|Every year, record labels release an avalanche of new Christmas products. It's a holiday tradition right alongside "batteries not included" and leftover fruitcake. But for every bona fide classic, we're peddled dozens of discs from artists churning out the obligatory seasonal résumé item. So how is a person looking for new music supposed to find the really good CDs—you know, the ones people never get tired of listening to? Everyone on the Plugged In team weighed in, and here are our own time-tested favorites:|
Bob Hoose, associate editor: Bing Crosby's Merry Christmas (re-released as White Christmas) came out in 1945 and is considered by many—myself included—to be the quintessential Christmas album. It's incredible. It features Bing doing his Decca Music classics such as "White Christmas" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas." He harmonizes with the Andrews Sisters, croons through beautiful hymns, then boo-boo-boos his way through novelty songs such as "Mele Kalikimaka." It's no wonder that Merry Christmas is the best-selling Christmas album of all time.
Steven Isaac, online editor: Sara Groves has a great Christmas album called O Holy Night, and we listen to it every year over and over and over again. One of our favorite songs on that album is called "Toy Packaging." It's a fabulous little song all about the package the toy comes in. It reminds us of what's really important at Christmastime.
Bob Smithouser, senior editor: First and foremost on my family's list is the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. It really ushers us into the season. Hearing that young choir sing "Christmas Time Is Here" almost feels like an official proclamation that advent has indeed begun (even if stores have had decorations up since Halloween). Masterful piano work. Relaxingly upbeat. It's just the perfect Christmas album. Our family tradition for trimming the tree includes a pot of hot cocoa and that CD.
Adam Holz, senior associate editor: In our family we really like Christmas Eve and Other Stories by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It's an '80s metal band that sort of morphed into this Christmas and holiday band. That particular album, the band's first, is a collection of 17 songs. It's a mixture of traditional Christian hymns and more contemporary stuff. Some of the tracks are instrumental. It's heavy, but our family really likes it.
Kevin Simpson, graphic designer/game reviewer: I love Elvis' Christmas Album, released in 1957. I can do without the few songs about Santa and sleigh bells, but the rest of it is pure Elvis. It just doesn't get any better than his rendition of "Blue Christmas." And "I'll Be Home for Christmas" always chokes me up a bit—makes me think of Dad reading to us from the second chapter of Luke. "O Little Town of Bethlehem" as sung by the King of Rock & Roll is simply epic. The thing I like most about this album is that four old-school gospel songs made the cut. Now that's a CHRISTmas record!
Bob Waliszewski, Plugged In director: Skip Ewing's country disc Following Yonder Star is right up there at the top of our list of Christmas favorites. I especially love the song "It Wasn't His Child," which talks of a young man accepting the baby of the woman he loves, even though it isn't his. And we come to find out that man is Joseph. There are other original songs, plus classic carols such as "O Come All Ye Faithful," "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Silent Night."
Jesse Florea, contributing editor: Rivertribe Christmas is one of the most unique Christmas CDs on the market. A group of Christians from Australia, Rivertribe released this instrumental Christmas album in 2003. With its interesting instrumentation and unusual arrangements, it makes for relaxing background music as didgeridoo and other unconventional instruments put you in the Christmas spirit. You've never heard "The First Noel," "We Three Kings," "Silent Night" and other Christmas classics played like this.
Meredith Whitmore, associate editor: My favorite Christmas album is absolutely A Charlie Brown Christmas. I've lived all over the world, and Christmas looks a lot different in various states or countries without my family. The only constant factors I've had are "Linus and Lucy" (fun to play by ear on the piano) and "Christmas Time Is Here." One of my friends thinks that last song sounds like the kids are whining through sinus infections. But as right as she is about some things, she's wrong here.
Paul Asay, associate editor: I've gotta be honest, I'm not a big fan of Christmas music. I don't know what it is. It just feels a little hokey to me. But when my wife pops out the Christmas CDs, my favorite is always Boogie Woogie Christmas by the Brian Setzer Orchestra. If you like horns, this is for you. It has everything from "Jingle Bells" to "O Holy Night" and even a swing version of "The Nutcracker Suite." Setzer has had other holiday albums, but that's the one I most enjoy.
Well, there you have it. Those are the Christmas CDs members of our team can listen to over and over, year after year. Do you have a perennial favorite? Tell us about it. We'd love to know which albums make your season bright.