Friday, December 24, 2010

Q & A of the Week

What is the best Christmas album?

Lise: Although I certainly love the A Muppet Christmas Carol soundtrack and A Charlie Brown Christmas, my favorite Christmas album is Rosie Thomas's A Very Rosie Christmas. Her cover of "Christmas Don't Be Late" (youtube) is one of my absolute favorite songs.

Em: There's a really good compilation called Now that's what I call Christmas! That has a lot of old classics that I really like. And my friend Chaz Kangas, who is a talented rapper in his own right, years ago made an awesome punk rock Christmas mix that he called "Christmas Carnage"

Ant: Nat King Cole, The Christmas Song
It's well understood that Nat King Cole owns "The Christmas Song", but he stakes a firm claim on several other songs on this album as well. Backed by triumphant orchestrations and a chorus of voices, his versions of "O Holy Night" and "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" are forces to be reckoned with. He also takes stabs at Latin and German (the former being more successful than the latter). The upbeat carols ("Deck the Halls" and "Joy to the World") don't come across quite as naturally, but the rest of the album is pretty much Christmas at its classiest.

John Denver and the Muppets, A Christmas Together
John Denver and the Muppets were both revered separately among my siblings, so having them together, for a Christmas album no less, was (and still is) pretty much considered to be the greatest thing that ever happened. Jim Henson could masterfully combine sincerity and whimsy to create work that was both profound and entertaining. Paired up with a peaceful soul like John Denver, they were able to create a Christmas album that is funny, touching and spiritual, one that I think captures the full spirit of Christmas as well as anything else ever has. (Alternatively, as this is the soundtrack to nearly all of my Christmas memories, it's possible that my conception of Christmas is just permanently colored by the album.)

The Harry Simeone Chorale, The Little Drummer Boy: A Christmas Festival
The original version of this album was released in 1958 as Sing We Now of Christmas and then reissued in 1963 as The Little Drummer Boy to celebrate the breakout hit. But I grew up with a version that I believe was rerecorded in 1981 and swaps a couple of the original tracks to include "Do You Hear What I Hear?" (another hit for the group) and the outstanding "A Simple Prayer" (which I've already posted here). Apart from those and a couple of other stand-alone songs, the rest of the album consists of vocal medleys of carols, some of which apparently date to the fifteenth century. The original liner notes read: "There's a quiet ecstasy about this splendid recording. As you listen to it there grows within you, wondrously, a feeling of great peace." That's a bit overblown, but not too far off.

What say you? What do you think is the ultimate Christmas album?

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