Posts Tagged ‘Christmas songs’

1.     Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Gene Autry):  Even though the story had been written some years before (1939), it could be argued that Autry’s version of this song (1949) was the sleigh that launched Rudolph to a worldwide audience.  As the first #1 song of the 1950’s, it eventually went on to sell over 12 million copies.   Autry’s warm folksy rendition has never been surpassed (though the 1960’s television special made Burl Ives version of the song a holiday staple as well).

2.     The Christmas Waltz (Frank Sinatra):  While many believe that Frank also nailed the definitive version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, “The Christmas Waltz” manages to capture both the holiday spirit and the classic Sinatra style.  Except for the Christmas oriented lyrics, it’s not hard to imagine this song fitting nicely on any of his Nelson Riddle era albums.

3.     Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow (Dean Martin):  This song was a perfect vehicle to combine Martin’s gifts as a crooner with his naturally playful personality.  It also served to reinforce his reputation as something of a ladies’ man, as it turns out to be one of the more romantic holiday songs of the Christmas season.

4.     Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helms):  At the time of this recording (1957) Bobby Helms was a rising country music star.  The song itself was meant to capture both the holiday feel of “Jingle Bells” and the emerging popularity of “rock and roll”.  With its catchy, easy-going, style, it has managed to become an enduring classic in the years since.

5.     Holly Jolly Christmas (Burl Ives):  As an accomplished actor and folk singer, Burl Ives was picked to voice the character of “Sam,” the snowman, in the 1960’s TV special, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  Johnny Marks, who’d composed the original Gene Autry hit, was also brought in to do some additional music for the show.  “Holly Jolly Christmas” was one of those compositions, and it went on to become a holiday standard in its own right. 

6.     Sleigh Ride (Arthur Fiedler & the Boston Pops):  Although Leroy Anderson originally composed this piece and went on to have a big hit record with it in the 1950s, Arthur Fiedler & the Boston Pops have the distinction of doing the original recording in 1949.  In the years since it has become something a signature song for that revered orchestra. 

7.     Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee):  Recorded in 1958, when Lee was only thirteen years old, this song eventually became the biggest selling record of her long and illustrious career.  Like a couple of other classics on this list, it was also composed by Johnny Marks.

8.     Blue Christmas (Elvis Presley):  While this song was originally recorded in 1948, and had been remade by numerous artists, it was Presley’s decision to include it on his 1957 Christmas album that propelled it to worldwide acclaim.  Released as a single in 1964, the song has become an indelible part of the Elvis legacy.

9.     The Christmas Song (Nat King Cole):  Written by notable composer/singer Mel Torme in 1944, Cole recorded the original version of this song in 1946.  Despite its immediate success, he chose to re-record the tune on multiple occasions in order to take full advantage of the developing recording technology.  The definitive version was completed in 1961 and featured a full orchestra and “Stereophonic” sound.  It still stands as one of the highlights of Cole’s stellar career. 

10.  White Christmas (Bing Crosby):  First recorded in 1942, and featured as part of the movie “Holiday Inn,” this song is considered the best selling single (>50 million copies) and record (including various albums, >100 million copies) of all time.  Its phenomenal success eventually led to the development of the 1958 movie “White Christmas,” which went on to build a holiday legacy of its own.  Crosby originated another holiday classic the following year (1943) with the bittersweet, “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”

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1.     Believe (Josh Groban):  Like so many other songs of Christmas, the inclusion of this track in a popular holiday movie has cemented its invitation to the annual yuletide reunion.  Josh Groban’s strong vocal performance, combined with the vivid imagery of “The Polar Express,” is the perfect recipe for an enduring holiday classic.

2.     Silent Night (Mannheim Steamroller):  Even though Chip Davis’ assembly “Mannheim Steamroller” had gained considerable notoriety with their “Fresh Aire” projects, it was their Christmas recordings (beginning in 1984) which brought them their greatest success.  Arguably, their version of Silent Night or “Stille Nacht”, from that first Christmas record, represents a pinnacle in their holiday offerings.

3.     Breath of Heaven Mary’s Song (Amy Grant):  Written in a period where Grant’s pop music success had caused some to question her commitment to spiritual themes, this song stands as one of her most profound and timeless compositions.

4.     You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch (Thurl Ravenscroft & Others):  Buoyed by the annual replay of the original animated Dr. Seuss Christmas special, and reignited by the subsequent release of the feature film (starring Jim Carrey), this song has undoubtedly made a spot for itself at our holiday tables. 

5.     Christmas Eve/ Sarajevo 12/24 (Trans-Siberian Orchestra):  This progressive rock variation of the “Carol of the Bells” has already become a Christmas classic, and made the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s annual tours a must-see holiday event.

6.     Mary Did You Know (Michael English & Others):  Originally written by comedian/singer Mark Lowry for a church Christmas production (1984), it has no doubt been a part of many other seasonal pageants in the years since.  Though the song has been recorded by several Christian artists, it has also been popular with mainstream artists such as Kenny Rogers/Wynonna Judd, Cee Lo Green and Clay Aiken.

7.     Wonderful Christmas Time – Paul McCartney:  Though die-hard Beatles fans might eschew this light-hearted ode to Christmas, it has still managed to carve a niche for itself in pop music’s holiday tradition.

8.     Santa Claus in Coming to Town (Bruce Springsteen):  “The Boss” puts his stamp on this holiday staple, as he playfully banters with both his band and the live audience; and then tops it all off with a tasty sax solo by the “Big Man” (Clarence Clemmons).

9.     The Christmas Shoes (Newsong):  This heart-wrenching tale of a little boy’s holiday quest for his dying mother started as a simple song and has since blossomed into a batch of best-selling books and popular TV movies/DVD’s.

10.  Happy Christmas War is Over (John Lennon):  Given Lennon’s political history, it’s not surprising that his first holiday offering would come in the form of a war protest song.  Written and recorded around the same time his legendary “Imagine” was released, it was everything his fans had come to expect and love.

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1.     I’ll Be Home for Christmas (from the EP, “Unwrapped”) – Rascal Flatts:  Excellent vocals and a nice variation on the original arrangement. (Country)

2.     O Holy Night (from the album, “One Wintry Night”) – David Phelps:  One of the most impressive voices in popular music tackling one of the most amazing Christmas songs of all time.  While not as impressive, his version of this same song (different arrangement) from the album “Joy, Joy” is also worth a listen.

3.     Carol of the Bells (from the album, “Sleddin’ Hill” ) – August Burns Red:  If you love Heavy Metal, this one’s for you.  It makes the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version sound like Elton John.

4.     While You Were Sleeping (from the album, “Peace On Earth”) – Casting Crowns:  A thoughtful meditation on the parallels between Bethlehem (at the time of Christ’s birth) and the United States (today).  A great companion piece to, “I Heard the Bells of Christmas Day”.

5.     Christmas Canon (from the album, “The Christmas Attic”) – Trans-Siberian Orchestra:  A nicely dressed arrangement of the timeless Pachelbel’s Canon in D.

6.     God With Us (from the album, “Do You See What I See”) – Todd Agnew & Friends:  Todd Agnew’s distinctive and passionate vocals fuel this worshipful Christmas original.

7.     Better Days (from the album, “Let Love In”) – The Goo Goo Dolls:  A sincere Christmas wish for better days in the New Year.  (Alternative Rock)

8.     Joseph’s Lullaby (from the album, “The Christmas Sessions”) – Mercy Me:  A perfect Christmas song for anyone who’s ever been a step or foster parent.

9.     God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (from the re-release of the album, “Let it Snow Baby, Let it Reindeer”) – Relient K:  If you want to put a little punch in your holiday party the power pop anthems of Relient K are the perfect ingredient.  Their versions of “The 12 Days of Christmas”, “Sleigh Ride” and “I’m Getting Nuttin” For Christmas” are all keepers too.

10.  Baby It’s Cold Outside (from the album, “Country for Christmas”) – Lady Antebellum:  A fun track that perfectly fits this bands style.  For another great holiday song, check out their track, “Silent Night (Lord of My Life)”, from the album, “On This Winter’s Night”.

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