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!

No comments:

Post a Comment