What Are Your Favorite Christmas Records?

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Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and among other things we all know what that means – time to bring out the Christmas music! Actually, this year it seems like Halloween was the time to bring out the Christmas music, but we resisted here in the Gray household… kind of. We kicked things off a week early when I bought Bob Dylan’s new Christmas record, “Christmas In The Heart” (which is… strange? really cool?).

Which brings to mind the question of what your favorite Christmas records are and why…

aleqm5htox6cx3kdb-6t1qshis_9irz9agFor example, since Andrew Peterson is our proprietor here, I expect that many of you might answer his “Behold The Lamb Of God” – and well you should because it’s a great, great record! If that’s a fave, then tell us why and what it means to you. Maybe you also want to tell us about another one. Or two or three! We just want to hear about it and hopefully help each other discover more of one of the most beloved things about this time of year: music that celebrates God with us.

It’s a tough decision for me, but three records come to mind right off the bat.If I could onlypick one, I’d probably have to say the soundtrack to a Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi.

vince-guaraldi-trio-a-charlie-brown-christmas-2ooo

It’s nostalgic without being sentimental, musically distinctive with it’s Jazz trio interpretations of classic songs, and it of course captures the spirit of what we all love about the T.V. special itself: that beautiful mix of melancholy, joy, and hope.

After that, I’d be inclined to pick Sufjan Steven’s Christmas box set, if only for the sheer force and scope of the thing. What could easily become a quirky self-indulgent project has moments of such quiet power that it takes my breath away. “Holy, Holy, Holy” comes to mind, as does “That Was The Worst Christmas Ever!” and even “The Friendly Beasts”. Plus, it’s hard to resist a boxed set collection that includes stickers, stories, a poster, and songs with titles like “Come on! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!” and “Get Behind Me Santa!”.

b000hldf0oIf I’m not grinning when listening to this collection, I’m wiping the tears from my eyes. In the booklet (and this project is a great example of the physical copy being much better than the itunes version), Stevens relates his uneasy relationship with Christmas and the funny/sad circumstances that led to the creation of these songs. It’s all so refreshing and real, and the gift Sufjan gives us is that as he rediscovers his own love of Christmas, he helps us do the same.

But another record that deserves an honorable mention on account of the fact that I doubt that many people have heard of it is Bruce Cockburn’s “Christmas”. Cockburn is kind of like the Canadian Bob Dylan, but maybe a bit more passionate. He’s had limited US success over the years, but his fans include Dylan, Bono, Mark Heard, T-Bone Burnett, etc. This was one of the first Christmas records I purchased as an adult in 1993 and so has sentimental value to me, but Cockburn is an amazing guitarist and songwriter, and on this record takes some chances that uniquely bear his sensibility, like turning “Early On One Christmas Morn’” into a rousing saloon song.

album-christmasIn certain interviews, Cockburn laments that too often Christmas music is the aural wallpaper of December where we don’t really hear anything being sung. With this record, the carols and hymns are treated like songs, written by writers who intended meaning and beauty. So even though the record is full, Cockburn serves the lyric and employs almost exclusively acoustic instruments. Though raised in a secular home, Cockburn chose to not do any secular holiday songs and instead stuck with the carols that were passed down to him by his dad in the form of a makeshift Christmas hymnal made of Christmas cards and ring binders. You’ll either love or hate his voice, but this has always been to me one of the great Christmas records.

So what’s the soundtrack to your Christmas season?


117 Comments

  1. Chris Yokel

    My favorite Christmas albums (in no particular order):

    1. (Not technically Christmas, but) Handel’s Messiah. Nothing quite like Christmas for hearing “The Story” in such fine classical form.

    2. Behold the Lamb of God. Nothing like hearing “The Story” in fine folk form either 🙂

    3. Celtic Christmas by Eden’s Bridge. The best Celtic Christmas album I have yet to hear. Some really good originals on here as well as some lesser known carols from the English tradition.

    4. It’s a Wonderful Christmas by Michael W. Smith. Smitty’s original “Christmas” album was a masterpiece, but I think the newest one is even an improvement on the orchestral form. This album is just so majestic with the full orchestra and four choirs.

    5. The Promise by Michael Card. Michael Card, ‘nough said.

  2. JJ

    My pics, also in no particular order. I’m not usually a fan of “modern” Christmas albums where artists try to remake classics in modern styles, so I’m mostly a fan of classics so if a modern artist is listed then they did a great job of retaining that classic feel that I love, or their rendition is just brilliant.

    1. AP – Behold the Lamb of God – I’m not sucking up to the Proprietor here. This is truly among the greats for me and is a staple of my Christmas music listening, and all year round for that matter.

    2. Louis Armstrong and Friends – The Christmas Collection – I’m a sucker for some old timey jazz Christmas songs.

    3. Frank Sinatra – A Jolly Christmas – Gotta have some Frank in there too.

    4. Future of Forestry – An Advent Christmas EP – A short but brilliant Christmas album. Their rendition of O Holy Night (my all time favorite Christmas song) is the best I’ve ever heard.

    5. Frank Hart – Being Christmas – He’s a friend of mine (and the singer of the band Atomic Opera). I’m not just listing it because I know him. His versions of classic songs are amazing.

    6. The Violet Burning – Divine (Songs for Christmas) – I can’t turn down anything by TVB. One of my favorite bands period and this is a great Christmas album. They’ve given it away for free every year since they first released it for download a few years ago. I suspect they’ll give it away for free again this year.

    7. Various artists – City on a Hill: It’s Christmastime – I’m a sucker for this CCM Christmas CD.

    I could list more, but those are the CDs I listen to constantly around Christmas.

  3. Loren Eaton

    Behold The Lamb Of God is the best Christmas album I’ve ever heard, hands down. Not only does it sound great, AP packs the almost entire history of redemption into the disc. Awesome stuff.

    On a somewhat different note, Ex Nihilo’s Silent Night has some funky interpretations of old carols. Haven’t listened to the whole thing, though.

  4. Elsa F.

    Jars of Clay–Christmas Songs
    The Chipmunks–pretty much anything, but I’ve never been able to find a CD copy of the tape my parents have.

    My favorite thing to listen to at Christmas, however, is the Jungle Jam episode “Three Wise Men and a Baby.” It’s a classic. The wise men’s discussion of gifts

    (“Now, Binky, what are you bringing?”
    “I don’t know. I was thinking… a tie?”
    “A tie?”
    “A toaster?”
    “How do we know you’re really a wise man?”
    “Soap-on-a-rope?”
    “Can you even spell wise man?”)

    has generated many soap-on-a-rope gag gifts in my family.

    This is not actually a Christmas album, but there is a great song about Christmas on the latest mewithoutyou album called “A Stick, a Carrot, and a String”

    “when the rain picks up
    and the sun goes down
    sinners, come inside
    with no money, come and buy

    no clever talk, nor a gift to bring
    requires our lowly, lovely king
    come now empty handed, you don’t need anything”

  5. Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    Elvis’s Christmas Album–My wife is an Elvis fan, and this is the album her family always listened to while they decorated the tree. Now it’s our tree-decorating music. It’s short and sweet and weird as only Elvis can be weird.

    Harry Connick’s When My Heart Finds Christmas–especially the fun songs. “Ave Maria”, not so much. In fact, Jamie screams until someone skips “Ave Maria”, by any artist.

    Amy Grant’s Home for Christmas–“Breath of Heaven” is practically perfect in every way. And I love her version of “Agnus Dei” on A Christmas to Remember, too.

    And I’m with Jason on the Charlie Brown Christmas album. Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time is Here” is one of the sweetest, most nostalgia-inducing pieces I know. On the Christmas tour Ben usually ends up soundchecking his piano with that song and everyone in the building stops in their tracks and sighs. And who can hear that without thinking of Linus’s reading of Luke in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special?

    George Winston’s December–I used to listen to solo piano records like this all day long. (Don’t worry, I’m all better now.) But this album remains. His version of the Holly and the Ivy inspired ours on Behold the Lamb.

  6. DrewSmusic

    The ones you mentions are favorites of ours as well. You didn’t mention how Cockburn stomps around in Latin and French on a couple of tracks – my favorites on the CD.

    A few other CDs we love this time of year:
    Mindy Smith – My Holiday, a great mix and sound. I could listen to her songs all month long.
    Erin O’Donnell – Christmas Time is Here, mostly for its smooth feel. Ed Cash put in his black turtleneck and beret for this one.
    Stephen Curtis Chapman – both Christmas CDs, a good seasonal blend of comfort and joy.

    And for fun, I pop in Barenaked Ladies – Barenaked for the Holidays, which has an bossa nova organ that makes me think of Kawanis Pancake breakfasts of my childhood.

  7. whipple

    So, since two that are near my heart have already been mentioned – BTLOG and Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas – what do I have left? Ah, yes. Over the Rhine. Over the Rhine has released two Christmas records over the years, and while I’ve not heard the first, “The Darkest Night of the Year,” the second, “Snow Angels,” is a fixture in my collection. Besides good songwriting and musicianship, I have only two criteria for a good Christmas record. One, that it is playable year round because it’s simply that amazing, and Two, that it brushes up against the eternal. I think I have to qualify that, though.

    I’ve never really been a fan of the rote and repetition of Christmas traditions that pretend to fling open the doors on the mystery of the Advent. It’s too much like reading the last chapter before the rest of the book. So, brushing against the indelible, even somewhat accidentally, translates that sense of mystery. Sometimes, I think, this makes for poor choices and even bitterness on my part, but most of the time I’d rather listen to these three records than the litany of Bing Crosby nonsense I hear eight hours at work. And yes, after eight hours, Bing Crosby becomes nonsense.

    So what’s great about this record? Karin and Linford take a classy and honest look at the familial aspects of Christmas, and they occasionally seem to wander shufflingly onto holy ground. Plus, they put in an aside to the late Charles Schultz, a la Guaraldi. And the final reason: it comes in LP.

  8. Bret W

    Behold The Lamb Of God is easily my favorite these days. “So Long Moses” has moments that bring tears to my eyes. The lyrics, the scripture, the way the song reveals itself, it all works together and the result is a beautiful musical picture of the fulfillment of prophecy in such an unexpected way.

    Also, a couple of the annual “various artist” offerings have become regulars for me. Admittedly, they look like they’re just put together to sell some discs, but some of the songs are great nonetheless.

    Maybe This Christmas, Too features some great tunes from Rufus Wainwright, Eisley, The Flaming Lips, Guster, and Sixpence None The Richer. Guster’s contribution is a delightfully goofy original called “Donde Esta Santa Claus?”

    Another in the same vein is called Christmas Songs. Jars of Clay contributed “Love Came Down At Christmas,” and there are great songs by Kendall Payne and Sarah McLachlan. The last track is a Christmas story called “Polly Anderson’s Christmas Party” read by Stuart McLean. It’s somewhere between A Prairie Home Companion and The Simpsons. Which means it’s awesome.

  9. Aaron Roughton

    I have two favorites. Mine are in order of awesomeness, with 1 being the most awesome, and 2 being the second most awesome.

    1. Harry Connick Jr. When My Heart Finds Christmas — I’m a big fan of Mr. Jr. But this album really does stand out with wonderfully orchestrated traditional songs as well as a few new songs that have stood the test of many Christmases. The skip factor** on this album is very low. Probably a 1. Harry has since released another Christmas album that rarely makes our rotation.

    2. Take 6 He Is Christmas — Again, I’m a fan of Take 6. There are two songs that stand out on this album for me. They are both all a cappella versions of traditional carols, O Come All Ye Faithful and Hark The Herald Angels Sing. Take 6 has also released another Christmas album, and again it pales next to their first.

    Very low on my list would be the NSync Christmas album. It has a skip factor** of 10. But I mentioned it because there is one bright spot, and that is their nicely autotuned a cappella version of O Holy Night. Amazing arrangement. I highly recommend just that single song.

    FOOTNOTES
    **The Skip Factor is a made up term “developed” by Aaron Roughton. It refers to how many times you have to hit the “Skip” button to skip a single song while listening to an album. It was first developed in the mid 1990’s with the release of Pearl Jam’s second and third albums. The skip factor for their first album, 10, was very low. However, the skip factor increased exponentially with later albums until the only way to listen to an album by Pearl Jam was to skip every song on the album. This is known as a Skip Factor of infinity.

  10. Kelly

    I have a soft spot for Peter, Paul, and Mary’s live Holiday recording that they did with the New York Choral Society. My mother raised us on it, so we were familiar with “A-Soalin'” and “The Friendly Beasts” from a young age. Plus, there’s nothing quite like bellowing out “Children, GO where I SEND THEE!” with your sister in the backseat as you travel around central Massachusetts in the snowy darkness.
    Other favorites include BTLOG, of course, and a compilation from weathervane music that has Jason Harrod and Christopher Williams on it.

  11. Jake Willems

    I love Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas album! I absolutely remember those songs from the first time I watched that special on television. I learned Linus & Lucy a few years ago on the piano, and it always makes me reminisce.

  12. Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    **Addendum: It’s a newer album so it didn’t come to mind immediately, but I’d be a schmuck if I didn’t mention Sara Groves’s Christmas album. It was excellently produced by Ben Shive, and he and Gullahorn co-wrote a few of the songs on there, too. Just like all of Sara’s albums, it’s tasteful and beautiful.

  13. PaulH

    Christmas With Dino – Dean martin
    A Charlie Brown Christmas – Vince Guaraldi
    Christmas through the Years – TimeLife Records
    A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra – Frank
    O Holy Night – Sara Groves
    Maker of the Stars – The Cockman Family
    Jerry Christmas – Jerry Douglas

  14. Kenny Clark

    In recent years my wife and I have grown to love Steven Curtis Chapman’s album “All I Really Want for Christmas”. Highlights for us are:
    – The reading of the Luke 2 narrative by his daughter Shaohannah. It is a beautiful example of incorporating children into worship, in my opinion. She does a GREAT job of reading this passage in a way that communicates the message and doesn’t just go for the “aww, isn’t that cute” factor.
    – His arrangement of “Angels from the Realms of Glory” gives a beautiful, fresh and singable melody that makes is great for corporate worship.
    – We also love the arrangement of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”.

  15. Paula Shaw

    Ache aye! I just can’t pick a single Christmas album that is my favorite! This is the hardest thing ever! I’ll give it a try though:
    1. Behold the Lamb of God: the true tall tale of the coming of Christ
    2. Steve McDonald and Hollie Smith Winter in Scotland a Highland Christmas
    3. Jars of Clay Christmas Songs
    4. Amy Grant’s A Christmas to Remember (Breath of Heaven, Highland Cathedral, Gabrial’s Oboe.)
    5. Michael W. Smith’s Christmas (No Eye Had Seen, All is Well)
    6. Sara Gorves’ O Holy Night Album
    7. Nancy Hanson’s All Wrapped Up Album (All Wrapped Up, Little Road to Bethlehem)
    8. Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Come Darkness, Come Light Twelve Songs of Christmas
    9. And of course, A Christmas Together with John Denver and The Muppets!
    10. Vineyard’s Emmanuel The Very Best of Vineyard Christmas (Adoramus Te, Emmanuel Our God is Here)
    There’s more, but I refuse to put more than 10 on here.

  16. Kenny Clark

    AND Daniel Renstrom’s recent release, “On the Incarnation” is beautiful. Especially the instrumental arrangement of “O Come O Come” leading into the original track “Rise and Fall”.

  17. Chris Slaten

    The dust to digital collection “Where will you be on Christmas Day” is great fun. Old old recordings of Lead Belly, Bessie Smith, Sacred Harp singing, Lightin’ Hopkins etc. Great if you are tired of over produced commerial music.
    You can listen to samples here: http://dust-digital.com/christmas-audio.htm

    I often enjoy the Blind Boys of Alabama Christmas record, but I can’t say that I am sold on it. There are some interesting guest stars on that one.

    Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughn Williams always makes me think of the birth of Christ in a wonderous way for some reason, so I listen to it a lot this time of year. Most Vaughn Williams actually…A Lark Ascending works well for bright frosty winter mornings.

    Burl Ives!

    I love Bruce Cockburn and didn’t know he had a Christmas album. I will definitely have to check that out.

    If I had to pick out one it would be between the Vince Guaraldi Trio or Behold the Lamb of God.

    I
    Love Sufjan’s box set
    Am amused by Christmas with the Rat Pack
    Turn into a child when I hear The Carpenters Christmas Album (What we decorated to when I was a wee one)
    Think Harry Connick Jr. is fun
    Feel like I have a warmer home with a select few windham hill sampler tracks…
    Grew up on Mannheim Steamroller, but I don’t intend to pass that on
    Feel like I need to dress up and wear red when I hear Handel

  18. Rebecca

    My all time favorite, and the favorite of all my immediate family and some of my extended family, is Roger Whittaker’s 1978 album titled “The Roger Whittaker Christmas Album.” It is all original music and has been the soundtrack of my/our Christmases since 1978.

    Also high on the list would be Jars of Clay’s “Christmas Songs,” and Amy Grant’s “Home for Christmas.”

  19. Potters Clay

    I love Christmas albums, especially “high concept” types that are artistic, conceptual, acoustic, singable, and spiritually enriching. Here’s a short list since I’m at the office working from on overworked memory:

    1. AP: BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD (has to be on the top the list)
    2. Michael Card: THE PROMISE (penultimate high concept Christmas album)
    3. John Michael Talbot: THE BIRTH OF JESUS (spiritually inspiring favorite)
    4. City On a Hill: IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME (my favorite “Various Arists” series)
    5. Moya Brennan: AN IRISH CHRISTMAS (love the Irish/Celtic concept and mix)
    6. Twila Paris: IT’S THE THOUGHT (may be dating myself, but it’s still good)
    7. Amy Grant: HOME FOR CHRISTMAS (high singability and a great mix)
    8. Acoutic Eidolon: JOY TO THE WORLD (un challeneged instrumental favorite)

    About the last one, Acoustic Eidolon (acousticeidolon.com) is a husband/wife duo–husband plays a custom-designed two-necked 14-stirng acoustic guitar; wife is a concert cellist (sister of Alison Kraus). Wonderful sound.

  20. Sarah

    And just when I thought I was through shopping!

    To the excellent albums listed above I’ll add these two:

    Joy to the World, by Acoustic Eidolon. AE is a duo made up of a classical cellist and the world’s only (I think) “Guitjo” player. The guitjo is a double-necked guitar that sounds a bit like a harp. The cello/guitjo combination is really beautiful.

    Celtic Christmas Spirit, by Caroline Peyton. This has a true Gaelic flavor, and is more on the contemplative side than some of the Celtic Christmas collections made up of mostly jigs and reels. The Christ Child’s Lullaby is one of my favorite Christmas songs.

  21. Tony from Pandora

    My favorite is ‘Your King Has Come’ from Detuned Radio Records. Matthew Smith produced it. It’s got a lot of the same artists as the Indelible Grace albums. Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken opens up the album with an reworking of ‘Come Thou Long Expected Jesus’. A great acoustic rendition of ‘Come All Ye Faithful’ by Mandy Ihrig with Katy Bowser is next. And it just keeps going with awesomeness. I love it for the same reason I love BTLOG in that it’s not just famous people doing famous songs, but talented artists doing original songs and/or recrafting old favorites to make them sound new.

    http://www.detunedradio.com/

  22. redhead.kate

    Ok, in addition to the ones mentioned above, I have to say…
    – The Carpenters’ Christmas Portrait: “Merry Christmas Darling” and “Little Alter Boy” are two of my favorites. For some reason, I sing “Merry Christmas Darling” all year long, especially while getting ready in the morning (random, I know). But I also skip any version of “Ave Maria” too.
    – First Call’s Evening in December: a cappella heaven on earth, simply beautiful, especially love title track and “One Small Child”
    – First Call’s Beyond December: love Evening in December more, but had to list this one simply for “After December Slips Away”

    Hmmm, just realized that my favorites are all older.

  23. debbie

    I have been listening to behold the lamb, was the first christmas music i brought out. just love it
    have to say I love the enya one that was new last year a winters night or something like that. very mellow beautiful, love avalons christmas
    amy grants christmas album
    for a bit of funky different christmas Nicole c mullen’s christmas in black and white it truly enjoyable.

  24. Margo Grant

    I see that I can recommend a couple that are unique, at least so far … James Taylor’s “At Christmas” (or a repackaging thereof). (Comes in second to BTLOG, but good stuff.) When I hear “Some Children See Him” and especially “In the Bleak Midwinter” on that album, I worship. May not have been what JT intended, but who knows?

    Last year’s “Christmas Songs” by Fernando Ortega is a new favorite. And I will also load up all the Michael W. Smith, or all the Amy Grant, or all the Steven Curtis Chapman CDs at one time. 🙂

  25. Travis Prinzi

    BTLOG, obviously. I mean, I’ve only traveled a total of a billion miles to see the thing done live twice.

    Sufjan Stevens has been mentioned, and it’s been in my CD player at Christmas for the past two years. It would never leave it, except it’s a 3-disc changer, and his is a 5-disc set.

    Picked up Dylan’s album. Jason suggested “strange” and “really cool.” I’d say “both, and it’s also freaking brilliant.” By the way, you know that perpetual question about Dylan: Was his conversion real? Is he still a Christian? He answered that in an interview about the Christmas album.

    BF: You really give a heroic performance of O’ LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM The way you do it reminds me a little of an Irish rebel song. There’s something almost defiant in the way you sing, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” I don’t want to put you on the spot, but you sure deliver that song like a true believer.

    Dylan: Well, I am a true believer.

    Another gem from the interview:

    BF: The Chicago Tribune felt this record needed more irreverence. Doesn’t that miss the point?

    Dylan: Well sure it does, that’s an irresponsible statement anyway. Isn’t there enough irreverence in the world? Who would need more? Especially at Christmas time.

    Other than those three, I have a soft spot for the old Andy Williams stuff, because that’s what we always had on when we decorated the tree when I was a kid. I plan to pick up some Bruce Cockburn and John Michael Talbot this year or next. And now that I’ve discovered Over the Rhine, I’ll have to get their stuff as well.

  26. Leigh McLeroy

    Andy Williams, yes! My grandmother had that one going on the turntable, next to the silver tree.

    BTLOG…and I always hit repeat several times for “Labor of Love” and “Holly and the Ivy”

    Bing Crosby…especially “Counting My Blessings.” Love that.

    Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas from the Family” — just a single song, not an album, but hilarious and deeply Texan.

    “Joy” with Bebo Norman, Ed Cash and Allen Levi. Love “What a Wonderful Child” on that one!

    The Carpenters album others mentioned takes me back…

    and Chris Rice’s piano tunes are nice, too. I’m pretty unhip at Christmas, as I’ve just demonstrated…and I’m with Jamie on the Ave Maria skip. (Would someone explain to me why Barbra Streisand recorded that one???)

  27. Paula Shaw

    Okay, just a few more. . .

    Gloria ~ Various Artists. “Prepare a Place” sung by Christine Dente and Michael W. Smith
    A Midwinter Night’s Dream by Loreena McKennitt
    O Holy Night: Christmas at Redeemer
    Christmas Songs by Fernando Ortega
    December in Vermont by Diane Zeigler. “Lulajze Jezuniu (Lullaby Jesus)”, “December In Vermont”.
    And George Winston’s December.

  28. Chris Yokel

    I should also put in a nod for Phil Keaggy’s “Majesty & Wonder”. Very sweet instrumental album complete with nice arrangements of traditional tunes, some nice originals and even a TSO-tinged “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

  29. Bill B

    Behold the Lamb of God
    City on a Hill: It’s Christmas Time (various artists)
    Your King Has Come (various artists)

    Individual songs include:
    Elf’s Lament by Bare Naked Ladies
    Come Around by Mindy Smith
    Why Can’t it be Christmastime All Year by Rosie Thomas
    Toy Packaging by Sarah Groves
    Glory Be by Sojourn Music
    Take a Break Guys by Brian Setzer

    Christmas – An Irrational Season by Carolyn Arends is on my radar…

  30. Peter B

    In the “because I was raised on it” category, I submit Evie’s Come On, Ring Those Bells.

    Of course BTLOG was the first album that brought together the big picture for me (sure, I knew it was there, but to see it ALIVE like that… well, you know).

    That Peanuts vinyl sure got a lot of play. My public school second-grade teacher was more than a little shocked when I wrote out the entire text of Luke 2 from memory and asserted “that’s what Christmas is all about!” Thanks again, Charles.

  31. benjamin christensen

    Welcome to our World-Chris Rice (a single, but brilliant)
    Here was a Man-Johnny Cash (single)
    Christmas…From the Realms of Glory-Bebo Norman (his cover of Jackson Browne’s Rebel Jesus is excellent)
    In the Spirit:A Christmas Album-Michael McDonald
    Midwinter-Peter Mayer
    Deck the Halls Bruise Your Hand-Relient K (now called Let it Snow Baby…Let it Reindeer)
    Faith (A Holiday Album)-Kenny G
    Wake up the World-JJ Heller

    Just a few to muse over.

  32. Chad Ethridge

    Since Jason took what are possibly my top three favorite Christmas albums . . .

    Snow Angels (2006) by Over The Rhine – All the tracks are good here, but White Horse is the song I love because it looks past the stable to the return of Christ for his bride.

    Brighter Visions Beam Afar (2008) by Don Peris – Sparse instrumental album with crisp guitar playing. Great as background music or cranked up loudly in the stillness of the night.

    Individual songs:

    Comfort And Joy (1967) by Simon & Garfunkel – Song found on their box set Old Friends – as always great harmony.

    Joy To The World (1999) by Claire Holley – From the album Sanctuary – soothing vocals and fine strumming.

    The Last Needle (2009) by Jon Troast – Available as a free download at his website – song about longing to spend the holidays with the one you love.

  33. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Oh my goodness… I forgot to include Over The Rhine’s Christmas records in my mentions above… Both of them are fabulous and get extended airtime every year. Sooooo good. One is mystery, the other playful. Sixpence None The Richer’s Christmas record is getting a lot of airtime in the Gray household too this year.

    Thanks everybody, I love hearing what everybody is listening to.

  34. Jessie Hagan

    Well, it sounds like readhead kate is a woman after my own heart. The Carpenter’s Christmas Portrait is by far my favorite Christmas CD. In particular, I too like “Merry Christmas Darling” and “Little Alter Boy. Merry Christmas Darling has to be one of the best modern era Christmas songs ever written.

    I usually set up the tree with this CD playing. It’s kind of weird, but I can hear a song from that album and it sets the standard for every other performer. No matter who is singing, my brain kind of converts it to Karen Carpenter’s voice.

    For a laugh, everyone should check out Jars of Clays “Rudolph” performed to the tune of “Smells like Teen Spirit” You will laugh, but you will listen to it over and over.

  35. JJ

    I forgot one as well. How could I leave off Homestar Runner’s Hooked on Decemberween. Strong Bad’s rendition of The Dethemberween Thnikkaman is a classic.

  36. Laura Thompson

    My favorite Christmas album is the one Jason Gray is going to make this coming year ???? Would LOVE to hear your versions of the old classics !

  37. Tim Stromer

    Phil Keaggy, both of them (One has a full orchestra) Phil Driscoll, Heaven and nature swing (Swing style, VERY well made) Bryan Duncan, the first guy I’ve ever heard that’s done new Christmas songs that sound right…then of course there’s a few cuts on that Bethleham Sky Cd by a little known friend of mine…Mark Lawry eat your heart out! I hate to say it but one of my favorite of all time is Emmanuel by Amy, anf there’s a Phillips Craig and Dean version of Come of Come Emmanuel, one of the most powerful productions I have ever heard..wow.

  38. Isaac Leavitt

    My Favorite Christmas cd’s, in no particular order.

    1. Christmas Eve and Other Stories ~ TSO
    2. The Christmas Attic ~ TSO
    3. Repeat The Sounding Joy ~ Phillips, Craig and Dean
    4. How Many Kings-Songs For Christmas ~ Downhere
    5. Christmas… From The Realms of Glory ~ Bebo Norman
    6. Christmas ~ Plus One

    And my favorite Christmas song,

    Saviors Day ~ Chris Eaton

  39. Susan Archie

    Roches: We Three Kings – unbelievable harmonies, brings the tears to me eyes every time.
    John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album – found this LP at Village Music in Mill Valley right before it closed

  40. euphrony

    I consider it a good Christmas album if I’ll listen when it pops up on my iPod in the middle of the year. I get tired of Christmas music – most has been made too hooky and I get tired of it being stuck in my head. That being said, I love some of the music, especially when the artist does as Jason suggests with Cockburn’s album and really brings out the words and meaning.

    In no particular order:
    1) Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi – classic

    2) Sara Grove’s O Holy Night – her rearrangements bring out words I don’t think I had heard or paid attention to in these classis carols

    3) Bela Fleck and the Flecktones Jingle all the Way – haven;’t seen this mentioned, very different but their jazzy arrangements are amazing

    4) and, of course, AP’s Behold the Lamb of God

  41. Stacy Grubb

    One of my biggest musical hopes is to make a Christmas record one day.

    The one that I kept (and I say “kept” because my car died a couple weeks ago and my husband accidentally got rid of the car with this CD still in the player, completely catching me red-handed in playing Christmas tunes way too early) in regular rotation is Mindy Smith’s “My Holiday.” I love a few of the originals on this record so much that I practically wuv them. There’s nothing spectacular or mind-boggling about the production or arrangements, but it manages to really put me in a relaxed Christmas state-of-mind. I do think some of the lyrics are brilliant, though (many credited or co-credited to Shelby Lynne), and it also introduced me to Thad Cockrell and the fact that I love his voice. I will definitely be replacing that lost CD.

    Stacy

  42. Aaron Roughton

    Oh man, Peter B., I can still picture that Evie album cover. My parents put that on every year as we decorated the tree. Thanks for the memory. And Margo, I forgot about that James Taylor album, but we got it last year and love it. Man, there are lots of albums I obviously need to check out. Good post, Jason.

  43. Justin

    There must be a mistake. Nobody has mentioned the Kenny Rogers and Dollar Parton classic album, “Once Upon a Christmas.” Growing up, that’s what we always listened to on Christmas morning. Good stuff.

  44. Kory Wilcox

    I’m bookmarking this thread for ideas!

    I tend to lean towards the choral and the instrumental with my Christmas soundtrack. In fact, the more mysterious or romantic, the better. Save for the 4Him one… that’s… well, it’s just a favorite. I’m glad I’m not the only one who mentioned Phil Keaggy. I picked up that CD from a bargain bin one time, and it might just be the best bargain bin find I’ve ever made. And I also have a special place in my heart for Mannheim Steamroller. I still have tapes.

    Vince Guaraldi // A Charlie Brown Christmas
    Phil Keaggy and the London Festival Orchestra // Majesty and Wonder
    Polyphony // A Christmas Present from Polyphony
    The Choir at Westminister Abbey // Christmas Carols
    George Winston // December
    4Him // The Season of Love
    Andrew Peterson // Behold the Lamb of God
    Máire Brennan // An Irish Christmas

  45. Peter B

    Ah, the Mannheim Steamroller Silent Night is worth buying the album (which is really saying something).

    There’s a Decemberween Thnikkaman? To the StrongBadMobile, post haste!

  46. euphrony

    Kory, I like Máire Brennan – good sound. For a similar celtic sound, have you tried Lorena McKennit’s “A Winter Garden: Five Songs for the Season”? It’s a nice EP for the holiday.

  47. Andy Houtz

    Here’s one that has not been mentioned yet…

    Todd Agnew and Friends “Do you see what I see?”

    Produced in 2006, this is an outstanding record. I often get tired of the same old classics being redone in a different way. This record is mostly original music. I give this record as a gift to someone every Christmas. Like an earlier post, if I listen to it in July, it must be good.

    I will second
    George Winston – December
    All TSO Christmas albums

  48. James Davis

    1. Amy Grant “A Christmas Album”
    2. Barry Manilow “Because It’s Christmas”
    3. Manheim Steamroller “Christmas”
    4. Jewel “Joy: A Holiday Collection”
    5. Jars Of Clay “Little Drummer Boy” EP

  49. Janna Barber

    “Merry Christmas” by Mariah Carey. Yes, many of you are laughing now, but I’m serious. If you’re cleaning house before a Christmas party or in the middle of a present wrapping marathon, there’s no better album to make you get up and dance with your family. And I dare you to tell me Mariah can’t sing!

    Leigh Nash’s version of “Hard Candy Christmas” is really fun too!

  50. Professor Steve

    I have a collection of probably 75 Christmas albums (closer to 100 if you add the vinyl I can’t play right now), and here are a few of my “go to’s”:

    Michael Martin Murphy – Cowboy Christmas
    It feels like you’re there by the campfire. Not overproduced to sound bigger than it should.

    Bruce Cockburn – Mentioned before, but excellent all the way through.

    Bob Bennett – Christmastide
    This is a new one (out this year) with excellent vocal and guitar playing. Well worth checking out (www.bob-bennett.com)

    Michael W Smith – Christmas.
    His first Christmas album. Surprisingly moody and contemplative. Not what most of us would expect from him. Not terribly “commercial”.

    Phil Driscoll – Heaven and Nature Swing.
    Louis Armstrong on 47 cups of coffee.

    And one amazing song from an otherwise ho-hum album.
    Cliff Richards – Little Town.
    This is his version of the arrangement introduced by Amy Grant. Cliff’s version is brighter, and more majestic than Amy’s. If you get a chance to listen to it, when the brass comes in, all I can think of is that this is what it will sound like in Heaven.

    Finally, all this makes me sad in one respect. Thinking about all the great Christmas music points out to me one gaping hole: a Rich Mullins Christmas album. I know he has the one song, but a whole album of Rich’s reflections on Christmas would have been something.

  51. Chris Whitler

    I’ve mentioned before (even in a ‘tweet’ today) that BTLOG is an annual event as I often take friends to the airport in December. That day was today…I listened to it alone and was again destroyed by “So Long Moses”.

    Michael W. Smith’s first Christmas album is the best Sunday afternoon nap you’ll ever have. I have always loved it. I had a friend that listened to it all year and he got me hooked. You can’t listen to “All is Well” and feel uneasy…it’s impossible.

    I’ve not heard Steve Bell mentioned much here in the Rabbit Room…a Canadian artist that has a great album for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany called “The Feast”

  52. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Yes, Eric, but you know how to get girls. (Must be on account of your GREAT new record)

    I think Russ is the leader in comment acquisition, but I’m gunning for him…

  53. Peter B

    Derek Webb.

    Profanity.

    Oh, and you’re all hypocrites for being offended by what I just said.

    *sits back, cracks knuckles*

    There, that should be good for at least two hundred more comments.

  54. Nathaniel Miller

    Easily Behold the Lamb of God and not simply to cater to the Proprietor. All other Christmas albums, while enjoyable to listen to, simply have a collection of familiar songs with a few new ones thrown in. Behold the Lamb of God is more than just songs. It tells the story of the Savior with exquisite musicianship and lyrics that really make me think more about why we needed Christmas rather than “what Christmas is all about.”

    Outside of that album, I enjoy more of a playlist than an album as a whole. I nearly cry listening to “Sing Noel” from Michael W. Smith’s “It’s a Wonderful Christmas”. The choirs and orchestra just blow me away.

    Can’t wait for BTLOG concert in Charlotte. It has become a Christmas tradition for me.

  55. Jeff Taylor

    1. “Behold the Lamb of God” – Each year I make sure I can listen to it from top to bottom in my car on the way home from Nashville in early December. Tonight was my first of this year and it stands up in every way. The scriptural perspective is marvelous. Definitely a great walk through God’s Word. I love the production on it!
    2. Amy Grant’s first Christmas record. 1982 and it still sounds amazing! Her early records, this included were among the reasons I wanted to move to Nashville where great records were being made.
    3. Amy’s second record. Breath of Heaven is so great!
    4. “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Vince G. really brings jazz to the masses in all that he played. Truly one of the pianists that I want to grow up to be like…
    5. James Taylor’s “A Christmas Album”. Check out “In The Bleak Midwinter”, and “Some Children See Him”. Don Grolnick’s work is incredible on this record.
    Truly Mister Taste. Another great loss to the music world.
    6. Bohola – “A Childhood Christmas”. This is an wonderful Celtic duo from Chicago. Some fantastic recitations with stellar accompaniment mostly on accordion. Jimmy Keane is one of the finest accordionists on the planet.
    7. “A Skaggs Family Christmas”- Bluegrass Christmas done right with Ricky Skaggs , The Whites, and their kids.
    8. Buddy Greene’s Christmas record. “Mary Did You Know” done the way I like it, and a wonderful lyric called “The Servant Way”, set to one of my favorite Celtic melodies all performed by my favorite hopeless optimist.

  56. Connie Solomon

    Do You Hear What I Hear The DO-RE-MI Children’s Chorus 1973 album
    Doc Watson’s Christmas Lullaby (On Praying Ground)., Alabama’s Christmas Vol1, Kenny Rogers-Soldier’s King and of course Behold the Lamb of God which doesn’t get put up in January as it gets played again at Easter

  57. Professor Steve

    Can I go on an obvious tangent?
    My all-time absolute hate Hate HATE! Christmas song:

    That vile “Christmas Shoes” song!!!

    Nothing like trying to explain that song to a 9 year old in tears after just hearing it on the radio. Now, whenever we hear the opening notes come on, the whole family yells and we turn the station.

    Ahhhh, precious holiday traditions!

  58. corrie patrick

    Nat King Cole, always and forever.
    Elvis
    Tooth’n’Nail’s Happy Christmas Volume 1 (some fun originals and my favorite version of O Holy Night)
    Sufjan
    and sometimes… Alabama. (but only sometimes!)

    (thanks to whoever mentioned Claire Holley- Sanctuary is a lovely album indeed.)

  59. Mindy

    Yours of course 🙂

    But since it’s not out yet, I would have to say with all the new releases that came out this year, my top choice would be How Many Kings: Songs for Christmas from downhere. I didn’t see ANYONE list that here(though I am partial to them and all of Centricity peeps)! That album is awesome and I have been playing it since July! Silent Night gets me every time I listen to it and 5 Golden Rings has got to be my fave song off the whole album.

    But I really don’t have an overall favorite. I have a plethora of albums from various artists that I break out and mix up through out the season. But since the hard copies are all collecting dust under my bed for the past few years since I switched over to Rhapsody, I have even more to choose from and it makes adding Christmas music all the more fun 🙂

    I think Michael W. Smith’s “Christmas” has some of my favorite songs. “All is Well” makes my eyes well with tears every time I hear it and “Lux Venit” makes me happy.

  60. Aaron Roughton

    I like the way that Russ is so confident in his spot as top comment generator that he increased Jason’s comment count with his “encouragement.” Nicely played.

  61. JTS

    ALBUMS In random order
    -Amy Grant: all 3 but Home For Christmas is my fave
    -Over the Rhine: Snow Angels – truly incredible
    -David Phelps: Joy, Joy – such a powerful voice
    -SCC: The Music of Christmas – tender-hearted
    -Vineyard: Christmas in the Vineyard – pure christmas worship
    -Sufjan Stevens: Songs for Chrismas
    -Nicole C. Mullen: Christmas in Black and White

    SONGS In random order (not on the above albums)
    -4Him: Strange Way to Save the World
    -Margaret Becker: O Come O Come Emmanuel
    -Bruce Cockburn: Mary Had a Baby
    -Jars of Clay: Little Drummer Boy & God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
    -James Taylor: Who Comes This Night & Go Tell It on the Mountain

  62. Shari

    I must have considerably less sophisticated taste than the rest of these rabbit room peeps. I absolutely LOVE these:
    Family Force 5 Christmas Pageant CD (Funky fa la la la fun!… Get this–you AND your kids will love it)
    Relient K: Let it Snow Baby, Let it Reindeer (contains the ONLY “12 days of Christmas” ever worth listening to!!!)
    X Christmas (various Christian artists…but Trevor McNevan of Thousand Foot Krutch does the best “Jingle Bell Rawk” on the planet.)
    Honorable mention to the new House of Heroes Christmas EP….(“O Come O Come Emmanuel is awesome!)

  63. kelli

    not much i can add to the lists above, but now i have a few things to add to my amazon cart:)

    i love BTLOG, Sara Groves’ O Holy Night, George Winston’s December, Loreena McKennitt’s A Midwinters Night’s Dream, Windham Hill’s On a Winter’s Night and Celtic Christmas (es) I, II, and III (we used alot of songs from these in our wedding 12 years ago!).

    and i must admit that we also bought Target’s “special of the season” country christmas CD a few years ago, and we do pull it out every year. i don’t like every song on it, but in its defense, it does have The Angels Cried by Alan Jackson and Alison Krauss:)

  64. kelli

    sorry if this shows up like 4 times! i keep trying to post it, and it says it looks like i’m posting a duplicate or something:)

    i dont’ have much to add to the above lists, but now i do have some new things to add to my amazon cart!

    i love BTLOG (and i really, really like the new live version!), Sara Groves’ O Holy Night, Loreena McKennit’s A Midwinter Night’s Dream, George Winston’s December, Windham Hill’s On a Winter’s Night and Celtic Christmas (es) I, II, III (we used a lot of these songs in our wedding 12 years ago).

    and i must admit that we picked up Target’s “season special” country christmas CD a few years ago, and we do pull it out every year. in its defense, it does have The Angels Cried by Alan Jackson and Alison Krauss:)

  65. Molly Koenig

    not to belabor the whole BtLoG thing, but just today I was sharing AP’s O Come O Come Emmanuel with a co-worker, and got goosebumps remembering how blown away I was the first time I heard it … I mean, come on. *Everybody* has done a version of that one. Then to realize (finally) today that it is the instrumental interlude between the old and new testaments on the album … how appropriate for the background music to the 400 year gap between the two. LOVE IT. ALWAYS and FOREVER. Someday I’ll see it live. Promise.

  66. PaulH

    A new favorite if possible is one I just found and for 5 bucks it is so worth it. At Amazon they have exclusive MP3 albums and I stumbled upon this last night ” The 99 Most Essential Christmas Masterpieces (Amazon Exclusive)”
    It is all classical and choral but for 5 bucks it is really a great find. It includes the Nutcracker Suite, Magnificat, and The christmas Concerto for highlights.

  67. Josh B

    Jason, thanks for mentioning the Bob Dylan Christmas album. I’ve been listening to it for a few weeks now, and that thing is all kinds of awesome. Aside from his voice (it seems like people either love it or hate it–I’m in the “love” camp), I wouldn’t call it strange, though. Except for “Must be Santa,” but that’s strange in a good way. The rest of it is straight-up sincerity; I can’t stop listening. One review I read somewhere compared it to a Norman Rockwell painting, and I think that description is pretty apt. Other than that, my Christmas music fare always includes BTLOG (for all the usual reasons), and lately I’ve been enjoying JJ Heller’s Wake Up the World EP (free for download on her website until Dec. 31!)
    http://www.jjheller.com/store.asp

  68. Jeff Taylor

    I already posted my favorites, but thought of another new one folks should know about. Dobro great, Jerry Douglas, has a new Christmas record out, and I heard a pre-release of it, and it is fabulous!

  69. Matt Phang

    Well…my ALL TIME FAV X’MAS album will be STEVEN CURTIS CHAPMAN’S THE Music of Christmas. In the album, besides the self-penned christmas tunes, Steven’s rendition of familiar tunes like Carols of the Bell, Hark! the Herald Angel Sings is jus superb. His self-penned songs is just so meaningful…Christmas is all the the heart !

  70. Cap'n Giffy

    Fantastic list and I won’t bother adding any repeats, but how on earth is the Home Alone soundtrack not listed yet?

    John Williams left his fingerprints all over this fantastic soundtrack with exceptional instrumental pieces such as Somewhere in my Memory. Plus nestled in amongst the John Williams work is the best version of White Christmas I’ve heard.

    Also the version of Let it Snow at the end of Die Hard during the credits is timeless.

    Lastly I agree with Prof. Steve, a Rich Mullins Christmas project would’ve been right up there with BTLOG no doubt.

  71. Russ Ramsey

    @russramsey

    I love Rich Mullins. LOVE HIM! That said, I have a sneaking suspicion if he had done a Christmas record, it probably would have been a dud. Not sure why I think that, but I do.

  72. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Come to think of it, you may be right depending on when he would have done it… it might have been great if it had come somewhere between “World As Best As I Remember It” and “Brother’s Keeper”

  73. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Mindy (comment #68) mentioned Downhere’s Christmas album. I’m actually heading out on tour with them tomorrow night! I love those guys and it’s a band that feature’s not one, but TWO amazing vocalists. Just today we were listening to “Silent Night” – a song that my wife pretty much hates – and their version took both of our breaths away. It’s a lovely version. And at the halfway point of the whole album comes the line sung with gusto: “Five Golden Rings” – it’s hilarious.

  74. Russ Ramsey

    @russramsey

    Rich had a way of getting corny every once in a while, and I think he wouldn’t have been able to resist just a smidge too much cornyness on a record entirely devoted to Christmas. Maybe it’s his, “You Gotta Get Up” from Liturgy, Legacy… I think that entire record is perfect, but whenever I hear that song, it seems to me like he’s holding back on the goofiness he would have liked to put in play, probably for the sake of the continuity of the record.

    Turn him loose on a dedicated Christmas record, I think he would have worn a Christmas Sweater on the album cover and included at least one song about elves.

    I could be wrong. Sadly, we’ll never know. But it’s my hunch.

  75. becky

    Someone above mentioned The Roches. A coworker had their Christmas CD about a decade ago, and we listened to it all the time in December. It’s fun, quirky, and actually different than any other Christmas recording I’ve heard. Loved it.

    First heard Mannheim Steamroller’s version of Silent Night at a concert in the Orpheum theater in Omaha. All the lights were out except for one spotlight on a mirrored ball, slowly rotating in the center of the room, throwing “stars” out onto the dark blue ceiling and all around. (It felt like I was floating in the milky way. When the violin started playing it was STUNNING!

    I like to compare versions of “Joy to the World” from different CDs. Take 6 has a great one, as well as Acappella and Avalon.

    Other faves (besides BTLOG) in no particular order:
    1. Handel’s Messiah never gets old. This reminds me of BTLOG. Both start the story long before the night of Jesus’ birth and put it in context. The lyrics are just so amazing.
    2. First Call’s Evening in December
    3. Phil Keaggy’s Majesty and Wonder
    4. Purely for nostalgia I will throw in Perry Como, Home for the Holidays. This record was the staple in my house growing up.
    5. A 2-disc compilation I got from Target or Walmart several years ago

    I could go on and on–and I already have–so I’ll stop there.

  76. PaulH

    Russ and Jason –
    I truly beleive if Rich was still with us, he would have been apart BTLOG. He would have put out a Christmas album but it would have been duets and compilations with other artists.

  77. Luke Brodine

    There are two I’ve gotten this season that I think will be finding play for years to come:

    – Birfrost Art “Salvation is Created” (check out reviews over at Common Grounds blog)
    – Ordinary Time “In the Town of David”

    Both are less traditional takes on the Christmas album, more truly labeled as Advent Recordings. I think that it’s this vein of taking in the whole scope of Advent that draws me back to BTLOG again and again.

  78. Peter B

    With this talk of John Williams, how is it that nobody has mentioned the soundtrack to the Star Wars Christmas Special?

  79. Joel Bassett

    Comment 18, Paula Shaw mentions “Come Darkness, Come Light” by Mary Chapin Carpenter, and I think that is the only time it has been named. It is a fantastic, warm, rich album, with many redemptive lyrics that communicate much thought in their simplicity. She avoids using the belabored Christmas usuals, and finds or writes mostly new or rarely heard songs. Her music is so grounded in reality, and her folk roots keep her still telling stories of everyday people struggling to make it, finding a bit of rest on their way, a bit of light in the darkness. I love it.

    Many of my favorites have been mentioned, and I’ll forgo many of those, except maybe the most referenced of all, AP, because he deserves all the mentions he gets for BTLOG. I’ve had the privilege of seeing it live twice, and I wish it was coming to Philadelphia…

    I also love Bells of Dublin, by the Chieftains. It has the elements I love about celtic music – the improvisation of the spirited instrumentals, the singalong feel of many of the carols, a real drive towards celebrating in the moment of coming together in community around this great thing known as music. There is also a reverent track here and there, “Once in Royal David’s City” employs a Boychoir, lots of english carols unknown to many American audiences, and a new track here and there as well: “The Rebel Jesus,” made popular by Bebo Norman, and “St. Stephens’ Day Murders” is a unique experience. It is a really inexpensive album – check amazon if interested.

    And though I am not a big fan of country, Vince Gill’s voice soars when he sings Christmas music.

  80. micah chaneyworth

    And what about Phil Keaggy’s instrumental album, “the majesty and the wonder,” recorded with the London Festival Orchestra? I don’t even know if you can get it anymore, but it’s really good.

  81. Smitty

    I could also follow suit with the many other commenters that claim “Behold the Lamb of God” is a Christmas album favorite. However its become a year-round favorite reminding me that Jesus’ birth is why we get to live each day. So, to get me in the Christmas mood I like Chris Rice’s Living Room Sessions-Christmas, City on a Hill’s Its Christmas time, and the for fun, the Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan’s rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

  82. Julie B

    1.BTLOG, absolutely.

    2. James Taylor’s Christmas Album, love it!

    3. Harry Connick Jr, When My Heart Finds Christmas, great album

    4. and a new addition this year that I am really enjoying is Glory in the Highest by Shane and Shane. Nice acoustic driven album, great original song called He Was Born To Die. Check it out.

  83. Chad Ethridge

    Gads! Just discovered a new Christmas EP from Claire Holley online! Couldn’t find any of the track listings, but ordered anyway and sure I won’t be dissapointed!

  84. Terry K

    100 Comments and I can still think of some suggestions! I didn’t see any recommends for The Lost Dogs “We Like to Have Christmas” – Terry Taylor’s ‘Fruitcake From Hell’ alone makes it worth the $. And another recent favourite is “Saviour” from Sovereign Grace Music (see iTunes). All original what I’d call Christmas Worship Hymns – rich lyrics, beautiful instrumentation. And finally, is everyone too embarrassed to mention Trans-Siberian Orchestra? I was surprised how Christ-centred their “Christmas Eve and other Stories” was.

  85. The One True Stickman

    I’m a little late to the party, but oh well –

    Hearty agreement with Vince Guaraldi and BTLOG. Funny you should mention George Winston’s December, AP, we were just listening to it the other day and commenting that we don’t like his arrangement of The Holly and the Ivy quite as much as the BTLOG version.

    And I love a lot of the others you have mentioned.

    However, very little can compare to The Klezmonaut’s Oy! To The World. Classic Christmas songs as you have never heard them before, and done well at that. Right up there with Mannheim Steamroller in the unique reinterpretation quality department.

    Now, back to my real life with a very long wish list.

  86. Toni Whitney

    I love many of the afformentioned CDs. Being a lover of Celtic music because my family roots, one of my big faves is “On Christmas Night” by Cherish the Ladies. I also am really loving Bob Bennett’s new release; “Christmastide”.

  87. E

    I’d throw in

    A Christmas Song, Russ Taff

    He put together a big band and it was a stunning result. Messed up Christmas music for me for a few years – everything seemed really cheesy and bad in comparison.

  88. David W

    Jason,
    I laughed when I saw your picks. I have the three albums you mentioned, and all are favorites. The Bruce Cockburn has become a tradition at our house on Christmas morning. It started by me playing “Early On One Christmas Morn” as kind of a joke. I would crank it up loud so the whole house was filled with Cockburn’s gruff voice singing his rollicking version of the song. This was the alarm for anyone that was not already up and going, to get that way quick. This tradition started when my daughter was around 12 years old, and of course it was met with rolled eyes.

    My daughter is now married with children of her own. They are usually at our house on Christmas morning now. A couple of years ago I was a little late getting up when I hear the joyous strains of Bruce bursting the silence with “Early on one Christmas morn Jesus Christ the Son was born…” She may have rolled her eyes at first, but now it’s a tradition she expects to continue.

  89. Margret

    Christmas means so much to me. Forgoing childhood memories as there are no good ones (dysfunction; poverty; growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness!), with just a bit of background we will acknowledge my first celebration of this wonderful holiday 21 years ago, when I said “yes” to Jesus’ offer of life with Him.

    All my formative years we were told that those who had “talent” would be called to work at headquarters in NY, therefore even if you loved music, and could sing, play, or compose, if you were anyplace other than HQ, you obviously weren’t good enough and should give up all hope. So imagine the thrill for this lover of all kinds of music (a passion second only to my love of words), to learn that any who had the desire and skill could celebrate the coming of this beautiful, newborn King. I heard every variety possible, and learned not only that most of these people loved the Lord, but that it was okay for them to voice their praises in the song styles of their choice. I found a Christmas rap tape, reveled in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet, embraced the twang of country, indulged my passion for jazz, and explored traditional music from here in the States as well as from other parts of the world.

    Today I perused the thread of this wonderful Rabbit Room conversation and discovered other music to explore and enjoy. Thank you all, very, very much! Holding that gratitude close to your heart, I would also like to draw your attention to an unmentioned Christmas album, Kathy Mattea’s Good News. Released in 1993, only one song was familiar to me: Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene’s Mary Did You Know? wonderfully introduced by Michael English, then popularized by Amy Grant. But the rest of the songs, oh my…. If you hear no other song from this amazing release, at least please find a way to hear the title song. I truly believe the comfort and promise bestowed will turn many hearts to our magnificent God.

    Close your eyes, fold your hands
    For a moment let your sorrow fade
    Why? Oh why are you afraid?
    Has this world stripped you of your faith?

    For us His only Son,
    In a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes
    Christ the Savior, Christmas Day
    All our burdens washed away
    We break the bread, we pour the wine
    And an angel descends with a heavenly sign.

    All of Heaven’s best to you and yours this glorious Christmas season!
    Margret

  90. Peter B

    Margret, thank you for this timely reminder of how Jesus makes all things new. I feel a mini-magnificat coming on.

  91. Stephen Lamb

    @stephen-lamb

    Margret, that is a great song. Kathy’s version is good, and I really love Steve Green’s version too, on his second Christmas album.

    Good News was written by Rob Mathes, one of my favorite creative people. He is a brilliant arranger, singer,songwriter, composer, and pianist, besides preaching one of my favorite sermons of all time. The only reason I haven’t written about him before now in the Rabbit Room is because I haven’t figured out a way to write about him without sounding like a raving fanboy.

    Rob has two Christmas albums of his own, and they are what I’ve listened to more than any other music this December. The live CD/DVD Christmas is Coming, featuring guests like David Sanborn, Michael McDonald, and Vanessa Williams, was my introduction to Rob, by one of his biggest fans, Michael Card. I can’t recommend it enough.

  92. Margret

    Thanks for the responses and the smiles, Travis and Peter B. And thank you, Steven Lamb, for cluing me in to Christmas is Coming. My husband Matt and I really like Michael McDonald (I felt like quite the rebel in that long-ago lifetime when I sang along with Jesus is Just Alright with Me), Vanessa Williams has a beautiful voice, and wonderfully gifted David Sanborn was my favorite sax player in the 80s. Then, hearing that Michael Card, who so superbly matches each song with the appropriate instrument (have you seen the plethora of instruments he brings to the stage?), is a fan, well, I absolutely must include this with the presents for my Matt!

    All of Heaven’s best to each of you and everyone else!
    Margret

  93. Peter B

    I have seen that plethora of instruments… from behind 🙂 Our choir got to sing The Promise with him a few years back; it gave me a more full appreciation for that great piece (though I’m still not a fan of the bellyache or smelly angels).

    Since I didn’t mention BTLOG before, I must mention now how I was singing it by myself (I’m long past needing the CD player to go through it) when I was suddenly struck — for the first time, if you can believe it — by the fact that he was God, but he made himself nothing.

    Wow.

  94. Anita

    My favorite Christmas albums are mostly things that I don’t even know what they are… things we’ve just played as a family since I was little, and never talked much about who made them. Although I do know that Amy Grant and Michael Card’s works are among them.

    Ditto to Elsa F. on Three Wise Men and a Baby–although we only bought that one recently. It was something our radio station aired on a yearly basis.

    Mr. Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb of God” isn’t a favorite Christmas album for me. It’s in my favorite year-round listening which happens to have a Christmas theme.

  95. Dave D

    Just flipped through all of these comments again….. just discovered some FANTASTIC new Christmas music! Can we bump this post/thread back to the top again?

  96. jeff Taylor

    O.K. Andy and Jill Gullahorn have made a timeless contribution to my Christmas collection with their brilliant new CD perfectly titled “Christmas by Andy Gullahorn and Jill Phillips. (the title answers all record table questions…)
    It is in heavy rotation in my car. “I Will Find a Way” is a masterpiece penned by Andy and Jason Gray! “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is a wonderful rewrite of a classic that is so great done live by them:-). Beautifully produced, played and sung!
    If you don’t have it, buy a stack of them for gifts! Way, way better than a bow tie or a fruit cake.

  97. JW

    Just looking for some new music since this is the first Christmas in years I have had time to slow down and really meditate on and enjoy some good Christmas music. I thought, “The Rabbit Room must have some ideas!” and I was not disappointed. Wow. Someone needs to let others who didn’t see this a year ago know about this list. I’m planning to add Andy and Jill’s album to my collection, which I missed last year. And I’d love to hear any more favorites from those released this season.

    A couple others I didn’t see mentioned above: Carolyn Arend’s Christmas: an Irrational Season and David Crowder Band’s Oh for Joy.

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