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My 11 Favorite Christmas Albums

andy-williams-christmas-albumby Jonathan Bing Perry

Whether you grew up listening to big band, prog rock, hillbilly, classical music, or some evil hybrid, you were likely exposed to some Christmas music at least a little each year and possibly relieved when the holidays ended.

Our vinyl record collection was crammed with Christmas music that filled the house for months and I grew to love it. It was the soundtrack to family traditions and youthful happiness.  I now have most of this music at my house and listen to it year round ad nauseum. To me, it’s like comfort food or anti-depressants. It hits the spot.


These are my favorite Christmas albums.


andy williams merry xmas album1. Andy Williams-Merry Christmas
2. Andy Williams-The Andy Williams Christmas Album

These 2 gems of the ’60s are fantastic, combining a smooth baritone voice with great big band-ish arrangements by Robert Mersey.Classics include Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Sleigh Ride, and Christmas Holiday. Andy Williams had terrific Christmas TV specials where he sang with his brothers and the Osmonds on beautifully staged sets. About 15 yrs ago my family saw AW’s Christmas show at his theater in Branson, MO, and though he’s much older, he’s still sounds great. For me Christmas isn’t the same without Andy Williams.

bing christmas3. Bing Crosby-Merry Christmas
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas was the perfect vehicle for Bing Crosby, or perhaps it was the other way around. Either way, it was a perfect marriage of sound. This bestselling song even became a feature of a few Bing movies (including Holiday Inn & White Christmas). White Christmas is included here with 11 other Christmas songs rendered with Bing’s unmistakable voice. My other favorites are Christmas in Killarney, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, and Mele Kalikimaka.  Who can resist the piano tinkling beginning of Jingle Bells?  (And, no, his Little Drummer Boy duet with David Bowie is not here. That came almost 20 years later, but it’s way awesome.)

britten ceremony4. King’s College Choir: A Ceremony of Carols, by Benjamin Britten
I was introduced to this Christmas Cantata when I was about 12 and sang it in the Waco Boys Choir with my brother Jay. In 1942 Britten adapted Middle English & Latin texts into a cantata setting for a boys’ choir with harp accompaniment. The melodies, harmonies, and rhythms are unparalleled. The recording I have is from Argo and it includes Britten’s ‘Rejoice in the Lamb‘ and ‘A Boy is Born‘.  This is one of my favorite pieces of choral music.  I’ve even messed with writing my own Christmas Cantata and Britten’s work is what I’m aiming for.

ed ames christmas5. Ed Ames-Christmas with Ed Ames
This is one of those albums we had on LP and that’s the only way I have it now and of course my record player is on the fritz. My favorite songs are The Ballad of the Christmas Donkey and Sweet Little Jesus Boy. I really don’t know much about Ed Ames, but it occurs to me that we had plenty of Christmas music by baritone crooners circa 60s (we never had Sinatra, though).

Other Notable Music
6. The Messiah, by Moe (CB) Handel
Probably most recordings will serve adequately, except for some modern-day renditions (read crappy 80s rockified/soulified). There are plenty of highlights in Handel’s most renown work, though much of it is essentially a collection of themes and variations with nutty ornamentation to show off how long singers can go without breathing. Still, there is a soft spot in my head from having sung it so many times and it has wormed its way into my life. Pre-puberty I sang the alto solo, O Thou That Tellest Good Tiding To Zion, at an opera house in Mexico.  A few Christmases ago I sang along with some of the other choruses when my brother’s church had a sing-along. The Messiah was the climax of the program and I was reminded how much I really do love it.

nutcracker ormandy7. ‘The Nutcracker’ Ballet Suite, by P. I. Tchaikovsky
Sugar Plum Fairy.  Sugar Plum Fairy.  Great delicate and mysterious music. Another total Christmas piece. Excellent stuff. Definitely required Christmas music.  The ballet can be pretty good, too, though I usually manage to fall asleep somewhere in the middle.  Something about extended dream sequences.   The classic album I like has Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra.

8. & 9. Music Box Christmas music
We had 2 LPs of Music Box Christmas music: ‘The Charm of the Old Music Box‘ and ‘A Music Box Christmas‘. These were both pretty cool.  I’ve always enjoyed the sound of music boxes and combining that sound with Christmas music makes something pretty magical.

10. Mannheim Steamroller-A Fresh Aire Christmas
Yeah, I like this one, too.  Part electronic gizmo, part elevator music.  The main dude is from Omaha, not far from me.

chipmunks11.  The Chipmunks-Christmas with the Chipmunks
Ok, I’ll throw a bone to my friend Roland, who digs the C-munks in an unholy way.  My brothers and I grew up with the squeakiness of Alvin, Simon and Theodore, and were pretty fond of the beasts.  My young nephew kept asking to hear it over and over 2 Christmases ago and we humored the boy at the risk of our sanity.

(One of my friends suggested I make a list of ‘bachelor Christmas music’ that might include Rat Packers like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.  These guys seem like the appropriate martini bachelor types who would hold up the genre with aplomb and fit neatly with bachelor pad entertainment.  Oh, and Perry Como.  But I didn’t listen to them so much.  I’ll catch up with these dudes later and maybe next Christmas provide a comprehensive swingin’/chillin’ bachelor Christmas list full of Rats, Nats and Comos.  The baritone crooners I have included, Bing, Andy and Ed, will narrowly fulfill my bachelor-style music requirements for now.)

-What are your favorite Christmas albums and why?  Did any of your favs make my list?

The secret word is crooner.

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3 Responses to “My 11 Favorite Christmas Albums”

  • Jay:

    Hey! That’s the exact same Christmas music I dig! How’d you know?

  • admin:

    Wow! What great taste you have! I totally approve in a non-colluding sorta way.

  • Wow great list. Bing Crosby would go in my favorites. Thanks for sharing. I found your blog while searching for something.

    Since its relevant here and you might find it fun/useful. I also wanted to give a plug for a site Ive been working on that helps people share songs with their friends. Its free, easy and there’s no account signup. Login with Facebook. Check it out if you get a chance. Hope you like it. Thanks!