Monday, December 06, 2004

My favorite Christmas music

Ray Conniff Singers
Originally uploaded by mwthomas87.
I got my Christmas lights up, bought a tree and dug out all the Christmas music this past weekend. I've got more Christmas music than I can possibly listen to during a single holiday season, but like most people I have my favorites that must be played before it can truly be a traditional Christmas.
Here are some of my Christmas music essentials:

1. Ray Conniff and the Ray Conniff Singers, We Wish You a Merry Christmas:

This was one my parents had on reel-to-reel tape when I was growing up. When I went to college I found a copy on record and later bought it on cd. Whenever I put this music on I am immediately transported back to my earliest recollections of Christmas past. It is wonderfully rich, well-orchestrated music with a large choir doing their own takes on popular Christmas carols. "Ring Christmas Bells" is especially powerful. I'm sure my sentimental attachment to this music is the main reason it tops my list, but it is still very good by all accounts.

2. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Christmas Album:

Another reel-to-reel tape from my parents' collection that I have made my own. It definitely has that '60s time stamp on it, but that does not detract in any way from the wonderful music. I'm not sure who does the singing on this album, but their version of The Christmas Song will always be the first one that pops into my head so my apologies to Mel Torme and Nat King Cole.

3. Bing Crosby, White Christmas:

For the longest time this was the only Bing Crosby music I was familiar with, but it was always an integral part of every Christmas. Now, of course, I am a complete Bing fanatic and listen to all of his music year round. But I still have to come back to this album every year for more than just sentimental reasons.

4. Elvis Presley, Elvis' Christmas Album:

It would certainly be a Blue Christmas without Elvis. I'm not sure who does a better job on "I'll Be Home For Christmas", Elvis or Bing, but they both certainly sing the heck out of that song. This may not be the best Elvis Christmas album but it is the one that I have right now.

5. Mannheim Steamroller, Christmas:

I have all of the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas music, but this is the first one that kicked everything off in 1984. I remember it was a real revelation when it came out - mixing old renniassance-style acoustic music with then-cutting edge electronic synthesizers and orchestral arrangements.

6. The Chieftains, The Bells of Dublin:

A master work by the Irish folk band that became an instant holiday classic. Should be in everyone's collection.

7. Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas:

IĆ¢??ve not found too many jazz Christmas albums that stick with me, but this one certainly does. The TV special is classic in its own right, but the music takes it to a whole other level and stands on its own.

8. Harry Connick Jr., When My Heart Finds Christmas:

I picked this one up a few years ago when I was looking for some new Christmas music and it has stood the test of time. Some great original tunes interspersed with classics with a jazzy-pop twist.

9. Tony Bennett, Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album:

See above.

10. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Christmas Eve and Christmas Attic:

A real treat. See these folks live if you ever get the chance. Kind of like Mannheim Steamroller but with electric guitars and a rock opera feel.

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