Most of us have nice stereo systems and the ability to design our own playlists with songs playing from serial albums or randomly from several albums. At chez Id, we do the latter with classics from several generations.
Early in December, we start playing our holiday version, a family tradition. If you’re into such, I recommend these titles.
“Christmas is the Time” was first released in 1967, and many of the same songs were on subsequent holiday releases. Rawls, who died in 2006, had a smooth, memorable voice and great accompaniments, including the guitar solo on the title track.
(An old jazzer friend recommended “Stormy Monday,” the Rawls/Les McCann collaboration from 1962. It’s not Christmas music, but it is very cool.)
“My Christmas” also is a favorite. Bocelli, the fabulous Italian tenor, has great pipes, and I sometimes wonder whether his collaborators don’t tend to over-orchestrate his numbers. That is not the case in this duet with Mary J. Blige.
“Wintersong” is the first of Sarah McLachlan’s two holiday albums, and it seems to be the more popular one. The songs, like this one, are rendered simply and in a low-key wistful tone that has its own appeal.
“The Spirit of Christmas,” released in 1967 by the fabulous Ray Charles and the Raettes, features about the only version of the The Little Drummer Boy that I can stand to hear. Don’t miss his version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” with Betty Carter. Like all his work, a fine piece of music.
“For Christmas,” pianist Kater’s solo rendering of traditional music, has been popular since its release more than 30 years ago. This all-piano album of traditional music, is well done. Sing along or just enjoy the familiar tunes.
Earth Wind & Fire
Who doesn’t want to have a little funk at this time of year? “Holiday” was released in 2014 and, happily, includes December, a seasonal repositioning of its possibly most joyful song.
Yes, Willie is traditionally a country singer, but this album (like “Starlight,” which Texans used to call Willie’s grandmother album) treats traditional favorites in Nelson’s own style.
“Noel” employs simple accompaniments to feature Groban’s fine voice, as on this French Petit Papa Noel.
Old Blue Eyes released this classic during his swing period with Capitol Records, and it remains a seasonal pleasure. (Another Sinatra classic from that period, is “Songs for Swingin’ Lovers,” with arrangements by Nelson Riddle. Just saying.)
This album, aptly titled “Christmas” is also appealing. This singer has a nice voice, and his phrasing is good. I do like this horn-informed cover of the Elvis classic.
My enthusiasm for Mariah Carey’s classic Christmas single, as performed by her, remains undiminished, as noted last year and in 2016.
Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal took notice as well: How Mariah Carey Built “All I Want for Christmas Is You” into a Holiday Juggernaut