Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Essential Christmas Album Collection

The Meaning of Christmas

This is one of the great Christmas albums of all time. It starts out with the medley "Sing We Now of Christmas" and some of the older re-issues of this album go by that name, but the star of the show is the original version of "The Little Drummer Boy". You probably listened to tunes spun from the vinyl of this LP when you were opening presents under the Christmas Tree when you were a little kid. This album is a re-issue of the original 1959 classic.

This album featuring choral singing backed by orchestra is another must have for the Christmas season. I love the use of some lesser known Christmas songs. It is another old standard and features a great collection of sacred Christmas music that you will spin again and again.

John Rutter is an English composer and conducter of sacred music. He has several Christmas albums and this is his best. It includes most of Rutter's original Christmas compositions and some fresh arrangements of Christmas standards. What makes Rutter great is his ability to bring a contemporary twist yet still have that touch of either mystery or festivity that is the essence of Christmas.

Handel's Messiah is a composition which I have to listen to at least once during the Christmas season, even though only one third of the oratory has to do with the prophecies and events of the Messiah's birth. There are lots of bad Messiah recordings, this is not one of them. The version done by the Academy of St. Martin in the Field is a great recording and one of my favorites.

The late, great Luciano Pavaratti is my favorite tenor. This album is a re-issue from the late 70's. "Uncle Luke's" voice is at it's peak of perfection. This is a wonderful collection of timeless, beautiful songs that capture the meaning of Christmas.

The Spirit of Christmas

Bing Croby, Burl Ives, they are all here. This and the companion CD linked below bring together just about all the Christmas classics that are part of the Great American Songbook. If you are looking for a comprehensive collection of the songs of your childhood Christmas memories, you have found it here. The Time-Life Treasury of Christmas: Christmas Memories

The animated TV perennial. This soundtrack is from was the very first Peanuts inspired seasonal special and is the wonderful. There is something about Charlie Brown's sad Christmas tree and Snoopy's antics along with Linus' reading of the Christmas story that capture the spirit of the season for me. As a bonus Vince Guarali's jazz interpretation of the Peanut's charachters is spot on.

OK, now for a few albums that are newer, but have an earned a place on my must play at Christmas time playlist. My kids introduces my to the music of Sufjan Stevens. He is a multi-instrumentalist minimalist singer song-writer. This 42 track CD is a compilation of Sufjan reinterpretations of Chrismas classics plus new music he sent out starting in 2001 to his friends as a kind of a musical Christmas card.

Maggie, Terry and Suzie Roche are three sisters out of the New York folk season. They used to do an annual Christmas concert at Manhattan's Town Hall. Their tight harmonies and sweet and sassy style are a joy to listen to. I always thought they were one of New York music's best kept secrets. I have enjoyed introducing them and especially their Christmas album to a a lot of different folk over the years.

Why is this one here you might ask? Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses, I Believe in Father Christmas by Gregg Lake, Step Into Christmas by Elton John and Father Christmas by the Kinks, all in place. Lots of Christmas memories from my late 70's early 80's college days. Almost an anthology of Classic Rock Christmas music. If "Do They Know It's Christmas" and "Merry Xmas (The War is Over) were here this would be golden.

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