. Ward are able to give classic-feeling renditions that don’t necesarrily feel like tired rehashes, something that feels nearly impossible considering how old some of the classic tracks on that Time-Life Treasury record are.