- Let It Snow Baby, Let It Reindeer by Reliant K
The word play in the title tells you that there is an undertone of humor that precisely fits our family. This is a 2008 album from alt rock Christian band Reliant K and it goes from reverent to goofy to explosive ... and then back again. Some of the songs are traditional, others are definitely not.
- Ella Wishes You A Swingin' Christmas by Ella Fitzgerald
It's Ella Fitzgerald. The greatest jazz singer of all time. Isn't that saying enough? These were recorded in 1960 and every song is perfect.
- I Wanna Be Santa Claus by Ringo Starr
A 1999 holiday album that was critically acclaimed but that did little in stores. We came across it a few years ago, via one of those critics bemoaning the fact that no one bought this album. It is often playful, even if it is only in using Scottish bagpipes to back up his inspired Little Drummer Boy (a song I usually hate, but with Ringo on the drums it is impossible not to smile). Other traditional Christmas songs are sung in a straight forward manner but all have creative tweaks to the music which add Caribbean beats, rockabilly, or guitar work to the backgrounds. The original songs are very good and sincere, which you might not expect.
- New Orleans Christmas
Blues, jazz, and swing put a different sound on these familiar carols which range from something naughty to something nice. Perfect for changing up the familiar tunes and keeping them fresh.
- Christmas with the Rat Pack by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr.
Any album that has these three singing Marshmallow World on it is ok with me. The good cheer and fun they display is infectious. Luckily all the other songs are winners too. (Rose is not a Sammy Davis, Jr. fan, but I contend that he is at his best here ... though I don't know why the poor guy always got stuck with a kid's chorus whenever such a song came up.)
- White Christmas by Bing Crosby
Isn't it a rule that you've got to have some Bing for Christmas? I like all of the songs in this collection but especially the novelty tune, Mele Kalikimaka. So sue me. I like it. And look at that album cover. How can you resist?
- A Swingin' Christmas by Tony Bennett featuring the Count Basie Big Band
Another one where the album cover sells it. Bennett's voice is not as strong as it could be but it is good enough and the Count Basie Band is just fantastic, more than compensating for any of Bennett's weaknesses.
- Treasury of Christmas by Time-Life
This is a multiple CD set is as close to a complete set of traditional songs as you can get. It has practically every Christmas carol you can imagine, by every classic popular singer who helped set the standards we expect ... Bing Crosby, Julie Andrews, Nat King Cole, and more.
- The Lost Christmas Eve by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
If you don't already know this group, then how do you describe their music? I'll use the description from the album description: "... features their trademark symphonic rock," which fuses elements of hard rock, Broadway, R&B, and classical music into a unique and distinctive blend of original compositions, symphony excerpts and holiday standards." As unlikely as that sounds it is true. It is also energizing, inspirational, and unique. You'll love it or hate it. We, of course, love it.
This year? We suddenly became aware that we neglected the soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Listening takes Tom and me right back to our childhoods when you could only see that TV special once a year when the network aired it. As adults though, we now have a deep appreciation for Vince Guarald's jazz genius so we can enjoy it on two levels.
One of the things that made me think of getting this album was listening to The Christmas Stocking Podcast's episode about Charlie Brown. It has fascinating back story info on how the show got made and enough of the music that it made me wonder why we never bought the album.