Last year we took a stab at our favorite holiday films-this year we are having a go at the best holiday albums. The ability to stream holiday stations online and the number of radio stations that run an all Christmas format post-Thanksgiving can distract you from actually listening to a whole album. This blog is to encourage you to get back to the basics. Dig out the old albums, the reel-to-reels, the cassettes. Some say the album is dead. We say no, emphatically no. And so the list, along with beer and holiday food pairings (it is a beer blog after all):
Bing Crosby’s “Merry Christmas”
This might be a predictable choice, but how can you not like this album? Originally released in 1945, it is now released under the title “White Christmas”. I have the record I grew up with sitting on my turntable at home right now. Bing’s 1977 duet of “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” with David Bowie gets an honorable mention here as well. I found an interesting article on how that strange pairing came to be, ole Bing and Bowie.
Pairings: Pilsener and shrimp cocktail. My family has shrimp cocktail EVERY Christmas Eve.
Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” LP
I have this memory from my childhood, some countdown that said his rendition of “The Christmas Song” was the most popular Christmas song ever. Is this true? Not sure, but Nat’s smooth crooning speaks Christmas to me for sure. On a side note, if you’ve never listened to his early stuff in the King Cole Trio, you should do so now. Now.
Pairings: Oatmeal Stout and oysters. Smooth characters all around!
Barbara Streisand’s “A Christmas Album”
My best friend and I would entertain (annoy) the family belting out Bab’s unique take on “Jingle Bells”. This album shakes things up a bit, and apart from that whimsical Jingle Bells, is a bit on the more serious side of carols. A little cheesy, but you just can’t miss out on this diva’s take on holiday tunes.
Pairings: Horizon Red Ale and nut encrusted cheese ball made with blue and other pungent cheeses.
Ella Fitzgerald’s “Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas”
Jazzy Christmas music is great. Not elevator jazz music, but full on funky, swinging, soulful, joyful jazz.
Pairings: Saga IPA with smoked sausage and sharp cheddar cheese plate. Strong flavors with a strong lady.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio
The atmosphere set by this album is like no other. The piano evokes winter perfectly, the tone so warm and snow cold all at the same time. This one is on very heavy rotation at my house-it sets the holiday tone like a champ.
Pairings: Winter Ale and spiral ham. Classic.
I guess I’m showing my stripes here- that my parents bought most of their music in the fifties and sixties and it informed my childhood in the seventies and eighties. But that’s the best, right? Holidays are the one time of year it is okay to be sentimental. You don’t even have to be sentimental in an ironic way-you can just love tacky Christmas decorations and cheesy songs straight up.
I could go on and on. Pretty much any Christmas album by a smooth-voiced crooner is great in my book-Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Dean Martin, Johnny Mathis, Lena Horne and Lou Rawls to name a few. And don’t forget the soundtrack to Rudolph with Burl Ives! Or Herb Albert and His Friends! I also recently discovered how great Brenda Lee is-beyond the obviously swell “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”. Check out the b-side to that song, “Papa Noel”. Totally awesome.
Enough about us, now tell us your favorites-help us expand our playlist.