1. Louis Armstrong, The Christmas Collection.
You know, we just do not hear enough of Louis Armstrong any longer. This is a perfect Holiday album. Christmas in New Orleans has a particular poignancy in this post-Katrina era. Winter Wonderland and Cool Yule are also superb. Add in guest appearances by Mel Torme ["The Christmas Song/Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire"], Peggy Lee, Dinah Washington and the incomparable Lena Horne, and you have one memorable listening experience. Here is a recipe for Holiday success...one bottle of your favorite red wine, your favorite sofa, your favorite companion next to you on the favorite sofa, and this album. You can leave a little something in my stocking to thank me.
Because it has a cool cover. Because "Merry Christmas Baby", "Little Saint Nick" and their rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" are classic. Because perfect harmony is always lovely. And because at the beach it is Christmas too. This is a great album for easing back the Holiday stress level, California style.
2. The Beach Boys, Christmas Album.
2. The Beach Boys, Christmas Album.
3. Emmylou Harris, Light of the Stable.
During the rest of the year, there are songs from the Holiday season that can carry you through the dark places. Harris' version of the bluegrass classic "Christmas Time's A Comin' " is one of those songs. The rest of this album is perfect. A marvelous effort from one of the best vocalists ever.
3. John Denver, Rocky Mountain Christmas.
Another one of those songs that carry me through the year is "Aspenglow" from this album. It is easy to forget how great Denver's voice was now that we don't hear it on the radio so often. "Christmas For Cowboys" is another unique and lonesomely lovely song. Denver's rendition of "Jingle Bells" is also rollicking and fun. You can see his big happy grin in your mind when you listen to it. Skip the regrettable "Please Daddy Don't Get Drunk This Christmas" and you have a portal to a little town deep in the sparkling snow of the Rocky Mountains. That you can use all the year around.
4. Brian McKnight, I'll Be Home For Christmas.
In case you are not already familiar with Brian McKnight, he is perhaps the best young R & B voice out there. His album "Superhero" is one of my very favorite of this genre. He has a fine voice and his arrangements are suave. Check out his version of "Silver Bells" [can you tell that it is one of my favorites?] as well as the title track, an impressive cover of "Adeste Fideles" and "Bless This House" sung stunningly with the vocal group Take 6. Slide back up the page to my comments about being on the sofa with that special person and a bottle of wine. Make this album one of your musical choices for the event and you will still be there when Santa arrives.
5. Mariah Carey, Merry Christmas II You.
I tried not to like her. I really did. For years, I resisted her. Then, this year, I just gave in. I like Mariah's songs. There. I said it. Sanction me if you will. I love her rendition of "Christmas Time Is Here" from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Her original "Oh Santa!" is great fun as well. Yes, some of it is overproduced, but Mariah Carey has a pretty amazing vocal range and when she just sings a quiet song she sounds, well...., ok...., cuddly. There. I said that too. The album winds up strong with "All I Want For Christmas Is You" and a "pre and post midnight" version of "Auld Lang Syne" which is traditional [and cuddly] in the pre-midnight portion then jumps to a pounding club beat for the post-midnight portion. This is my favorite 2010 purchase for Christmas music [I already had the other albums in this post]. Why? Because sometimes you need to put down the Bordeaux and fill up a crystal glass with fizzy pink Champagne. Live it up. It's Christmas!!