12/14/15

Great Seasonal Albums . . .


In April - for reasons that I can't quite remember (given the season) - I blogged about some of my favorite "holiday related" songs. I have come to realize, in our first full "holiday season" living together that just helping SLF with five SONGS is not nearly enough to make in through so here are my ten favorite "holiday" ALBUMS (to fill more hours).

10) Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas, Ella Fitzgerald
You can't do much better than Ella Fitzgerald but you really can't beat her for putting a jazzy, light spin on some Christmas classics and some not-so-famous tunes of the season. I love the happiness to it all. BEST FOR: Driving around town and finishing your shopping - it will keep you calm.


9) A Christmas Album, Barbra Streisand
No. You don't have to be Christian to sing Christmas music (you do know most of the "good" Christmas music was written by Jews anyway, right?) or to do it justice. Babs proves that on this album that is now almost fifty years old. BEST FOR: Brunch or sitting around after you open gifts.


8) Songs for Christmas, Sufjan Stevens
I've always enjoyed Sufjan Stevens and don't think he can do any "wrong" but he's at his best when writing eccentric, eerie songs so I was worried about him covering established Christmas songs. The best part? He made them his own and added his own. Check them all out. BEST FOR: Board games or other social activities during the season.


7) A Charlie Brown Christmas, Vince Guarldi Trio
Forget the TV special (please) . . . this music is the only good thing about it anyway. Vince Guarldi was a jazz legend before he, like Danny Elfman to Tim Burton, dedicated his career to making Peanuts specials - special. BEST FOR: Wrapping gifts late at night or snuggling by the fire.


6) Christmas on Death Row, Various Artists
Yes. "Death Row" as in the record label of west coast rappers and - at one point - thugs. And that is part of the charm of this album of hip hop/R&B/soul (it covers the bases) angst and reverence. You won't want to like it but - you WILL. Give it a spin. BEST FOR: Getting drunk and/or high in the garage or basement with siblings and cousins you see too seldomly.


5) A Christmas Cornucopia, Annie Lennox
This album feels like a number of songs that were once really well-known (form a more spiritual era of holiday music) but Lennox's voice puts such a command on them that they make you feel reverent of them and their subject matter. The talented Lennox doesn't disappoint. BEST FOR:


4) Klezmer Nutcracker, Shirim
Enjoy the Nutcracker? Enjoy traditional Yiddish music (aka Klezmer)? Of COURSE you do. This fantastic album marries the two for a traditional twist on a tradition. BEST FOR: cooking/getting ready for an evening with friends and family.


3) Hammered Dulcimer Christmas, Mary O'Callahan
I don't know if the hammered dulcimer is as much of a "thing" in the rest of the world as it is in Upstate but the minute I hear this album I think of shopping on the Ithaca Commons or in some random boutique in the Adirondacks. This album, to me, sounds like Christmas at "home". BEST FOR: Settling everyone down on Christmas Eve.


2) Merry Christmas, Mariah Carey
The pop diva may not have turned into the true icon her early-career pattern promised but there is no questioning her pipes and general talent in the mid-90s. Her ability to cover spiritual, secular, and silly on this album makes her "forever" in my books. BEST FOR: Background music during Christmas Eve dinner.


1) A Motown Christmas, Various Artists
It should not count to include another compilation - much less put it at the top of my list - but this album is actual nails. Everyone who was "anyone" (from this era of Motown - I'm talking about the 1973 album (but a 2014 compilation is six hours of greatness, too)) is on it and they are doing well. Come for the Stevie Wonder, stay for the Supremes. BEST FOR: Opening gifts on Christmas morning or a holiday cocktail party.


Sidebar - if you've not already acquired one I'd like to strongly encourage you to pick up a Google Chromecast Audio for "casting" from computer, tablet, or phone to any set of speakers on your wi-fi. Brilliant fun my little zaftig shiksa gave me for Hanukkah.

What do you listen to while getting drunk and avoiding family and friends?