Saturday, December 24, 2011

MY TOP 40 Christmas Albums Plus . . .


OK, so I lied. I said I would give you my top 20. This was a much harder list to make than I thought initially. There is a lot of GREAT Christmas music available and a good deal of it seems timeless in the sense that it is not necessary to have the latest and hippest sounds and production in order for the project to bring joy and meaning to the Christmas season. So, I offer you my Top 30 with a Bonus 11. My choices are simply that . . . mine. Based on so many things . . . memories from different stages in my life, childhood, teenage years, young adulthood and the present. I am not saying these are the BEST Christmas albums from a critical standpoint. I feel so blessed to count many of the artists and musicians that have contributed so much on this list as friends. The list will probably change for next year as new discoveries are made and old ones are rediscovered.
I had visions of grandeur that I would include a picture of each project as well - maybe next year!
Merry Christmas everyone!
TOP 30
1. BING CROSBY ~ WHITE CHRISTMAS ~ How do you argue with a classic?
2. ANDREA BOCCELI ~ MY CHRISTMAS ~ Some of the duets are stunning ~ the one with Mary J. Blige on "What Child Is This" is particularly great ~ The DVD is a must have as well.
3. KATHY MATTEA ~ GOOD NEWS ~ A grammy award winning album, Kathy's strong vocals and great songs make this a new classic
4. AMY GRANT ~ A CHRISTMAS ALBUM ~The Christmas album that defined the next generation in our family ~ how can you argue with "Tender Tennessee Christmas"?
5. MICHAEL BUBLE ~ CHRISTMAS ~ A "recreation" of when albums were done live off the floor ~ The DVD is great as well!
6. JOSH GROBAN ~ NOEL ~ Beautiful production, great vocals, "Thankful" is a highlight
7. THE CHRISTMAS ALBUM ~ SPARROW COMPILATION ~ Whiteheart's version of Little Drummer Boy kicks some serious butt! ~ Great vocal from Rick Florian ~ and the cover is priceless!
8. OVER THE RHINE ~ SNOW ANGELS ~ One of my favorite all time female vocalists and Linford is pretty cool too!
9. VINCE GILL ~ HOME FOR CHRISTMAS ~ The crystal clear tenor of Vince Gill and some great playing to boot!
10. CARPENTERS ~ CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT ~ Do sibling harmonies get any better that Karen and Richard Carpenter? . . . beautiful!
11. HARRY CONNICK ~ WHEN MY HEART FINDS CHRISTMAS ~ Bringing a little "Nawlins" to a Christmas near you
12. STEVE BELL ~ THE FEAST OF SEASONS ~ An under rated Canadian Singer/Songwriter ~ Mary's Magnificat always brings tears to Cathy's eyes
13. NAT KING COLE ~ CHRISTMAS ALBUM ~ Who better to sing the "Christmas Song" ~ Chestnuts roasting by an open fire . . . classic!
14. PERRY COMO ~ A PERRY COMO CHRISTMAS ~ Another classic from when I was a kid ~ the smooth, soothing vocal sounds and old style Hollywood Arrangements
15. HANDELS MESSIAH ~ THE LONDON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA AND CHOIR ~ True grandeur from a musical genius
16. DAVID FOSTER ~ THE CHRISTMAS ALBUM ~ Classic David Foster
17. AMY GRANT ~ HOME FOR CHRISTMAS ~ A wonderfully orchestrated project ~ Ronn Huff at his finest!
18. RUSS TAFF ~ A CHRISTMAS SONG ~ One of the best male voices . . . period.
19. TWILA PARIS ~ IT'S THE THOUGHT ~ Another project from when our kids were little that meant a lot.
20. VINCE GILL ~ BREATH OF HEAVEN: A CHRISTMAS COLLECTION ~ rarely does an artist make more than one good Christmas album in their career ~ this follow up does not disappoint!
21. WYNONNA ~ A CLASSIC CHRISTMAS ~ The distinctive vocals of Wynonna served up with some fine songs and production
22. EVIE ~ COME ON RING THOSE BELLS ~ We got this album when I was in High School ~ part of the soundtrack of my life ~ saw her live in Des Moines in November 1979
23. BRUCE COCKBURN ~ CHRISTMAS ~ An eclectic project from another Canadian ~ a new classic in our house
24. TRISHA YEARWOOD ~ THE SWEETEST GIFT ~ One of the finest female voices in country music
25. THE ANDREWS SISTERS ~ CHRISTMAS ~ Another very familiar sound from my childhood ~ takes me right back!
26. LITTLE DRUMMER BOY ~ THE HARRY SIMEONE CHORALE ~ One of the first Christmas LP's that I have a recollection of as a child ~ the record played thousands of times at our house over the years!
27. SUFJAN STEVENS ~ SONGS FOR CHRISTMAS ~ boxed set ~ 5 discs of Christmas goodness ~ if you are looking for something different ~ this is it!
28. JAMES TAYLOR ~ AT CHRISTMAS ~ Sweet Baby James ~ Mellow and warm
29. GLAD ~ THE VOICES OF CHRISTMAS ~ Tight harmonies!
30. ANNE MURRAY WITH THE LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA ~ THE SEASON WILL NEVER GROW OLD ~ the distinctive sounds of one of Canada's best loved female vocalists
BONUS 12
31. ENYA ~ AND WINTER CAME ~ If you like ethereal ~ this is for you
32. SARA McLACHLAN ~ WINTERSONG ~ The angelic sounds of another of Canada's great female vocalists puts her unique spin on music for the season
33. DONNA SUMMER ~ CHRISTMAS SPIRIT ~ From Love to Love You Baby to a beautiful Christmas album ~ a very little known Christmas project from a soulful singer ~ great orchestrations!
34. BARBARA STREISAND ~ A CHRISTMAS ALBUM ~ Classic Streisand
35. PHIL SPECTOR ~ A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR YOU ~ Produced for the whopping budget of Fifty Six thousand dollars, Spector offers up his "Wall of Sound" for the Christmas season
36. JULIE ANDREWS ~ CHRISTMAS WITH JULIE ANDREWS ~ From that distinctive voice in Sound of Music comes this Christmas offering
37. SHERYL CROW ~ HOME FOR CHRISTMAS ~ The "Rock Chick" does Christmas ~ quite well actually!
38. BEACH BOYS ~ CHRISTMAS WITH THE BEACH BOYS ~ classic Beach Boy harmonies and arrangements ~ Brian Wilson celebrates the season!
39. WHITNEY HOUSTON ~ ONE WISH: THE HOLIDAY ALBUM ~ no denying that in her day Whitney could SING!!
40. STING ~ ON A WINTERS NIGHT ~ Full points to Sting for ambition ~ This is actually three pieces ~ The Documentary DVD, The Live Concert DVD and the Audio CD ~ The shots of Durham Cathedral are stunning ~ if you get a chance to hear Sting's "Gabriels Message" off of A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS ~ RED ~ it is well worth the trouble finding.
41. CELINE DION ~ THESE ARE SPECIAL TIMES ~ another of Canada's finest singers at her best
42. A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Original Sound Track Recording Of The CBS Television Special
AND ONE MORE BONUS I COULDN'T RESIST!
43. BONEY M ~ THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CHRISTMAS SONGS IN THE WORLD ~ need I say more?
BONUS ~ SPOKEN WORD
44. DYLAN THOMAS ~ A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES
45. STUART McCLEAN ~ POLLY ANDERSONS'S CHRISTMAS PARTY
AND TWO MORE JUST FOR MY SON JON:
46. WHAM ~ LAST CHRISTMAS
47. MARIAH CAREY ~ MERRY CHRISTMAS

 And NEW for 2012

48. The Blind Boys of Alabama ~ Go Tell It On The Mountain
49. Diana Krall ~ Christmas Songs
50. Lady Antebellum ~ On This Winter's Night 
51. Rod Stewart ~ Mary Christmas, Baby 
52. Sufjan Stevens ~ Silver & Gold
53. Cee Lo Green ~ Cee Lo's Magic Moment
54. Richard Marx ~ Christmas Spirit
55. Annie Lennox ~ A Christmas Cornucopia
56. Shawn Colvin ~ Holiday Songs and Lullabies

And NEW for 2013 - (These are not necessarily all new release per se, but include some recent discoveries as well.)


57. Carole King ~ A Holiday Carole (Deluxe Edition) - from the iconic voice that brought us one of my top records of all time, (Tapestry) comes a new Christmas project full of some old familiar songs as well as some brand new ones.

58. Joshua Bell ~
Musical Gifts From Joshua Bell and Friends ~ In this brand new celebration of the season, Bell is paired with a variety of special guests including Gloria Estefan, Alison Krauss, Kristin Chenoweth, trumpeter Chris Botti, jazz greats Chick Corea and Branford Marsalis, opera stars Plácido Domingo and Renée Fleming, Michael Feinstein and a cappella group Straight No Chaser. Not your everyday violin project!

59. Mary J Blige ~ A Very Mary Christmas -
One of my very favorite female R&B singer in the current roster of singers, Mary J Blige could probably sing the phone book and I would buy a copy. Produced by the uber talented, David Foster, this is exactly the type of singer and production he excels at - you won't be dissapointed.

60. Emmylou Harris ~
Light In the Stable

"First released in 1979, Light of the Stable has survived the passage of time and received much acclaim over the years. Updated in 2004 with three new tunes and insightful liner notes, its light now shines even brighter. A host of well-known voices and players join Harris on Christmas songs both familiar and unexpected. Among her guests are Dolly Parton, Rodney Crowell, Neil Young, Ricky Skaggs, James Burton, and Kate and Anna McGarrigle, the latter of whose lovely arrangements of the traditional "Cherry Tree Carol" and their own "Man Is an Island" are two of the bonus tracks.
Given its history and craft, Light of the Stable is more than just a seasonal collection. In many ways, it's shaped the sound of country Christmas records for the 25 years since its original release--yet the warm glow of its own artistry has never wavered. Consider it a little masterpiece". ~ Martin Keller

61. The Three Tenors ~  The Three Tenors Christmas ~
José Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti deliver 21 songs of traditional sacred music and secular numbers in a remarkable 1999 live recording from the opulent Viennese concert hall (Konzerthaus), with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and a renowned choir. For those who like a taste of the classics done in a traditional classical style.

62. Steve Bell - Keening For The Dawn
~  Steve Bell's first Christmas project, The Feast of Seasons is an all time favorite around our house every year at Christmas. His follow up Christmas project has some delightful songs and production on it as well and could very well work its way to the top of our list. In the Bleak Mid Winter is one of the stand out tracks on this project.

63. Harry Conick Jr. ~ What A Night! ~ This guy has a lot of Christmas projects! Solid production and a sweet duet with his daughter, Sarah Kate, who was 11 at the time. Some great songs and solid production make this a project worth adding to your collection. If you can find a copy of the deluxe edition, it has a nice DVD included about the making of the album.

NEW FOR 2015

64. TRAIN ~ CHRISTMAS IN TAHOE ~ A nice diversion from traditional holiday tunes with some traditional songs included as well. Sung by the umistakable voice of Pat Monahan, this album is sure to please young and old alike.

www.prairieboy.com


© 2011 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.

2 comments:

  1. Ok, so I am a little behind the times, but I just now read your list. I found that I have MANY of the same favorites and you gave me inspiration to try some new ones this coming Christmas (although I shudder to say it is coming, it IS only January!!!). We have a long standing tradition of adding a new Christmas CD every year so now I have lots of options! Thanks for sharing.

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  2. The hands-down best version of Little Drummer Boy (a song I don't even really like) is the medley We 3 Kings/Little Drummer Boy done by the Blue Hawaiians on their album "Christmas on the Big Island." Which is actually a great album.
    Also you don't have enough choir boys on your list. Please remedy. ;)

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