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Best Christmas Albums:

Give me your recommendations for your favorite Christmas albums that are worth checking out, preferably ones that aren't as obvious as Elvis's Christmas Album or Frank Sinatra. In particular, I'm looking for albums that will hold up to repeated listening over time.

A few of my favorites: Joe Williams "That Holiday Feeling", Tony Bennett "Snowfall," Ella Fitzgerald, and Oscar Peterson (great version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"). Right this this moment I am listening to Dianne Reeves's Christmas album for the first time, which is just marvelous.

A Law Dawg:
Charlie Brown Christmas is a must.
12.1.2008 11:47am
Kenvee:
I don't think anything can beat Nat King Cole's Christmas album.
12.1.2008 11:48am
Prosecutorial Indiscretion:
Maybe it's a little idiosyncratic, but Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without John Denver. "John Denver &The Muppets: A Christmas Together" has been my family's holiday soundtrack for just about as long as I can remember, and John Denver's "A Rocky Mountain Christmas" has been around almost as long. The latter is perhaps a bit better suited for grown-ups, but a little emotional regression around the holidays has always struck me as positive as well.
12.1.2008 11:49am
cjfeldy (mail):
I enjoy the Barenaked Ladies Christmas, Barenaked for the Holidays, year after year. I especially enjoy their version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."
12.1.2008 11:49am
Reader (mail):
Mahalia [Jackson] Sings Songs of Christmas!
12.1.2008 11:50am
Martin000 (mail):
John Fahey. Simple but wonderful guitar arrangements by weird folk/blues guitarist.
12.1.2008 11:51am
ECJ:
"White Christmas" by Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Louis Armstrong. Was my grandparents' favorite, and continues to be mine.
12.1.2008 11:51am
Cardozo'd (www):
Alvin and the Chipmunks.
12.1.2008 11:54am
Edward Marshall (mail):
Christmas 1943 Live by the Glenn Miller AAF Orchestra.
12.1.2008 11:54am
FantasiaWHT:
12.1.2008 11:55am
Eric Muller (www):
Can't speak to the album issue, but my personal favorite Christmas song is "Father Christmas" by the Kinks.
12.1.2008 11:56am
umichdem2010:
Definitely the old Bing Crosby...

Also- Mariah Carry's (sp) Christmas album is good.
12.1.2008 11:58am
Jim Wilson:
What? No chipmunks on the list? That's unAmerican. :-)
12.1.2008 12:03pm
Michael A. Koenecke:
One of my favorites not yet mentioned:
Herb Alpert &the Tijuana Brass Christmas Album
12.1.2008 12:10pm
BT:
Some singles:

Christmas In Jail-The Youngsters

Backdoor Santa-Clarence Carter
12.1.2008 12:11pm
itshissong:
I second the call for Charlie Brown Christmas. However, my number one Christmas album of all time, by far, is the A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. Truly a brilliant album especially if you like classic pop or girl groups.
12.1.2008 12:11pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
It's one song, originally released as a 12" EP, but the original "Do They Know It's Christmas" is one of the great Christmas records.
12.1.2008 12:11pm
Case2L (mail):
I've always been a fan of Amy Grant. And what Christmas music listening experience would be complete without Trans-Siberian Orchestra?
12.1.2008 12:12pm
BT:
One more:

Santa Claus Go Staight To The Ghetto: James Brown
12.1.2008 12:12pm
the Rising Jurist (www):
A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio is the only one you need.

But A Christmas Album by Amy Grant is also quite good.
12.1.2008 12:14pm
WC Green (mail):
Boyz II Men: Christmas Interpretations. I bought this with Xmas CDs from Manhattan Transfer (don't bother) and the Nylons (not bad) and was surprised by how much I liked it.
12.1.2008 12:16pm
pete (mail) (www):
James brown's Funky Christmas Album is pretty entertaining, especially "Santa Claus go straight to the ghetto".

My wife won't let me play this album at christmas events anymore, preferring the more traditional John Denver and the muppets.
12.1.2008 12:17pm
billquoted (mail) (www):
Jackson 5 Christmas Album has been #1 on my list for 38 years. Other albums, in no particular order:

Santastic I &II : Clausome, downloadable mashup collections
Christmas is 4 Ever, Bootsy Collins
Three Suites, Duke Ellington. First half is his arrangements of the Nutcracker.
Alligator Stomp, Volume 4: Cajun Christmas
Charles Brown's Cool Christmas Blues (blues singer, not the round-headed kid)
Jimmy Smith: Christmas Cookin'
The McGarrigle Family Christmas Hour
12.1.2008 12:18pm
karrde (mail) (www):
For purely-instrumental renditions of songs about Christmas, I've always enjoyed Phil Keaggy &the London Festival Orchestra.
12.1.2008 12:21pm
Apu (mail):
I didn't notice any country on this list. A great one is Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis' Happy Holidays. Two songs on there which I haven't heard elsewhere but love are "in the Bleak Midwinter" and "A Winter's Tale." They're Austin-based, so if you don't like Nashville country, you still might like them.
12.1.2008 12:22pm
alkali (mail):
"A Charlie Brown Christmas" by Vince Guaraldi and his trio, for all the obvious reasons

Emmylou Harris, "Light of the Stable," featuring Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, and others

Aimee Mann, "One More Drifter in the Snow"

Bing Crosby, "White Christmas," overlooked these days

The as-yet-nonexistent Christmas CDs by Allison Krauss and Alex Chilton, whenever they get around to recording them

Not particularly recommended: Kristin Chenoweth, "A Lovely Way To Spend Christmas" -- a lovely, expressive voice but massively overproduced
12.1.2008 12:23pm
BT:
God I am getting like Jukeboxgrad here:

Charles Brown: Merry Christmas Baby.
12.1.2008 12:24pm
W. J. J. Hoge:
One of the standbys of the season is "Messiah." There many mediocre recordings and a few that are pretty good. The best may be the one by Christopher Hogwood with the Academy of Ancient Music and the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral (Oxford). [L'Oiseau-Lyre 411 858-2OH3] The solos are first-rate, especially "But Who May Abide" (Emma Kirby) and "The Trumpet Shall Sound" (David Thomas).
12.1.2008 12:24pm
Thales (mail) (www):
I fourth or fifth the Vince Guaraldi Charlie Brown Christmas--I tend to loathe Xmas music and listened to this record just yesterday.

Alkali, I didn't know about the Emmylou Harris album you mentioned, but that sounds like something I might enjoy too. Thanks.

Also, if you're a guitar shredding metalhead (as I am not), I think there was one called Merry Axemas a few years back . . .
12.1.2008 12:26pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Whomever recommended John Fahey--I haven't heard his Xmas stuff, but yes, he is incredible.
12.1.2008 12:47pm
DiverDan (mail):
Amen on the Dianne Reeves Christmas Album -- but I've been a fan of hers since her first self-titled album came out in the late 80s - I really like Better Days. If you like her style, you would probably like any of the Mason Williams/Mannheim Steamroller collaborations - Mannheim Steamroller has issued several Christmas CDs since the 80's - I think my favorite is A Fresh Aire Christmas. I have these playing in the background early on Christmas Morning, when it's still dark outside and the Tree is lit, and I have my first cup of coffee while waiting for the slowpokes to wake up.
12.1.2008 12:53pm
Elkanah Linnell (www):
Personally, I've really become fond of the album Wintersong by Sarah McLachlan. Fantastic Christmas album.
12.1.2008 12:58pm
Vic (mail):
Joan Baez, Noel (1966). 40 years of repeated listening and it's still terrific.
12.1.2008 12:59pm
Inane (mail):
Pandora.com has four channels of xmas music.
12.1.2008 1:01pm
Arezi:
Christmas Cooking--Jimmy Smith--Verve
Christmas Jazz--Vars--Verve
Have Yourself A Soulful Little Christmas--Kenny Burrell--Verve
The Christmas Song--Nat King Cole--Capital (1986 Ver.)
Bing Crosby Christmas--Bing Crosby--Decca
12.1.2008 1:04pm
U.Va. Grad:
I don't know about albums, but the greatest Christmas song of all time is "Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues.
12.1.2008 1:04pm
scarhill:
A few of my favorites, in various genres:

Go Tell It on the Mountain - Blind Boys of Alabama
Crescent City Christmas Card - Wynton Marsalis
The John Rutter Christmas Album - Cambridge Singers, London Sinfonia
12.1.2008 1:13pm
EnriqueArmijo (mail):
Sufjan Stevens's Songs for Christmas is a 5-disc compilation of previously released friend-or-fan-club-only Christmas EPs, but it's well worth your investment. It includes both interpretations of the standards and great originals like "That Was The Worst Christmas Ever," "Put The Lights On The Tree," and "Get Behind Me Santa."
12.1.2008 1:14pm
Allison Christians (mail):
Fishbone--It's a Wonderful Life
12.1.2008 1:20pm
highway61:
"Christmas with Conniff" is nice, in a fun, cheesy kind of way.
12.1.2008 1:20pm
Sam S.:

Am I the only one that hates Christmas music? It is played virtually everywhere you go, without end, for about 2 months of the year, every year.

The phrase "reductio ad nauseum" comes to mind. I swear, these day, the merest note from any of the classic Christmas songs is enough to trigger some sort of holiday specific version of PTSD.
12.1.2008 1:25pm
A.C.:
1. The Charlie Brown Christmas album that everyone else seems to like.

2. The soundtrack from Elf.

3. Your favorite recording of Messiah, whichever that is.

4. Ditto Bach's Christmas Oratorio.

5. Elvis. So what if it's obvious? Christmas music is supposed to be the same every year.
12.1.2008 1:28pm
Rhode Island Lawyer:
The Roches. We Three Kings

Incredible harmonies of old standards by phenomenal singing sisters.
12.1.2008 1:29pm
j.r.mchale (mail):
For indie music fans, Low's "Christmas" - http://tinyurl.com/6ey2qm
12.1.2008 1:32pm
TomSH:
Dave Brubeck's Christmas album is terrific. For a capella carols sung exquisitely, you can't beat Robert Shaw's Songs of Angels.
12.1.2008 1:34pm
b:
hopefully by now you've already gone out and bought the charlie brown christmas album. it really is a necessity.

and as odd as it may seem, i've found that the best christmas albums i have are all compilations i buy from starbucks or nordstrom and places like that. i don't really ever want an entire album of one artist, but just hearing their best interpretations makes for the best album, imo.
12.1.2008 1:36pm
Jeff Westcott (mail):
That Emmylou Harris album mentioned further up the thread is absolutely fantastic.
12.1.2008 1:39pm
mojo (mail):
Perry Como.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Just try it.
12.1.2008 1:52pm
cirby (mail):
"A Charlie Brown Christmas" ad infinitum.

"Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses is one of the most-neglected great sappy rock Christmas songs ever.
12.1.2008 2:09pm
Virginian:
Boney M - Christmas Album

Great stuff - especially "Mary's Boy Child"
12.1.2008 2:12pm
dglo:
If you're interested in the Phil Spector album, Amazon has the MP3 version available today for $1.99:
12.1.2008 2:18pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Yes, the Pogues are great. Don't play the song for the kids though.
12.1.2008 2:21pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Many good ones listed above. I'll add The Chieftains, "Bells of Dublin." Lots of great guest artists.
12.1.2008 2:25pm
jbeuks (mail):
In our family, the all-time favorite is "The Glorious Sounds of Christmas," an old Columbia album by the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The highlight is a version of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" with a fabulous percussion line that my sons, in their Star Wars days, referred to as "The Battle for Endor."

For pop vocals, Bing Crosby can't be beat.
12.1.2008 2:29pm
Niclas Berggren (mail) (www):
Leontyne Price, Christmas Songs.
12.1.2008 2:30pm
john (mail):
I will cast another vote for The Roches' We Three Kings. My family has a large collection of Christmas music, including many of the ones on the list, and this is the one we always play first.
12.1.2008 2:30pm
Bill N:
It's hard to find and expensive, but Santa Clause Blues is a really fun collection of jazz and blues Christmas songs. Fats Waller's "Jingle Bells," Ella's great double entendre "Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney," and three great Armstrong tracks, including his reading of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," which I believe was his last recording before he died.
12.1.2008 2:37pm
Stevethepatentguy (mail) (www):
Diana Krall-- Christmas Songs
Diana Krall-- Christmas Hits &Duos
12.1.2008 2:40pm
Andrew A. (mail):
Todd, Narada Christmas Collection Volume 2 is gorgeous. I can't recommend Narada highly enough.

Andrew
12.1.2008 2:55pm
BZ (mail):
If the well hasn't been poisoned by the endless PBS repeats, check out Celtic Woman: A Christmas Celebration.
sample on Amazon page - amazon page

But more to the point (from someone who owns hundreds of Xmas albums, and cassette tapes), today I just listen to www.pandora.com, and select genre: Holiday, Christmas, and make a mixed station from several choices.
12.1.2008 2:59pm
Blackwing1 (mail):
I can't believe nobody's suggested "The Jethro Tull Christmas Album:

http://www.j-tull.com/news/christmasalbum.cfm
12.1.2008 3:25pm
Dave N (mail):
Here is one that is truly obscure, but it is my all-time favorite Christmas album: The All American Boys Chorus (based on Orange County, California) and their album A Little Christmas Magic. Truly wonderful.
12.1.2008 3:33pm
Blithering Idiot (mail) (www):
My offbeat favorite which gets a lot of repeat play is by The Blue Hawaiians: Christmas on Big Island - think of Christmas music played by Santo &Johnny (of "Sleep Walk").

A more traditional Christmas album is from former Mason Profitt lead turned Catholic Monk, John Michel Talbot: The Birth of Jesus - this is a rich, contemplative, peaceful (but not dull) Christmas album.

**************

Next, someone above mentioned John Fahey - quite awhile ago, I picked up a used LP by him - "Yes! Jesus Loves Me" - it sat around a long time before I put it on and was blown away. It's funny, but I had forgotten all about this LP in the CD era, but yeah, knowing he has Christmas music, I will look for it.
12.1.2008 3:38pm
Ex parte McCardle:
Jane Siberry's Child and Shushan the Palace. Two lovely recordings from one of the world's most remarkable performers.
12.1.2008 3:46pm
AKS:
Nobody does Christmas like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. My favorite album is "White Christmas," which has, unfortunately, never been released on CD (I'm currently arranging to have my parents' LP converted to CD). Still, just about any other Tabernacle Choir CD is great. I also love Mannheim Steamroller (the first CD is my favorite, the third I could do without). I also have a soft spot in my heart for the Chipmunks :o)
12.1.2008 3:55pm
Loophole1998 (mail):
Emmylou Harris - Light Of The Stable
12.1.2008 4:09pm
Bob White (mail):
Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole are my standbys-I'm normally more of a rock-era fan, but the crooners doing Christmas music just sounds right to me. For a more offbeat sound, try Dr. Demento's "Holidays in Dementia." I'm particularly partial to "Christmas Is Coming Twice This Year" and Mona Abboud's "The Pretty Little Dolly."
12.1.2008 4:16pm
John C (mail):
1. Phil Spector's Christmas Gift To You - apparently dc'd but still a few on Amazon.

2. Christmas Cocktails - by the Ultra Lounge folks.

3. Street Carols by Stormy Weather (A Chicago doo-wop group)

4. I can't remember which; but one of the Pottery Barn Christmas cd's has a version of "Baby It's Cold Outside" by Ann Margaret that is absolutely smoldering.
12.1.2008 4:33pm
JRL:
I have to agree with Andrew A. I can put Narada's Best of Christmas on repeat and listen for hours. With a couple dozen artists offering their own takes on favorites, it never gets old.

And I am glad to see mention of the Muppets. My family is not the only one to listen, I see.
12.1.2008 4:43pm
George Smith:
I'm sure this will stigmatize me forever, but I believe the top selling Christmas album for several years has been the Carpenters. I know, I know, but Karen Carpenter had one of the greatest natural singing voices ever, and you should give it a listen. Its really Christmasy.
12.1.2008 5:20pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Another vote for Sarah McLachlan's Wintersong, which is the best Christmas album of the past several years.

If you want real country music, I recommend Rhino Records' Hillbilly Holiday, with the poignant "Daddy's Drinkin' Up Our Christmas," among songs performed by Bill Monroe, Tex Ritter, Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, Buck Owens, George Jones, Marty Robbins, Loretta Lynn, and Faron Young, among others.
12.1.2008 5:49pm
Dr. T (mail) (www):
Sam S said:
Am I the only one that hates Christmas music?.... I swear, these day, the merest note from any of the classic Christmas songs is enough to trigger some sort of holiday specific version of PTSD.

When Christmas music starts driving me mad, I play the I Am Santa Claus album by Bob Rivers &Twisted Christmas (1993). The title song puts humorous lyrics to the music of Black Sabbath's Iron Man. Teddy the Red-Nosed Senator is another highlight of this album.
12.1.2008 6:43pm
Splunge:
Maddy Prior and The Carnival Band, A Tapestry of Carols.
12.1.2008 6:44pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
12.1.2008 7:11pm
yclipse (mail):
Willowgreen - Winter
The Roches - We Three Kings
12.1.2008 8:28pm
UW3L:
The Vandals' Oi to the World. Rude punk Christmas music. Not to all tastes, but then again, that goes for most/all Christmas music, I think.

Agreed re: the Pogues' "Fairytale of New York" being the best Christmas song, though.
12.1.2008 8:41pm
HPH:
I can't believe that there were any posts that DIDN'T have Charlie Brown Christmas. The Vince Guaraldi Trio nailed it with a most delicate pile-driver.
12.1.2008 9:26pm
David W. Hess (mail):
Stan Freburg - Green Christmas
12.1.2008 10:14pm
cbunix23 (mail):

Any of the Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas CDs are wonderful, if you like his style of swing / rock.
12.1.2008 11:43pm
Jackson (mail):
It's probably too late to do any good with a further comment, but here's another vote for The Roches', and for John Fahey's Christmas albums, respectively. But I also like the Boston Cammerata albums of Medieval and Renaissance music and readings. Also, for a country mood, Michael Martin Murphy's album, and even better: Eddy Arnold. These are all many years old, but that's how I know that they stand up to repeated listening.
12.2.2008 12:41am
DavefromMaine:
--Tom Stacey, "Nu View Christmas"
--Larry Carlton, "Christmas at My House,"
--Robert Shaw,"The Many Moods of Christmas,"
--Mitch Miller, "Holiday Sing Along With Mitch"
--Boston Pops (Williams), "We Wish You A Merry Christmas"
--Various Artists, "A Christmas Gift to you from Phil Spector"
12.2.2008 12:53am
guest:
I listen to the Charlie Brown christmas album quite a bit, as many others seem to as well. But one I can't believe no one has mentioned yet is George Winston's "December." A few of the songs always send chills up my leg (to quote from Chris Matthews) no matter how many times I hear them.
12.2.2008 1:56am
gobetween:
Hipsters' Holiday: Vocal Jazz &R&B Classics

Pearl Bailey
Eartha Kitt
Miles Davis
Lionel Hampton
The Marquees
Lena Horne
Mabel Scott
Louis Armstrong (x2)

Classics and fun from Rhino Records. My non-traditional favorite.
12.2.2008 2:42am
SlimAndSlam:
In addition to seconding many of those already listed (Guaraldi! Chipmunks! Roches! Siberry! Pogues!)...

Susan McKeown and Lindsey Horner, Through the Bitter Frost and Snow. A mix of traditional and modern. Includes the stunning "Song of Forgetting."

Cyrus Chesnut, Blessed Quietness. Solo piano from a jazz master going back to his church roots.
12.2.2008 7:20am
admiraltyprof:
You should check out Christmas music reviews at christmasreviews.com. They focus on Christmas music beyond what one normally sees at Target. Hamline Law Professor Carol Swanson is a reviewer for the site.
12.2.2008 9:25am
sonicfrog (mail) (www):

"Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses is one of the most-neglected great sappy rock Christmas songs ever.


Yep. Love that song. And it has a happy ending.

This dates me, but my all-time fave is Harry Simeone's "The Little Drummer Boy". Just watch out for the pron when you're looking for it!
12.2.2008 10:25am
Carla (mail):
I like Swingin' in the holidays by New Orleans singer, Phillip Manuel.

12.2.2008 11:25am
Random Guest:
I can strongly second Robert Shaw's Songs of Angels, which is the Christmas CD that is pretty much on constant rotation in my house around the holidays. I'm also partial to an old Atlanta Boy Choir Christmas recording I have that includes a lovely rendition of Britton's Ceremony of Carols, but that I think may be out of print. Add in James Galway's Christmas Carol, and you have pretty much my entire Christmas CD rotation.
12.2.2008 12:06pm
V. (mail):
Fats Domino's Christmas album is a complete joy. "...and a ten pound girl for me."
12.2.2008 3:42pm
C.:
Zachary Breaux - Lost Sessions: What Christmas Means to Me.

Magnificent album recorded live ~ one take.
12.2.2008 4:19pm
Timothy Knox (mail):
Of course, I must suggest any of the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums, though they are a bit played to death these days. But the black horse suggestion I would make is for Pete Fountain's "Candy Clarinet". My mother had this album, and played it every year at Christmas time. Massively nostalgic for me, as well as some really great music. However, it may be a little hard to find (the great e-tailer of the Pacific Northwest, for example, has none in stock).
12.2.2008 5:07pm
PaJe:
Django Bells - The Gypsy Hombres
12.2.2008 5:12pm
Down from the Ivory Tower:
The GRP Christmas Collection, volume 1, is the best holiday jazz album I've heard.
12.2.2008 5:58pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
It apparently never made it to CD, but The Kingston Trio Christmas album is to my thinking the best of what might be called all-American Christmas albums. Easy to sing along to, also.

Robert Shaw put out a double album, part vocal, part instrumental, that is more ambitious.

For humor, some gentle, some not so gentle, any of the Christmas Jug Band albums. There are four of them. This is Dan Hicks and his friends whooping it up at a saloon in Marin County. 'Santa Claus want some loving' is their signature tune.

For solo instrumental, Fahey.

For traditional, 'Olde English Christmas' witn Malcolm Sargent.

Since I live in Hawaii, I am also partial to 'Kihoalu Christmas' (slack key guitar) and 'A Hawaiian Christmas' by Amy Hanaiali`i (half in English, half in Hawaiian).
12.3.2008 1:22am
sonicfrog (mail) (www):
It apparently never made it to CD, but The Kingston Trio Christmas album is to my thinking the best of what might be called all-American Christmas albums. Easy to sing along to, also.

Robert Shaw put out a double album, part vocal, part instrumental, that is more ambitious.


We had both of those. They're good too.
12.4.2008 12:13am
Siberian Khatru:
The Carpenters' "A Christmas Portrait" (1978), hands down.
12.4.2008 10:59am
indiecater (mail) (www):
If I could be so bold as to plug our new Christmas album consisting of 17 original songs from lots of new indie bands from all over the world including the Cloud Room, Idaho, Jape and the Very Most. The indiecater site is where you can listen to it all. We think it's great but then we are biased and obsessed with Christmas.
12.8.2008 3:44am