Although I had energy last night to write my next review post, since yesterday’s obscure classic didn’t garner any comments, I figured I need something other than Euripides to garner a comment today. I keep saying I blog for myself and not for comments, but I’m starting to feel like my blog is dying a slow death, so I’d better write something fun today, for my sake, not just for yours.
You have to know that I love Christmas music. I don’t listen to music most of the time (I listen to books when I drive) but when I do feel like music, it tends to be (1) some kind of classical music, as in the opera I focused on in October/November or (2) Christmas music.
I am not one of those people who insist on waiting until after Thanksgiving or anything: I’ve been known to pull out the Christmas music in July or September if I feel like it! I love Christmas music because each musical artist captures a favorite song in a different way. And it makes me happy.
The order below is arbitrary, since I love each CD for different reasons and I’m horrible at picking “favorites.” I also couldn’t limit myself to ten as I’d intended. I’m a cheater, I admit.
10. Christmas with Julie Andrews
I’ll start with a cheesy one. My husband absolutely hates this volume since he hates Julie Andrews. He refuses to listen to it and has banished it from our family computer (where we have all the Christmas CDs ripped). But I love it. It’s like Maria or Mary Poppins singing Christmas songs to me. Since I grew up loving those two Julie Andrews movies, I have to include the CD on this list. One of my favorite song on this CD is “In the Bleak Midwinter.” It’s a slow sad song, but I really like it. She also has a number of true Christmas songs or lullaby songs, rather than the “holiday” songs, and I like that.
9a and 9b. Elvis Christmas and Christmas with Johnny Cash
I do not want to listen to Elvis of Johnny Cash’s other songs, but these two CDs are so much fun. They capture both a classic voice and the favorite songs I love. Particularly good is Elvis’s “Blue Christmas” and Johnny Cash’s “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” I can only take a few Elvis songs or Johnny Cash songs at a time, but if you love Elvis or Johnny Cash, then these are a must.
8. What a Wonderful Christmas by Louis Armstrong and Friends
I love my husband because he has introduced me to music I never would have listened to myself. And I love Louis Armstrong, at least the songs he singing in this Christmas volume. From Dinah Washington’s “Silent Night” to Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song” (the real one, apparently), this volume is just perfect. I also love Louis Armstrong’s “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” and “’Zat You, Santa Claus?” I admit, Torme’s “Christmas Song” is not my favorite rendition (sacrilege!) but it’s good of course.
7. The Spirit of Christmas by Ray Charles
I’m pretty new to jazz (I always avoided it before I married my husband, and he loves it!) but Christmas music is a great introduction. Ray Charles has the best jazzy “Rudolph” I’ve ever heard. And this version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is just the most seductive ever. Sometimes that song is done just too happy, but this time they listened to the words they’re singing. It’s lots of fun.
6. Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas
Even if you aren’t crazy about jazz, I think Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas songs are perfect for the holiday season. I love her “Frosty the Snowman” and “Winter Wonderland” and “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” and …. well, all of them. Ella has a great voice and the songs are lots of fun. When I say Christmas songs are cheerful, this is a CD I think of! Even her “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is happy (it’s supposed to be sad, like James Taylor’s version).
5. Christmas In Our Hearts by Jose Mari Chan
If you have heard of this artist, I’d love to know how! My husband got some local music when he lived near Manila as a religious missionary, and I just had to include this volume because it has one of my favorite Christmas songs. Although the artist is from the Philippines, he sings in English, and I love the songs “A Perfect Christmas” and “Christmas in Your Heart.” Both of the songs really focus on the reasons of the season: spending time with family, sharing love, and celebrating Jesus Christ. None of the songs on the CD are “traditional” but they are gentle and pleasant and all of them have a religious undertone.
4. The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky
When I was ten years old, my mom made me a special satiny Christmas dress and our family went to the ballet together during the holiday break. When I was a teenager, I learned how to play one of the songs on the piano. Although I haven’t seen the ballet for years and I no longer am very good at playing the piano, I still love to pull out the Tchaikovsky and listen to the Sugar Plum Fairies and all the rest of it. I think I love every single song in The Nutcraker.
3. The Messiah by Handel
When I spent two months in the Jerusalem ten years ago, I took along a CD with excerpts from The Messiah. In the mornings, before my roommates were awake, I’d sit on my balcony overlooking Jerusalem and listen to it. I love how Handel’s masterpiece is taken directly from scripture, and I think it’s perfect for the Christmas season. A couple years ago, I went to a “sing along” in Chicago and that was fun too (although I think I prefer just listening).
2. Frank Sinatra’s The Christmas Collection
Oh, how I love Sinatra’s voice: he’s the real thing, folks. This volume has “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” which are just perfect sung by Frank Sinatra. Some of the song versions aren’t perfect renditions (and I don’t like some of the arrangements on this CD) but overall, Sinatra’s a must for Christmas.
1. Christmas With the Rat Pack by Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra et al
My husband and I got this CD during our first married Christmas season when we were shopping for Christmas presents. I think some people don’t like it since it’s the Christmas collection all the shopping centers play. But I love it. My favorite is “Rudolph” because they have this great intro: “Rudolph! Rudolph!” I also love “Marshmallow World” with all the Rat Pack singing together. “Christmas All Over the World” is also a fun favorite, with all the foreign languages.
So there you have it: a few of my favorite Christmas music collections. And I realize I’m omitting James Taylor and Peggy Lee and Mannheim Steamroller. It’s impossible to pick favorites, I think! But at least this is a start.
Which Christmas collections and/or songs are your favorites?
Do you listen to Christmas music year round too?