Looking for something outside of your normal Christmas playlist?
Every year we get new holiday albums that vie for the coveted spots along side Mariah Carey and Nat King Cole as Christmas classics. This year is no different with offerings from Kelly Clarckson, Mary J Blidge and Duck the Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas. With so many options on the market most holiday music gets discarded or replaced by whatever the newest version happens to be. What I wanted to do was to give you a list of Christmas albums that aren’t in heavy rotation but should be. These are the deep cuts of Holiday jams, enjoy!
This might be the most overlooked Christmas album of all time. That’s probably because there aren’t any traditional carols on this record. While I would have loved a JB version of “Ding Dong Merrily on High” I am more than happy to get “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto.” One of the things that makes this album work so well is how James is able to balance his signature sound with the tonality we are expecting from Christmas songs. Theologically it’s a very earthbound record. Lots of thankfulness and joy but a good helping of how people are still struggling. “Sweet Little Baby Boy” is an awesome track that has James singing the hope of the season and the influence the baby boy has had in his life. My favorite tracks include “Let’s Make Christmas Mean Something This Year” (with his awesome spoken monologue), “Soulful Christmas”, and “Christmas is Love.”
John Denver and the Muppets – A Christmas Together
Growing up there were two things that marked the beginning of Christmas season for my family; Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol and this album. It’s a perfect balance of fun and sincerity that includes a shockingly good version of “Silent Night” in German. John Denver and his puppet friends sound like a group minstrels that are set on the street corner for no other reason but to spread holiday cheer. It might take a while to get over the silly sounding Muppet voices on “Twelve Days of Christmas” and “Little Saint Nick” but songs like “The Peace Carol” and “The Christmas Wish” will draw you in and give you a fuzzy Christmas feeling.
These songs were originally recorded for video game the band did for the iPhone and were later released as a 6 song EP. They do a great job of translating the most Jesus-y of carols into their distinct style of garage rock, and it works really well! “O Come All Ye Faithful” has great tempo and movement, “The First Noel” has a super crunchy guitar tone and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” is simple, heavy and to the point. The most surprising track is their version of “O Holy Night.” Singer Rivers Cuomo doesn’t dry to belt it out the way most Divas or opera singers do, his nasally vocal tone is wet with insecurity and you are hoping that he can hit the big note at the end… which he does. Christmas with Weezer doesn’t feel like a seasonal cash grab and gives you enough music to enjoy without droning on like other holiday rock albums.
John Fahey – The New Possibility
Instrumental beauty. This solo guitar album is simple, bluesy and brings a ton of folky nostalgia to your Christmas collection. John Fahey slows down “What Child is This” and turns it into a wandering song that conveys more confusion than celebration. “Carol of the Bells”, “Lo, How the Rose E’er Blooming” and “We Three Kings” provide for some somber tones in the midst of up beat the medleys. If you are looking for something more traditional that will play well with your pop favorites you can’t get much better than this one.
There you go, four new options for your Christmas listening. What are some of your hidden treasures?