• Videos On YouTube

  • Vinyl Revinyl Topics

  • « | Home | »

    Top 10 Christmas Albums on Vinyl

    Post By:

    There is something to be said about the art of a great Christmas album. Part of it is song selection, part of it is song interpretation, part of it is simply the voice. But above all else, the one quality that ultimately makes a Christmas album timeless is its ability to capture that thing we call the Christmas spirit—something all of the following albums share.

     

    #10) Mariah Carey - Merry Christmas (1994)
    Mariah Carey's Merry Christmas takes the cake when it comes to contemporary Christmas albums—and yes, it exists on vinyl! With a mix of joyous yuletide celebrations and more reverent gospel-flavored numbers, she creates a timeless holiday classic that belongs alongside those by greats like Bing and Nat. Her original "All I Want for Christmas Is You" has become an indispensable Christmas favorite, just as this album has become a holiday staple. From her dancefloor-ready rendition of "Joy to the World" to the immaculate restraint she shows on sacred carols like "Silent Night" and soulful delivery of "O, Holy Night" and "Jesus, Oh What a Wonderful Child," Mariah Carey gets it right.
     

    #9) The Ventures - The Ventures' Christmas Album (1965)
    This one is just plain fun. The instrumental surf-rock band wipes out more traditional holiday albums by weaving classic '60s pop songs into popular Christmas standards. Their own "Walk, Don't Run" turns into "Jingle Bells" while the Beatles' "I Feel Fine" morphs into "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Wooly Bully" becomes "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," and the Champs' "Tequila" mashes up with "Frosty the Snowman." Twangy guitar, reverb, and sleigh bells never sounded so good together!

     

    #8) Elvis Presley - Elvis' Christmas Album (1957)
    I love Elvis' rock 'n' roll-meets-gospel take on the holidays. Though the rock 'n' roll part seemed blasphemous at the time, it's classic now—and this album is in fact the best-selling Christmas album of all time in the U.S. On Side One, you've got the naughty "Santa Claus Is Back in Town" and bluesy classic "Blue Christmas," while Side Two closes with "Peace in the Valley" and other straight-ahead gospel numbers. Though Elvis would release another Christmas album, Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas, in the early '70s, Elvis' Christmas Album was recorded in the prime of his career, and I prefer it for the King's outstanding takes on "White Christmas," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," "Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)," and "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

     

    #7) The Beach Boys - The Beach Boys' Christmas Album (1964)
    When it comes to pop Christmas albums, The Beach Boys' Christmas Album is one of the very best. These Southern California boys warm up the holiday season with a loveable mix of standards and rocking originals. A 40-piece orchestra arranged by Dick Reynolds, the Four Freshmen's arranger, lends a wide-sweeping twinkle to the album's seven standards, and "We Three Kings of Orient Are" is reworked brilliantly with a Brian Wilson/Mike Love duet and choirs of overdubbed harmonies that make it stand out as one of the best renditions to date (besides your elementary school's version, of course). But arguably the highlights are the originals like "Little Saint Nick," which has itself become a holiday classic. The album ends with an fantastic a cappella version of "Auld Lang Syne" that sets the tone for the new year, no matter if it's 1965 or 2012.

     

    #6) John Denver - Rocky Mountain Christmas (1975)
    I think that at the heart of this album is a simplicity, as pure and pristine as the Rockies, that is a refreshing contrast to the schmaltzy ornamentation of the majority of holiday music. Sure, there are some not so great inclusions on this beloved country-folk singer's first Christmas album ("Please Daddy, Don't Get Drunk This Christmas"), but these are easy to overlook with the many warm and friendly odes to Christmas and Colorado. Rocky Mountain Christmas plus a warm fireplace equals the ultimate in comfort and joy.

     

    #5) The Carpenters - Christmas Portrait (1978)
    The brother and sister duo's first Christmas album remains one of the most loved albums in their catalog. Their original song "Merry Christmas, Darling" has become a holiday standard, and I'd have to say theirs is my favorite rendition of both "Sleigh Ride" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." I think what really sets this album apart, however, is that the magic of Christmas was in their hearts. The flawless combination of Karen's longingly sweet vocals and Richard's charming arrangements—not to mention the painstaking care Richard brought to the album—makes this a timeless celebration of the season that both tugs on the heartstrings and brings a smile to your face. I also really like their whimsical, jazzy rendition of "Carol of the Bells."

     

    #4) Nat King Cole - The Christmas Song (1963)
    There are few voices so well suited to Christmas fare as Nat King Cole's. His honeyed vocals, beautifully nuanced delivery, and tasteful orchestral accompaniment make this the most sentimentally sweet Christmas album around. Plus, The Christmas Song collects some of the most well loved Christmas tunes like "Joy to the World," "Adeste Fideles," "O, Holy Night," "Away in a Manger," "The First Noel," "Silent Night," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," and of course Cole's definitive version of "The Christmas Song," while also introducing lesser known tunes like "Caroling, Caroling" to the Christmas music catalog. To me, this is what Christmas is all about.

     

    #3) Bing Crosby - Merry Christmas (1945; re-released as White Christmas)
    We all dream of a white Christmas because of Bing Crosby. His definitive rendition of the song is not only immortalized on this quintessential Christmas album, it has become the best-selling single of all time. The album itself created the blueprint for Christmas albums and is one of the longest in-print albums in the U.S. Released amidst World War II, there's an authentic poignancy to "I'll Be Home for Christmas," while "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" is capable of eliciting a childlike giddiness in anyone. Nostalgic, timeless, warm and fuzzy, White Christmas captures not only the essence of the Christmas spirit but the essence of simpler times. The audio equivalent to a Norman Rockwell painting.

     

    #2) Phil Spector - A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records (1963; re-released as A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector)
    Speaking of the Beach Boys, this one just happens to be Brian Wilson's favorite Christmas album. Featuring the Crystals, the Ronettes, Darlene Love, and Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, plus Leon Russell on piano and Sonny Bono on drums, it's bursting with greatness. With this album, Spector set out to create a pop masterpiece, and the combination of his immaculate wall of Yuletide sound along with the amazing vocal talents of his early roster of artists makes A Christmas Gift for You not only a holiday classic but also one of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Love's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," the Crystals' "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," and the Ronettes' "Sleigh Ride" are some of the artists' best performances.

     

    #1) Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
    This toe-tapping, '60s piano jazz album has become a cherished holiday favorite. It features such Peanuts classics as "Linus and Lucy," "Christmas Time Is Here," and "Skating," as well as superb interpretations of holiday standards including "What Child Is This" and "The Christmas Song," all rounded out with evergreen favorites like "Fur Elise" and "Greensleeves." The reason that this album tops the list is that it appeals to both Christmas music lovers and non-lovers alike—a true Christmas miracle!

     

    Honorable Mentions:

    Tony Bennett - Snowfall (1968)
    A swinging affair from the legendary crooner Tony Bennett. His smooth pipes and romantic zing make seasonal favorites like "Winter Wonderland," "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," and "The Christmas Song" especially charming.

    Johnny Mathis - Merry Christmas (1958)
    The best of several Christmas albums Johnny Mathis has recorded, 1958's Merry Christmas features his hit rendition of "Winter Wonderland" and irresistibly smooth reading of "The Christmas Song." However, it's his classic version of "Sleigh Ride" that I've remembered all through my life.

    Perry Como - The Perry Como Christmas Album (1968)
    Accompanied by an orchestra and the Ray Charles singers, Perry Como delivers a wholesome holiday delight with this 1968 LP that rivals his classic television Christmas specials and has yet to be replicated in any of his recent Christmas CD compilations. As essential to Christmastime as hot cocoa and mistletoe.

    Ella Fitzgerald - Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas (1960)
    With big band backing conducted by Frank DeVol, the jazz vocal legend swings and "giddy yaps" through holiday favorites like "Sleigh Ride," "Jingle Bells," "Frosty the Snowman," and "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" while offering a happier take on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and sentimental reading of "What Are You Doing New Years Eve?"

    Arthur Fiedler with the Boston Pops - A Christmas Festival (1970)
    The go-to classical Christmas album from the legendary pop orchestra and its legendary conductor.

    Andy Williams - The Andy Williams Christmas Album (1963)
    Reminding us "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year"!

    Join the Conversation: Post a Comment!

    Topics: Music, Record Collecting | No Comments »

    Comments