Family and friends gather. The logs are lit. The champagne is chilled. The smells from the kitchen . . . all our favorite things! Still, nothing sets the mood better than the sounds of music.
Here are our picks for the Top 10 all-time best holiday recordings, all available on CD.
Hands down, the best Christmas music of modern times because of Karen Carpenter’s lush vocals (her “O Holy Night” will bring you to tears) and brother Richard’s accompaniment. So great that their original tune, “Merry Christmas, Darling,” was a smash in the ’70s.
Christmas with the Rat Pack
Frankie, Sammy and Dean . . . Oh my! The best of the brightest: Sammy’s scatty “Jingle Bells.” Dig it, man.
For a woman who (usually) has no warmth in her voice, Helen Reddy surprises like an unexpected gift. The best track: The bluesy “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
Christmas with the Fab Four
A most curious Christmas concoction: Two CDs, featuring 20 tracks, of songs sung in the style of The Beatles. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow … yeah, yeah, yeah.
A Merry Christmas
One listen and you’ll understand why the late Al Martino made our list: Italian charm, a caressing voice and phrasing that rivaled Frankie’s.” Popular enough to have sat in the Top Ten on Billboard’s Christmas charts in 1964.
Christmas Time with The Judds
Country covers of nine holiday standards. No fancy orchestrations, no annoying twangs. Just Wynonna and Mama Naomi, midnight clear.
The record all families had in their collection still holds up because Johnny Mathis choose to record classics that continue to welcome comfort and joy.
Santa’s Greatest Hits
The stellar tracks are many—Dinah Washington’s “Ol’ Santa Claus,” Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five’s “Santa Claus, Santa Claus,” Tex Beneke with the Miller Orchestra’s “Rootin’ Tootin’ Santa Claus” and Louis Armstrong’s “Zat You Santa Claus.” Makes us want to be big and fat and jolly … if just for one night a year.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And he sometimes really does fulfill our wishes. Proof that shazam! Golly! Jim Nabors remains underappreciated as a singer.
O Christmas Tree
Acoustic instruments, sublime vocal harmonies, some of the biggest names (along with some discoveries) in the field of bluegrass. O, color this one a winner!