No more 🎶 Here Comes Santa Claus 🎶
November 30, 2019 9:44 AM   Subscribe

With the Christmas season almost here, I find myself wishing I had any knowledge of, like, fiddler trios, or classical 12-string guitar players, or basically any instrumentalist of any genre who has released Christmas / winter solstice music. Can you recommend any? What's your favorite Christmas album?

I love Yo-Yo Ma's Christmas album, for example. These albums don't have to have recognizable "Christmas songs," necessarily. The main thing is that most songs be instrumental, though if your favorite Christmas album has a lot of singing, go ahead and recommend it too.

Anything we can listen to while sitting around a lighted Christmas tree drinking warm cider during the longest nights of the year would be great!
posted by slidell to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
The Ventures every time, although I tend to listen to it while I cook.
posted by pipeski at 9:47 AM on November 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

Béla Fleck & the Flecktones - Jingle All the Way
posted by kingless at 9:57 AM on November 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I like the Linn Barnes and Allison Hampton Yule album for nice mellow Xmas music. Also it’s the opposite of instrumental, but I love love love The Mila Vocal Ensemble’s From a Dark Night. (If you like your Xmas cider with a robust multilingual acapella flavor — I know I do.)
posted by pepper bird at 10:05 AM on November 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Booker T and the MGs - In the Christmas Spirit (r&b/soul)
John Fahey - The New Possibility (solo guitar)
Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Charlie Brown Christmas (jazz trio)
posted by box at 10:16 AM on November 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

George Winston - December
I love the animated movie The Snowman, and the music.
Vince Guaraldi did the music that helped make Charlie Brown Christmas a hit. (jinx)
posted by theora55 at 10:21 AM on November 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

Jazz pianist Oscar Peterson's Christmas album is festive, chill, holiday instrumental bliss. I listen to it endlessly this time of year.
posted by mostlymartha at 10:34 AM on November 30, 2019 [5 favorites]

The Baltimore Consort’s Bright Day Star
posted by clew at 11:40 AM on November 30, 2019

The New Possibility, John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album
posted by caek at 11:45 AM on November 30, 2019

I have a longtime fondness for the lovely instrumental arrangements of New England Christmastide (link to the full album on YouTube).
posted by merriment at 11:47 AM on November 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Windham Hill — a new age-y record label and home of the aforementioned George Winston album December, which is a lovely listen at this time of the year — has a whole lot of albums In its Winter Solstice series. Here’s the link to a very long playlist of its albums on Spotify.

I am personally a fan of A Winter’s Solstice IV, which has a rendition of the “Wexford Carol” that makes me feel as if I am a character in a prestige BBC drama about life in a small village whereupon I bicycle through picturesque country lanes, my ancestral cottage has a solid stone fireplace in which a fire is always roaring and a battered wooden table holds a pot of tea so I can have a good gossip with a friend, and the holiday season is all gently glowing candlelight and the convivial gathering of community for a moment’s peace. It’s a big feeling for a few minutes’ listen.

I also like the Modern Mandolin Quartet’s rendition of the Nutcracker suite, with bonus “Winter” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at the end. Spotify does not have the OG 1991 recording but the CD is available in several places.
posted by sobell at 12:07 PM on November 30, 2019 [9 favorites]

These are all instrumentals:
Liz Story, The Gift. Mostly solo piano arrangements of traditional carols.
Ramsey Lewis, The Sounds of Christmas. Jazz arrangements of traditional carols, with full orchestra.
Jimmy Smith, Christmas Cookin'. Jazz organ (and other instruments).
posted by bricoleur at 12:11 PM on November 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

There’s an album called A Music Box Christmas that consists of recordings of old-fashioned elaborate music boxes, which is way cooler than it sounds. It appears to be available on several streaming services, and it looks like you can hear some of it on YouTube.
posted by FencingGal at 12:18 PM on November 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Adore this album, An Alto Flute Christmas.
posted by Melismata at 12:21 PM on November 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Instrumental albums are my favorite type of Christmas music. A few recommendations that I haven't seen suggested yet:
  • Narada Christmas Collection - Volume 1, Volume 2
  • George Winston - in addition to December (linked above), their Forest album has some of my favorite renditions of the soundtrack to The Snowman
  • A Winter Garden by Loreena McKennitt - has vocals, but it's not your typical Christmas music sound

posted by Aleyn at 2:12 PM on November 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Greg Miner recorded all the old favorites utilizing a variety of unusual stringed instruments, back in the 90s. Amazon has the CD and here's a YouTube of him playing "Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella."

...and thirding the John Fahey.
posted by Rash at 4:48 PM on November 30, 2019

James Morrison- This is Christmas (spotify link) It's upbeat trumpetty jazzy versions of classic Christmas songs. The Jingle Bells is especially raucous and celebratory.
posted by freethefeet at 10:18 PM on November 30, 2019

I love this collectionof piano and cello holiday duets.
posted by snowymorninblues at 7:20 AM on December 1, 2019

I have three recommendations for uncommon Christmas albums.

1) - John Zorn: A Dreamer's Christmas - mostly instrumental, deceptively simple

2) Bruce Cockburn: Christmas - not really instrumental but good acoustic stuff with a traditional bent. Try: I Saw Three Ships

3) Barenaked Ladies: Barenaked for the Holidays - definitely not instrumental. A nice streak of lighthearted humour. Some non-Christmas songs. Try: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings with Sarah McLachlan as an added bonus.
posted by kaymac at 7:40 AM on December 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

the other day at our family board game gathering, my brother-in-law put on this youtube video of nintendo "winter" levels, and it was perfect. It is instrumental, upbeat, cheerful, and very obviously holiday themed without being hymnal or boring.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:47 AM on December 1, 2019

The Harlem Nutcracker! So good. It's on Spotify, too!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:37 AM on December 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

> [...] if your favorite Christmas album has a lot of singing, go ahead and recommend it too. [...]

I'll take full advantage of this caveat to plug my favourite Christmas album, which is Sia's "Everyday is Christmas". It's pop music with vocals all the way through, and so not exactly what you are looking for, but maybe some other reader might be interested in checking it out. It is all originals, but definitely Christmas-y.

It's mostly upbeat (Candy Cane Lane, Puppies Are Forever) but there's a couple more mellow tracks (Snowman, Snowflake).
posted by one of these days at 11:20 AM on December 2, 2019

Our longtime family favorites are by the New American Guitar Ensemble. We have gone from LP to CD, but the music is classic.
A Collection of Favorite Christmas Carols
Songs, Hymns and Carols
posted by ApathyGirl at 2:10 PM on December 2, 2019

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