International superstar Michael Bublé delivers a pitch-perfect mix of charm and style on his chart-topping Christmas album. He wisely pays homage to Bing Crosby's arrangement of Jingle Bells, including a spot-on reading of The Andrews Sisters' original background vocals. This is music to sip spiced rum to (and it'll make your insides feel just as warm).
Elvis’ Christmas Album – Elvis Presley
Though he also recorded Christmas music later in his career, I like Elvis’ first festive album from 1957. It’s worth it for the background vocals on the classic Blue Christmas alone, but its mix of rock-and-rollers and gospel cuts like Precious Lord Take My Hand and Peace in the Valley perfectly represent his early mix of midnight mass and after-hours juke joint.
Christmas Album - Boney M
Boney M, the group made up of German-based singers from Jamaica, Montserrat and Aruba famous for '70s hits like Rasputin and Brown Girl In The Ring, recorded their first Christmas album in 1981. Featuring Mary’s Boy Child – Oh My Lord, Little Drummer Boy and Zion’s Daughter, the group inexplicably makes Euro disco feel right at home amongst the Christmas sweaters and candlelight. Perhaps it would more accurately be called a Kitschmas album, but a good one.
A Motown Christmas – Various Artists
Originally released in 1973, this album is a compilation of artists from Motown’s golden era: The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations and more. A good variety of adult fare like Stevie’s reading of Ave Maria and the childlike wonder of the Jacksons on numerous tunes make it feel very much like it was – a collection of songs by and for the whole family.
The Nutcracker Suite – Duke Ellington and His Orchestra
Nothing quite captures the mood of tree lights twinkling on brightly wrapped presents on Christmas Eve like The Nutcracker Suite. If your mood swings more towards the sparkle of big city lights, check out Duke Ellington’s 1960 recording of jazz versions of Tchaikovsky’s holiday favourite.
A Muppet Family Christmas - The Muppets, The Sesame Street Gang, The Fraggles
Each of the Muppet Christmas projects exudes the things that make them so treasured among kids of all ages: Jim Henson's warm and uncondescending humour, the familial unity of a motley gang of misfits, and the sardonic foil of Statler and Waldorf to make sure it never gets too sweet for its own good. I chose this soundtrack to the 1987 TV movie simply because it's one of the few times that all the major Muppet franchises appear and sing together.
Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas – Ella Fitzgerald
This album features one of the greatest singers of all time fronting an orchestra and vocal ensemble as lively and crisp as a morning sleigh ride. Truly timeless.
Merry Christmas – Mariah Carey
This holiday collection would have made my list on the strength of the Phil Spector-ishAll I Want For Christmas Is Youalone, one of the few modern Christmas classics. The album features a nice mix of pop and gospel arrangements – and like the perfect ratio of nutmeg to eggnog, Mariah tastefully manages to sprinkle just the right amount of vocal gymnastics in with straight readings of the melodies. The world agrees: it’s the most successful Christmas record of all time.
Make your holidays happier with these top eight Christmas albums
Christmas songs are like presents in a secret Santa gift exchange: many are throwaway duds while some are cherished gems. But good or bad, holiday albums offer at least two things of value and interest.
For many people, it's the one time of year they listen to classic arrangements of jazz, big band and orchestral music from a time before autotune – when musicians played and sang a song all the way through in one take.
Christmas albums also give us an opportunity to hear our favourite artists interpret works that we know, revealing themselves in the musical choices they make.
Here are eight holiday albums that I think got it right.
Shaun is the singer/guitarist and songwriter for Canadian blues-rock band Wide Mouth Mason. When he’s not performing music or writing for national radio, he’s usually quoting the Big Lebowski, producing records and trying to get the mix just right on a dirty gin martini.