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Annual SamAdams76 Celebration of Christmas Musics
Posted on 12/09/2001 9:06:15 AM PST by SamAdams76
WARNING: Very long vanity thread about Christmas music If you are interested, pour your favorite adult beverage, throw a log on the fire and pull up an ice block. If not, feel free to hit the back button and move on.
I know it is hard for some to get into the Christmas spirit during these times, what with the nation still on alert for terrorism, the wreckage at the WTC still being gone through and our soldiers overseas fighting what is sure to be a very long battle against the terrorists. But Christmas is just about two weeks away and we must all take some time out to celebrate it properly. Cant let the terrorists put a damper on Christmas. Besides, New England received its first snowfall today so now it looks like Christmas, my neighborhood looks a lot like the picture here. So as far as Im concerned, Christmas has arrived!
This post is dedicated to Christmas music. Since we are all familiar with the traditional music, I will focus on contemporary Christmas music that you may or may not be familiar with. But not the same old tired songs like Rockin Around The Christmas Tree and Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer. We are so bombarded with the same old novelty songs like the aforementioned dreck and the mostly non-secular, non-offensive songs like Silver Bells, Jingle Bell Rock and Frosty The Snowman that we are not even aware that hundreds upon hundreds of great Christmas recordings sit unnoticed on store shelves and go unplayed on radio stations. It is my task with this post to introduce you to some of them. And please feel free to add some of your own. And surprisingly, you dont have to restrict yourself to the classical music section of the record store to get some good, genuine Christmas music. Contemporary artists such as the Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush and Collective Soul have put out some inspiring and worthy Christmas recordings. I will also have in my list some traditional Christmas songs as well that deserve more airplay and attention than they have gotten. Lastly, I will include some recordings that are not Christmas songs, per se, but have the feeling of Christmastime nevertheless.
I have been collecting holiday music for 20 years now. In addition to the 100+ Christmas CDs and Albums that I own, I tape between 5 and 10 hours of Christmas music off the radio every single year. Many stations go commercial free on Christmas and Christmas Eve and I just let the tape roll and catch what I may. Sometimes I mine gold. Othertimes, I get junk (and I wont mention it here). One year I got the 1939 recording of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (as narrated by Orson Wells). Another year, I got a reading of the Dylan Thomas poem A Childs Christmas in Wales which deserves its own thread. I will be posting that here sometime around Christmas Eve. But mostly, I get Christmas music and those tapes become a sort of time capsule of Christmases past. For example, as I type this, I am listening to some tapes I made on Christmas Eve, 1985. Each of my Christmas recordings represents a sort of time capsule of Christmass past. Yes, I am obsessed.
Anyway, without further ado, here is my Christmas gift to my fellow Freepers. Hope you like it. This list is in no particular order and is simply an abbreviated list of some of my favorite Christmas musics. Hopefully some who read this thread are turned on to some pretty good Christmas music that they otherwise would not have known about. Also, I tried to restrict my list to what is available, as much of my Christmas music is no longer available. And feel free to add some of your own Christmas music at the end.
- Mannheim Steamroller Christmas. There are now five proper Christmas Mannheim Steamroller albums. Im going to review all five of them here because they are all worth having. Many of us here were introduced to Mannheim Steamroller due to Rush Limbaugh playing them on his show as bumper music every Christmas. I am one of those who discovered Mannheim Steamroller this way and Rush, I raise my glass to you. This was the album that started it all in 1984. Now Mannheim Steamroller albums dont really fit a particular genre. They are arranged, conducted and produced by Chip Davis and are notable for their renaissance feel with period instruments and all, but each album has two or three tracks that are heavily synthesized that sort of sound like elevator music on steroids and this can be annoying for many. But fortunately, these sort of tracks are the exception and not the rule. Deck The Halls leads off the album and is a good example of what I am talking about when I say elevator music on steroids. It is tracks like this that give ammunition to the critics that dont care for their style of music. Good King Wencelas and God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen are the other two examples on this album of synthesizers in overdrive. Personally, I dont care for them but others love this style of muzak. What makes this album (and all the other Mannheim albums) absolutely essential in my opinion is the incredible renaissance arrangements of traditional Christmas carols using period instruments such as harpsichords, flutes, recorders, hammered dulcimers, etc. I never get tired of hearing such songs as Bring A Torch, Jeannette, Isabella. Or the 16th century version of Coventry Carol and Carol Of The Birds.. Closing the album is an absolutely stunning version of Silent Night that by itself makes the album worth purchasing. This is the only track on the album with vocals (just humming) and the way it ends conjures up visions of Santa and his reindeer whooshing off your rooftop.
- Mannheim Steamroller - A Fresh Aire Christmas.Released in 1988, this is the best of the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums in my opinion. If you are only going to pick up one Mannheim album, this should be the one as it is indisputably the cream of the Mannheim Steamroller crop. Two version of Hark, The Herald Angels Sing lead off the album, the first one a triumphant 16th century version and the other that heavily synthesized stuff again, but this one a little more palatable to the ears than the ones on the first album. Then you get a taste of Gregorian Chant with Veni, Veni (O Come O Come Emmanuel) which is this incredibly rich tapestry of vocals and music. One of my favorite Mannheim Steamroller songs ever. The Holly And The Ivy is an ancient French melody which is another highlight. We are back to the synthesizers on overdrive with the somewhat mechanical and annoying Little Drummer Boy which really misfires here. But the rest of the album is perfection. Still, Still, Still is an incredibly beautiful arrangement with a full choir, you can picture hearing this song as midnight mass. Lo How a Rose Eer Blooming is a triumphant 15th Century German melody which is followed by another German carol from the 16th Century, In dulci Jubilo which is in the classic renaissance style. The album continues with a beautiful version of Greensleeves and a vigorous interpretation of Carol Of The Bells in which the dreaded synthesizers return, but in this case, its not so bad. Next up is a Chip Davis original composition Traditions of Christmas which as the excellent liner notes state, evokes visions of sitting by the fireplace in a fuzzy sweater, watching the tree and smelling the cookies in the oven. The album closes out with Cantique de Noel (O Holy Night), a hauntingly beautiful version of the 19th Century French carol. I cant say enough good things about this album. Year after year, I listen to it (with the Drummer Boy programmed out) and watch the twinkling Christmas lights with a glass of eggnog or Winter Lager in my hands. And I never tire of it. It simply wouldnt be Christmas in my house without it.
- Mannheim Steamroller Christmas In The Aire. Ill admit it. When this album first came out in 1995, I was disappointed. But over the years, it has grown on me to the extent where I now place it as my second favorite Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album. Perhaps it was the uninspired, synthesizers on overload Joy To The World that leads off this album that turned me off to it. Or the truly horrible synthesized mess that is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. But many of the other songs have grown on me such as Herbei, oh ihr Glaubigen (O Come All Ye Faithful) that is sung in German by a childrens choir. Or Pat A Pan which I did not like at first but has become one of my favorites. One of the outstanding tracks here (that I didnt get at first) is the Mexican flavored Los Peces en el Rio. After a few listens, this song really starts to grow on you, even with those dreaded synthesizers. . I love the bells in this piece. Then there is another Chip Davis original Christmas Lullaby which is highly recommended. Overall, this is the most challenging Mannheim Steamroller album, but one in which patience is eventually rewarded.
- Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Live.This is a non-essential Mannheim album as it is a live album released in 1997 that mostly features tracks already available on the studio albums. But I like it. Some of the renaissance pieces are featured at a Kings round table and are performed more energetically live than in the studio. So this is the Mannheim album I play at parties. There is one new track not available on the other albums Going To Another Place which closed this live set. I understand there is a DVD of this live performance that is excellent. I havent seen it yet.
- Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Extraordinaire. This album is brand new, being just released in 2001. I have listened to it several times and it has yet to grow on me. So I really cant say much about it except that the synthesizers are as annoying as ever, but fortunately, they only manage to ruin one track, the lead-off Hallelujah, which by the way, barely resembles the famous Handel piece, which is disappointing because Handel is one of my favorite composers.. The rest of the album is relatively quiet and features a lot of renaissance instruments (which I like). The standout track of this album appears to be the closer, Auld Lang Syne. Most likely, Ill have a lot more to say about this album next year.
- Various Artists A Very Special Christmas. Since 1987, the Special Olympics has raised money by putting out compilation albums containing Christmas music from major recording artists. Im a big fan of Christmas compilation albums as few recording artists are capable by themselves of sustaining an entire Christmas album of worthwhile material. Now this particular series is a mixed bag, but there are enough worthy selections on each CD to make the set worth collecting. Volume One, actually titled just A Very Special Christmas because they didnt know at the time there would be more, is notable for U2 Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), a cover of the old Darlene Love song. U2 gives a very passionate and powerful rendering of this old classic. Also, Alison Moyet The Coventry Carol is outstanding and also by itself, makes this CD worth buying. Rounding out the strong tracks on Volume 1 are Eurythmics Winter Wonderland, Sting Gabriels Message, Stevie Nicks Silent Night.
- Various Artists A Very Special Christmas 2. Released in 1992, this set is another hodge-podge of trying to be all things to all people. But if you can skip over the weaker tracks, there is some gold to be mined. Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers Christmas All Over Again is an original song that has become a classic in its own right over the past 10 years. Extreme Christmas Time Again is another original song that warrants a place in your collection. Other standout tracks are Tevin Campbell O Holy Night, Paul Young What Christmas Means To Me, Aretha Franklin O Christmas Tree, Sinead OConnor Silent Night. Now Sinead OConnors politics aside, she is a great singer and this Celtic version of Silent Night is haunting and majestic.
- Various Artists A Very Special Christmas 3. Volume 3 came out in 1997 and this is probably my favorite of the five. Sting I Saw Three Ships leads off the set and is followed by the excellent original Smashing Pumpkins Christmastime, a touching Christmas tune by the now defunct alternative rock band. No Doubt Oi To The World is a cover version of The Damned song from many years back and No Doubt does it even better. About as hard rocking as a Christmas song can get. One of the most stunningly beautiful Christmas songs, Chris Cornell Ave Maria can be found on this CD. Chris Cornell was a member of and trust me, the arrangement on this song will blow you away. Another favorite of mine is Blues Traveler Christmas, an original song you can play over and over again. Then we have Enya Oiche Chiun (Silent Night). This is Silent Night sung in Gallic in case you were wondering. A truly mesmerizing song. Rounding out the solid tracks on this very strong collection is Natalie Merchant Children Go Where I Send Thee, Patti Smith We Three Kings, Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds Christmas Song, which, by the way, is not the dreaded Chestnuts Roasting song but yet another original composition. My only real complaint with this CD is the totally unnecessary inclusion of yet another rap song, which really breaks the mood. In fact, every CD in this series is marred by the obligatory inclusion of rap songs. Why?
- Various Artists A Very Special Christmas 4. Volume 4 is the one CD in this series you can skip because it is a Live album consisting of tracks available on the previous three CDs. Why this live recording couldnt include some new material is beyond me. I only own it because I am a completist.
- Various Artists A Very Special Christmas 5. Volume 5 just came out this year so it has not had a chance to grow on me yet. After a few listens, the following songs stand out: Eve 6 Noel! Noel!, City High O Come All Ye Faithful, Dido Christmas Day, Powder Christmas Dont Be Late (Chipmunk Song). My initial impression overall is that this set is not as strong as the first three volumes. But it usually takes a couple of Christmases for these albums to grow on me anyhow. The Eve 6 and Dido songs are outstanding however! But once again, the obligatory rap song is thrown in there and Stevie Nicks does yet another version of Silent Night that doesnt really sound much different then her version on Volume 1.
- U2 with Pavarotti - Miss Sarajevo. Not officially a Christmas song but the lyrics do include the verse Is there a time for tying ribbons, a time for Christmas trees. This must be heard to be believed. Produced by Brian Eno, this is one of the most incredible recordings I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. Here we have one of the top rock bands of the past 20 years teaming up with, of all people, Luciano Pavarotti. This song can only be found on the obscure "Passengers" soundtrack released back around 1995. The song has an epic feel to it from beginning to end and it is concerned with a beauty pageant in war-torn Bosnia. Bono has the first verses to himself when suddenly Pavarotti's voice bursts in and takes over the entire song. Surreal. If God had a voice, I imagine it would sound like Pavarotti does here. If you are a U2 fan, this ranks up there with their very best. So maybe its not officially a Christmas song but it sure sounds like it is one and I only listen to it at Christmastime.
- Erasure - She Won't Be Home (For Christmas). This is a great Christmas ballad by the mid-80s synthesizer new wave band from London. Love that spine-tingling synthesizer intro, sounds awesome on vinyl if you can get it. I found this song on an import EP. A great original Christmas song that I never tire of listening to.
- The Pogues - Fairytale Of New York. A London band (with Irish influence) led by Shane MacGowan. This is one of my favorite Christmas classics, telling a tale of broken dreams from a drunk tank in New York City. The bitter verses are offset by some terrific melodies. The late Kirsty MacColl (died last year in a boating accident) duets with Shane MacGowan on vocals.
- Shane MacGowan & Nick Cave - What A Wonderful World. Here, Shane of the Pogues teams up with Nick Cave for a fantastic version of this Louis Armstrong standard. Not a Christmas song in a pure sense but it definitely conveys the feeling of the season. You can almost imagine Shane and Nick drunkenly singing it in a bar with their arms around each other (and they probably were).
- Various Artists Christmas Songs. With such a generic title, this great compilation can be hard to track down despite coming out just last year (2000). But it is on the Nettwerk label and has a picture of a star on the cover with a face in it. I really like this set of songs but it has a 15 minute comedy segment at the end (by Stuart McLean) that just annoys the heck out of me. The comedy bit is amusing but it just doesnt belong here. But thats okay since it is at the end, I just stop the CD player when it gets to it. This compilation starts with Barenaked Ladies with Sarah McLachlan God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, a pretty decent rendering that you probably heard on the radio a few times last year. Next up is Tara McLean Winter Wonderland followed by the excellent Dido Christmas Day.. Tara has a great voice and Ill be mentioning her again later, but Didos original song (also available on Very Special Christmas 5 mentioned earlier) will certainly be a radio staple for years to come and is the highlight of this album. A couple of medieval-flavored songs are next, Delerium Terra Firma, Medieval Baebes Gaudete that set just the right mood for late-night listening. Then we have another radio-friendly classic Sarah McLachlan Song For A Winter Night. This original Christmas song by Sarah is also available on other compilations and it has become one of my favorites. The album hits its only weak spot with the pathetic sounding Meryn Cadell The Cat Carol, a song about a cat that cant get back in the house and thus freezes to death (what is up with THAT?) but rebounds nicely with some more great original music Dayna Manning Its In Everyone of Us, Lily Frost Skating On The River. Then two of my all-time favorite traditional songs are covered here, Kendall Payne O Come O Come Emmanuel, Jenifer McLaren Ave Maria. Kendall Paynes great version of Emmanuel is definitely a high point with a very original and modern rendering of this timeless classic while Jenifer McLarens version of Ave Maria is damn good. I am also fond of Matthew Ryan Little Drummer Boy because I normally hate this song. But this is a very cool version. What I like most about this album is it is so fresh and original and pretty much maintains a dreamy and Christmasy mood throughout. Perfect for playing just before bedtime with a flickering fire and a glass of your favorite adult beverage in your hands and the snow flying outside.
- Various Artists Viva Noel (A Q Division Christmas). This 1999 compilation may be hard to find in record stores outside of Boston but is available on the major websites. An excellent compilation of mostly Boston-area bands. The Sheila Divine O Holy Night is one of the best contemporary versions of this classic I have ever heard. Simply stunning. Then we have Brian Stevens Christmas Waltz and Stepladder Someday At Christmas which are both excellent versions as well of those familiar songs. We have an excellent cover of the Pretenders classic, Merrie Amsterburg 2000 Miles, and a cover of the classic Phil Spector record The Gravel Pit Marshmallow World. Fifteen songs in all and not a clunker among them.
- Kate Bush - December Will Be Magic Again. Well known for her breathtaking "Wuthering Heights," Kate Bush takes your breath away again with this startling original piece. What a great voice! And a very eclectic style to boot. This song can be found on the "Edge Of Christmas" compilation.
- Judybats - When Southern Bells Ring. This is one of my favorite Christmas songs of all time. This is an original song done by an obscure rock band from the Chicago area (I think). WBCN in Boston has been playing this song every Christmas since 1990 and that is how I know it. It's got a real "Christmasy" feel to it and it grows on you with each listen. Finally found it on Napster last year (well, I TRIED to find a legal copy).
- Various Artists Christmas Wishes (19 of the Seasons Finest Songs). This is one of the finest Christmas compilations I have ever purchased. Unfortunately it is a rarity and only available as an import. But if you can find it (I provided a link just in case), it is well worth the investment as it collects many great contemporary Christmas songs that are hard to find separately. The first track is the ever-present Band-Aid Do They Know Its Christmas, which until this year, was hard to find in the record stores. Wham! Last Christmas is next up, another hard to find Christmas song from Michael George before he got really weird on us. Elton Johns two Christmas songs are here, Step Into Christmas and the less familiar (Ho! Ho! Ho!) Whod Be A Turkey At Christmas which features vocals from John Lennon and Ringo Starr, believe it or not. Greg Lake I Believe In Father Christmas is another rarity well worth having in your collection. This is a fantastic original Christmas song by the member of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Then there is the stunning Chris DeBurgh A Spaceman Came Travelling which is one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs. This majestic song just fills the room and always puts me in the Christmas mood. Roy Wood I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday is an exuberant song that should have gotten more airplay than it did. Then there is the excellent Boney M Marys Boy Child and the Celtic flavored Mike Oldfield In Dulci Jubilo. I have only described half the songs on this excellent album which also features The Eagles, The Beach Boys, Queen, Eurogliders, Bing Crosby, Roy Orbison, and many more, as the late-night commercials say. You will not be disappointed if you get your hands on this compilation.
- Marlene Deitrich - Little Drummer Boy (German). This is another rarity brought to my attention by WBCN in Boston. I don't know much about Marlene Deitrich but I know she was a big star during the 1930s and 40s. She was popular in Germany but was in America during the Nazi years. Anyway, this is a rather haunting version of Little Drummer Boy, sung in a very unique manner. She sounds like she was a little heavy on the eggnog when she recorded it but that is part of the charm. If you find yourself humming along to this version, it is definitely designated driver time!
- Merle Haggard - If We Make It Through December. This is a very touching original song by Merle about getting laid off at the factory at Christmastime and not being able to provide a Christmas for his little girl. So he sings to her about "Got plans to be in a warmer clime by summertime." Definitely in the crying-in-your-beer category. Many of you may be more familiar with Alan Jackson's cover version of this tune but Merle's original is much better.
- George Winston Christmas. This has been a very popular Christmastime record over the years in my house because it never gets tired. Makes good dinnertime music or background music for reading if you are in a classical mood. This is a piano only album but the playing is excellent and inspired. The excellent opening track Thanksgiving is an original composition by George Winston and sets the mood for the rest of the album, which includes such classics as Carol Of The Bells, The Holly And The Ivy and </font color=green>Variations On Pachelbels Canon as well as more George Winston originals, Snow, Minstrels. This can easily be found in record stores as it is a perennial best seller.
- Amy Grant A Christmas Album. Released in 1983, this was Amy Grants first Christmas album. It is a fine mixture of original and traditional Christmas songs that hold up to repeated listening. First track is the excellent Tennessee Christmas co-written by Amy. Another great song written by Amy is Christmas Hymn. Other highlights include the medieval sounding Preiset Dem Konig! (Praise the King!, Emmanuel, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and A Mighty Fortress/Angels We Have Heard On High.
There are two other Amy Grant Christmas albums that you will not be disappointed with, but this is the best of the Amy Grant lot.
- Loreena McKennitt A Winter Garden (EP). This is one of my favorite Christmas CDs because of the unique and refreshing way that Loreena approaches these traditional carols. They are lushly recorded with a Celtic feel to them. This EP of five songs leads with three traditional songs, Coventry Carol, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and Good King Wenceslas. Loreena is a perfectionist in the studio and these familiar carols have a fresh feel to them as a result of her unique arrangements. The other two songs are worthy of attention as well, especially the excellent Snow which is an original McKennitt composition set to traditional lyrics. If you like this kind of music, you will also like Loreenas full-length Christmas Album called To Drive The Cold Winter Away. which is mostly ancient English carols recorded in monasteries and churches in the U.K. and Canada. Challenging listening but excellent music.
- Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Eve And Other Stories. Like Mannheim Steamroller, you either love or hate this music. I am in the latter category obviously. I've played this album through at least a dozen times each Christmas for the past four years. It's sort of like those 1970s concept rock albums with a children's chorus thrown in here and there for good measure. This is definitely adventurous listening but repeated listens is rewarded in the end. This is a concept album, not intended to be listened to piecemeal. I suggest you read the liner notes and listen to the album as a whole rather than try and play selected cuts or it won't sound right. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is actually a hard metal band called Savatage (TSO is just a side project) so the music has a rather "heavy" and bombastic "Meat Loaf" feel to it. It is meticulously produced however and really does grow on you. The cover art is pretty cool too. Anyway, this is the first of the two TSO Christmas albums and the best. Highlights of the album include the opening track An Angel Came Downfollowed by the virtuoustic instrumentalO Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night with a guitar solo that would do any 1970s hard rock band proud. This is followed by the unique A Star To Follow which features a childrens chorus. This is followed by several instrumentals including the hard-driving First Snow and some Nutcracker music done in the TSO fashion. A female takes the vocals for the excellent Prince Of Peace which is based on Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Next up is Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 which you have no doubt heard on the radio a number of times in recent years and just not realized it. It is based on Carol Of The Bells and sounds a lot like how Mannheim Steamroller might have done it. At this point, we are still only halfway through this album! And the second half is just as good as the first. Old City Bar and Promises To Keep are the high points of the second half but really, all the songs are just great. If you only buy one album this year, let this be the one.
- Trans-Siberian Orchestra The Christmas Attic. TSO put out another Christmas album in 1998 and if you liked "Christmas Eve," you'll like this as well even though it doesnt reach the same heights. But dont be put off by that statement. There is some great music to be found here such as Midnight Christmas Eve and The Three Kings which would have fit in perfectly with Christmas Eve. Then there is the incredible Christmas Canon which features a childrens choir and lots of strings that create a very surreal atmosphere. TSO also put out a tribute album to Beethoven in 2000 and is highly recommended, though not a Christmas album.
- Michael Holm - When A Child Is Born. This is a popular German recording artist unknown to most in America. This is a very inspired version of this Christmas classic (done in English) that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. I am familiar to this song through "The Lost 45s," a syndicated radio show done by Barry Scott that digs up obscure pop music from the 1970s and 80s. Downloaded it from Napster last year as I couldn't find it in any record store.
- Dr. Suess - How The Grinch Stole Christmas Story (Original TV Soundtrack). I never, never, never, get sick of hearing this! The music as well as the narration by Boris Karloff are timeless. It is also the soundtrack to my own childhood Christmas. Truly a classic that never gets tired. Dont get confused with the soundtrack for last years Grinch movie starring Jim Carrey. That particular soundtrack does have some worthy music but it is not all it could have been. Somewhat disappointing.
- Louis Armstrong & Friends What A Wonderful Christmas. Mostly recorded in the mid 1950s, this compilation still sounds fresh today. Im not a big fan of the big band style but this album is an exception. The four songs Christmas In New Orleans, Zat You Santa Claus?, Cool Yule and Christmas Night In Harlem alone make the album worthwhile by themselves and are among my favorite Christmas songs ever. The rest of the tracks, not always including Louis Armstrong, are also worthwhile, including artists such as Dinah Washington, Eartha Kitt, Peggy Lee (not that tired Rockin Around The Christmas Tree) and Duke Ellington.< br>
- Various Artists Merry Axemas (Vol. 1 & 2). These two compilations, released in 1997 and 1998 respectively, gather up the best rock guitarists in the business to give all-guitar renditions of their favorite Christmas songs. If you love rock guitar, then grab both of these albums, but Volume 1 is the best of the two. My favorites from Volume 1 include Eric Johnson The First Nowell, Jeff Beck Amazing Grace, Joe Satriani - Silent Night/Holy Night Jam and Joe Perry Blue Christmas. All of the tracks are worthy and some of the other featured guitarists are Richie Sambora, Steve Vai, Alex Lifeson and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Volume 2 isnt that shabby either, featuring Freeper (I know you are out there) Ted Nugent, Robin Trower, Neal Schon and Al Di Meola. Also, if you are into guitar rock, grab the Ventures Christmas Album, this classic from the 1960s is on sale for $6.99 this year.
- Porno For Pyros - Pete's Dad. I have discovered that Christmas brings out the very best in recording artists, even the wild and crazy Porno For Pyros (formerly known as Jane's Addiction). This is a very touching and rare B-side that tells about a Jew invited to Christmas dinner by a friend whose Dad just found out from his doctor that he didn't have cancer anymore. The lyrics deal with the joyous dinner that followed this news. I tried to find this in stores and on Amazon.com for the past two years but once again, only Napster came through for me. Well, what could possibly be wrong with a song that starts out: "Well it's Christmas and it's Chanukah, Jews and Italians, live very much alike, I like Italian food..." This should be a Christmas classic but I only heard it on the radio once.
- Zambonis - Hockey Holidays. There is this obscure Connecticut band called the Zambonis that sing about nothing but...hockey! This is a very humorous song about a hockey player who decides not to "high-stick" and "cross-check" his opponents on account of it being Christmas. One lyric goes "Before you raise your high stick, just think about old St. Nick." Great stuff, if you can find it!
- Cocteau Twins - Pearly Dew Drops Drops. Scottish "New Wave" Band from the mid-1980s. Their eclectic style normally is an acquired taste but this underground classic is very accessible right from the first listen. Not officially a Christmas song but it sure sounds great late on Christmas Eve. It's got that "Christmasy" sound to it and you can picture yourself walking outside on a cold winter's night, as the icicles glisten in the moonlight. I might add that the Cocteaus have fantastic versions of the more traditional "Frosty The Snowman" and "Winter Wonderland" as well which can be found on various compilations. Spacey and surreal. Never get tired of hearing all three of these songs.
- Leadbelly - Christmas Day. Leadbelly (Huddie William Ledbetter) was a very influential blues singer from the 1930s and became famous when John Lomax went to the penitentiary (where Leadbelly spent most of his adult life) and recorded him for the Library of Congress. This particular song about a poor young child wondering if Christmas Day was really coming is a Christmas classic for me. This man was passionate about his music and you can sense through his music the hard life that he had.
- Magnetic Fields - 100,000 Fireflies. Not exactly a Christmas song but it's got that jangly, Christmas-Eve feel to it. Reminds me of Christmas and WBCN in Boston even slipped it into their 1997 Christmas Eve Show.
- Vince Guaraldi - A Charlie Brown Christmas. It's not Christmas in my household until this album gets its first spin - usually just before Thanksgiving dinner. Very jazzy and Christmasy and I can picture the "Peanuts" gang throughout. A timeless classic. All the music on this album is great. Simply listen from beginning to end.
- Harvey Danger - Sometimes You Have To Work On Christmas. Harvey Danger is one of those Seattle bands that sprouted up in the wake of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. They are quite good actually. This is a brilliant original Christmas tune about what a bummer it is to have to work on Christmas Day. Clocking in at over 5 minutes, it is chock-full of razor-sharp lyrics. This band really starts to cook at the end of the song. Good luck finding it though. I could only find it by downloading the mp3 online.
- Donna Summer Christmas Spirit. If your perception of Donna Summer is that of 70s disco queen, you are in for quite a surprise with this superb 1994 Christmas Album. Not a trace of disco or synthesized beat on this recording. Not even a moan. This is Christmas music straight up and with passion. Highlights include O Come All Ye Faithful, Breath Of Heaven, O Holy Night and Lamb Of God. I never get tired of hearing this.
- Various Artists Winters Solstice (Vol. 1-6). This New Age series of CDs is great to play when you are in the mood to chill out and maybe watch the lights twinkle on the tree or a sunset or the fireplace. The recording artists are all from the Windham Hill record label and they focus on mostly medieval-flavored melodies with some original compositions thrown in. I am more fond of the first three CDs in this set but all of them are well produced and make fine listening. There are Christmas songs scattered throughout the collection but are not Christmas recordings, per se. You can just as well listen to them in November or February. These are instrumentals only with the exception of Volume 3, which has a smattering of vocals. Especially seek out the tracks by Nightnoise, as they are quite good. One word of warning about the Winters Solstice series, do not get the Winters Solstice On Ice CD as it is horrible and not on par with the previous six at all. They should have left that recording on ice! There is a new Winters Solstice CD out this year that is supposed to revert back to the style of the older recordings but I have not yet heard it.
- Narada Christmas Collections (Vol. 1-3). If you are in the mood for some easy-listening versions of Christmas classics, this is an excellent series. Each of the CDs in this set are excellent. The music is sort of like the Winters Solstice series, only with vocals just about all of the time. I have no favorites here, every single track is excellent, and just about all the traditional songs are covered, from We Three Kings to O Come O Come Emmanuel to Lo, How A Rose Eer Blooming. I rate these CDs higher than those of the aforementioned Winters Solstice series as they are definitely more Christmasy.
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Well, that's it for this year! Hope you all like it.
To: Ryle; uvular; Mrs. Fletcher
Wow. You must have worked on that post for a while. You have a great diverse taste in music. You really picked the some of the best. Bump!
posted on 12/09/2001 9:13:43 AM PST
My favorite artist at Christmas is Karen Carpenter....love her voice..
posted on 12/09/2001 9:17:02 AM PST
My favorite artist at Christmas is Karen Carpenter....love her voice..
The Carpenters' "Christmas Portrait" album, on A&M Records. I literally never fail to get goosebumps when, after the 3 minutes or so of the choral and instrumental music that begin the album, her voice breaks in with the sustained first note of "Christmas Waltz." It's absolutely gorgeous.
There's a double CD entitled "Christmas Collection," but "Christmas Portrait" distills it down to the best of the best.
The Carpenters put out some great Christmas music as well. Unfortunately, I can't include them all or this thread would have killed the Free Republic server!
Fairy Tale of New York is one of my very favorite Christmas songs. I've seen the Pogues in concert a couple of times. Their long broken up now but it was better when the rest of the band could keep the toothless Shane off the drink for at least a few hours in the studio!
I would also recommend you check out "Punk Rock Xmas". Definitely not for everyone but with your range of interest, you might like it. It's pretty old so you may have some trouble finding it. My favorites on there are "Merry Christmas (I don't wanna fight tonight)" by the Ramones, "Daddy Drank our Xmas Money" by TVTV and "Run Run Rudolph". You wont find it on any CD but Tiny Tim singing "Santa's got the AIDS this year" should find it's way onto your hard drive.
I would also recommend you find David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing Little Drummer Boy.
What a fabulous thread. I will be using it for reference to update what I have. Thank you.
George Winston Christmas
Excellent suggestion. I own almost all of his work. He is a magnificient pianist. I have yet to find any music that will soothe me quicker than his does.
posted on 12/09/2001 9:40:41 AM PST
I own "Punk Rock Xmas" and one of my favorites from that is The Damned doing "There Ain't No Sanity Clause." Haven't given that a spin in quite a while, I think I'll dust it off later and revisit it. The Bing & Bowie song is great. I have a version taped off the radio which has a humorous spoken dialogue between Bing and David before the song begins.
Maybe I will put "Christmas Portrait" by the Carpenters on next year's list as it is probably the best of the Carpenter's Christmas albums.
O Holy Night is my ALL time favorite Christmas song, I tear up, and get chills down my spine even when I think about the song being sung. The weird thing is, I don't believe in a greater being, or Angels, or anything like that. That song just hits me in the deep spot.
My point though ... I've been trying to get the BEST version of that song for the longest time now. I have purchase many CD's hoping that would be the one I've been searching for, but it never is THE ONE. I hear the right one on the radio at least once every year, but they never say who sang (sung) it. Do you know the performers of a few versions, besides the ones you've mentioned already, that I could look for on the file sharing network I use? It would be old, but not THAT old. It would be a chorus, not one person, and it's not the Mormon Tabernacle(?) Choir.
Anyone? ... anyone? ... Bueller?...
Oh Yeah ...
Merry Christmas to you, and everyone here at the great Free Republic!
posted on 12/09/2001 12:12:14 PM PST
"O Holy Night" has the same effect on me as well, as well as "Ava Maria," "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and a few others at Christmastime. Wish I could help you though, I have so many versions I'd only send you on a wild goose chase. Your best is to hit the file sharing network and download as many versions as you can until you find it. I have never not been able to find a song that way.
It has always irked me how radio stations will play songs and rarely identify who the artist is. The record companies lose more money this way than file sharing in my opinion. How can you buy the music if you don't know the artist? Hopefully soon, stations will transmit artist/song title information that we can read on our RDS displays. Or at least post to their website the playlist of at least the previous 24 hours.
radio stations will play songs and rarely identify who the artist is. The record companies lose more money this way than file sharing in my opinion.
Ain't that the truth? Well, I might as well get started then. See ya, and thanks for the post. It made me feel all Christmasy.
posted on 12/09/2001 12:39:23 PM PST
Bump for the nighttime crowd.
I finally got on the computer-bump!
Just discovered Trans Siberian Orchestra this year and am lovin' these albums!
Again, a recommondation for a MP3 download of Leon Redbone's Let it Snow, and Jim Brickman's Christmas albums are nicely romantic, mostly piano instrumentals. Great while roasting your chestnuts-ahem-or soaking in a hot tub after a hectic day!
Wonderful reviews Sam; thanks for your efforts and the ping.
posted on 12/10/2001 8:00:29 AM PST
WHAT? No Jazz offerings? :) I've got my choices but no time to offer input.
posted on 12/10/2001 8:05:51 AM PST
Good stuff. Bookmarked for reference. Thanks.
I've been trying to get the BEST version of that song for the longest time now.
Running nightly in our church Christmas production...complete with camel, wise men, flying angels and the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes (or a reasonable facsimile of the babe when our cast member is colicky).
Sorry, but we're sold out this year...We play 18 performances to over 25,000 people.
O Holy Night is an annual favorite. In all honesty, we're probably not the "best," but it's still pretty spectacular...
RE: O Holy Night
Try Vienna Boys Choir. However, in hearing and downloading several versions of this song, it's hard to find one that isn't beautiful, be it sung by a choir or played by a piano alone. TSO's O Come All ye Faithful/O Holy Night is fabulous, too!
posted on 12/10/2001 11:24:37 AM PST
To: Ward Smythe
O Holy Night is an annual favorite. In all honesty, we're probably not the "best," but it's still pretty spectacular...
I'm sure "spectacular" is a gross understatement. I'd love to hear your, or any other, choir perform that song live. I'll bet my chills would multiply greatly.
One thing I don't understand though, why is that wonderful song is relegated to being only an annual favorite? It seems more like a year around song to me, even though I'm happy I don't hear it more often so the emotion it evokes can stay fresh with me.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.
posted on 12/10/2001 3:09:55 PM PST
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