Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Sounds of the Season

It is the night before Thanksgiving. I love Thankgsiving. One of my constant prayers throughout the year is that God will help me live gratefully. With its lack of hoopla, Thanksgiving for me is the easiest part of the Christmas season (I consider Thanksgiving to be the Christmas kick-off) in which to get focused spiritually. The second easiest time is during the week after Christmas. Thank goodness for those 12 days of Christmas! I need everyone of them.

But back to the beginning of the Christmas season. These days on any given trip to Meijer's (like a less sinister Wal-mart for those non-Indiana folks out there), you will find me scouring those holiday CD bins. I rarely buy anything, but I look for special Christmas music that will inspire good times as we do stuff around the house. Even though my taste tends to skew toward the traditional, I thought I might share my top 10 favorite holiday titles in case anyone wants a short cut to musical holiday inspirtation.

10--Amy Grant, A Christmas Album (1983).

"Album" says it all. So 80s in a lot of ways. Michael W. Smith's synthesizer dates Grant's recording, but her sincerity and true love of the holiday more than makes up for this trait, I hesitate to call it a flaw. I went to church with Amy for awhile when I lived in Nashville and got to see her interact with her family. When she sings about her Tennessee Christmas, rest assured it happened pretty much that way for her. One aside, when my friend Felley and I were in college (in the 80s) we changed "Tennessee Christmas" to "Arkansas Christmas" and performed it for our friend Adam's mom, Mary. We lied and told her we wrote it. She was so impressed. Thanks Amy.

9--Julie Andrews, Greatest Christmas Songs (released 2000, but probably recorded back in the 1960s)

Mary Poppins/Maria von Trapp sings your favorites. And everyone needs at least one English Christmas album. If you are more of a pop person than a madrigal dinner person, what's not to love about this one?

8--A Christmas Festival with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops (Released in 1987, recorded in the 1950s and 1960s)

Another standard with the original recording of Sleigh Ride and the most dreamy version of Winter Wonderland ever. Great driving music, too.

7--Louis Armstrong and Friends, What a Wonderful Christmas (Released 1997)

So cool it won't matter what your tree looks like. Eartha Kitt (meow!), Peggy Lee, Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, not to mention Louis Armstrong.

6--Christmas with the Pops, Erich Kunzel and the Cincinatti Pops Orchestra (1990)

Compilation tapes can be dicey--either too many of the same old songs or too many of the ones you hate. This is an exception. The Cincinatti Pops are a really good orchestra and this CD is full of rich surprises. A random and inspired feature isToni Tenille singing the Christmas Waltz (the Captain must have been at sea. He doesn't show up.). Rosemary Clooney sings White Christmas and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. I love Walking in the Air from the animated Christmas short, The Snowman, which I can never seem to catch on television.

5--Nat King Cole, The Christmas Song (Released on CD in 1986) AND/OR Bing Crosby, White Christmas (Released 1992)

Do you really need me to explain?

4--Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas (Released 1988)

Do kids who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s still have this is an inseparable part of the childhood Christmas experience?

3--Amy Grant, Home for Christmas, (1992)

Amy grows up. Beautiful, gentle, moody, but not too heavy. Breath of Heaven (Song of Mary) is like overhearing an intimate prayer (Mary is owning up to the shock and trepidation of being a savior's mother) that reveals some of the faith-weight of the holidays. All of the songs have sophisticated orchestration that never gets too uppity.

2--Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, A Christmas to Remember (1984)

I want to be Dolly Parton. When I decorate for the holidays I have her and the set of the movie White Christmas in my head. You either get Dolly or you don't. She blurs the line between commercialism and holiness in a way that I LOVE! This CD has the most fun songs on it. And unlike a lot of Christmas recording artists, Dolly wrote most of them. New songs that managed to sound like Christmas songs--a Christmas miracle.

1--Blind Boys of Alabama, Go Tell it on the Mountain (2003)

I came across this CD by accident last year. It should be a future classic. The BBs have been around the gospel soul music world for over 60 years. They know what they are doing. Their unobtrusive innovation comes in the way they let the traditional rethink itself. They, with George Clinton, sing Away in the Manger as Jesus and his family probably would have sung it, as the blues rather than a lullaby. Chrissie Hyndes's In the Bleak Midwinter is lonely but beautiful--again, kind of like Christmas might have been and is for many today. I Pray on Christmas and The Last Month of the Year make it impossible for me to sit still. Not too many Christmas CDs can make me think I missed something in the Christmases of my youth. This one does.

If you are able to post a comment without creating your own blog (I keep turning that feature off and it keeps turning itself back on), share some of your favorites! Might save me some time at Meijer's.


Blogger JEB said...

I hope you don't mind that Lori shared your blog address with me. I love blogs, and am very obsessed with them, actually. My employer doesn't know just how obsessed I am (hopefully!). :)
I can't believe I didn't know until now about the Dolly Parton/Kenny Rogers Christmas CD. Holy cow. I definitely need to add it to my Christmas wish list. Oh, and I have The Snowman - perhaps I'll bring it with me to Batesville and we can view it. (I'm hoping to visit with you and John while I'm home????? Your mom said you'd be in town Dec 23-26. I'll be there at least Christmas Eve.)
Check out my blog if you want - It's kind of silly, but it's still fun.

1:27 PM  

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