As of now, iTunes tells me I could listen to my holiday playlist for twelve days (I just realized the coincidence there) without hearing the same song twice. Forget the tree, and the lights and shopping. Music and family make it Christmastime to me.
In no particular order, here are my top ten choices for Christmas music.
Favorite Christmas Albums
1. Come Darkness, Come Light – Mary Chapin Carpenter. Melancholy, yet comforting like cocoa by the tree on a wintry day, this album has become like a cherished friend of the family we only get to see at holiday time. We all love it and listen to it over and over and over again. With simple arrangements and Carpenter’s nuanced vocals, this one never gets old. Favorite title: Very difficult to choose since the album is so evenly produced, but my sentimental favorite is “Hot Buttered Rum”
2. A Christmas Dream – Bobby Schnitzer, et al. We picked this one up several years ago while Christmas shopping at Louisiana Pecans. While this is an album of mainly Christmas standards, I’ve never had that dread feeling of “not What Child Is This AGAIN.” It’s low-key approach (just three primary instruments) makes it the perfect background CD throughout the holiday. Favorite title: “Coventry Carol”
3. The Chipmunks Greatest Christmas Hits – Chipmunks. I remember wearing out the old eight-track of this album when I was a kid. It honestly didn’t sound much different at that point, but the point is that I loved the Chipmunks. I love hearing it again every holiday. Once. My wife doesn’t care to hear it even that much. My daughter has taken over the obsession of wanting to hear it over and over. Favorite title: “Here Comes Santa Claus”
4. Rocky Mountain Christmas – John Denver. This is my wife’s favorite. I was never a John Denver fan, but I have to admit his voice is both powerful and beautiful on this album. It’s a sacred experience, with the exception of “Please Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas,” which I also will sing at the top of my lungs, to the accompaniment of eye rolls from the girls. Favorite title: “Aspenglow”
5. A Charlie Brown Christmas. A less offensive version of a childhood obsession, this album’s jazzy instrumentals are universally identifiable and beloved. Favorite title: “Christmastime is Here”
6. Noels and Carols from the Olde World – Various. When I long for a break from the endless covers and want a classical music fix as well, this is my go-to album. These are the original holiday classics. As a bonus, they can be listened to as background music, unlike Handel. Favorite title: “Fum, Fum, Fum!”
7. Carpenters Christmas Collection. I love voices — especially when it comes to Christmas music. Karen Carpenter was a the peak of her vocal powers and phrasing during the recording of these classics. Her brother Richard, more than brought it himself with the instrumentals, producing the definitive holiday title. Favorite title: “Christmas Waltz”
8. Smokey Mountain Christmas – Various. Simple, melodic and down-to-earth without wallowing in its bluegrass roots, this album maintains an even pace that’s the perfect soundtrack for anyone’s country Christmas. Favorite title: “Joy to the World” starts it off just right
9. An Evening in December – First Call. The harmonies on this a capella album fall on your ears with the gentleness of winter’s first snowfall. I still have a hard time believing just three people provided all the harmonies on this album. Favorite title: “Starlight”
10. The Gift Goes On – Sandi Patty. This 1983 album is Sandi Patty at the zenith of crystal vocal perfection. Arranged in a classical style, it’s a Christmas title that’s never been matched in my opinion for beauty, power and sheer addictiveness. Nobody will ever beat this album’s rendition of O Holy Night. When it’s time to start decorating at our house each year, this is the first accompaniment. Favorite title: “O Holy Night in a close tie with Bethlehem Morning”
And a bonus …
Christmas Live – Sandi Patty. Nearly 30 years after The Gift Goes On was released, my family was fortunate to be in the audience during this live recording in Richardson, Texas. This is a testament to a seasoned vocalist who takes care of her talent. It is available in both DVD and audio CD formats. Both highly recommended. Favorite title: “Songs of Snow”
Now that you know my favorite holiday albums, what are yours?
Graphic by By hans s on Flickr