As someone who actually got paid to “spin the hits” at one point in my life, I spent WAY too much time tweaking my playlists on iTunes. I was polishing up my holiday music one today and noticed how many songs were from the same few albums. So, without further ado, here are my Top Ten Christmas Albums. Before Christmas, I’ll be posting my Top Ten Christmas Songs (though it may have to be Top Twenty or divided into two lists or something like that).
10. Cool Yule by Bette Midler (2006)
The newest one in the bunch is just packed full of Bette fun. I dare you to listen to her version of “Mele Kalikimaka” without smiling!
9. Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration by Dianne Reeves, Patti Austin, Stevie Wonder, Take 6, Tevin Campbell, Al Jarreau and more (1992)
One of the things I miss about managing a college radio station is the music that my students would share with me, music that I would otherwise miss. I had sung Handel’s Messiah in high school and college, but this contemporary reworking of the classic by Quincy Jones just knocked my socks off. Unlike the other albums on this list, this is listened to from beginning to end in one sitting to appreciate the full experience.
8. Rocky Mountain Christmas by John Denver (1975)
I always believe that parents affect their children’s musical tastes (one way or another). I thank my parents for nuturing my love of Broadway cast albums and, in particular, I thank my mother for playing this album almost non-stop from 1975 on. The album was the first time I ever heard “Coventry Carol” and it will always be my favorite version.
7. Holiday Inn Original Soundtrack by Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire (1942)
Okay, gather ’round young ‘uns… back when I was in high school (the late 1970s), we didn’t have DVD players or VCRs and even the channels we had on cable would be consider less than basic today. Every Christmas, one of the local television stations showed either the Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol or Holiday Inn at 10:30 pm. And I love them both to this day. The soundtrack is not easy to find now (most likely due to the inclusion of the song “Abraham”), but it is well worth the hunt.
6. A Very Special Christmas by the Pointer Sisters, Eurythmics, Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen, the Pretenders, John Mellencamp, Sting, Run D.M.C., U2, Madonna, Bob Seger, Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, Alison Moyet and Stevie Nicks (1987)
I have a unique connection with this one. In fall of 1987, John (don’t call me Cougar) Mellencamp rehearsed his “Lonesome Jubilee” tour in Terre Haute, Indiana. I was hired as a production assistant for the week and, when the tour came to Indianapolis in December of that year, they asked me to work again because I “had a brain” and wasn’t “a groupie”. When I wasn’t answering phones, I got to see John tape the video for “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”. Lots and lots of fun!
5. Christmas by Rockapella (2000)
You may remember the old kid’s show (based on the computer game) Where In The World is Carmen Sandiego?. And if you do, you may also remember the acappella singing group Rockapella that was on the show. Their first Christmas album is a delight full with their takes on classics and some new music too. Their second Christmas album Comfort and Joy (2002) is also quite good, but their ultra deep bass Barry Carl had left by then so it doesn’t seems as much like them.
4. Christmas Favorites by Nat King Cole (1992)
Of course, these songs are much older than 1992, but that’s when this particular collection was released. And what a joy that it was! Like most folks, I originally bought it for “The Christmas Song” but have come to love Cole’s versions of the more traditional Christmas carols just as much.
3. A Christmas Together by John Denver and the Muppets (1979)
Here’s another album that has songs that make you laugh and songs that touch your heart. This soundtrack from a television special that has never been on video or DVD is all time favorite of many people I know. I had it originally on vinyl and got my CD version about ten years ago. Songs from John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain Christmas” and the Muppets’ Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas are revisited here.
2. Boogie Woogie Christmas by the Brian Setzer Orchestra (2002)
Having a party? This has to be one of the albums you play. What Brian Setzer does with these Christmas songs is just incredible. You’ll be going back and listening to this one over and over. The big band version of “The Nutcracker Suite” is probably my favorite. Well, my favorite this week at least!
1. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector by Darlene Love, the Ronettes, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, the Crystals and the Ronettes (1963)
I remember when I got my first vinyl copy of this album. I was working at WBOW/WZZQ in Terre Haute and we were getting ready for the two weeks before Christmas when WBOW played Christmas music 24 hours a day. The program director decided that Phil Spector didn’t fit with the Ray Coniff Singers and so on that they usually played so I got the album. Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is a classic and has been remade many, many times (including U2’s version on “A Very Special Christmas”). Apparently, I’m not alone in thinking this is the best Christmas album. According to Wikipedia, “Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, well-known as a fan of both the Ronettes and Spector, has cited this album as his favorite Christmas album of all time.”
Hope you enjoyed the list and…
HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE !!!