(RE)Tune – Christmas Classics

Posted: 12/26/2010 in (Re)Tune

I’m getting this out a little later than I wanted to, but I realized a very strange thing listening to the entirety of my Christmas music… There is quite a bit of it that I don’t like at all. This has left me with a strange feeling.  I thought that Christmas music was inherently good, and would stand up to any scrutiny, but have found that this doesn’t seem to be true.

In the midst of this unexpected displeasure, I have realized that there are certain groups of Christmas music that have naturally formed.  The first of these groups, thankfully, seems the most untouchable, trustworthy and resistant to time: the Christmas Classic.

The main “problem” with the Christmas Classic, is that it has so defined my idea of Christmas music that, even if I wanted to, I would have a very difficult time trying to critique the albums. It would almost be like bringing twinkle lights and candy canes up for review to see if they are “Christmas-y”. There are certain musical sounds that have become ingrained into the cultural landscape of the Holiday season and the following are my favorites:

The Andy Williams Christmas Album

It surprised me that Sinatra didn’t make this list, but in his place is the classic crooner Andy Williams.  While his voice adds to the legitimacy of this being a classic Christmas album, it is the arrangements that secure its position.  While the order of the songs seems sacrosanct, if you wanted a quick sample, I would highly recommend “Happy Holiday” and “Kay Thompson’s Jingle Bells”. Additionally, “A Song for the Christmas Tree” (a 12-days of Christmas revamp) redeems a classic Christmas music ear worm.

The Very Best of Burl Ives Christmas

You might recognize the face of this jolly singer. He might have an air of Santa Claus, but this jolly fellow provided the voice and likeness of the Sam the Snow Man in the Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer TV specials. Because of this, his versions of RTRNR, TLDB (The Little Drummer Boy) and SCICTT (Santa Claus is Coming to Town) invoke classic images of Christmas claymation.  Does this Irish Snowman invoke a bit of Corned Beef and Cabbage – certainly… and the music is all the better for it.

The Christmas Song: Nat King Cole

You might have had to grow up with this Christmas classic, but if you did the terrible German on O Tannenbaum and painful Latin on Adeste Fideles actually have a welcoming sweetness to them. Any deficiencies in the pronunciation is completely made up by the silk of Cole’s voice. The last song the album is, quite appropriately, Silent Night and if this version doesn’t send anyone off into an amazingly pleasant Christmas nap, I don’t know what would.

Merry Christmas: Bing Crosby

This last album will come hardly as a surprise to any of my friends. Bing Crosby… Mr White Christmas himself has to be included in a list of Christmas Classics. While Merry Christmas is a solid selection of Crosby standards, I have been searching for another Christmas album from my childhood which includes Danny Kaye and and the Andrew sisters.  That awesome combination of singers, with a splash of Rosemary Clooney will make for the perfect music for any Christmas event.


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