Five Christmas Albums You Ought to Know

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Christmas albums are peculiar things.  Often when bands put out serious ones they are accused of selling out or selling the season.  It can be a dangerous endeavour.  That’s probably why the Beatle Christmas releases were such nonsense, though both Lennon and McCartney did eventually release two stunning Christmas tunes, Lennon’s "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" and McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time.”  And it would be absurd to compare them, one being a potent critique of the absurdity of war and the other a jaunty, festive stray bit of tinsel. That’s the spectrum of Christmas releases and it’s up to you which direction you tend.

There are many well known Christmas albums by pop artists and—luckily for us—some obscure ones as well.  I can remember hearing Everclear’s version of “Santa Baby” for the first time and liking it; they are much more specific in what they want for Christmas than some others have been with that tune. Then there’s Christmas for fans of The Smiths.

Christmas at the Smiths?!

Yeah, there are Christmas albums related to The Smiths.  There are a few videos claiming to give us The Smiths playing “White Christmas,” though there are also verified and readily available Christmas albums by Parenthetical Girls, called Christmas, and one by Sam Mickens called A Christmas Gift to You, Zac Pennington (available free). Zach Pennington is the lead of Parenthetical Girls.  So any group may be associated with a Christmas album and the album may be noncommercial or glitzy full-on commercialism.

Ban Elvis’s Christmas Album!

Some Christmas albums may even be controversial. In fact, 1957’s Elvis’s Christmas Album, now a canonical part of most Christmas playlists, was so controversial back then that Irving Berlin tried to ban it and many radio stations refused to play it. The later Elvis—clad in white-leather Vegas jumpsuits—often makes people underestimate how affronting he was, for better reasons, before his military service.   

The Signal of Christmas?

At the other end of the spectrum, perhaps, is the sometimes-#1 Christmas album of all time, A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector.  There’s also the Motown Christmas album featuring seven tunes from The Jackson Five and several others from the chart-toppers of 1973, twenty-four tracks in total. We all know Louis Armstrong’s Christmas tunes and some may remember John Denver collaborating with the Muppets. And there are singles, such as McCartney’s and Lennon’s, that are featured aspects of the Season. The musical highlight of my childhood Christmases was always The Royal Guardsmen’s “Snoopy and the Red Baron,” heard on AM sometime in early December. Now I know The Royal Guardsmen are from Florida, not London, though it is still great to hear that tune in season.

The Five You Should Know About

These are not the top five Christmas albums of all time, the most controversial, the least understood, or the most anything.  They are five albums—if you like Christmas albums, that is—that you should be aware of and take a chance on.

1.     Christmas Island - Leon Redbone

2.     Aaron Neville's Soulful Christmas - Aaron Neville

3.     Does Xmas Fiasco Style - My Morning Jacket

4.     Under the Mistletoe - Good Lovelies

5.     A Christmas Celebration of Hope - B.B. King


Honourable Mention:

Tinsel and Lights (Deluxe Edition) - Tracey Thorn

A Very She & Him Christmas - She & Him


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