We here at CulturePoppe are in love with the holidays and we don’t care who knows it! And what are the holidays without music? I’ve taken it upon myself to introduce you to and marinate on a Christmas album a day up to and including the big 12-2-5. Think of it as your own little musical advent calendar. The albums I’ll be sharing cover a fairly wide sweep of the musical and time spectrum. But they are all spectacular. Trust me. I know Christmas music (I think the 15 versions of “Silent Night” in my iTunes library speak for themselves). So without further ado, let’s get started, shall we? Oh and by the way, these are in no particular order, so don’t be getting any idea into your pretty little head that this is some sort of countdown to the best. Ranking these would be nigh impossible . Choosing Ella over Frank or Nat instead of Andy falls squarely in the do-not-try-this-at-home category.
The Andy Williams Christmas Album
There’s no better way to kick this off than with Mr. Christmas himself, Andy Williams. It’s pretty providential that this guy was born in December. Since releasing this, his first Christmas album, in 1963, Williams’ voice has become synonymous with the sound of the holidays. His voice is nothing short of hot buttered rum, invading the darkest crevices of your cold and calculating heart with cozy warmth and goodwill and other Christmasy things of that nature. This album is most well known for introducing the now-classic standard “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” But don’t stop there. It’s a solid album, from top to bottom. “A Song and a Christmas Tree (The Twelve Days of Christmas)” manages to breathe fresh life into what is usually a quickly annoying song, and “Kay Thompson’s Jingle Bells” is the single most fun and invigorating arrangement of that old chestnut. Williams handles traditional carols like “The First Noel” and “Away in a Manger” with stately grace. And his “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” is a gorgeous version. Give a listen to the album in the Spotify playlist here.
Merry Christmas, Andy Williams
The Andy Williams Christmas Album would have been more than enough to regard Williams as a god among Christmas music men, but wouldn’t you know he went and released a sequel in 1965. Whereas it’s predecessor focused on seasonal favorites and traditional carols, Merry Christmas takes risks with less-familiar but still glorious material. Among tried and true favorites like “Winter Wonderland” and “Silver Bells,” Williams excels at more obscure Christmas songs like “Some Children See Him,” which for my money is one of the most underrated and most overlooked songs of the season. It’s simply beautiful and Williams more than does it justice. He also tackles a haunting and convicting “Little Altar Boy” and soars on “Mary’s Little Boy Child” and “The Bells of St. Mary’s.” And he was one of the first to recognize the holiday potential in “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. The album is more adventurous in it’s repertoire, but that only makes it a perfect companion to Williams’ first. You simply cannot live with one and not the other. And that’s why you’ll find a Spotify playlist for Merry Christmas as well. You’re welcome.
Tune in on Friday for No. 3 in the 25 Albums of Christmas.