Our Ten Best- Episode 31: Holiday Albums

cole1It’s that time again where you put on your favorite Christmas albums, trim the tree and reminisce about holidays past. Perhaps one of these albums is on heavy rotation during this time. If they’re not, then maybe this list will change your mind.

10. 8 Days of Christmas – Destiny’s Child

It’s nearly impossible to make a Christmas song your own, but Destiny’s Child managed to do this with such staples as “This Christmas,” “White Christmas” and the title song. The best song off the album is “Opera of the Bells,” as it is a rare classic that few people have taken on successfully.

9. Now That’s What I Call Christmas – Various Artists

Who could not love an album that has both “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and Ella Fitzgerald. This eclectic mix of classics and new favorites has something for everyone to listen to.

8. Star Bright – Vanessa Williams

Williams’ dreamy voice smoothly croons over several songs such as “What Child is This?” She can also belt it out (“Go Tell it on the Mountain/Mary Had a Baby”) with ardent fervor. It’s definitely one to own.

7. The Ultimate Motown Christmas Collection – Various Artists

The Jacksons, Supremes, Temptations et al give a special Motown flavor to several Christmas standards. The Temptations’ “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” is a hipper version than the Gene Autry one and they make it a song you can groove to. But it is Stevie Wonder singing “Someday at Christmas” that brings us back to why we celebrate this holiday in the first place.

6. Christmas Stays the Same – Linda Eder

Best known for her Broadway performances, Eder takes “Silent Night,” “Do You Hear What I Hear” and “The Little Drummer Boy” to another level. You haven’t heard Christmas music until you’ve heard Eder sing it. The multilayered harmonies backed up by a choir will have you playing this album in the middle of July.

5. Merry Christmas – Mariah Carey

Carey made it okay to like Christmas music again. Her version of “O Holy Night” alone is worth the price of admission. She is also one of the few artists to write a successful original Christmas song (“All I Want for Christmas is You” co-written with Walter Afanasieff).

4. The Christmas Music of Johnny Mathis: A Personal Collection – Johnny Mathis

This perennial favorite doesn’t have a lame or sappy track on this album. Mathis’ voice can make any song sexy, soulful or peppy. His version of “Let it Snow” rivals any Barry White song on the sensuality meter, it’s that good.

3. Christmas Jollies – The Sal Soul Orchestra

Families would play the vinyl version of this album until it warped into unshapely proportions. When it was finally released on CD, people relived their childhood as the smells and sounds of Christmas were finally complete. The medleys are the best off the album, in particular at the end, when one of the children yells out a heartfelt “Merry Christmas Everybody.”

2. The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole

No one does it like Nat King Cole. The Christmas Song is an album that is one of the best selling in the history of music. Its ability to cross genres, particularly the holiday one, is a testimony to how amazing this man’s voice was. Cole not only sings the perfect Christmas song (the title song of the album was written by Mel Torme), he also sings in German and beautifully. This album is Christmas.

1. The Original Soul Christmas – Various Artists

There are several reasons why this album is number one. For one, Booker T. and the M.G.s have three songs on this collection (“Jingle Bells,” “Silver Bells” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town) that were music chart toppers for several weeks. Not only that, King Curtis’ saxophone versions of “The Christmas Song” and “What are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” set the mood for reflection or time alone with your favorite someone. Curtis could make a saxophone do nearly anything and these two tracks showcase that. But the main reason why this album is number one is Clarence Carter’s “Back Door Santa.” Written by Carter, this track has little to do with Christmas and more to do with the opportunities a man dressed like Santa Claus has in getting his groove on. It’s funny and unapologetically sexual.

So haul out some holly and hang some mistletoe, but most of all, when you listen to your favorite Christmas albums, don’t forget why.

About Donna-Lyn Washington 611 Articles
Donna-lyn Washington has a M.A. in English from Brooklyn College. She is currently teaching at Kingsborough Community College where her love of comics and pop culture play key parts in helping her students move forward in their academic careers. As a senior writer for ReviewFix she has been able to explore a variety of worlds through comics, film and television and has met some interesting writers and artists along the way. Donna-lyn does a weekly podcast reviewing indie comics and has also contributed entries to the 'Encyclopedia of Black Comics,’ the academic anthology ‘Critical Insights: Frank Yerby’ and is the editor for the upcoming book, ‘Conversations With: John Jennings.’

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