I love Christmas music. I always have. While we didn't listen to a lot of music in my home most of the year while I was growing up (usually because someone was always playing the piano or singing or playing an instrument), we knew it was Christmas when my mom pulled out the Christmas tape. Yes, a cassette tape -- because I'm 100 years old.
To this day, I'm really not sure why we loved this tape so much. It was a 1985 Avon Christmas compilation with a really weird mix of artists -- Dolly Parton, Bing Crosby, the Muppets, Kenny Rogers, Anne Murray, Elvis Presley, Julie Andrews, Jose Feliciano, Perry Como and Nat King Cole. But my mom would put the tape into our really old portable boombox and we would dance around to "Round and Round the Christmas Tree" and "Deck The Halls" and make her flip over and rewind the tape so we could listen to the Muppets' "12 Days of Christmas" again.
My taste in Christmas music has expanded quite a bit. I realized as we were driving and listening to music Friday night that I have nearly 200 Christmas songs, and I seem to add a few more each year. So here are my top Christmas picks if you're looking for a few new albums to add to your collection. And side note: My friend Jenny has fabulous taste in Christmas music (i.e., three of her five favorite albums are in my list, too), so I recommend checking out her blog as well.
- "James Taylor at Christmas": I adore James Taylor, and this album is classic JT and includes his beautiful spin on Christmas classics. He actually just released a new version of this album that has several new songs (I have the older version), but I know you'll love "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "River" and "The Christmas Song." Also, his duet with Natalie Cole on "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is fantastic. He makes it so much friendlier and less stalker-creepy (Say, what's in this drink, anyone?). P.S. It's $3.99 on Amazon right now, so you have no excuse not to buy it.
- "A Charlie Brown Christmas" by the Vince Guaraldi Trio: Yes, I did mention this in last year's Christmas post, but this is one album that everyone needs to add to their Christmas playlist. It'll take you back to memories of watching the TV special and feeling all warm and fuzzy when Linus recites the scriptures and reminds Charlie what Christmas is really all about. Standouts: "Linus and Lucy," "Christmas is Coming" and "O Tannebaum." I'm actually kind of bummed, because there's a brand-new remastered version available on Amazon right now for $3.99, which means that all of the '60s scratchiness is gone. On the other hand, the original recording I have is pretty charming.
- "Christmas" by Michael Bublé: I bought this album after Christmas last year (I think Amazon was having one of its dangerous after-Christmas mp3 sales again), so this is the first year I've listened to it -- and it is worth the investment. I know there are those who don't really like Michael Bublé because he mainly covers standards that made Frank Sinatra famous, but he really comes into his own on this album. His rendition of "Blue Christmas" is amazing, and I really like his version of "Ave Maria"(and I'm hard to please on that song). The one thing I don't like is Michael's Christmas greeting at the end -- it's just a little contrived. But this smooth album provides enough unexpected twists to make it one you'll want to listen to each year.
- "Noel" by Josh Groban: The man can sing anything, and his version of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" gets me every time. I also love his duet with Brian McKnight on "Angels We Have Heard on High" and "It Came Upon The Midnight Clear" is slowed down and sung beautifully. Buy this album right now. You will not be disappointed. However, if you're looking for his stunning version of "O Holy Night," you won't find it here; buy the single on his live album.
- "Christmas Portrait" by The Carpenters: I included this last year, too, but it has to be included in a list of Christmas albums. This is the album that produced such wonderful songs as "Christmas Waltz" and "Merry Christmas, Darling," but Karen Carpenter's gorgeous voice makes even the standards like "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" amazing. I LOVE THIS ALBUM.
How about you? Have you bought any new Christmas music lately? Are there any classic albums I need to add to my collection?