Friday, December 16, 2011

The only other Christmas albums anyone needs


Last year, my Christmas present to everyone that no one asked for was a list of "The only Christmas albums anyone needs."

That spurred countless comments, emails, and tweets (translation: 10 or 11) telling me that I missed a classic. So, I bought a pile more - as recommended - and I'm ready for the inevitable sequel: "The only other Christmas albums anyone needs."

I still maintain that there are more bad Christmas albums than good ones (and I include anything by Boney M or with the words "A Very Special..." in the title) and that good music is good every season, and bad music is bad every season.

With that in mind, here are the only other essential Christmas albums you'll ever need. Until next year's list.

1. The Supremes - Merry Christmas

The unheralded Christmas classic that sounds like Phil Spector produced it (he didn't) and notable for Diana Ross' awesome early career performance on "Little Bright Star" (top of blog post) and the worst version of "Silver Bells" ever recorded. Still: overall it's a keeper.

2. Stevie Wonder - Someday at Christmas

Nothing on the album was written by Wonder, but his vocals are in top form on the title track and - believe it or not - "Ave Maria." 

3. The Whispers - Happy Holidays to You

I don't know a lot about this band (that's what Wikipedia is for!), but "This Christmas" and the title track are solid gold. 

4. The Beach Boys - Christmas Album

I hate the Beach Boys, and anyone who says that they're better than the Beatles is insane. However, this collection has its fans - I get it, but I still find most of the songs pretty bland. It's here for "Christmas Day" and "Little Saint Nick" and the very real possibility that I just can't hear what everybody else does. 

5. Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Charlie Brown Christmas

No depressing Christmas is complete without the most-depressing music for the most-depressing kids' cartoon ever. Make sure you're not close to alcohol or sharp objects before you press play.

6. Willie Nelson - Pretty Paper

Equally depressing as Guaraldi, and probably for fans only, but the album's emotional wallop actually comes from Nelson being very, very bored, very, very high, or both. 

7. Emmylou Harris - Light of the Stable

Dolly Parton and Linda Rondstadt aren't particularly surprising cameos, but you have to sit up and take notice when they appear together - with Neil Young (on the title track). 

8. John Fahey - Christmas with John Fahey (Vol. I and II), The New Possibility

Lovely but very hard to find. The good news: he's got a glut of Christmas songs and albums, and they're all lovely.

Numbers nine and 10? Still looking. Your suggestions, please.

10 comments:

  1. Boney M - Seriously my fav xmas album of all time. They make Bieber's Drummer Boy look like an even bigger mistake.

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  2. For me it's Mannheim Steamroller's Holiday. Love it.

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  3. Jim Reeves - 12 Songs of Christmas

    Please Senor Santa Claus - love it!

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  4. No, not Boney M! I will investigate the others. Great suggestions.

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  5. The Sinatra Christmas Album is one of my favourites.

    Randy

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  6. The Don Ho Christmas album, featuring Mele Kalikimaka
    - my hands-down favourite Xmas album.

    Runners-up: a pair of Rhino Records compilations - Rockin' Christmas 50s and Rockin' Christmas 60s. The latter includes Back Door Santa - a soul classic about Claus and Mama getting it on, nasty-style...

    (I love Prince's Another Lonely Christmas - it was the flipside of the I Would Die 4 U 45 - 2, I mean, too.

    Dave Sanderson

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  7. James Brown's Funky Christmas. Trumps all. Oh yeah, fuck Boney M!

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  8. Can't forget about Kenny and Dolly's "Once Upon a Christmas". Solid gold.

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