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The 10 Best Christmas Albums (Of All Time…?)

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10. John Fahey: The New Possibility – John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album — A shivery mood evoked by Fahey‘s steel string guitar… the spiky sounds of the winter tundra…

9. Kenny Burrell: Have Yourself a Soulful Little Christmas — Some real groovy guitar jazz tracks, especially the jammin’ Little Drummer Boy, toe-tappin’ jams on My Favorite Things and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and a gospel-tinged Away In a Manger.

8. Christmas Party with Eddie G — A truly eclectic and eccentric “mix tape”-ish compilation: includes the hilarious Merry Old Philosopher bits and many other fun segues, plus rarely heard quirky gems like Christmas Wish (by NRBQ), Donde esta Santa Claus, Cool Yule, and Heartbreak Noel…

7. Robert Shaw Chorale: The Many Moods of Christmas — Big big BIG sounds: full orchestra, chorus and organ… take no prisoners Mahlerian orchestrations… and medleys… MEDLEYS!

6. Swingle Singers: Christmastime — A merry affair with the trademark wordless do-be-doos and skittering percussion of the Swingles… a good mix of familiar and lesser known carols… and yes, MEDLEYS!

5. Frank Sinatra: A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra — The Gordon Jenkins arrangements are a bit dreary and corny, and there are too many sacred carols … but come on, it’s Frankie, it’s Christmas, and nothing sounds better by the fireside…

4. Leonard Bernstein: The Joy of Christmas — Very creative and tasteful arrangements for orchestra and chorus by Eddie Sauter (of Stan Getz/Focus fame), and the only listenable 12 Days of Christmas I’ve ever heard.

3. George Shearing Quintet: Christmas — Sets a wonderfully warm mood, and includes a few non-standard but gorgeous selections (Donkey Carol, Balulalow, Noel Nouvelet). The inspired “mash-up” (?!) of God Rest Ye Merry gentlemen with Brubeck’s Take Five rhythm is brilliant… and Shearing even sings on the final track!

2. Jackie Gleason: Merry Christmas — The slowest version of Jingle Bells ever… All dreamy and icy, creeping along at glacial tempos… ooohing choirs, tinkling bells, swirling strings… so fantastic!

1. Vince Guaraldi Trio: A Charlie Brown Christmas — A perfect album, period.

Honorable mentions:

Carpenters: Christmas Portrait
Ramsey Lewis Trio: Sound of Christmas
Diana Krall: Christmas Songs
Ultra Lounge: Christmas Cocktails Parts 1 & 2
Esquivel: Merry Xmas
Tony Bennett: Snowfall
Christmas Remixed Volumes 1 & 2
Ella Fitzgerald: Wishes You a Merry Christmas
Stan Kenton: A Merry Christmas
John Denver: Rocky Mountain Christmas
Eaken Piano Trio: Home for the Holidays


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  • GoHah

    Wha? No “A Christmas Gift For you From Phil Spector” or the “Beach Boys Christmas Album” for a little wall of seasonal sound?

  • Yeah, I thought about those… while I certainly respect the “classic” status of those albums, they didn’t make my cut simply because I don’t find myself wanting to listen to them nearly as much as these over the holidays… maybe I’m just too old fashioned… one that I did shamefull overlook, though is John Denver’s Rocky Mountain Christmas which I’m adding to the honorable mentions now… oops…

  • I vote for both of GoHah’s, plus Merry Christmas from Elvis. But it’s fairly clear that Stephen V. Funk is, first and foremost, a jazz guy.

  • No Kenny Rogers?

  • Chantal Stone

    I like Frank Sinatra, but him singing Christmas songs is depressing as hell. Isn’t December the month with the most suicides? I wonder why.

  • J. P. Spencer

    Do you all want a treasure hunt?

    The best Christmas album I’ve ever come across is from a band called the Rotary Connection, which featured a young Minnie Ripperton as one of the vocalists. I can’t remember the title of this album for the life of me, but it was a double album and featured a song about Santa being able to reach every house in one night because he smokes mistletoe.

    Happy Hunting!!

  • Rob

    So glad to see Vince Guaraldi Trio at number one. Great picks all round.

  • TD

    The Greatest Christmas Songs of All Time

    During this holiday season many of you will be attending gatherings or shopping at malls where in the background will be the continuous drone of holiday music. I myself recently attended a Christmas party where everyone was subjected to the continuous repeat of a holiday compilation album being played in the stereo (that is until I snuck off to the garage with a few friends to enjoy a mix CD of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins hits – a 90’s smorgasbord).

    I’ve never fussed over Christmas music since it’s only played for a short time (though the holiday season seems to be getting longer each year starting up as soon as the Halloween decorations come down). Like elevator music, Christmas music is supposed to provide a calming reassuring background noise for shoppers and partygoers, though watching the pushing match between some shoppers you would guess Bolt Thrower was playing on mall intercoms

    Could you imagine hearing 50 Cent rapping about a white Christmas or System of A Down crafting a thrash version of “We Three Kings”? It’s unlikely but after experiencing the onslaught of Christmas music these past few weeks I got to thinking what were the best holiday themed songs ever recorded (well not necessarily the best but my own personal favourites).

    Excluding older artists like Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Durante, Burl Ives, Gene Autry and all those other pre-rock and roll performers, I’ve come up with the top five greatest Christmas songs ever sung by contemporary artists – meaning from the rock, pop and hip hop community.

    5. Santa Clause is Coming to Town – Bruce Springsteen

    A holiday classic written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie, “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” was originally recorded way back in 1935 by Joe Harris with Benny Goodman & His Orchestra. It’s been re-recorded numerous times over the decades but it was the Boss’ version that surpassed all other renditions being released as a B-side on his 1985 “My Hometown” single.

    4. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – U2

    Irish rockers U2 took this sixties classic and made it their own contributing it to the first edition of the popular Very Special Christmas series. Written by Phil Spector, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich and originally sung by Darlene Love, the song, like most Christmas songs has been redone countless times over the years but U2’s 1987 version still remains the best rendition.

    3. Christmas In Hollis – Run-DMC

    Run-DMC bring a little hip hop flavour to Christmas with their 1987 hit “Christmas In Hollis.” Released off the first Very Special Christmas compilation, the song and its accompanying video have become fixtures on radio and video stations come every holiday season. The song also closed the group’s 2002 greatest hits compilation, which was released a month before the tragic murder of DJ Jam Master Jay.

    2. Do they Know it’s Christmas – Band Aid

    Released in 1984, this massive Bob Geldof-Midge Ure penned single from U.K. supergroup Band Aid hit number one in the U.K, sold millions of copies around the world (the proceeds went to the Ethiopian Famine relief) and subsequently returned to the top of the U.K charts on two other separate occasions; in 1989 when a new line-up called Band Aid II recorded it after a second Ethiopian famine hit and in 2004 for the 20th anniversary of the project.

    1. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon and Yoko Ono

    This is the only song out of any Christmas themed song that I can listen to at any time of the year. The ex-Beatles’ Vietnam protest song is still relevant thirty plus years after it’s release maybe even more so this year as this December 8th marks the 25th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder. Melissa Etheridge recorded a live version of “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” a few years ago that is widely recognized as the best cover version of the song.

    Bonus: Worst Christmas song ever

    It wouldn’t be a complete list unless the worst Christmas song wasn’t included. I came up with a short list that included such forgettable performances from the likes of The Darkness (“Christmas time, Don’t Let the Bells End”), Rosie O’Donnell & Elmo (“Do You Hear What I Hear”), Kathie Lee Gifford (“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”) and a host of others.

    I narrowed the list down to two songs; the first being “Silent Night” from 80’s glam rockers Winger, the other Paul McCartney’s 1979 solo hit “Wonderful Christmastime.” Winger’s interpretation of “Silent Night,” is arguably the funniest and worst version of that song that has ever been recorded. The only thing missing in this crappy rendition was a guest appearance from Slaughter namesake Mark Slaughter, though Winger singer Kip Winger does a fine job of embarrassing himself on his own.

    But after much deliberation the worst Christmas song ever is Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime,” which actually made the top ten in the U.K, reaching number six. This overproduced diddy is really not any worse than any of McCartney’s other schmaltzy hits of that era but takes the cake at being the worst Christmas song ever solely for its incessant chorus – “Simply having a wonderful Christmas time.” It will stick in your head well into the new year.

    Trent McMartin

  • mike

    my favorite christmas album is the bony m christmas album

  • vicki

    Of course Charlie Brown Christmas is the best, but Amy Grant’s album “Home For Christmas” ranks right up there too. Especially the song “Breath Of Heaven”…..

  • Anthony

    I would certainly have had a Kenny Rogers Christmas album in there. He has done 5, and the best is “The Gift.” It had original Christmas songs, and a montage of traditional religious carols. Very unique and perfect album.

  • Vic

    if anything deserves to be #1 it’s White Christmas by bing Crosby.

  • Leonard

    Great list. But I don’t agree on putting a Charlie Brown Christmas as no. 1. I love Vince, but “Für Elise” with no personal touch at all. Why? And the amateur Children’s choir – I don’t understand it. My tip is Al Jarreau’s Christmas album.

  • Jesse

    Lee Ann Womack’s “The Season for Romance,” and Faith Hill’s “Joy to the World” are two amazing albums with amazing vocals!

  • Great recommendations! I would highly recommend these two albums as well… Incredible vocalists!

  • Rusty

    Without a doubt, the best Christmas CD ever is “Just in Time for Christmas” from the late great Nancy LaMott. Two other also-rans are from Maureen McGovern and the terrific Manhattan Transfer Christmas CD.

  • Donal

    Great list…but Number 3 should really be at number 1…Just for “Once in Royal Davids City”!

  • Robert

    Some of my Favorites:

    Sam Phillips – Cold Dark Night

    Bruce Cockburn – Christmas

    Nat King Cole – Christmas for Kids; the version I have has the original mono ‘Christmas Song’ which is the definitive version

    James Brown Christmas

    Sufjan Stevens – Songs for Christmas