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Holidays! 🎄 Favorite Christmas Albums

tomswift2002

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Thread Starter
I think the title is pretty self explanatory. With it being December, what Christmas albums do you play on the old “Hi-Fi”? Could be any artist from any label, or even a various artist disc. What are your favorited? Are there any that you just scratch your head at, wondering how they got a release?
 

Mike Blakesley

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I'm kind of a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas music. I guess that's why I like the Carpenters Christmas albums so well... they don't try to reinvent the wheel, they just do Christmas music the way it was meant to be done. So all of my favorite Christmas albums are pretty "normal," well except one..... my favorite Christmas album overall is the Tijuana Brass one, because it combines one of my favorite bands with the Christmas tunes. It's NOT traditional, but I love the sound of it.

Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass - Christmas Album
Carpenters - Christmas Portrait
Herb Alpert - A Christmas Wish
Carpenters - An Old Fashioned Christmas
The Polar Express - soundtrack (combines some evergreen tunes with newer songs that still sound old-fashioned-ish)
Any Christmas album by Mitch Miller reminds me of my grandpa, who loved Christmas music
Arthur Fiedler & the Boston Pops - A Christmas Festival
The first couple of Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums (the later ones are very hit and miss)
A&M's Something Festive compilation

Most newer Christmas albums by established acts tend to fall flat with me, although there is the occasional great tune. I really like Christopher Cross's song "The Best Christmas." It puts a lump in my throat every time.

But, truth be told, Christmas music is something that's generally played in the background either at work, or at home during gift opening. About the only Christmas album I play on purpose to listen through the whole thing is the aforementioned TJB one.
 

Rudy

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We've done this type of thread yearly, and it's always neat to see when someone finds a new holiday album, whether it's a new recording or something that they have discovered after years or decades. And the rest of us revisiting our favorites is always a treat! I'm not one to listen to this much very much--maybe a few days out of the year at most. (Thanks to oversaturation out in public, I have no desire to listen to the same couple dozen tunes at home all over again.)

I'm with Mike on the TJB Christmas album--it's all the familiar tunes, all redone with arrangements that often turn the tunes inside out and give them new life. I still have an original vinyl pressing, but also picked up the recent Herb Alpert Presents reissue on vinyl and digital hi-res download. It is also historically important since it was one of the first Xmas LPs I heard when I was only four or five years old, and had the 45 RPM single a couple years prior.

A&M's Something Festive is an interesting cross-section of early A&M artists, and is still readily available. I have four copies myself, the last one being a sealed copy that someone sent me several years ago. I was able to extend it by finding other A&M tracks from the earlier years, and it makes for a nice listen.

That Carpenters' Christmas Portrait is still best on its original vinyl, and while I rarely play it anymore, the performance, the arrangements and the sequencing are perfect. This is one where I'd love to see a reissue of the original vinyl version.

A couple of years ago, Analogue Productions released a 33⅓ version of the Charlie Brown Christmas album. It was on a 45 RPM set a while back, but those sold out quickly and are now unobtainium. But even in this new 33⅓ version mastered by Kevin Gray, there are details from this decades-old recording that are buried on any reissue that Fantasy ever released.

Ella Fitzgerald's Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas is a load of fun, since it includes swinging arrangements from Frank DeVol to back her up, and the mood is joyful throughout. It's a real pick-me-up that I'm happy to say will appeal to everyone and not just jazz fans. I have a few jazz Xmas albums and have to say that outside of one or two, most of them were a thumping bore.

John Pizzarelli is one of the jazz artists who have cut Christmas albums, and his take is more along the lines of the old school crooners like Frank Sinatra or Nat King Cole--he has recorded tributes to their tunes a few times. His guitar work is delightful, and his singing catches the spirit on his album Let's Share Christmas.

I do have to take a moment to say that of the Sinatra or Nat King Cole albums, there are some tracks I like, but I can't take a whole album of their music. Sometimes the tunes get a little too traditional and the strings and choruses a little too heavy. But something like Cole's "The Christmas Song" has to be the definitive version of this tune.

Ramsey Lewis's classic Chess era recording Sound of Christmas is a lighthearted piano trio album (with drummer Redd Holt and bassist Eldee Young) with bluesy and jazz touches to it. Ramsey's usual good taste ensures that everything stays on a pleasant, even keel here. Side one of the LP is all trio, where the second side adds light orchestral backing.

While I'm not a huge fan of rock/pop holiday albums, there are some I've really enjoyed.

Any of the Brian Setzer Orchestra Xmas albums are a load of fun. I was a fan of Stray Cats back when they first rocked this town inside out, so seeing Setzer branch off into his big band project was a treat, as I was also a fan of big band from my high school days. Does it seem a stretch for a rockabilly guitarist to get into jazz? Not really, as many of Setzer's early years were spent sneaking into the Village Vauguard to watch jazz acts like the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. And ever since he branched out, his guitar repertoire has expanded greatly. In addition, his yearly live Xmas tour is something to see--I've been to it twice, and as my better half once said, seeing this show really puts you in the holiday spirit even when you're down in the dumps.

The rocker JD McPherson recently put out an album of originals entitled Socks. The humorous cartoon cover says it all--the angry young kid opening up his gift from Santa, only to find a pair of...socks. 😕 The other tunes here are a rollicking good time as well, and JD keeps it all upbeat and humorous.

Saving one of the best for last--Hey! Merry Christmas! by one of the most unique bands out there, The Mavericks. This one features only two classic holiday tunes--"Happy Holiday" and "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)". The latter is important to this entire album, since the original version of this tune harkens back to the Phil Spector album from the 60s, and the entire album has some of that same "wall of sound" vibe throughout. And the real magic happens due to Raul Malo and the band putting enough hints of other Xmas tunes in their originals that we are familiar with (a little turn of phrase here, a reminiscent melody snippet there), without seeming like they are either blatant ripoffs, or generic tunes with holiday-themed lyrics tagged onto them. I'll paraphrase a review of this album and say that if this one doesn't get you up and moving, you don't have a pulse! 🎄

I'm forgetting others I know, but for now these are some of my favorites. I tend to assemble the favorite tracks into a playlist these days and let them run on Roon throughout the day on the 24th and 25th, but with the vinyl, I'll play them either one or both sides in a sitting.
 

GDB2LV

Well-Known Member
My favorites are in this order:
1.Carpenters Christmas Portrait the ultimate Christmas Album. Sounds like a Broadway Show.
2. The Roches We Three Kings. awesome harmonies and lots of tracks.
3. Boney M. Christmas Album. Released originally only in West Germany, has about a dozen different titles or covers. Same tracks on all. Caribbean German and just cool.
4. Manhattan Transfer The Christmas Album. Again great vocal harmonies.
5. Carpenters Old Fashioned Christmas.
6. Perry Como Complete RCA Christmas Collection. Production by Richard Carpenter and Jim Pierson.
7. Michael Buble’ Christmas expanded edition.
8. Spencer Day If Christmas Doesn’t Kill Me e.p download only. Excellent young Jazz crooner that most never heard of. Check out his Vagabond cd. He’s really good!
 
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Harry

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Stock answer from a few years ago:

TJB: Christmas Album
Carpenters: Christmas Portrait and An Old Fashioned Christmas
A&M Artists: i Something Festive !
Amy Grant: Home For Christmas
Vince Guaraldi: A Charlie Brown Christmas
Mannheim Steamroller: Christmas, Fresh Aire Christmas, Christmas In The Aire
Percy Faith & His Orchestra: Music Of Christmas
Nick Bicât: Score for A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott version)

Plus many compilations with various Christmas tracks from everyone from Bing Crosby and Perry Como to the Eurythmics and Pomplamoose.

...and a little updating:

Herb Alpert released a new Christmas album back in 2017. That should probably be on the list, though I haven't warmed up to that one all that much. It's fine when I play it - I like it a lot, but it doesn't yet have that nostalgic feeling I get with a lot of other Christmas music, because it's basically new. I played it a few times when new, and a few times last year, but it still has that "new" sheen to it. It also has a modern "thumpy" overly-loud sound about it.

This year I got a new vinyl version of Amy Grant's HOME FOR CHRISTMAS. This one is the "Cracker Barrel" limited edition on Coke-bottle-green clear vinyl. Looks cool, and from what I've heard, sounds pretty good too. That album became special to me about a decade or so ago, and it's extra "Target" cassette track is just perfect to start off my CD every year.

Every year I usually assemble a car-jukebox-CD for Christmas with all of my favorites in a sort of random order. It runs for hours - all WMA files. It's kind of a defense against the all-Christmas radio stations that have some annoying qualities. One of those is repetition. In four trips out in the car, I've heard "Last Christmas" by the cast of GLEE four times. As if that weren't enough, we have two stations doing the all-Christmas format. One is from Orlando, the other from Tampa. Turns out they play the exact same music in the exact same order at roughly the same times. Both are "iHeart" stations, so it's some sort of corporate programming I guess. But it limits the variety - I can't punch up the other station because it's essentially the same. Leave it to corporate radio to even spoil Christmas!

Anyway, my own CD contains many, many of the tracks from the albums I've listed above, plus a lot of random favorites that I've latched onto over the years. Things like the classics from Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Sinatra. Newer stuff like Gloria Estefan, Vanessa Williams, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, David Foster, Eurythmics, etc. Overlooked gems like Peter Paul & Mary, and even Simon & Garfunkel.

I too have a bunch of copies of i SOMETHING FESTIVE !, as I'm always looking for perfection, and I too had a sealed copy that sounded great. That's the album that always has me quoting Claudine Longet and my favorite line of hers "...Sometimes de weend blows twoo de twees...". Always a highlight of the Christmas season. :)

All of that is interspersed with tracks from my favorite albums. That presents a challenge with the Carpenters tracks. I had to go into the CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT German CD, extract the tracks and then rework the beginnings and endings so they're not too chopped off where segues happen. Otherwise it's rather jarring to hear one of their tracks come to an abrupt end or start to segue and then chop off.

We usually break out my yearly jukebox-CD on the day after Thanksgiving when we're up in Chicago, but this year we didn't go, so I just broke it out yesterday for local trips around home.
 

Rudy

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That's the album that always has me quoting Claudine Longet and my favorite line of hers "...Sometimes de weend blows twoo de twees...". Always a highlight of the Christmas season. :)
Yep! My 2019 holidays are complete now. 😁🎄🎅
 

Bobberman

Well-Known Member
My Christmas favorites pretty much are the same as before Both of Herb's Christmas albums from 68 and the more recent "Christmas Wish" along with "Something festive " Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack ( the CD has a longer version of "Greensleeves (Aka What child is this) my favorite version of the song) and both Carpenters Christmas titles and Mannheim steamroller's many Christmas albums just to name a couple and not to forget "David Benoit's very rare 1983 album Christmastime"
 

Rudy

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The Shorty Rogers album The Swingin' Nutcracker is another favorite--a swinging west coast jazz album from his RCA days. As the cover advertises...."Like, nutty!" 😁

I'm also a fan of David Benoit's Christmastime. This was just prior to his long run at GRP. His later GRP album Remembering Christmas is another good one.
 

Bobberman

Well-Known Member
I'm also a fan of David Benoit's Christmastime. This was just prior to his long run at GRP. His later GRP album Remembering Christmas is another good one.
I remember all those and I also have his GRP and Early 90s AVI reissues on Mesa Blue moon and sadly The AVI masters were sadly stored at Universal and is feared lost due to the fire so I'm holding on to them although I'm happy I have them it saddens me at the same time.
 

tomswift2002

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Thread Starter
Some of my Favorite Christmas albums are:

Carpenters Christmas Portrait Special Edition
Carpenters Christmas Collection
Prism: Green: The Christmas Collection (this was put out by the backing group of 80’s Christian music singer Michael W. Smith, and they put an 80’s electronic twist on a number of religious Christmas classics like “Joy To The World”)
Michael Bolton This Is The Time The Christmas Album
A Time-Life Treasury of Christmas (1987-1998 issue)
Evie Christmas Memories
 

GDB2LV

Well-Known Member
I just received the new Robbie Williams 2 disc Christmas cd in the mail. It’s available as a download on iTunes as well. Deluxe edition has 4 more tracks than the regular edition. He’s a mega star in England, but never quite caught on here in the U.S. Was in the popular boy band Take That or Take That and Party before solo career that made him a huge celebrity there. Of course all you British fans know that already.
 
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Rudy

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One thing I mentioned about some of the jazz CDs I own is that the noodling turns me off.

Yet for something like Jimmy Smith's Christmas Cookin', it's a great way to hear some of Jimmy's B3 playing with the added bonus of having them in a Christmas theme. It's one of those where, if I'm not in the mood to listen to a full-blown Christmas album, it fits the bill perfectly.

The Bill Evans Trio had "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" on Trio 64 and it's a delight--it makes me wonder why he didn't do a full album like this.
 

goodjeans

Active Member
Carpenters Christmas Portrait
Celine Dion These Are The Special Times
Kellee Clarkson Wrapped In Red
Ray Conniff Singers We Wish You A Merry Christmas
(The) Andy Williams Christmas Album 🎄
 
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