Christmas music reviews

Amy Grant: Home For Christmas
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes; Wikipedia

This album came out in 1992. And now it's been years since I've listened to it, so I'll have to do so again before I can write a review.


Andy Williams: Merry Christmas - 17 Classic Christmas Songs
Amazon

This came out in 1985, but of course it's a collection of songs that Williams recorded in the 1960s. I'll have to listen to it again before writing a review. However, I will say that there are other Andy Williams Christmas CDs it would probably be easier for you to get a copy of, which would only have twelve songs each.


Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos: Chant Noel
AllMusic; Amazon; Wikipedia

This was released in 1994. I'll need to listen to it again before writing a review.


The Brian Setzer Orchestra: Christmas Comes Alive!
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes; official website

This came out in 2010. I'll have to listen to it again to write a review.


The Chieftains: The Bells of Dublin
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes; official website; Wikipedia

This came out in 1991. I'll have to listen to it again to write a review, but I can tell you the song I find most memorable from the album is "The Wren in the Furze" (which is part of a medley).


Christmas Mix 2012
track listing

This is a mix-CD I burned in 2012. (You can find links to the mp3s on my Christmas mp3s page, so you can buy them, if you like.) Amazon had been doing an advent calendar of free mp3s for a few Decembers, so that's how I got some of the songs on this CD, while others I bought. (And as I write this review in 2015, I don't always remember which were free and which I paid for, though sometimes I do. And the important thing is that either way, I obtained them all legitimately.) Anyway, I obviously like all the songs, or they wouldn't be here. Even so, I don't have anything special to say about all of them, but I can say a bit about some of them.

It starts out with the Glee cast doing a cover of "Welcome Christmas" (from How the Grinch Stole Christmas), which I don't believe is on any of the Glee Christmas albums, which is why I chose to buy it separately.
...Then there are three songs by Kelly Sweet, from an EP that I think had been on my Amazon wish list for several years before I finally bought it to put on this CD.
...There's a medley of "Carol of the Bells/Sing We Now of Christmas" by BarlowGirl, a group I don't think I ever would have heard of if not for this (or something else by them?) being on Amazon's advent calendar. I've always loved the first song in the medley, and this is one of the best renditions of it I've ever heard. And the latter song, I don't recall having heard of before, but I quite like it.
...Another free song was "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" by Shonen Knife, a Japanese band I've vaguely known and liked since the 90s, but I doubt I would have known about this song if it hadn't been a free offering.
..."Here We Come a Caroling" is a song I've always liked, but wasn't really aware of anyone who actually performed it. So I was glad to find this version by by Classic Christmas Singers (or something else by them?) as a free mp3. Anyway, this year (2015) I discovered their album isn't on Amazon anymore, so I changed my link for "Caroling" to iTunes.
..."Frosty the Snowman" is one of two songs on Cocteau Twins' now-out-of-print 1993 EP "Snow." (The other song on the EP, "Winter Wonderland," is also on a different CD I have, "The Edge of Christmas.") I was probably vaguely aware of the band in the 90s, but I don't think I'd heard of those songs until I heard one (or both?) of them playing during the holiday season at a place I worked in the mid 2000s. Anyway, I decided to buy the "Frosty" mp3 since it would be hard to find a copy of "Snow," but mp3s make finding rare music so much easier (and cheaper), yeah?
..."Toy Packaging" by Sara Groves is something I can't imagine I would have heard of if it hadn't been on the advent calendar, but it instantly became one of my very favorite Christmas songs ever. (Seriously, I cannot even tell you how much I adore it.)
...Jackie Evancho's "Ding Dong Merrily On High" is another song I adore. (I've always liked the song, and I think hers is my favorite version of it that I've ever heard.)
...And the CD closes out with Barenaked Ladies' rendition of "Auld Lang Syne," which is more of a New Year's Eve song, but it's all part of the same season, and I think a good way to wrap up a Christmas album.


Christmas Mix 2013
track listing

Once again, there are songs I bought and free songs. Once again, I'm not gonna mention every song on the CD, even though I like them all. Also once again, we start with a cover of "Welcome Christmas," always a good way to start a holiday CD. This time it's by The Clumsy Lovers, though I don't recall if this was a free mp3 or if I discovered it while specifically searching for covers of the song.
...Then another version of one of my favorite songs, "Carol of the Bells," this time by the always amazing Pentatonix. I'm sure when I made my 2012 mix CD, it was hard choosing whether to go with this one or BarlowGirl's version, but now... I've got both. (Come to think of it, the same was true of "Welcome Christmas.")
...Then "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney. This is about as 80s as it gets. Some people find it unbearable, but I like it well enough (in moderation). Anyway, when I made this CD, I specifically wanted to include music from different eras, whereas the previous CD was almost all fairly recent recordings.
..."Father Christmas" by the Kinks.. All I can say is it's one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs.
..."Let it Snow" by Luscious Jackson. I remember them doing a shorter version of this in a Gap ad, in the 90s I think. So of course I was keen to hear the full length version.
..."All I Want For Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey. This is a lot of people's favorite Christmas song. It's not really one of my favorites, but I do like it a lot. It makes me nostalgic for the 90s, I guess (but then again, what doesn't?) Also I've noticed (in 2015) that a lot online personality quizzes that ask your favorite Christmas song include this as an option, and usually when they do it's my favorite one of the choices.
..."Good King Wenceslas" by The Irish Rovers. A song I've always been only vaguely aware of, and when I made this CD I guess I was randomly feeling interested in getting to know the song better, so I spent some time trying to find whose version I would like best, before settling on this one.
..."Winter Wonderland" by Sleeper Agent. One of the most familiar Christmas songs, and always nice, but this take is a nice change of pace. I already knew a couple of songs by the band before I heard this, so it didn't surprise me that their version totally rocks.
..."The Christmas Song" by Nat 'King' Cole. This was on what must have been the first Christmas album I ever bought (on cassette), which I think was in the late 80s. So it was nostalgic to me, and a kind of obvious choice for one of the older era songs to include here.
..."Mele Kalikimaka" by Jimmy Buffet. Another of the older songs on the mix, and also one of the few that aren't entirely in English (though it's just the title that isn't; other songs on this CD, "Feliz Navidad" and "O Tannenbaum" have more non-English). I'm thinking the year I made this CD might be when some of my relatives went to Hawaii for Christmas, which may have influenced me to choose this song. To kind of make up for their absence in Maine that year.
..."Silver Bells" by Doris Day. Another song I've always really loved, and that I wasn't sure whose version I'd like best. So I listened to several artists' versions before settling on this one. The way Day's voice trills is just perfect for this song.
..."Little Drummer Boy" by Pentatonix. When this came out, everyone thought it was pretty incredible because it was like the first time in history that anyone's ever done a version of the song that people actually liked. Way to accomplish the impossible, Pentatonix!
...The CD closes with "Season's Freaklings" by Bunnygrunt. This was originally released in the 90s, but I first heard it when it played at the end of the 2003 movie Bad Santa (which I first saw several years after it came out). Anyway, the song is pretty cool, but pretty much impossible to get a legit recording of, these days, even as an mp3. So... yeah, this ain't legit. But my feeling is, if it's obvious whoever has the rights to a song doesn't want your money, they have no right to complain if you obtain it however you can. (I totally would have paid for it, if that were even an option.)


Christmas Mix 2015
track listing

Review coming soon. (Yeah, I didn't do a mix-CD in 2014.)


The Edge of Christmas (various artists)
AllMusic; Amazon; Wikipedia

This came out in 1995. I'll have to listen to it again, but I can say it contains "Christmas Wrapping" by the Waitresses, which I usually call my favorite Christmas song. It also has "2000 Miles" by The Pretenders, and "Winter Wonderland" by Cocteau Twins, both of which I am fond of.


Gloria Estefan: Christmas Through Your Eyes
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes; Wikipedia

This came out in 1993. I'll have to listen to it again to write a review.


Harry Connick, Jr.: When My Heart Finds Christmas
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes; official website; Wikipedia

This came out in 1993. I'll have to listen to it again to write a review. But I can say that two of the original songs on the album, "(It Must've Been Ol') Santa Claus" and the title track, are pretty decent.


Home Alone soundtrack (various artists)
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes; Wikipedia

This came out in 1990, the same year as the movie "Home Alone." Most of the songs on the album were composed by John Williams, so you know they're good. There are some traditional Christmas carols, too, which are also good. But I'll have to listen to it again to write a review.


How the Grinch Stole Christmas soundtrack (various artists)
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes

This was released in 1995. It's a soundtrack to the 1966 TV special. The album includes Boris Karloff reciting the entire story, as well as isolated songs from within the special. I'd have to listen to it again to write a review.


Jackie Evancho: O Holy Night
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes; official website; Wikipedia

This came out in 2010 (when Evancho was just 10 years old). It's a 4-song EP that also includes a DVD. The first track on the CD is "Silent Night," and Evancho's rendition is quite good. Then there's "Panis Angelicus," which is not nearly as familiar to me. In fact, I'm not sure if I'd even heard of the song before she did it, though I might have. (Either way, I'm glad I know of the song, now.) Anyway, it's probably the highlight of the album for me, partly because she sings it so well, and partly because it seems unlikely that I'll ever have an album with anyone else singing it (though I might). Then there's "O Holy Night," which has long been one of my favorite Christmas songs, at least when it's done well. And Evancho's rendition must be among the best I've heard. Then there's "Pie Jesu," which is even less familiar to me than Panis Angelicus. And while I think her performance sounds beautiful, the song itself just isn't that memorable to me.

The CD was released shortly after Evancho's appearances on "America's Got Talent." I never watch that kind of show, but I'm sure I saw at least one clip of her performing on that show, on YouTube, so I knew she was really good. The DVD that accompanies this CD includes a YouTube audition she did for the show ("Panis Angelicus" again), as well as clips from the show itself: a couple of songs I'm not familiar with, and "Pie Jesu," and also "Ave Maria." That one's a song I've always quite liked, and her rendition is certainly very good (though it didn't seem to be the whole song). Also there's a short interview with Evancho. Anyway, I guess it's a decent DVD to have, though I'm not sure how likely I am to watch it again. Certainly it's less important to me than the CD.

In 2011, Evancho released another Christmas album, Heavenly Christmas, which I haven't bought and don't plan to (though I could always change my mind). However, in 2012 I did buy an mp3 of one of the songs on that album, "Ding Dong Merrily On High." It's a song I've always kind of liked in spite of not being very familiar with it. And Evancho's rendition is probably my favorite I've ever heard.


Kristin Chenoweth: A Lovely Way To Spend Christmas
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes; official website; Wikipedia

This was released in 2008, though I could have sworn it was more recently than that. Anyway, I'd have to listen to it again to write a review, but I know I liked it. And I think Kristin's rendition of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" is probably my favorite version of the song.


Leftover Cuties: Christmas Time is Here
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes; official website

This came out in 2012. It's just 6 songs, but they're all decent. The title track is a very lovely cover of a song from the 1965 TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas. But I'd have to listen to the album again to write a full review.


Manhattan Transfer: The Christmas Album
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes; official website; Wikipedia

This came out in 1992. I'll have to listen to it again to write a review.


Messiah and Nutcracker: Highlights (The London Symphony and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra)
Amazon

This was released in 1993. I'll have to listen to it again to write a review.


The Muppets: A Green and Red Christmas
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes; Muppet Wiki; Wikipedia

This was released in 2011, but it's basically the same as an album that was previously released in 2006. The newer version includes two bonus songs, however. Um... I guess the whole album is okay. My favorite song on it is The Electric Mayhem's cover of "'Zat You, Santa Claus?" which is probably my favorite version of that song (with my apologies to Louis Armstrong). And I like Rowlf's "Christmas Party Sing-Along," which I think has a kind of Dixieland sound to it. And Kermit's rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is good. Maybe there are some other tracks I should single out, I'm not sure. Most of them, though, are just okay. Not things I'd like to listen to often, and probably not things I'd mind terribly if I never heard again. Still, it's a decent album to have.


Music From the OC: Mix 3 - Have a Very Merry Chrismukkah!
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes; The O.C. Wiki

This was released in 2004. It's music from the TV series The O.C. And I'd have to listen to it again to write a review.


Peach Hips: Christmas For You
Sailor Moon Wiki; SailorMusic.net

This was released in 1995. The group Peach Hips are actually the seiyuu from the anime Sailor Moon. This is something I learned about and downloaded sometime in the late 00s, I think. It's a reasonably fun collection of songs, sung mostly in Japanese. But the only one I really remember is "Omedetou Christmas," which is a Japanese version of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," sung by Rica Fukami, the seiyuu who voiced Sailor Venus.


Santa Baby (various artists)
AllMusic; Amazon

This was released in 2006, and sold via Starbucks. I'll have to listen to it again to write a review.


She & Him: A Very She & Him Christmas
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes; Wikipedia

This came out in 2011. I'll have to listen to it again to write a review.


Sixpence None the Richer: The Dawn of Grace
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes; Wikipedia

This came out in 2008. Two of the album's ten songs are original to the band. I'm not quite sure what to say, except that the whole album sounds lovely. And the band's rendition of "Some Children See Him" is probably my favorite version of that song, though it's not a song I'm terribly familiar with. It's not a song I love, no matter who's singing it, but I do like the idea that the song represents.


Song For A Winter's Night (various artists)
AllMusic

This came out in 2006. It's a BMG compilation, for which I can't find links on any of the usual websites (except AllMusic), so there's a good chance you won't be able to find a copy of the CD. Anyway, I'll have to listen to it again to write a review.


Squirrel Nut Zippers: Christmas Caravan
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes; official website; Wikipedia

This came out in 1998. I'll have to listen to it again to write a review.


Tony Bennett: Snowfall - The Tony Bennett Christmas Album
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes; official website; Wikipedia

This is a 1994 CD release of an album originally released in 1968. I'll have to listen to it again to write a review.


A Very Ally Christmas
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes

This was released in 2000. It's one of several soundtracks released for the TV series Ally McBeal. Most of the music is by Vonda Shepard, who frequently appeared on the show as a singer/pianist at a bar where the main characters often hung out after work. But there's also a song by Macy Gray, and some songs by members of the cast, including a couple by Robert Downey, Jr. And I think Jane Krakowski's rendition of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" might be my favorite version of that song. But I'd have to listen to the album again to write a full review.


Vince Guaraldi Trio: A Charlie Brown Christmas
AllMusic; Amazon; iTunes; Wikipedia

The CD I have is from 1988, but the Amazon and iTunes links are for a 2012 reissue that has two songs that aren't on my copy. But my CD has one song that isn't on the original release of the album in 1965. Anyway, it's a soundtrack to the 1965 TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas. It includes the instrumental composition "Linus and Lucy," which was originally released in 1964, and since being included in the special the next year, became virtually synonymous with the whole Peanuts gang. It also includes some songs which will be very nostalgic to fans of the special. For me, the main one of these is "Christmas Time is Here". And there's also some music on the CD that I don't think was actually in the special. But whatever, it's all good.


Winter Wonderland (various artists)
Amazon

This was released in 2008, and sold via Starbucks. I'll have to listen to it again to write a review.


You Sleigh Me! (various artists)
AllMusic; Amazon

This was released in 1995, though I didn't get it until 19 years later, in 2014. For me the highlight is "Merry Christmas from the Family" by Jill Sobule. (The song was originally done by Robert Earl Keen in 1994, but I'm unfamiliar with that version.) Most of the songs on this album I think of as just okay. It is nice that there are songs by Tori Amos and Juliana Hatfield, since I was a fan of theirs around the time this CD came out. And I like the final song on the album, "25th December" by Everything But the Girl, though it doesn't seem to have anything to do with Christmas. (I think I only knew one of their songs before this.) But Sobule's is the only song I really find memorable (probably it's the only one I'd heard before getting the album, since I saw the video on TV probably around the time the album came out). And I think Daniel Johnston's rendition of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is just terrible. Like, seriously, I can't imagine he wasn't trying to suck. And... I don't know what else to tell you.


CDs I want to get:
Maybe This Christmas (various artists)
Maybe This Christmas Too? (various artists)
Maybe This Christmas Tree (various artists)
Rockin' Little Christmas (various artists)
A Very Special Christmas maybe volume 5 and up? (various artists)


music index
Winter Holidays