Finally! It’s Day Twelve! So, welcome to Day Twelve. Today, on this final day of my Christmas Countdowns, let’s check out my Top 10 Christmas Albums by a single artist. I must admit to owning copies of seasonal albums by all kinds of off-the-wall-rockers, such as Reel Big Fish, the Misfits and Bad Religion. I have albums spreading the yuletide joy by artists like Billy Idol, Twisted Sister, Luther Vandross and Christina Aguilera. And, I’m certain that no one packs the Christmas spirit like albums by the likes of the Moody Blues, REO Speedwagon, Cee Lo Green, Loretta Lynn, The Tractors and so many others.
It has amazed me what artists have released Christmas albums over the years. I am not really sure which rocker got this whole thing going first, but Elvis Presley seemed to release the first album that was a financial success. Then, through the Fifties and Sixties, all kinds of holiday albums were released. Then, by the end of the Sixties, rockers got serious and could not be bothered with some frivolous music about Santa and his red-nosed reindeer. Then, some disco artists, like the Salsoul Orchestra, released dance mixes of holiday songs and hymns. Then, new wave and punk artists jumped on the Christmas bandwagon, either being sincere or ironic. It did not matter. Since the Nineties, Christmas has been a holiday that seems to be a rite of passage for artists, no matter which genre they represent.
So, today, I give you my Top 10 Christmas Albums by a Single Artist.
10. Jacob Miller & Ray I – Natty Christmas (1978). Yes, this is a reggae Christmas album with all of the expected references to ganja. But, this is really a great album with smart yet funny lyrics set to some great Jamaican beats. Best song: “All I Want for Ismas”.
9. The Ventures – The Ventures’ Christmas Album (1965). I loved this album from the moment I first heard it back when I was at the babysitter’s house back in the late Sixties. Her family had the album by a guitar band, from whom many guitarists got their start. Plus, the band always started a song with a recent guitar hit, like “Wooly Bully” being mashed up with “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”. For a little kid, there was no better way to listen to Christmas music that begins with The Beatles’ “I Feel Fine”, then seamlessly moves into “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” then moves back and forth through the duration of the song. There’s no better way to experience Christmas songs.
Best song: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.
8. Booker T. & the MG’s – In the Christmas Spirit (1966). Is there a hotter instrumental band that these guys? I doubt it. So, when they play, they really do bring the Christmas spirit. You gotta hear it to believe it. Best song: “Winter Wonderland”.
7. She & Him – A Very She & Him Christmas (2011). Zooey Deschanel, the “New Girl”, has an awesome voice. And, her duo is an excellent mellow folk-ish group. This album is really probably their best album. Best song: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
6. Emmylou Harris – Light of the Stable (1979). Harris got together many of the best country rock artists of the late Seventies, like Linda Ronstadt and Neil Young, and created a song sequence about the night Jesus was born. It is a classic that has been forgotten over time. Best song: “Light of the Stable”.
5. James Brown – Funky Christmas (1995). Over the years, The Godfather of Soul has released two classic Christmas albums. In the Nineties, his label decided to combine the two albums to create this new compilation. If you want Santa to get his funk on, this is the album for you. Best song: “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto”.
4. Sufjan Stevens – Songs for Christmas (2006). For five years, indie folk artist Sufjan Stevens recorded Christmas EPs for his friends as Christmas presents. In 2006, Stevens rounded up the EPs and his label boxed them up into a nice five-EP boxed set. Best song:“Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!”.
3. Weezer – Christmas with Weezer (2008). Everyone’s favorite Nineties power pop band recorded an EP’s worth of Christmas songs in their usual way, with blazing guitars and driving rhythms. Christmas hymns were NEVER this much fun. Best song: “Christmas Celebration”.
2. The Beach Boys – The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album (1964). Who knew that surf music would meld so well with Christmas songs and hymns? Well, when the project is in Brian Wilson’s hands, head and ear (he is deaf in one ear), they music is going to be impeccable. This album is nearly perfect. Best song: “The Little Saint Nick”.
1. Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas. Back in 1965, a Christmas TV Special about an existential group of children that quotes the Bible and has a minimalist jazz soundtrack was considered controversial and risky. But, the whole thing just clicked, especially the soundtrack. And, we all are familiar with the soundtrack. Best song: “Christmas Time Is Here (vocal version)”.
Well, my twelve days are over now. I hope you all have a rockin’ Christmas!