Stephen Mosher on Christmas Music
I was the Christmas Queen.
Not Lucy Van Pelt. Me.
The. Christmas. Queen.
We used to have a fake tree. I got it out on Thanksgiving at 5pm. Mind you, Pat always made me put it back until December 1st, but still… Christmas was my thing.
Until it wasn’t.
For a few years I was Ebeneezer Scrooge, Mister Potter, the Grinch, you name it. I was down on the holiday. Christmas was for people who believed in Santa or Jesus and I believed in neither. So I was off the Season of Good Cheer. Oh, we still put up a tree because it makes Pat happy and I like the lights and smell. And I made Christmas cookies because people demanded it of me (that’s right, actually demanded it, in spite of what I wanted) and besides, I like cookies. But the entire holiday thing just wasn’t me anymore.
I have reached a happy medium. I’m not angry and bitter the way I was and I understand the magic of Santa, I believe in the man, teacher and philosopher that was Jesus Christ and, yes, I have even begun to examine my atheism and the possibility of opening my mind to a broader field of vision. So I am welcoming Christmas back into my heart.
And I have been listening to Christmas music, once more.
When I was a kid I loved those Firestone Christmas Record compilations. Do you remember those? My favorites were the white one with the circle of stars that had the singers’ faces in them, especially Sally Ann Howes, Diahann Carroll and Barbra Streisand. And I loved the one with Julie Andrews and the red one with the funny little angel and the photos of the singers’ across the bottom. And, of course, my family played the Nat King Cole Christmas record. So when I got older I always bought a new Christmas record every year. Just one (unless there was a plethora of good ones out that season, like 1990 when I bought Barry Manilow Because It’s Christmas, John Denver Christmas Like a Lullaby, Patti Labelle This Christmas and Dolly Parton home For Christmas). And that is how my collection grew. Some of them were fairly dreadful while others became classics in our home, played year in and year out. I still remember the year that Linda Eder Christmas Stays the Same was my holiday purchase or when I was so excited to discover Carly Simon Christmas is Almost Here.
But I fell down on the job. I didn’t buy an Christmas cds for a few years and I’m having to catch up, which can be daunting (if festive) holiday task. And I missed some things! I mean, did you know that there is a Diana Ross Christmas album? Ok, it was released in 1994 but I didn’t know that! It’s called A Very Special Season and I found out about it from a Facebook posting. I will have to get a copy of that. I’ve been googling ‘Popular Christmas Albums’ and have learned there are Christmas records by Taylor Swift, Christina Aguilera, Kylie Minogue, Leslie Odom Jr., Justin Bieber and Pentatonix. I’m probably not going to buy all those albums. I do think that EVERYONE has a Christmas cd out and I do think that they are not all worth owning. I have bought some that are not worth owning.
But some of them, I really do enjoy a super lot. And that’s what I want to talk about today.
My favorite Christmas music.
- Nancy LaMott Just in Time for Christmas. This is and always will be my favorite Christmas cd. For me it isn’t Christmas until I have played this cd, and I usually save it until either the first snowfall of the season or December 13th, the day Nancy died. All the arrangements are new and interesting and lovely and there is a perfect balance of standards and new Christmas classics. Worth. Owning.
- Carpenters Christmas Portrait. Now, there are two Carpenters Christmas albums and both are worth owning. But Portrait is the true classic. There isn’t a song on here that isn’t beautiful, Christmas-y and arranged perfectly by Richard, sung heavenly by Karen. Get this and An Old Fashioned Christmas and have some coffee and some pumpkin pie. It will make your holiday season.
- Carole King A H0liday Carole. This is new to my collection and it is AMAZING. Sometimes artists just sing some Christmas songs and call it a day and it is so boring. Carole King has made an album that completely reflects her talent, her voice, her style. The song selection is amazing and the new Christmas songs are so wonderful you could listen to them all year round.
- Michael Buble Christmas. I love him. And true love lasts a lifetime. This album is amazing. Full Stop. I especially love the Bro version of Santa Baby.
- Amy Grant A Christmas to Remember. Amy Grant seems to have carved out a very special niche for herself here. All her Christmas cds are wonderful: A Christmas Album, Home for Christmas and the Christmas Collection. A Christmas to Remember is my favorite. The title track alone is worth the purchase but Christmas Can’t be Very Far Away, Gabriel’s Oboe and Mister Santa make it a doubly sweet addition to the collection.
- A Very She and Him Christmas is maybe one of the most original Christmas records of all time. Zoey Deschanel and M. Ward have created something completely new, totally enjoyable and very, very chill. Make sure you have a martini and a fire while listening to this one.
- Anne Murray has two Christmas albums in my collection: Christmas Wishes is all Christmas songs and Christmas is all spiritual music. I have, long, owned both and they are a part of my holiday spirit, in spite of my dubious relationship with the concept of a higher power. She is a musical artist and she know what she doin’.
- Christmas with Maureen McGovern. What a voice. What arrangements. What a great cd that will make you feel all the feels one gets at Christmastime. This has, long, been a favorite of mine and it is entirely worth checking out. Just ask the famous Ricky Pope.
- A Nancy Wilson Christmas. Truth: I don’t love when jazz singers record Christmas music. A lot of the time their need for jazz vocal stylings compromises the integrity of the emotion I feel is required to fully enjoy Christmas music. So it is rare for me to really get into jazz musicians making Christmas music. But THIS record is amazing. Her Carol of the Bells gets me in the holiday spirit every single time.
- Mariah Carey Merry Christmas. I can’t believe I have to put this on this list. But it makes me so happy. Every song. Every track. Every cut. Happiness at Christmastime.
- Celine Dion These are Special Times. It is amazing. Her Feliz Navidad makes me so happy. Her song Christmas Eve makes me so happy. The album artwork makes me so happy.
- Barbra Streisand A Christmas Album. It’s classic. It’s one of the best selling and most beloved Christmas albums of all time. And I’ve always loved it, though these days it is a little ballad heavy, a little traditional, I have played it this holiday season and loved it. And though her other Christmas album, Christmas Mem’ries, is lovely and worth a listen, this is where the Streisand holiday magic lies.
- Melissa Manchester Joy. Ok this was a complete surprise for me. I’ve always loved Melissa and when I saw this cd in the bargain bin at Half Price Books and Records I picked it up and it has been a Christmas treat for me ever since. What a voice and such lovely and enjoyable arrangements. Not too spiritual, lots of style and, truly no pun intended, JOY.
- Scrooge. The original movie soundtrack to the movie musical Scrooge will always be music I play at Christmastime. It is essential to me.
- Doris Day Personal Christmas Collection. Apparently the Hollywood legend has more than one Christmas record. This one has been a part of my holiday tradition for twenty years. It isn’t Christmas til Brady and I have walked in the snow singing Snowfall just like Doris Day.
- Helen Reddy The Best Christmas Ever. My favorite girl singer from my youth put out a Christmas cd that has some lovely grown up arrangements and performances, like A Christmas Auld Lang Syne and The Christmas of Your Life but if you need something for the child in you she’s got some super traditional Christmas tunes with a kiddie chorus. I skip those tracks but, boy, do I love the others.
- Barry Manilow Because It’s Christmas. I know. How Cheesy. The Manilow Christmas album. It is just that good. Timeless.
- Natalie Cole Holly and Ivy. It is SO good. I love it when she sings, period. But when she sings her Daddy’s songs, the songs I grew up with, it’s perfect. Such a good album.
- Vanessa Williams Star Bright. My girl. My diva. Great album art. Great vocals. Her Do You Hear What I Hear and her Hark the Herald Angels Sing make the purchase worth while.
- A Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi. Come on. You didn’t think I was going to skip it did you? It’s not Christmas until this has played.
There are a lot of random songs on my Christmas playlist that come from albums I don’t listen to, all the way through. And there are some Christmas cds in my collection that I heard once and didn’t play again. I think I would like to revisit some of them. For example, I would like to find out of the passage of time and the change in my personality will make me like, any better, the Christmas cds by Chriss Isaak (whom I adore), David Archuletta, Elliot Yamin and others. In the meantime, if you can find copies of these Christmas songs to add to your playlist, I think you will enjoy them:
I’ll be Home for Christmas sung by Victor Garber
A Christmas Love Song sung by Ann Hampton Callaway
God Bless My Family sung by Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway
From a Distance (Christmas version) sung by Bette Midler
Christmas Baby Please Come Home sung by Cher (with Rosie O’ Donnell autotuned)
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas sung by Christine Ebersole
Feliz Navidad sung by Daphne Rubin-Vega
Christmas is Here sung by Donna Summer
I Know What I Want for Christmas this Year sung by George Strait
Christmas Dreaming sung by Harry Connick jr.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas sung by Judy Garland on the Meet me in St Louis soundtrack
A Lovely Way to Spend Christmas sung by Kristin Chenoweth
Marry Christmas to Me/Hard Candy Christmas sung by KT Sullivan
Christmas Stays the Same sung by Linda Eder
O Holy Night sung by Marie Osmond
The First Noel sung by Olivia Newton John
This Christmas sung by Patti LaBelle WITH her BACKGROUND SINGERS
The Christmas Waltz sung by Peggy Lee
The Christmas Guest sung by Reba McEntire
I Wish it Could Be Christmas Every Day sung by Sarah Brightman
The Christmas Song sung by Toni Braxton
I Love the Winter Weather/I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm sung by Tony Bennett
Last Christmas sung by Wham
Blue Christmas sung by Wynoona
Winter Was Warm sung by Jodi Benson
What are You Doing New Year’s Eve sung by Mary Cleere Haran
Happy New Year sung by ABBA
This is the music that is making my Christmas feel bright and right and real. I hope you will learn about some new choices here today and that they might become a part of your holiday tradition. I hope you’ll feel free to give me any suggestions on what I might add to my own playlist to make next Christmas even better.