Christmas Countdown: Music Collections I Love

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Chris at Book-a-Rama and Jason at Moored at Sea encouraged me on Twitter to try something different, so here we go.

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?

Reviewed on December 4, 2009

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • *gasp* How can ANYONE hate the Julie Andrews Christmas album? I’m going to have to sit down and recover from that…

    That being said: despite my general grinchiness I do LOVE Christmas music, and my list and yours would look pretty similar: I love the Ella CD (it is amazing how she can make anything sound happy! But, her singing ‘Love for Sale’ breaks my heart every single time, so…), and ‘zat you Santa Claus makes me smile every time it comes on (if only the radio played Louis more, and Trans Siberian Orchestra less! I have to admit I don’t like TSO…). I’m not as big Rat Pack fan (do you ever just feel like you wish Dino and Frankie didn’t sound so darn smug all the time?). And, I actually finally saw the Nutcracker for the first time, this month, so I’m re-listening to all the music now, knowing what the story is supposed to be :P. I grew up listening to all the old MoTab Christmas albums, which are fun, sometimes, but which I get tired of it after a while… and I have to admit kind of feeling the same way about Handel. I listen to parts of the Messiah, and feel like… ok, this is the end of this part, right? Oh, no. No it isn’t. You’re going to sing the same thing again, only a half step up. That’s right…

  • Two of my favorites are The Carpenters Christmas Portrait (probably as cheesy as Julie Andrews, but SO good!) and the Bing Crosby White Christmas album. Both remind me of my childhood and make me so happy! I do plan on checking out the Julie Andrews album. I’m sure I’ll love it!

  • So I’m not the only one who wants to listen to Christmas music in Sept?

    The last few years, I’ve been listening to Wintersong by Sarah McLachlan. I really like that one.

    Bing Crosby always reminds me of my childhood Christmas albums.

  • Wow what a great selection!
    A tradition in our family is we get one new Christmas CD each year.

    My hub is a big Carpenters fan so that is probably our cheesy album.
    We also love Chicago, Mannheim Steamroller, Neil Diamond, Kenny G and my personal favorite Josh Groban. Oh how can we forget MOTAB?

  • Rebecca, I’m not that into Christmas music (although I do love the song & dance routines in White Christmas!), but I just want to say that I think you’re being a little hard on yourself saying your blog is dying a slow death. I mean, not to invalidate your feelings or anything, but it seems like you hold yourself to such a high standard! You’re always writing about how you don’t read and comment on as many blogs as other people, or post as often, but you’re still a MUCH more prolific reader, commenter & poster than most bloggers I know. And on top of it, both your comments and your posts tend to be really thoughtful. So…I don’t know. I don’t mean to be that aggressive/bullying optimist, but I do think you’re doing a great job.

  • No your blog is not dying a slow death! My blog never gets very many comments but I still keep doing it :-). I think this time of year is probably a busy time for a lot of people, so they are having less time to go around and comment.

    Never knew the Rat Pack had a christmas album! My family has quite an assortment of Christmas music but I don’t think we have any of yours except the Nutcracker (a different performance, though).

  • Suzanne, we have one of those too!

    Jason, Yeah, I know about the Julie Andrews, but oh well. I like the Rat Pack’s smugness come Christmas music! I have lots of Tabernacle Choir Music, but for some reason, I prefer other versions of the the Christmas music. I don’t get tired of listening to HAndel’s Messiah. I love it all 🙂

    AK, I love the idea of Carpenter’s Christmas! Since someone else (see Tami’s comment too!) mentioned it as well, I guess I should find it!

    Chris, NO! We’re year-round in our house. But I tend to not listen to Christmas in the early months of the year. I guess I get my fix in December 🙂

    Becky, isn’t it fun!?!

    Tami, Now that’s a fun tradition! Mannheim Steamroller isn’t my favorite, but I admit it’s growing on me!!

    Emily, and Sylvia, thanks! I’ll try not to be so hard on myself…

    Valerie, yes, I do think it’s this time of year. I’m not feeling the blogging vibe so much, so I assume the others are too.

    I actually don’t know which performance of Nutcracker we have. I think we have two. I just chose a pretty picture!

  • I’m listening to my Christmas playlist right now. I listen to some odd stuff around this time of the year, mostly soundtracks. At this moment Red and Green Christmas by Kermit and Miss Piggy is what I’m listening to.

    Every time I do a post over on Up Close and Personal with Ladytink I post a video of a Christmas song I’ve been listening to.

  • Thanks for all the christmas music suggestions. I’m listening to some of them right now and it really starts to feel like christmas!

    About your blog dying – just post and we’ll come and read. Your blog is one of my favourites.

  • Ladytink, I don’t have the Muppet’s Christmas, but i remember liking that! I should find it.

    Paula, I just love Christmas music! Thanks Paula for the encouragement, I’ll keep posting when I can!

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