Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Top 10 Christmas Songs #2 of 2014

Merry Christmas Eve day to you all of my fellow music lovers and blog followers! Since I have some plans tonight and yes *sigh* have to work Christmas Day tomorrow for 8 hours and then go to another Christmas and hit the hay early because of work the following day this list is being delivered to you very early as well as my Christmas greetings. So let's just get right into as I present another 10 of my favorite Christmas songs for this 2014 season until next year.
#10. O Holy Night by Wynonna Judd
Now you were probably beginning to think I didn't like any country artists until I started discussing Christmas music. I don't know what it is but I guess being a Kentucky born girl it makes me miss home and being around my family. When it comes to classic Christmas music more of the secular or Christmas Mass choir variety, O Holy Night is my most favorite because the harmonies of members blend so beautifully and when a solo artist sings this song they truly get to shine. Now Wynonna Judd and her mother Naomi as The Judds were enjoyable being Kentucky natives and since Wynonna went solo, she's had some hits just as big on her own. Her version of this song is just one of many that takes my breath away...
#9.  Last Christmas by Ashley Tisdale from A Very Special Christmas 7 (2009)
Ashley Tisdale is one of my newer favorite artists that even though younger than myself she is very talented and goes to prove that being a Disney Channel child star is still a very lucrative way to selling albums. You could make this a very depressed and slow kind of song but most versions I have heard are very upbeat and full of cheer which is how I wish everyone could feel at Christmas time but I know is impossible with the way life can throw curves at you. Maudlin feelings aside, this is another Christmas song that is one of my favorites no matter which genre or artist decides to get their hands on it.
#8. Sleigh Ride by Ella Fitzgerald
I am first to admit that jazz is not a genre I listen to a lot except at Christmas time because jazz versions of Christmas songs are so lively and spirited to really keep you energized and bring that retro feel to any Christmas party. Ella Fitzgerald was one of the best and her swinging 1960 version of another favorite Christmas classic of mine is no exception.
#7. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer by Elmo & Patsy
Now I have seen this on a lot of list for most hated or most annoying Christmas songs and I guess on a certain level I can see it but I have been hearing this song since I was really little and when it comes on the radio I can't help but smile and sing along but yes in real life your grandmother being hit by a reindeer would not be the joyful and jolly subject for a Christmas song. You know I kind of hate when people take songs too seriously when they are clearly written in fun and personally as someone who has lost a family member around the holiday it's not that you are being an awful person you just want to try an keep the joy of the holiday are you will just quit it cold turkey like it is a bad habit. Anyway, I think most people might not like this song anymore thanks to the animated special that comes on Cartoon Network every year but yet again I don't think it's that bad...*ahem*
#6. Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms
Yes yet another favorite Christmas song where I love almost every version I hear and have heard it so many times since being a very little girl. This original version recorded by Bobby Helms in 1957 so it's early rock and roll with a country twang which I guess makes it more rockabilly in flavor so when its covered it has many ways to go so it can be covered by a variety of artists.
#5. Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney
It goes without saying that Sir Paul McCartney is a musical genius. Most people like him because he was a Beatle one of the biggest band's of all time, then he had Wings with late wife Linda and many solo projects that are still going today. So when he plays all the instruments on one song and gives us a new modern Christmas carol that cements the whole musical genius thing.
#4. Little Saint Nick by The Beach Boys
I love The Beach Boys pretty much everything they do so when Christmastime rolls around and this 1963 hit written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love comes on the radio I'm grinning and my head's bobbing along. I always wonder how Christmas was back in the 1950s and 60s mostly to see a time before commercialism and materialism were more important and hope it was as innocent and sunny as the music...well most of it.
#3. Silent Night by Charlotte Church
When I heard the voice come from this at the time seventeen year old girl I was just so amazed at how angelic and mature it sounds! When it comes to classic Christmas carols this is another one of my favorites and when you can make one artist sound like a whole choir of angels thanks to her soprano range which is so operatic you can picture yourself in a huge cathedral or opera house hearing this be performed on Christmas Eve or Christmas's glorious!
#2. Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano
Another fun Christmas song to sing in the car while out getting some Christmas shopping done even if you don't speak Spanish or sound horrible trying to attempt to even sing Spanish. Since releasing this in 1970, Jose Feliciano has become synonymous with cheerful holiday celebrations and the bridging of Latin and American cultures since Jose himself is Puerto Rican so even though some of us may not speak or understand Spanish we receive the same message of goodwill when he wishes all of us a Merry Christmas from the bottom of his heart.
So what tops this Christmas list of holiday songs and is the last song of the holiday I will be talking about until 2015?
#1. Shimmy Down The Chimney (Fill Up My Stocking) by Alison Krauss
Known primarily as a country artist, Alison Krauss sometimes steps out of the box into sort of pop and rock influenced ventures but this one I always thought it was very jazz, soul and R&B kind of tone and you known Alison pulls it off very well. There's an innocent sweetness and saucy groove to the song I have never heard in any other Christmas song which makes this song very unique. I admit I like singing this one and can imagine the background singers swaying and snapping fingers and even though it seems to put Santa in a very naughty position, I still think it's very nice.
Well I guess that's it for the Christmas music since the holiday is almost over so it looks we are going to have to put a DO NOT OPEN UNTIL CHRISTMAS SEASON 2015 tag on the holiday vault. Since there are only 7 days left of the year I don't know if I will get another blog post in but if not I'll see you all again in 2015!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Top 10 Christmas Songs #1 Of 2014

Well I am back to spread some more holiday cheer with the gift of music for all of those who follow me. I'm kind of glad this isn't our last look at Christmas music. If this title is a little misleading it is not looking at Christmas songs just released this year but more like a random Top 10 of Christmas songs that I enjoy from all sorts of different artists, genres and decades. I have a lot of Christmas songs so I know I won't get a lot of them covered before Christmas is over at midnight on Thursday and the rest will have to wait for another year. Some of these songs will clearly be recognizable but some may also be overlooked or even lost classics but I have been listening to Christmas music since I was a little girl so I have heard a lot of different versions of traditional carols and Christmas penned originals so let's get this musical Christmas party started!
#10. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town by The Pointer Sisters from A Very Special Christmas (1987)
The first in a series of compilation albums where popular artists of the time record versions of Christmas songs which the sales helped to benefit the Special Olympics is where you can find this 80s upbeat cover of the song first released back in 1934 and probably most famous because of the Rankin-Bass classic. I always enjoyed the harmonies of Ruth, June and Anita Pointer and the fun they seem to have singing together which is evident in this song.
#9. Winter Wonderland by The Eurhythmics from A Very Special Christmas (1987)
Okay I swear I am not cheating by putting this whole album up but it does have some very good covers and this one is exceptionally wonderful (pun intended!). The song Winter Wonderland was written the same time the previous song we discussed was also penned and even though not explicitly mentioning Christmas it is about discussing the beauty of winter and finding love which is probably why it is one of my favorite Christmas songs. This one is by Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox known to the world as The Eurhythmics is a very pop/jazz kind of number thanks to some of the scatting that Annie Lennox does in her very beautiful and powerful vocals to add some 80s flair to a very pretty song.
#8. Please Come Home For Christmas by Jon Bon Jovi from the album A Very Special Christmas 2 (1992)
While I will admit I am not a huge Bon Jovi fan, I do love the way he sings this song. He's not just a pretty boy rocker he does have a very nice voice that can handle this very soulful yet sorrowful Christmas tale about being alone during the holiday. Written in 1960, it's a more modern sort of classic and I think a lot of women remember Jon looking good in the video and well men remember Cindy Crawford wishing she was the gift under their tree that year!
#7. Here Comes Santa Claus by Elvis Presley from Elvis' Christmas Album (1957)
I don't think anyone can not like at least one song by The King and even though I like a handful the ones I enjoy the very most are his renditions of Christmas classics because the are either very beautiful to show off what a good voice he had and some of course are good for showcasing his fun side like this one. Written a decade earlier by country legend Gene Autry, it has such a whimsical charm that even Elvis doing that imitable drawl of his makes this such a happy song that I think even children will love it into adulthood just as much as I do!
#6. Silver Bells by Bing Crosby
A name almost always associated with the holidays thanks to White Christmas, Bing Crosby singing this song about the pretty decorations of bells during the Christmas season is spritely and jaunty thanks to Bing's whistling and reminds one of just the very simple reminders to the true meaning of Christmas: bells of the church celebrating the joy of Jesus' birth and even those of the Salvation Army workers dressed as Santa trying to earn money for those who have so very little.
#5. Jingle Bells by Frank Sinatra
Probably the oldest published Christmas song on this list (written in 1857) it always gets stuck in my head even when it is not Christmastime and if not the chorus of the original than the opening of this Frank Sinatra version does I mean it's so damn catchy!
#4. The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late) by The Chipmunks
Since The Chipmunks cartoon series was a big part of my childhood I have heard this song for many a Christmases and others have had even more since this song first came out in 1958. I use to have a Disney Christmas Carol tape that had this song sung by another pair of chipmunks you may know as Chip And Dale but the trio of Alvin, Simon and Theodore will always remain supreme and if you ever get a chance to find the special A Chipmunk Christmas with this song you will be moved for that version has less comedy and more charm than its original version. No matter what I know Christmas is truly here whenever the radio plays this little gem...
(I posted the Chip And Dale version in case anybody has never heard it because well this is nostalgia for me and I wish to share it which is why I created this blog in the first place.)
#3. Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee
Just thirteen years old when she recorded the song released in 1958, Brenda Lee's biggest hit has been a holiday staple ever since. Though she mostly became know as a country oriented artist in her later career that doesn't stop this from being played on different genre radio stations around Christmas time. This is perfect for any holiday get together with its upbeat lyrics, Brenda's cheery voice and a sax solo to get your feet dancing around your own Christmas tree!
#2. Santa Baby by Madonna from the album A Very Special Christmas (1987)
Okay I promise that for this list this is the last Christmas song from the first A Very Special Christmas release for now anyway. Of course being an 80s child I love Madonna's music from that era and her version of Santa Baby is so upbeat, cheery, coy and pouty that it kind of reminds me of Betty Boop which I think is what Madonna was going for because even though most of her early songs had a more breathy sound it's been evident that Madonna has a strong voice. It's a very recognizable tune during Christmas time and is on the radio a lot and personally it is one of my favorite versions of the song and even one of my favorites in general.
So what could top this Christmas list like an angel on the top of the tree? Well it is another one of my favorite Christmas songs a more modern one and the artists who have the honor of being number one are of course my favorite people of all time... 
#1. Blue Christmas by Ann and Nancy Wilson from the album A Very Special Christmas 2 (1992)
First of all are you even surprised or shocked? Of course you aren't but are you surprised that Blue Christmas is one of my favorite Christmas songs? Yes most of the time this song is performed to be very sad and depressing but I have heard some versions that are upbeat and soulful and this version by The Wilson Sisters falls into that soulful category. Ann is the lead vocal but Nancy's harmonies in the background are just as strong and when you can hear Ann belt out these lyrics it's like hearing a lounge singer doing a torch song in a bar on Christmas Eve. You know some people are alone on Christmas they don't have families or they just get depressed by the holidays so they go to a bar to drown their sorrows where normally if you heard this song you would just give up hope. I guess I'm getting just a small bit of personal or biased opinion but when I hear this song it's not depressing it's almost kind of hopeful.
(Almost always this song is just attributed to Ann Wilson but the cd credits both Ann and Nancy and I should know because I bought it just for that reason!)
So that's a wrap on this list and I believe I might be able to fit one more random Christmas song list in for Christmas Eve day and then well I guess it will be another 365 days before we discuss the Christmas music again. So until tomorrow enjoy this Christmas gift of music.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Top 10 Christmas Albums

Hello music lovers! I know it has been a long time since I posted something on here but been working and been tired from said work and also I have a new pet a puppy who has a lot of energy to help drain my own. Anyway I have returned because my second favorite holiday has arrived and with it a love of music. Yes I absolutely love Christmas music especially as an adult to help get me in the holiday spirit but even as a child I enjoyed Christmas music when my mom would play it around the house while decorating inside and even outside where my dad would turn our yard into a winter wonderland. Now that I think about it I believe Christmas was the time my family would really come together and I miss that feeling now since my dad and two of my aunts have passed away, my mother lives far away and I now live in another state as well.

Sorry to bring down the mood but I just had to explain why I love Christmas music and I know that some people don't mostly because stations will play it twenty four hours a day even before Thanksgiving has even had a chance to be over and may even continue up until the new year. But if you like Christmas music like I do this is just the first of some Christmas themed Top 10 music picks. I'm starting off with Christmas albums so that we can cover most of where my favorites come from and any other lists I get to will not have any of these songs included since I will be discussing them here. So let's begin celebrating the holiday season with my top ten favorite Christmas albums.

#10 Wrapped In Red  ~ Kelly Clarkson

Now this entry isn't so low on the list because it isn't excellent but because it's fairly new and I haven't had as much time to warm up to it as other albums on this list. Released in October of 2013, I didn't get to listen to it very much last Christmas but I love Kelly Clarkson and she has a very good voice and the title is very pretty and quite original. There are 14 songs with five original and 9 covers of Christmas covers. The title track, Underneath The Tree, Every Christmas, 4 Carats and Winter Dreams (Brandon's Song) all have Kelly as a song writer and out of the originals Wrapped In Red is my favorite. There is a cover of Imogen Heap's "Just For Now" which is nice and I guess is okay for a temporary kind of Christmas song but not particularly my favorite. Of the other eight songs my favorites are a version of Baby It's Cold Outside where Kelly duets with Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn fame, her covers of Blue Christmas, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas and a lovely version of Silent Night featuring Trisha Yearwood and Kelly's mother in law the talented Reba McEntire.

#9 Christmas Portrait  ~ The Carpenters

I absolutely love The Carpenters thanks to my mother and I believe that Karen Carpenter was taken from this Earth too soon and ironically in the same year I was born three months and seventeen days exactly before I arrived in this world. That fact aside, the harmonies of Karen and Richard Carpenter along with their whimsical pop and mellow song stylings make for a very beautiful Christmas album. Now I of course have the album on a CD and not its original two sided vinyl but it is still beautiful just the same. Now the version I have also combines tracks from the only other Christmas album the Carpenters released An Old Fashioned Christmas which was released after Karen's death so I'm glad they titled the re-issue with the album on which Karen was alive but it still provides some melancholy nostalgia as it is the only Christmas album I own where one of the artists is actually deceased. It also contains my two favorites of Christmas music radio: Merry Christmas Darling and Sleigh Ride.

#8 Rejoyce The Christmas Album ~ Jessica Simpson

You can say what you want about her but there is no denying that Jessica Simpson can sing. At times a trifle breathy I still think she has a very nice voice and she was at the high point of her career when this album came out in November of 2004. At the time she was married to Nick Lachey (whom she did a duet of Baby It's Cold Outside on this album) and even though she is doing well now remarried with two kids this is when I loved her the best. This album was sort of a family oriented one despite its pop and brassy, show tune feel in parts since it also has Jessica dueting with her little sister Ashlee on The Little Drummer Boy and was so named after her grandmother who had passed away (hence the Rejoyce instead of rejoice.) There are parts of the album that also are less Vegas or vaudeville especially when it comes to songs such as What Child Is This ? and Breath Of Heaven (Mary's Song) which require more grace and power and highlight the more spiritual tone of the season. Even if you don't like Jessica Simpson I recommend this if you love Christmas music as most of the songs are covers but even the original penned It's Christmas Time Again is worth a listen.

#7 Joy To The World ~ Faith Hill

When it comes to country music I admit I am a very female oriented person and when it comes to country music after Reba I hold Faith Hill in second place when it comes to having a truly beautiful voice. Now I know a lot of people may disagree on a personal level despite her talent or maybe because you don't like her husband Tim McGraw but for whatever the reason at Christmas time all of those go out the window or they should once you give a listen to her first and so far only Christmas album. Like Jessica Simpson's Christmas album there is a big band feel to most of the songs but to see Faith kind of go out of a country niche into something different proves she is a great artist with talent. She's no stranger to being played on pop radio either so hearing Faith Hill at Christmas time will bring a shiny sparkle to your tree. Like most holiday albums it is filled with covers but the original penned A Baby Changes Everything is a highlight with a twist that brings the true reason of the season to light.

#6 My Kind Of Christmas ~ Christina Aguilera

Well of course you already know that I am a Christina Aguilera fan so we won't go into much detail as to why but let's just say a big, soulful voice combined together with Christmas standards is a deal one can't pass up. Released between Genie In A Bottle pop princess and the more edgy and Dirrty X-Tina phases in her career this highlights more of the soulful and powerful aspects that she would later handle with the Back To Basics album so this was just a glimpse of what would come to her haters and the showcase to those who already knew. Christmas Time, This Year and Xtina's Xmas are the only originals specifically written for the album with everything else covers of holiday favorites and though not bad I like hearing Christina tackle those songs of Christmas past. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas and O Holy Night are the two tracks that blow me away with their beauty but her versions of This Christmas and her duet with Dr. John on Merry Christmas Baby are what highlight Christina's talent of smooth R&B like her idol Etta James to spice up your Christmas parties!

#5 White Christmas ~ Martina McBride

I guess you could say Martina McBride would complete my quartet of female country singers after Reba, Faith and Trisha Yearwood. She has always had a very talented voice, a strong but bubbly personality and a certain aspect that the other ladies I have mentioned don't possess yet that I can not name. My mother is a big Martina McBride so that's probably why I developed such a love for her by branching out and discovering country music for most of it is quite good even if that is not the genre of music I listen to our love the most. I seem to love country artists a little more around Christmas time and Martina McBride is no exception with her beautiful voice highlighting holiday standards. Now the version I have is the 2007 re-release (the album was originally released in 1998, then again in 1999 and yes again in 2013!) so my enjoyment comes from the particular track listing of that time with I guess the new highlight of that being a duet between Martina and the late Dean Martin on Baby It's Cold Outside through the magic of modern music technology! No matter what version my favorite Christmas song I have ever heard Martina McBride sing is Do You Hear What I Hear? by far the best version I have ever heard...

#4 Merry Christmas ~ Mariah Carey

Probably one of the earliest Christmas albums I have in my collection because well I have liked Mariah Carey a very long time. Since her debut I thought she had a very beautiful voice and I loved her pop-R&B style and then for awhile I didn't like how she went a little more provocative with more rap beats but understanding that artists must sometimes evolve I have come to admire her style and music almost full circle. Now this is when Mariah was still very early in her career and ever since All I Want For Christmas Is You has become a modern Christmas standard and dare I say maybe even a holiday classic for my generation? There is also a gospel feel to a lot of the tracks which would be perfect for any social function to bring about the uplifting spirit of Christmas despite any nasty snowstorm raging outside your windows. Miss You Most At Christmas Time and Jesus Born On This Day are the two other original compositions that Carey helped to write and show her talent as a songwriter on a very lyrical level. When it comes to covers on the album her version of Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) is by far my favorite contemporary and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing my favorite of the traditional.

#3 This Christmas ~ 98 Degrees

Out of all the boy bands there ever were 98 Degrees was always my favorite. Yes I do like The Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC but there was always something about the four men in this group that just made me love them better. I guess they just always seemed to have a maturity the others lacked but still had a fun side not to mention very beautiful harmonies to go with those handsome faces. So when I had to have this Christmas album along with their other albums in my collection my friend Sarah did not disappoint and got this as a gift for me long after it had been released ( came out in 1999 I didn't get it until 2001). There is a reason this is in my top 3 and well beside the aforementioned thing about the harmonies should I really say anything else? Yes the songs This Gift, If Every Day Could Be Christmas and Christmas Wish are original penned songs in that boy band, pop schmaltz tone of the times to most listeners but they are still quite beautiful. If you really want to be blown away by just how powerfully moving their four-part harmonies truly are just give listen to their versions of the classics O Holy Night and Ave Maria and see if you can keep a tear from falling...

#2 On This Winter's Night ~ Lady Antebellum

You know I had almost given up on liking any of the new country artists fearing to be stuck in an early 90s to early 2000s rut until I heard Need You Now by Lady Antebellum for the first time (you know before it got played every hour on soft rock, pop and country radio). Always a solo artist kind of person and not really liking any particular country music group something about the harmonies between Hilary Scott, Charles Kelly and Dave Haywood just seem to work and when Hilary and Charles sing separately or together it is so beautiful like freshly fallen snow on pine trees! The title track is the only originally penned song by the group the rest being covers which range from traditional to modern and despite being a country group there are tones like Christmas specials full of spectacle and of course nights by the cozy fire. It's hard to pick favorites the whole album is just amazing!

So is there any guess as to what my number one Christmas album is? Well if you know me than you should know and you may be surprised because I guess some of you never even realized that my favorite band in the whole wide world even had a holiday album! So what album do I play all the time to get in the Christmas spirit?

#1 Heart Presents A Lovemonger's Christmas

Originally the second album for Ann and Nancy Wilson's side project The Lovemongers back in 1998 it took me forever to find it but in 2001 it was released by the sister's as a Heart album and I got my hands on it! I had this version for awhile until about 2004-2005 when their current label re-released it again with two new songs where I gave my other version to my best friend and fellow Heart fan Amy. Unlike the other Christmas albums on this list, all of the songs on the album are originals penned by the Wilson Sisters except for the traditional songs of Ave Maria, O Holy Night and the lesser known Balulalow and a track written by Lovemonger member Frank Cox called The Last Noel (the 2004 release has a cover of Mary by Patty Griffin and another original called Let's Stay In) The first track of the album Here Is Christmas was actually written way back in 1989 for a holiday compilation sort of like the Very Special Christmas series and I even heard that version on the radio maybe back in 1992-1993 which is what drove me to possess this in the first place. All of the tracks are wonderful but one that stands out as a favorite is Christmas Waits with Nancy on lead vocals and styled like something Burt Bacharach could have written. Another thing I enjoy is the harmonies on the traditional Christmas songs which highlight the almost classical operatic talents of both Ann and Nancy like the Christmas angels they are!

So that's my favorite Christmas albums! I hope to maybe talk about some of my favorite Christmas songs if I can get around to it in my free time but if I don't get back here before January of 2015 descends I hope all of you have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza or any other holiday but hopefully I will return soon with more of my favorite holiday hits!