Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Best Christmas music?

We interrupt our current threads
(Sorry! Orders!!)

I don't think my wife has ever asked me to do a specific post — until now! So that makes it a Big Deal.

Valerie would like to know:
  1. What are the best Christmas albums, ever?
  2. Why?
(Of course, Handel's Messiah. Duh. But which one, and why?)

Have at it. I've done my part


Tom Gee said...

Well, of course, Messiah cannot be beat. Although I also like it as Easter music. I understand that it was originally composed for Easter.

I'm become quite fond of Savior
because of the rich lyrics, although the music itself isn't all that it could be.

Stefan Ewing said...

Ah, Christmas. My first Christmas as a regenerate believer! It's like being a kid all over again, but the gift is not a toy, but eternal life, bought by the imputation of Christ's perfect righteousness for my sins.

I can't recommend good Christmas albums. But so many hymns and carols would be fitting on a decent album: the obvious stuff like Joy to the World or Hark, the Herald Angels Sing; but also the less obvious stuff—wouldn't Amazing Grace, Bach's Wachet Auf, or even Third Day's Agnes Dei (if one is so inclined) also be fitting?

(I loved Wachet Auf as a geeky, atheistic, Classical-music-lovin' teenager, but had no idea whatsoever until today that it was a call to repentance, based on Matthew 25:1-13. Uncanny.)

Kevin Jackson said...

If you really want to rock out, you can't beat Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I would start with their second album (The Christmas Attic) before their first (Christmas Eve and Other Stories), although you can't go wrong with any of them.

Besides them and, of course Messiah, I am partial to jazzy, instrumental albums like Dave Brubeck's Christmas album.

JackW said...

1. a. White Christmas by Ba,ba,ba,bing Crosby
b. My favorite is still Christmas by Mannheim Steamroller.

2. a. Chicks dig him?
b. I don't think I want to know why. ;-)

Sharon said...

which one:

American Bach Soloists 2005 Delos release of their live performance from the Mondavi Center.


period instruments, 1741 autograph score, Arianna Zukerman. As close as possible to how it sounded in Handel's ears.

Kristine said...

I'm partial to the compilation albums that include the classic "Crooners"...Bing, Rosemary Clooney, Mel Torme, Nat King Cole, etc.

Why? Not sure I can explain it. Nostalgia is involved a bit, but there's something about being in a cozy living room, on a cold night/day, with the Christmas tree lit up, and Bing Crosby's rendition of "What Child Is This" playing in the background that brings this girl to tears!

mikepettengill said...

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas – Yes they are new age…get over it. The songs are all instrumental and their sound is incredible. Very original sound of wonderful classics.

candy said...

Chieftains, The Bells of Dublin.

Why? They're Irish.

threegirldad said...

"(Of course, Handel's Messiah. Duh. But which one, and why?)"

Well, I happen to like this one. Why?

- Christopher Hogwood
- Choir of Christ Church Cathedral
- Academy of Ancient Music

Do bear in mind that there is no single, definitive Messiah, as Handel was constantly changing this or that to suit particular situations or occasions. And if you've heard it sung according to modern interpretation with a, ummm, thundering choir, then someone's idea of how it most likely sounded in Handel's time may not be your cup of tea. Listen to the samples first. :-)

Also, any Christmas-themed recording of the St. Olaf Choir -- world-renowned, and always a delight (for me anyway).

Carl said...

I have been a music nut since I was a little kid and I've been collecting Christmas CD's for about 15 years now. I'm up to about 580 in my collection. Trying to pick the "best" in regards to Christmas music is like trying to make jello stick to a wall. I have to concur with Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Some great stuff there. I also like Manheim Steamroller, too. However some of my favorites include Christmas albums by SheDaisy, Benny Grunch & The Bunch, Huey "Piano" Smith, Henry Kapono, Smash Mouth, Brad Paisley, The Persuasions, Rockapella and a whole host of others. The sad thing is that most radio stations play so few Christmas songs that people don't know what's available outside the same repetetive stuff. Even the stations that switch to an all-Christmas format have an extremely limited, repetetive playlist. Christmas music transcends musical styles and genres but only a limited amount gets airplay. I did a local Christmas eve radio show in 1995 at a talk station at which I worked and it went over grandly. I tried to get any of the local stations interested last season but no takers. Now with my new job, I am unable to do one this year (I work Christmas eve). A couple of websites I recommend visiting are http://falalalala.com/ and http://www.christmasmusic247.com/ both of which offer links to other sites with Christmas music resources.

My apologies for rambling.

Dave said...

One of my favorites is actually the first disc of Michael Card's "The Life" collection. Thought-provoking, Christ-centered Christmas/Advent music. Gives a nice sense of eager expectation for Immanuel.

And I also enjoy Sufjan Stevens' Christmas box set, but that's just because I kinda dig his vibe.

Kim said...

I like Michael Card's "The Promise."

I like Sufjan Stevens, too. Very unique.

Didn't know he had a Christmas recording.

JackW said...

For the Irish fans, two suggestions:

A Jethro Tull Christmas

New Irish Hymns 3 (incarnation) ... on my list as I've become a fan of the Getty's.

Joe said...

Not much of a Christmas music fan, but I love Chicago's two Christmas CD's. Many of the "Religous" songs they sing have brought me to worship.
I have been Youtubing Terry Kath lately.....what a huge loss.
The wife and I maybe going to Rockford to see Chicago on the 6th.
We will meet you there Dan!!

DJP said...

You're absolutely right, Joe. Though a Chicago fan for decades, I was a bit leery of the album. But it's really terrific, just wonderfully done.

(I also have to admit: I hate Santa songs on principle, but their version of "What's It Gonna Be, Santa?" cracks me up, and I enjoy it. Tell no one. [Go, Keith!])

Yes, YouTube just got a truckload of new vintage Chi videos, including songs I never saw them do live, like "Once or Twice."

A friend just put me onto this: check out the Chi concerts from 1969 and 1974 at this site. (Thanks, Elliot!)

Okay, now back to Christmas music!

Joe said...

Awesome Dan!! My wife likes anything Amy Grant Christmas.

Unknown said...

Maybe I am going out on a limb here, Good News by Kathy Matta. For a "secular artist" one of the most unique and thoughtful Christmas albums I own...beautiful too...if you enjoy a country sound.

Unknown said...

Maybe I am going out on a limb here, Good News by Kathy Matta. For a "secular artist" one of the most unique and thoughtful Christmas albums I own...beautiful too...if you enjoy a country sound.

candy said...

I have the Sufjan Stevens Christmas Boxed set too. Love it!

Carl said...

Someone mentioned Irish music...a more traditional Irish group, the Clancy Brothers released a Christmas album on vinyl many years ago that was rereleased on CD. I think it's out of print but shows up on ebay often so it's not hard to find.

Also, two of my favorite Christmas tunes are "'Zat You Santa Claus" of which I have several versions including what I consider the standard: Louis Armstrong.

And the second isn't directly a Christmas song but is part of the annual Christmas TV tradition: "You're A Mean One, Mister Grinch" which Thurl Ravenscroft does so well but another version of the song I really like was recorded by Dweezil & Ahmet Zappa. And another fun version is the instrumental done by Gary Hoey. And a couple of whimsical versions by The Redneck Party Band and also by Sixpence None The Richer.

DJP said...

First, thanks to everyone for your suggestions. My wife's really enjoying checking them out... if some of them are a bit baff...er, isn't it great how tastes differ? (c:

Second, I think I mis-titled the Chi song I referenced earlier, and everyone prob knew it right away. "Jolly Old St. Nicholas," I think; not "What's It Gonna Be, Santa?" (the refrain).

If you like Christmas music and don't have it yet, I do recommend the Chicago Christmas album. Bill Champlin's "What Child Is This?" is very reverently done, "Let It Snow" is the best version I've heard, "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" is a very fresh take. I think you'll like it.

Stefan Ewing said...

I wouldn't mind hearing some bluegrass Christmas music.

Dan: Was there any artistic influence between Chicago and Blood Sweat & Tears (one of my favourite bands)? I'm much more familiar with BST than Chi, but of course both groups have very similar sounds, and they were contemporaries....

DJP said...

No, or at least not from BST to Chicago. Their roots and sound were distinct. It's just that they were two horn-bands about the same time.

Carl said...

In case anyone is interested, I've upoaded a complete (as far as I can determine) listing of the Christmas CD's in my collection and it can be viewed at http://www.anniemayhem.com/Christmas%20Music/

Brad S said...

Messiah by Chicago Symphony Orchestra:


I like this version because of Bud Herseth playing the trumpet and because the chorus and orchestra are exceptional.

I agree with the assessment of Chicago's Christmas album:


Also has a great piccolo trumpet solo on Child's Prayer. Great album.

Strictly instrumental is Stan Kenton's Christmas Album:


A great classic album with arrangements you will recognize.

Another album that is really good but hard to find is the USAF's Airmen of Note and their album Santa Claus is Comin' to Town:


Fantastic Christian and secular songs alike. Excellent musicianship and arranging. Highly recommended.

David said...

I posted my favorites here.

Kay said...

I have a stack of Christmas Music I listen to all year round. My favourite is probably a celtic-style Album called 'Deep Still Christmas' and I do love the Carol Symphony by Victor Hely Hutchinson, too.

James Joyce said...

My two present favourites are an old cassette I have of the Kings College Boys Choir & a CD called Snow by Go Fish.

Tim said...

Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. :-)

At least, I thought that was the best Christmas album ever when I was a young'un.

Randy said...

I know this is outdated for 2007, but I was thinking about it and wanted to add my 2 cents for anyone stumbling onto this discussion:

Todd Agnew's "Do you hear what I hear" is and INCREDIBLE addition to any Christmas music collection. It has such beautiful arrangement with a modern worship style, and POWERFUL lyrics. It was my hands-down favorite this year.