Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Christmas Songs (in no particular order)

One of my favorite things about this time of the year is Christmas music.  In recent years I have made quite a hobby of collecting Christmas songs, especially more obscure ones as I endeavor to put together the most awesome Christmas music mixes.  So… I thought I might share my top current top 20 favorites.  This list contains some classic renderings, some great originals, and some quirkier carols by some folks you have likely never heard of.  Read the list and let me know any you think should be on it.

1. Christmas All Over Again – Tom Petty
What can I say about this one?  I love Tom Petty and he captures the childlike celebration of Christmas in this great little tune.  As with other Tom Petty songs, it’s brilliance lies in its simple straightforward songwriting.  This is a must have for any Christmas music mix

2. Silent Night – Kenny Burrell
I love me some Kenny Burrell!  This understated and slightly bluesy jazz guitarist is one of my favorites and what he does to Christmas songs is just tasty!  While I love most all of his Christmas tunes this one in particular captures what he does best.

3. Here Comes Santa Clause – Los Strait Jackets
While this song is kind of a gimmicky instrumental mixture of music that lands somewhere between alternative rock and surf music it is quite a festive rendering of this Christmas classic that is sure to liven up any Christmas party.

4. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause – John Melloncamp
I haven’t been the biggest John Melloncamp fan, but like the Tom Petty song at the top of this list, this catches Melloncamp at his best.

5. I Pray on Christmas – Blind Boys of Alabama
While I love the original by Harry Connick Jr. these guys just kick it up a notch with a little help from one of my favorite organ players – John Medeski.  This one is gritty and soulful and makes me smile.

6. Blue Christmas/ Let it Snow – Gypsy Hombres
I stumbled across this gem of a gypsy-jazz band a couple of years ago.  Their album Django Bell has some amazing interpretations of Christmas standards done in the gypsy jazz style made famous by Django Reinhardt.  This little medly of Blue Christmas and Let it Snow is really cool (so is the whole album though).

7. Christmas Time is Here – Erin O’Donnell
While I have heard many covers of this classic from the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, Erin O’Donnell has turned out my favorite version.  Her voice just works with this melody.  Beautiful!

8. My Favorite Things – Dave Brubeck
I can think of very few songs that fit Brubeck like this one with it syncopated rhythms and well crafted melodies

9. O Come All Ye Faithful – Chris Potter
This version of O Come All Ye Faithful is performed solo on sax with some beautiful improvisations around the melody.  Very creative take on this classic without being gimmicky.

10. Sleigh Ride – From Christmas Grass featuring Cody Kilby, Darrin Vincent, Joe Caverlee, Rob Ickes & Scott Vestal
Christmas bluegrass?  Yep!  You’d be surprised by how well Christmas music works in the realm of bluegrass.  This track is one of many excellent tracks in the Christmas Grass collection which really captures the dynamic of mandolins, bajo, acoustic guitar and sleigh bells.

11. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Bare Naked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan
While I would have never thought of putting these artists together on a Christmas song but this is just crazy enough that it works.

12. Feliz Navidad – Los Lonely Boys
Growing up in west Texas I got way too much of this song in my childhood.  Thankfully Texican group Los Lonely Boys have breathed fresh air into this otherwise hoaky song.  I love the Texas Blues treatment that they bring to this tune.  This is the way the song needs to be played!

13. Peace is Here – Jars of Clay
Last year Jars of Clay released truly one of the best modern Christmas Albums simply titled Christmas Songs.  Peace is Here is an original that really adds life to this genre of holiday music with an amazingly well-crafted song.

14. Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms
This one is just hard to improve upon.

15. Merry Christmas Baby (3 Versions) – Otis Redding, Charles Brown and Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King
I love this song but I can’t make up my mind which version I like best so I have listed 3 versions and they all find their way into my Christmas mixes.  Buy all three and you won’t be disappointed!

16. O Come All Ye Faithful – Wynton Marsalis
Of all the songs on Wynton Marsalis’ Crescent City Christmas Card I love this simple solo piano track the most.  Nothing flashy here in this simple piece that somehow captures the hope and reverence of the Christmas story in such an understated way.


17. Sleigh Ride – Relient K
This band obviously has some fun turning out their Alternative Punk infused Christmas tunes.  Sleigh Ride is just fun!

18. O Come, O Come Emmanuel – Sixpence None the Richer
Sixpence treats this song with great care and really capture the feel of the words in this Christmas classic.

19. O Tannenbaum – Vince Guaraldi Trio
My favorite track from the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

20. The First Noel – Over the Rhine
Over the Rhine has a knack for turning out really great Christmas songs.  This song, unlike most of their holiday songs, is an instrumental which is built around a cello as it’s centerpiece in this darker and reflective Christmas tune.

2 comments:

Carlos said...

That is a great list Crispen. I found an interesting one this year: "Carol of the Bells" done by Bird and the Bee. It is a pretty cool rendition of a classic carol. Other favorites of mine are:
"In the Bleak Midwinter" - James Taylor
"Christmas Day" - Dido
"Christmas Song" - U2
"Three Ships" - Sting
"Ghosts of Christmas" - Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Pi Man said...

I have almost 700 Christmas songs on my iPod, and if anyone knows me or has read my profile, Christmas music and the Christmas theme is an integral part of my life. I could not/would not even attempt to pick one song as "the" favorite of mine, as I love and appreciate so many genres of Christmas music.... So I will simply say that if I had to pick two albums (not your question I know) that stand out every time I listen to them, then we share one of them my friend. One of them would be the Vince Guaraldi Trio in their timeless version of "A Charlie Brown Christmas." I would have risked life and limb to not miss that Christmas Special on CBS when I was a kid. I was so close to the TV that my mother said the infamous phrase of "move back or it will wreck your eyes" so many times that it still haunts me. 8^) The other album I love, love, love is The Carpenters "A Christmas Portrait." Karen Carpenter had a hauntingly melancholy voice that resounds even now in my heart and mind... a gift to humanity (in my not so humble opinion) that was silenced much to soon. Her rendition of "Merry Christmas Darling" is so beautiful.... Her brother, Richard, arranged that entire album and is featured in most of the piano solos. The album moves coherently and continuously from one song to another, and just is so beautiful in its entirety. If you've never listened to that album after a having a couple cajun eggnogs, well, all I can say is that you're really missing something. 8^) Thanks,
TA