Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Larry's Top 10 Favorite Christmas CD's Top 5

I gave my best take on numbers 6 through 10 yesterday, and now for the top 5 (thanks for the suggestions and or nods from several of you thorough email, facebook, etc. ) BTW, if you blog at all, you know that comments are like a can never get enough. So please feel free to leave your thoughts. And now for the Top 5 Christmas CD's in Larry's Collection as determined solely by him:

#5 - A Very Sentimental Warm & Cozy Family Christmas

OK, stop everything – go right now to your local Family Christian Store, or for some of you, find someone who knows what that is first, then go find one. Go to the bargain bin or the rack of one million Christmas CD’s and get this for cheap. You will be pleasantly surprised! It’s been out for a few years, but I still see it in the mix, exclusive only to Family Christian Stores. Most of the artists are Christian artists. But these versions of the songs (and lets face it, most Christmas CD’s are just cover tunes, right?) are very fresh, and the whole CD has sort of a jazz vibe. I like it a bunch. I made a playlist a couple of years back of background music for the onslaught of Christmas parties we tend to be involved in, and I kept grabbing songs off this disk. Very creative version of 'God Rest Ye' by Salvador. Good tunes, certainly not run-of-the-mill stuff. Trust me, this CD is a diamond in the rough you will be glad to have.
#4 - Amy Grant

She probably had one of the earliest Christmas recordings I owned. Since then she had a newer release entitled Home for Christmas (with 'Grown-Up Christmas List' AND 'Breath of Heaven,' two huge songs), and I think now has an even newer CD. Heck, she'll probably go Keith Green on us and keep releasing Christmas CD's long after she's dead (very obscure joke there....let me know if you get that.) Nevertheless, I couldn’t leave that Tennessee Christmas cassette tape and the 2nd offering she had off the list. (OK, so she surrounds herself with great writers….shouldn’t we all?) Both were good. So much Christmas music is just cover tunes with a tweak. Amy Grant, to her credit, always had a new, fresh song that crept off the disk and stood out. She has this smooth, comforting voice that is perfect for the Christmas genre. Her songs have played in the background for many Christmas gatherings in our house, and our celebrations wouldn't be the same w/out her music.
#3 - Mannheim Steamroller

I was first introduced to these folks back in the 80’s while in college. One summer, a couple of guys sort of “house sat” a home for one of our professors. He had an amazing stereo, and an even more amazing collection of Steamroller albums. Our only condition of living in his house for the summer was to keep our hands off the stereo. OK, so that didn’t work. And the chances are good that Louie might read this, so I’m busted! However, that was my first exposure to Mannheim Steamroller. Very interesting, unique, and experimental music. Steamroller has been around a while. Most people probably think they only do Christmas stuff, but they have a huge catalog of music (actually, get on their mailing list...their actual print catalog is quite unique, and you can even get like an $89 wooden steamroller for those of you w/money to burn....just don't burn the wooden steamroller). Their Christmas music is sonically in a league of its own. Those Trans-Siberian folks are popular right now, but outside of the Mad Russian Christmas song, I don’t care too much for them. Mannheim steamrolls the competition (sorry, a Dave Macanally moment for my Indy friends who watch the news…), and their first two CD’s are must-own discs for any music fan. But stick with the first two, maybe the third one too. Happened upon a new release from last year, I think….can you say “jumped the shark?” After begging with the Wal-Mart clerk, she actually let me return it! But their early Christmas stuff "is gold, Jerry. It's gold."
#2 - An Evening In December, Vol. I & II

OK, so I expect very few to actually own this, and even less to agree that it belongs as high as number 2. I'll preface this by saying that I am a marginal vocalist. You won't find me singing much in public, though I can blend in with a group, a choir, etc. Something about this collection of songs makes me wish I could sing! I remember in college, our school did what was in those days called Madrigals, now the Feast of Christmas. It was the first time I had heard such professional acapella music with such blends & harmonies, and I was a wannabe, never a part of it. (OK, so I did wear tights and a 16th century little skimpy outfit and play one of those 4-foot trumpets, but that was the closest I got to being a part of it!) Not sure when I came across these recordings, but it was somewhere in that time period in college. I have cassette tapes still, though you can get downloads from Amazon (I used my pepsi points to get the entire first release on mp3). The harmonies, the arrangements, and the guest vocals from the likes of Russ Taff, Wayne Watson and others make these songs special. Main artists on both releases are First Call, who started out as a studio background group, then started to do their own thing (think a slightly less jazzy Manhattan Transfer). I believe these both go back to the early 80's, but to me they're pretty timeless arrangements that real musicians and music lovers can't help but enjoy and appreciate.

And the #1 Selection in Larry's Top 10 Christmas CD's:

#1 - A Charlie Brown Christmas – Vince Guaraldi Trio

Is there any more comforting sound than this jazz instrumental CD? I don’t even really know what to say about it. It’s just the ultimate in cool and great musicianship. Such great expressiveness. I’m a marginal musician at best, but music like this makes me wish I could sit down and play something – anything – just to play along with these guys. Of course, they make it sound so easy. I now have 3 kids, all of whom enjoy good music and are perhaps aspring musicians themselves. On more than one occassion, I've had to retrieve my copy of this CD from their clutches. So this isn't just good stuff for kids of the 80's. Good music is good music, and I'm thrilled that my kids actually like something that I like! If you don’t have much in the way of Christmas music, and you only had $10 or so to spend in your holiday budget for something (I can’t believe I’m going to say it…here it comes…) as meanial as music, get this CD. And get ready to groove. It helps if you're somewhere that you can play it loud, too.


  1. Very cool list, and a good idea. I may "borrow" it and create one as well (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!). Charlie Brown Xmas may be my favorite as well!

  2. I am EXTREMELY happy with the top 5. I only know 3 of the 5 (Amy Grant Christmas music is the only Amy Grant I can stand!) But, the inclusion of Vince Guaraldi and Mannheim Steamroller makes me extremely proud to know you. Those are easily in my Top 5 Christmas Albums also. I was nervous with the 6-10, but it obviously paid off!

    Nice obscure album for number 5 too. Obscure (sometimes fringing on snobbish) things are important in any list.

    How do you feel about Harry Connick Jr. Christmas albums, specifically "When My Heart Finds Christmas"?

  3. Just getting familiar w/Connick - saw him on Letterman last week, and like his 'Norlins feel, so I'll probably pick it up. Mike mentioned the Brian Setzer Orchestra, and I downloaded his newest (he has a Greatest Hits Christmas...), and its very good. I have put my foot down, however, on the suggestion I check out SheDaisy.....


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