The final volume of Music to Holidays To has classics, old and new—some familiar tracks and some not so familiar across the ages. Go OLD school with Percy Faith and Nat King Cole. Go retro with the Carpenters and Herb Alpert. Go modern with Cee Lo Green and Leslie Odom, Jr. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!
NOTE: Some tracks are not available on Spotify. See the video links at the bottom.
COMMENTARY & MUSINGS
If you’re listening on Apple Music, I think you have the good fortune of starting off with a classic opener from Rockapella. Their original Christmas album is terrific all on its own.
Another album that stands out from start to finish is CeeLo Green’s Christmas album, CeeLo’s Magic Moment. (When I first saw that CeeLo Green had a Christmas album I was enormously skeptical and now I recommend it to anyone and everyone who will listen—and some who won’t...) His recording of “What Christmas Means to Me” is hands-down the best version. Period. Full stop. (I will fight you!)
Continuing in the old classics vein is Mariah’s legendary “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and Vince Guaraldi Trio’s “Christmas Time Is Here (Instrumental)”. (The kids’ voices are adorable… when you’re watching the movie. Incidentally, the words were written by the film’s director out of necessity. It was too late in production for them to find a professional lyricist!).
There are some standard bearers of yore—the self-assured baritone charm of Robert Goulet with “Sleigh Ride”, Tony Bennett’s live performance of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, and Nat King Cole’s “Deck the Halls”, the Percy Faith Orchestra, Herb Alpert, and the Carpenters.
You’ll also find some modern vocal virtuosos—Michael Bublé (bridging the old and the new in his own way), Christina Aguilera, Kacey Musgraves, and Celine Dion. (Singers know that “O Holy Night” is a heck of a song, and she sings the heck out of it.)
When I think of Christmas music, Mannheim Steamroller is one of the first sounds that comes to mind. Naturally, a few of their songs appear here, as well as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s dramatic rendering of “Carol of the Bells”, now a classic in itself.
Of the many trivial musical “injustices” out there, the limited acceptance of a cappella music is one of my pet peeves. That groups like Straight No Chaser and Pentatonix are more popular during Christmas is definitely what makes this the most wonderful time of the year. But come on, people! Listen to Pitch Slapped wail on “Joy to the World” and tell me that’s not amazing! And you truly have not heard “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” until you’ve heard Rockapella sing it. Seriously. Brace yourself.
Broadway luminaries are also quite capable of making the season bright. Linda Eder, Idina Menzel, Leslie Odom, Jr., each with their own bit of magic. One of my favorite Carols for a Cure recordings remains the cast of Mamma Mia! taking on “O Holy Night” (they too sing the heck out of it, but in a very different way).
Unsurprisingly, my parents were the ones who first got me turned onto Christmas music. A stack of LPs, turned into a pile of tapes, which grew into a basket of CDs that we looked forward to pulling out of the attic every year. One of their favorite holiday albums is the Manhattan Transfer’s first Christmas album, a dazzlingly jazzy treasury of tunes. I thought it only appropriate to end the playlist with one of our favorite cuts. The final moments of their Santa Claus medley sums up how I feel about this genre and this time of year.
(And yes, if you want to find out what that is, you’ll just have to listen…)
YOUTUBE LINKS TO MISSING SONGS*
*Due to YouTube copyright policies, some videos may display advertisements or link to other videos. Please close or ignore these ads and videos; they are neither affiliations nor endorsements.
“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” (Rockapella)
“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” (Rockapella)