Essential Christmas albums
November 17, 2004 3:42 PM   Subscribe

For all of my music snob posturing, I absolutely, unabashedly love Christmas music. This year, I am looking to expand my collection, and was wondering: what are your essential "wouldn't be Christmas without them" Christmas albums?
posted by Quartermass to Media & Arts (64 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
As abashed as I am to admit this, it's not christmas without Manheim Steamroller.
posted by SpecialK at 4:02 PM on November 17, 2004

You must, in a very real and mandatory sense, have a number of Bing Crosby recordings. He's put out loads of Christmas albums. Get them all.
posted by nylon at 4:09 PM on November 17, 2004

I don't know about albums but I don't get in the "mood" without Eartha Kitt singing "Santa Baby" at least once or twice.

I put together an album of non-sucky Christmas music for my family a couple of years ago, they still rave about how its filled with music that doesn't make them want to strangle themselves.

I also really love "So This is Christmas" by John Lennon.
posted by fenriq at 4:19 PM on November 17, 2004

Xmas ain't Xmas without the "A Charlie Brown Christmas" sountrack.
posted by tristeza at 4:23 PM on November 17, 2004

John Langstaff's Christmas Revels recordings, particularly the first ("The Christmas Revels") and the second ("Wassail! Wassail!").

They've very traditional, no pop music or anything, but they're great.
posted by bubukaba at 4:24 PM on November 17, 2004

christmas in hollis - RUN DMC

for reals.

off the "christmas raps" tape, which, apparently, is out of print! damn, i hope i held onto that one.
posted by fishfucker at 4:29 PM on November 17, 2004

The Torero Band's Tijuana Christmas is excellent fun. The idea is fantastic - traditional Christmas carols played in Happy Tijuana style by a bunch of Herb Alpert-wannabe session musicians. You'll probably be able to pick up a thousand copies for a dollar at your nearest Salvation Army thrift store.
posted by nylon at 4:32 PM on November 17, 2004

At our house the Charlie Brown Xmas by Vince Garauldi is critical. Also (seriously) Vandals Oi to the World, John Denver Rocky Mountain Christmas, and a comp i made a few years ago which has lots o fun stuff like the waitresses and run dmc (christmas in hollis queens) on it. Also bing crosby singing little drummer boy with david bowie is fairly crucial.

manheim steamroller makes me want to hang myself with xmas lights.
posted by glenwood at 4:32 PM on November 17, 2004

oh and miles davis' "blue christmas" is a hot tune.
posted by glenwood at 4:34 PM on November 17, 2004

Charlie Brown Xmas and "December" by George Winston
posted by papercake at 4:40 PM on November 17, 2004

We grew up with, among other things, a bunch of compilation albums from True Value (my grandpa owned a T.V. hardware store). I transferred all of our records to cd two years ago. But my gift to ask.metafilter this season is:

Merry Christmas from Sesame Street*

*contains touching Mr. Hooper/Bert/Ernie "gift of the magi"-type story
posted by stefnet at 4:47 PM on November 17, 2004

I fourth the Charlie Brown Christmas album, and, oddly enough, i was going to recommend Tijuana Christmas.

I am a sucker for 'Do they know it's Christmas?'. That synth bassline kills me every time. See also: 'Wonderful Christmastime' by Paul Macartney.
posted by hughbot at 4:48 PM on November 17, 2004

The Coctails released a wonderful seven inch called "Winter Wonderland" back in 1993. I can't imagine christmas without it.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 4:52 PM on November 17, 2004

Ella Wishes You a Swingin' Christmas and the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl's "Fairytale of New York".
posted by amarynth at 5:15 PM on November 17, 2004

Making Spirits Bright
posted by y2karl at 5:24 PM on November 17, 2004

Mary Margaret O'Hara's Christmas EP, if for no other reason than when Christmas rolls around I always ask myself "Self, don't we have any Christmas cds?" and that one is always the answer.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 5:28 PM on November 17, 2004

Jeff Victor's 'tis the Season is the best Christmas piano album ever made.
posted by zelphi at 5:33 PM on November 17, 2004

"Rockin' Aroudn the Chirstmas Tree" & "Jingle Bell Rock" by Brenda Lee
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 5:35 PM on November 17, 2004

And now, because of this post, I’ve loaded my Christmas music into iTunes even though I am absolutely opposed to listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving.

Anyway, some more old favorites:
Etta James – 12 Songs of Christmas
The Rat Pack Christmas
Just Say Noel
You Sleigh Me
Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas from the Family”
The Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)”
And Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka” and Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad”

And this year I bought:
Chris Isaak Christmas
The O.C.’s Chrismukkah mix
Barenaked Ladies – Barenaked for the Holidays
posted by amarynth at 5:41 PM on November 17, 2004

The Booker T. & The M.G.'s Xmas album -- I really like their version of Jingle Bells. (They used to play it all the time on WXRT in Chicago, this time of year, so now I have this Pavlovian reaction to it.)
posted by xil at 5:45 PM on November 17, 2004

As low brow as it is Bob River's "I am Santa Claus" has been a favorite for a long time around my house...
posted by asterisk at 5:47 PM on November 17, 2004

For something a bit different: The 8bits of Christmas
posted by krisjohn at 5:50 PM on November 17, 2004

George Winston, December. I know it's cliche (or at least it is here in MN), but I adore it.
posted by neckro23 at 5:54 PM on November 17, 2004

Here are ten from the forty-five I have in my library:

  • Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End) - The Darkness
  • Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa - De La Soul
  • Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas - The Eels
  • Snowflake Music - Mark Mothersbaugh
  • Christmas Time Is Here Again - The Beatles
  • Star Of Bethlehem - Neil Young
  • Christmas at the Zoo - The Flaming Lips
  • Christmas Card From Hooker In Minneapolis - Tom Waits
  • Christmas in Prison- John Prine
  • Good King Wenceleas - The Skydiggers

    Personally, I think Good King Wenceleas transends simple holiday toonage and is good enough to listen to all year round.

  • posted by boost ventilator at 6:11 PM on November 17, 2004

    Charlie Brown Christmas, and Ultralounge "Christmas Cocktails" collections 1 and 2.
    posted by schoolgirl report at 6:19 PM on November 17, 2004

    Merry Axemas and Esquivel's CHristmas album.
    posted by plinth at 6:21 PM on November 17, 2004

    ELVIS, for crying out loud, or you will have a blue Christmas indeed because Santa won't bring your baby back to you. How can you people forget the King during X-mas season*? You call yourselves Marines?

    John Denver and the Muppets, Christmas Together.

    A Waverly Consort Christmas

    Boston Camerata, A Renaissance Christmas

    Custer LaRue, ``Jesus Born in Bethany''

    Weird Al, ``Christmas at Ground Zero''

    Mel Blanc, ``The Hat I Got For Christmas Is Too Big''

    PDQ Bach, that one with ``O Little Town of Hackensack'' and ``Good King Kong'' Good King Kong looked down at his feet and he saw that they were large...

    Vince Guaraldi, Charlie Brown Christmas.

    I only picked it up last year, but Christmas with Johnny Cash has some good stuff on it.

    But it's just not Christmas season until I see ``KISS Saves Santa'' yet again...

    *Now I wanna go find a nativity set with 3 Elvises for Kings.
    posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:29 PM on November 17, 2004

    Combustible Edison's Sub Pop Christmas Card, from 1994. "Christmas Time is Here," and "Sleigh Ride." I've listened to it every year for nearly a decade.
    posted by waldo at 6:35 PM on November 17, 2004

    John Denver and the Muppets, Christmas Together.

    Best. Christmas. Album. Ever.

    Also, if you're in search of just straight up classic Christmas tunes in a contemporary pop style, Amy Grant's Xmas album (which my mom loves to death) is actually pretty good. Plus, I'm sure you can find it for a nickel at your local 7-11.
    posted by Ufez Jones at 6:39 PM on November 17, 2004

    Couldn't get through Christmas without Dr. Demento's Greatest Christmas Novelty CD of All Time! It has it all, from "The Chipmonk Song" to "I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus." And my much beloved, "(I'm Getting) Nuttin For Christmas."
    posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:43 PM on November 17, 2004

    Response by poster: Because I started this, I should add my favorites as well in case others care.

    Low - Christmas. I seriously love this album - thier version of Little Drummer Boy was in a gap commercial a few years ago.

    Now That's What I Call Christmas (vol 1) . I generally dislike compilations (as a rule I like to buy the original albums if available), but they really outdid themselves here. Check out that track list!

    The Carpenters - Christmas Portriat I grew up listening to this (Dad's favorite).

    Boney M - Christmas Album . You have to pay import prices, but well worth it. So much cheese!!!

    So many great leads here - keep em comin'!
    posted by Quartermass at 7:03 PM on November 17, 2004

    Vince Guaraldi is a must. I'm kind of tired of George Winston, but sometimes I throw on December for the hell of it.

    Also, Cyrus Chestnut's Blessed Quietness.

    That's all I need. But at my family's house, it's an endless rotation of Mannheim Steamroller, Johnny Mathis, etc.

    While we're on the subject, I loathe The Italian Christmas Donkey. That is all.
    posted by emelenjr at 7:19 PM on November 17, 2004

    Okay, I had a great list with links and all, but for some reason, can't post from Firefox. Then, when I went to open the link in IE, apparently Firefox puts the link on the clipboard, blowing away my post, which I had copied in order to post it. :(

    To summarize, lamely, Leon Redbone's is good, so is Ella's, and I like Sinatra too. Oh, and Jaymz Bee and the Royal Jelly Orchestra. All of these can be found on amazon...

    And, great songs are River, as done by Robert Downey Jr., Rebel Jesus, as done by the Chieftains with Jackson Brown, and Christmas Must Be Tonight, as done by the Band. Plus a ton of stuff already mentioned.

    Then, I enthusiastically went on to say how much I would love to hear a full version of Rufus Wainwight doing What are You Doin' New Year's Eve, and I wondered how amarynth is likeing the Chris Isaak album.

    posted by Richat at 7:20 PM on November 17, 2004

    Run-DMC's Christmas in Hollis is available on (and I think originally appeared on) A Very Special Christmas (the first one from 1987). The Very Special Christmas series is mostly good, but some are not so good (I don't care for the live one). You can see all of them here.

    I also really enjoyed Harry Connick's Christmas album that came out last year.
    posted by internal at 7:21 PM on November 17, 2004

    As a kid, it was Nat "King" Cole. I came to loathe him....not his fault, I know...

    I don't really celebrate the holiday, and generally find ways to avoid over-exposure to xmas music; that said, I do really like Los Mofos' "'Tis the Season for Los Mofos". Sounds like a novelty, but it really does kick some butt.
    posted by lodurr at 7:24 PM on November 17, 2004

    The Holly and the Ivy, Alfred Deller and the Deller Consort.
    Counter-tenor Alfred Deller had the most wonderful, beautiful voice - clear and bright and warm and I've run out of words. Here he sings old (mostly medieval) carols accompanied by recorder and lute and voice. Sadly, it seems to be out of print at the moment but it has been available on CD in the recent past and it's worth tracking down a copy. All of Deller's recordings I've heard have been great but this is the only specifically Christmas one I know of.
    posted by TimeFactor at 7:24 PM on November 17, 2004

    Pretenders, "2000 Miles"
    U2, "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)"
    South Park, "Holy Shit, It's Christmas!"
    posted by kirkaracha at 7:40 PM on November 17, 2004

    I almost forgot... anything by the Robert Shaw chorale. One of the public stations did a whole evening of his arrangements one night while I was driving (through a freshly fallen snow, no less) and it was, dare I say it, magical.
    posted by stefnet at 7:40 PM on November 17, 2004

    p.s. christmas in hollis - RUN DMC
    I know this song from Die Hard, which, like Lethal Weapon, is a Christmas movie.

    posted by kirkaracha at 7:42 PM on November 17, 2004

    Tons, of course. The last couple of years, I've been pretty obsessed with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's offerings.
    posted by rushmc at 7:49 PM on November 17, 2004

    Ottmar Liebert -- Poets and Angels
    Trans-Siberian Orchestra -- Christmas Eve and Other Stories, The Christmas Attic, The Lost Christmas Eve (these are all concept albums spearheaded by members of Savatage)
    posted by joaquim at 7:51 PM on November 17, 2004

    Kiki & Herb: "Do You Hear What We Hear?"

    Jane Siberry "Child"

    Trans-Siberian Orchestra: :The Christmas Attic CD"
    (on preview: yes, or any of their xmas stuff)
    posted by obloquy at 7:52 PM on November 17, 2004

    May elves soil your Christmas stocking, rushmc.
    posted by joaquim at 7:53 PM on November 17, 2004

    Oh, crap. And you too, obloquy.
    posted by joaquim at 7:54 PM on November 17, 2004

    As abashed as I am to admit this, it's not christmas without Manheim Steamroller.

    I unabashedly agree! It simply wouldn't be right if I didn't hear this album at least thirty times, as I have every Christmas since I can remember (Every one of their Christmas albums is great though, my perpetual favorite is their rock take on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen")

    My family is also merrily obsessed with "Joy to the World" with the Boston Pops. Some really fantastic carolling and a narration of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Robin Williams (also impossible to locate on amazon :/)
    posted by nelleish at 7:59 PM on November 17, 2004

    For those interested, a collection of Deller's Christmas albums are at
    posted by Sangre Azul at 8:24 PM on November 17, 2004

    I agree with so many, especially Elvis and Boney M. However, for me, after every Elvis Christmas song, Band-Aid, and Rolf Harris's "Six White Boomers" (racing Santa Claus through the blazing sun!), my all-time favourite Christmas song is AC/DC's "Mistress For Christmas".
    posted by biscotti at 8:25 PM on November 17, 2004

    handel's "messiah", of course.

    and Blind Boys of Alabama
    (the tom waits is really good)

    i have a sneaking love for the beach boys christmas album, although i can't ever remember what it's called.

    and always, charlie brown christmas.
    posted by littlegirlblue at 9:04 PM on November 17, 2004

    The Ventures christmas album. Classic.

    My Xmas 2003 mix is still up (and downloadable) here.
    posted by adamkempa at 9:23 PM on November 17, 2004

    I don't know much from albums, but up here in the frozen north, most of us do not find it to be an adequate Christmas without at least one play of Bob & Doug Mackenzie's "Twelve Days of Christmas". (no, really!)

    Also, my brothers and I absolutely can't go without Cartman's performance of "O Holy Night" from one of the South Park CDs. Of course, it's ruined the song for us forever, and somber performances of it at gatherings and in church give us the giggles.
    posted by Monster_Zero at 10:29 PM on November 17, 2004

    Last year we had not just one, not just two, but three threads in the blue on Christmas music. In fact, if it weren't for the fact that AxMe predates all of them, I'd suspect that they were a primary factor in its creation.

    Now one wonders why they were in the blue, at all.

    By the way, I P2P'd like crazy from those threads, and was largely very satisfied with the results. This year, we're starting early enough I can probably actually burn stuff in time for the celebrations. ;-)
    posted by dhartung at 11:00 PM on November 17, 2004

    You could try J.S. Bach's various Christmas cantatas (Harmonia Mundi has a couple albums conducted by Phillipe Herreweghe), if you're feeling "highbrow," or want something onto which your guests' ears will in all likelihood not latch.
    posted by letourneau at 5:44 AM on November 18, 2004

    Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite".

    And "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer". Just because I enjoy the fact that my dad sings it around the house all Christmas season and my mother gives him dirty looks.
    posted by orange swan at 5:58 AM on November 18, 2004

    "Almost a Full Moon" by Hawksley Workman is a fine, fine holiday-themed album, but I haven't had it long enough to say that "it wouldn't be Christmas without it." Still, it's a good 'un.
    posted by Johnny Assay at 6:15 AM on November 18, 2004

    Ramsey Lewis: Sound of Christmas.

    (and the singing sergeants, but that's just a personal problem)
    posted by crush-onastick at 7:19 AM on November 18, 2004

    John Fahey's The New Possibility brings a sense of serenity and spirituality that to a season that, for me, is usually lacking in both qualities.
    posted by barjo at 8:10 AM on November 18, 2004

    I don't know how I missed this thread yesterday, but one of the best parts of kicking off the season for me is breaking out the Christmas music. As I have the musical taste of someone 40 years me senior, my tastes tend to run toward classic jazz and standards. Besides the Nutcracker and Charlie Brown Christmas (which is a perennial because of the great memories and because it's Vince Guaraldi, who totally rules), I currently like:

    Boogie Woogie Christmas by the Brian Setzer Orchestra - a toe tapper from begining to end.
    Christmas Cocktails (I know, I know, Ultra Lounge, but trust me these are really good)
    Hipster's Holiday - Not that kind of hipster, good lord no. The cool old jazzman kind.
    Have Yourself a Jazzy Little Christmas - Come on - Roland Kirk doing Christmas music? It's a must-have!
    Oh and, um, The Glenn Miller Orchestra. Yes.
    posted by boomchicka at 9:26 AM on November 18, 2004

    The Squirrel Nut Zippers Christmas Caravan CD is wonderful, quirky, and with lots of original but traditional sounding material. The Chieftan's Bells of Dublin is festive and has a wonderful guest vocal from Elvis Costello.
    posted by LarryC at 10:19 AM on November 18, 2004

    A little late to the party, but:
    The Phil Spector Christmas Album is absolutely essential. It's available as part of the equally essential Phil Spector box set, and is probably also available separately. The Ronettes' version of "Frosty the Snowman" is sheer genius.
    posted by Dr. Wu at 11:55 AM on November 18, 2004

    One of my faves when it comes into rotation in the jukebox is the Roches We Three Kings.
    posted by cairnish at 12:31 PM on November 18, 2004

    These are all delightful suggestions, but if I would like to butt in and recommend Coil's rendition of "Christmas is Now Drawing Near." Eerie, beautiful, and still very much of Christmas.

    Good times, good times.

    (RIP Jhonn, BTW.)
    posted by Sticherbeast at 2:12 PM on November 18, 2004

    The Monkeyfilter CD Exchange is having a Holiday CD mix exchange.
    posted by jb at 5:35 PM on November 18, 2004

    Sorry - that really should be Mix CD Exchange.
    posted by jb at 5:35 PM on November 18, 2004

    There's one essential Christmas album, whether or not you like jazz.

    Vince Guaraldi: A Charlie Brown Christmas.

    If you do enjoy jazz, there are two solo piano albums that are tied for the red ribbon. I wouldn't go a Christmas without listening to both.

    Dave McKenna: Christmas Party

    Cyrus Chestnut: Blessed Quietness.
    posted by cribcage at 11:34 AM on November 28, 2004

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