Another week, another Top 5 and in the Spirit of the Holiday Season, Kris has chosen this Top 5 to be about each writer’s Top 5 Christmas songs. So sit back with a glass of egg nog and maybe some gingerbread and take a gander at Bolsteryourholster’s favourite Christmas songs of all time.
Christmas songs for me can be hit and miss. There are times when the mere mention of anything Christmas related in a song can throw me off. But when I am in the mood, nothing beats a great Christmas song, a glass of spiced rum and egg nog, and some great company. My all time favourite traditional song is “O Holy Night”. But I pretty much like most versions of the song, and can’t pick one that stands out from the rest for me. The songs I selected for my Top 5 are a collection of songs that I have either loved for a long time, or have come to enjoy recently.
5. It’s Christmas so we’ll stop – Frightened Rabbit
The most recent of the 5 songs on my list is by one of my new favourite bands. Frightened Rabbit are from Scotland and have perfected the art of the sad song without making it unbearable. “It’s Christmas so we’ll stop” is about the phenomena of being nice to people at Christmas, but once the holidays are over, it’s back to the status quo. Not all Christmas songs have to be in your face cheer. And this is one of them.
4. Happy Xmas (War is over) – John and Yoko and the Plastic Ono Band (or the awesome version by Boy George and Antony Hegarty)
This is a song that I grew up with. Released originally as an antiwar/protest song it soon became a Christmas standard. The original Lennon and company version is classic. Enough political backing with enough happiness and cheer. A more recent version by Boy George and the amazing Antony Hegarty is more solemn and more beautiful with the two distinctly similar voices warbling over a sparse piano arrangement that builds with an orchestra. Definitely the prettiest version for me.
3. O come O come Emmanuel – Sufjan Stevens
A classic song done perfectly. One of the more recent recordings, Sufjan’s arrangement and vocals have made this song a Christmas staple for me in the last few years. Plucked banjo, woodwinds, minimalistic guitar, and beautiful harmonies. Sufjan’s Christmas collection is my second most frequented Christmas works.
2. River – Joni Mitchell
A non-traditional Christmas song that I grew up with, this folk song off of the amazing “Blue” starts to the tune of “Jingle Bells.” Another one of those not-so-happy Christmas songs about a breakup around Christmas when you are not living in Canada with our frozen rivers. “I wish I have a river I could skate away on” And it’s a song that can be listened to year-round.
1. Christmas Time is here (A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack) – Vince Guaraldi Trio
When I was growing up, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was the show for me at Christmas time. In highschool I would get my own Charlie Brown Christmas tree for my room. I would go to the Christmas tree stand, and get the saddest looking tree (a lot of the time they gave it to me) and bring it home, and make it look happy. Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack to the show is classic. Pure Charlie Brown. A great jazz collection that floods me with Christmas memories. My favourite Track is the quintessential “Christmas time is here”. This song shapes the show, and is my favourite Christmas song of all time.
This top 5 was hard for me because as a rule I hate Christmas music, so this list is more of a top 5 Christmas songs I can stand…
1. Maybe This Christmas by Ron Sexsmith
There are some things that Ron Sexsmith does like nobody else and this song is one of them.
2. Wonderful Christmas Time by Paul McCartney
This one is cheesy, and for some reason the only Christmas pop song I can stand.
3. First snow of the year by Hawksley Workman
Okay now I am beginning to stretch the “Christmas” theme a bit, I know this song is really a winter celebration song but I’m grasping.
4. Angels We Have Heard on High
The version my father sings every Christmas morning on the top of his lungs. It’s a nostalgia thing….
5. Hallelujah (the Rufus Wainwright version)
This also isn’t strictly a Christmas song but it’s about the Lord and if you think about it, that’s what Christmas is supposed to be all about right?
I can’t believe that Kristyn doesn’t like Christmas music, but then again I’ve met quite a few people who can’t stand it. I, on the other hand, love Christmas music and enjoy listening to the classics sung by all the greats such as Burl Ives, Elvis, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin and the list goes on and on. I also have a soft spot for the Christmas albums that I grew up with: Merry Christmas from Sesame Street, John Denver & The Muppets Christmas album, Boney M’s Christmas and Raffi’s Christmas album. The following 5 Christmas carols represent my personal favourites
1. Happy Xmas (War is Over) – John Lennon and Yoko Ono
It surprises me that it took me so long to have this song in my collection since I can remember hearing it almost every Christmas on the radio in my Dad’s car. It was one of the first Christmas songs I heard from an artist who I knew for something other than Christmas music. It is likely the best ‘modern’ Christmas song written in the past 50 years.
2. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee
The Time Life Treasury of Christmas is a staple full of classic Christmas songs and I would recommend it as the first Christmas CD anyone should have in their collection. Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” is just one of the many centerpieces of the compilation but I’ve always had a soft spot for this one since I remember always looking forward to singing it in school when every grade got together in the gym in the morning to sing Christmas carols for 20 – 30 minutes. I don’t know if that still happens in elementary school, but it should since it made every kid from Kindergarten to grade 3 happy.
3. The 12 Days of Christmas – John Denver and the Muppets
I think I have to attribute my love of the Muppets to this album. Denver and the classic cast of the Muppets sing Christmas carols and ‘The 12 Days of Christmas” has each muppet taking a different day. Gonzo sings about 3 French Hens, Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker take nine ladies dancing and of course Miss Piggy takes 5 golden rings. This whole album is gold, pure gold, but this track is the best for it’s inclusion of as many muppets as possible.
4. Christmas Time is Here – Vince Guaraldi Trio
The Charlie Brown Christmas was the TV special that was the most heart-warming and spoke to us on the true meaning of Christmas. I could pick any track from the soundtrack and put it on this list, but to me, this one sums up what Christmas time with the Peanuts gang was all about.
5. Snoopy’s Christmas – The Royal Guardsmen
Ok, I hadn’t listened to this in years until last night, but my Aunt gave me a tape of this album when I was 6 and I listened to it over and over again. The whole first side with the Red Baron story and ending with the Christmas truce is fantastic.
I’d also like to give a shout out to Roger Whittaker for his Christmas album which has been ingrained in my head from my Dad listening to it a lot when I was young. There are a few Roger Whittaker carols on The Time Life Treasury of Christmas, and after years of hating them, I like them a lot now. Did you know Mr. Whittaker was originally known for his whistling ability? I sure didn’t.
Let us know about your favourite Christmas songs and any suggestions you have for future Top 5’s. Oh and from all of us at Bolsteryourholster, we wish you the very best during this Holiday Season!