Christmas is a time to spend with family and friends and music. Whether it’s a focus or simply playing in the background, music is a big part of many holiday memories. It’s also big business for the industry, which means pretty much every great artist has released at least one Christmas album in their day. Here are seven of the best to listen to while the Netflix fireplace is on in the background.
The Charlie Brown Christmas special is a holiday tradition for many families but whether you watch the show or not, you should be enjoying the music. Best known for creating the memorable theme song for the Peanuts TV specials, the Vince Guaraldi Trio performed all the great jazz music heard during the special. Whether they’re playing classic traditional songs like “O Tannenbaum” or “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” or original music like “Christmas Time is Here,” that has become a standard in its own right, this is by far the coolest Christmas album you could hear.
If there’s one problem with Christmas albums it’s that the material tends to limit their appeal. However, if there’s one Christmas album that transcends its genre it’s Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You. This isn’t just one of the greatest Christmas albums ever, it’s one of the greatest albums ever made, period. Brian Adams of the Beach Boys has called it his favorite album of all time. There’s a reason. If you don’t know what it is, go find out.
Nat King Cole’s recording of “The Christmas Song” is the definitive version of the song. The 1960 album of the same name may contain the definitive version of his performances. That’s far from the only thing on here, however. He sings “O Tannenbaum” in German, because he’s a badass like that, and he belts out the not covered often enough “I Saw Three Ships” with palpable joy. Finally the album settles you in for a long winter’s nap with a beautiful version of “Silent Night.”
While the era of crooners like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra may be over, every generation seems to have one to keep the style alive. In the 90s that man was Harry Connick Jr. The style lends itself well to Christmas music which may explain why his best selling album ever is this one. Whether you prefer your Christmas music with reverence, or as upbeat pop tunes, this one has you covered.
Unlike anything else on this list, but just as much a Christmas album, Trans Siberian Orchestra creates rock operas using traditional Christmas songs as their base, though with significantly more electric guitar than usual. This is one of their best albums and while most of the music is original it’s no less Christmas. You’ll want to sit and listen to this one as the album in it’s entirety has a beautiful story to tell. Pay special attention to “The Old City Bar.” There may be no other Christmas song ever written quite like it.
The album is the same, though it got reissued with the title changed in order to be sure that everybody knew they’d be getting the one song they were really looking for. “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby is one of the most popular songs ever recorded, end of discussion. If the song is somehow not already in your collection it needs to be, but this album contains several other favorites that you’ll also enjoy.
Christmas music is such big business that rarely does the same Christmas album lead the sales charts for more than the the year it’s released. However, Pentatonix has taken the crown the last two years. Will 2016 make it three in a row? The accapella group shows you just how beautiful the simple human voice can be, unadulterated by any additional instrumentation.
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