I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas music. One year in high school several of my friends and I worked retail at a store that only had one Christmas mix tape containing ten of the Worst Christmas Songs Ever. These songs were played over and over in a continuous loop, shift after shift, day after day, from Thanksgiving until the end of February when we all finally quit. The tape included the Barbara-Streisand-on-crack version of “Jingle Bells,” a particularly breathy and disturbing rendition of “Santa Baby,” and James Brown singing, “ZZZZZZAt You, Santy Clawwwws?!”
So yeah, I try to stay out of malls this time of year. I also have to boycott the Christian radio station until January because they play exclusively Christmas music, but not Christian Christmas music. Last year, they played that heinous version of “Santa Baby” and that was the last straw.
Anyway, I do like to listen to my own Christmas music. Here are a few of my favorite selections, in case you are in the market for some good, non-annoying, non-scary Christmas music to add to your collection.
First, Amy Grant’s “A Christmas Album.” You just can’t beat the classics. I have been listening to Amy Grant since the days when we didn’t have a tape player in the station wagon and we listened to Mom’s Amy Grant tapes on a grey portable tape player. Yeah, back in THAT day. This album is classic Amy Grant, when her music was good. In my opinion, her last good album was “Lead Me On” and that was when I was in 4th grade. Anyway, this album includes a really great version of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and also perennial favorite “Tennessee Christmas,” which is one of only three total songs containing the word “Tennessee” as far as I know. Bonus points for readers who name the other two, and double bonus points for readers who come up with additional Tennessee songs. My brother lives in Tennessee now, but he won’t be having a Tennessee Christmas because he’ll be having a Richmond Christmas with his girlfriend’s family. Oh wait, was that a secret?
Since we’re on the subject of 4th grade, allow me to remind you of how good Michael W. Smith’s Christmas album is. YES, Micheal W. Smith was the king of the 1980s cheesy look-Ma-I-got-a-Casio-keyboard-for-Christmas sub-genre of Christian music. And yes, a lot of his stuff is pretty dated. And yes, he’s still putting out records in pretty much the same style (but give him a break, he has a lot of kids to put through college, ok?). That said, this Christmas tape is really great. I think at Christmas you can get away with more synthetic keyboard stuff, for one thing. This album has an orchestral feel, with lots of appearances by a boys choir, and that really works. I think the Amy Grant/Michael W. Smith duet “No Eye Had Seen” is my favorite from this album. Sadly, I never owned this one on CD, and a few years ago the little brown tape part of my cassette broke. So now it lives on in my memory, unless I get it as a surprise birthday gift (ahem).
Next on my list, “He is Christmas” by Take 6. Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Take 6 is kind of a Boyz II Men meets gospel quartet meets a capella soul group. Confused? Try it anyway. They have a different sound, but the harmonies are fantastic and the songs have a little bit of a groove, but nothing requiring you to put hydraulics in your car or anything. The Take 6 version of “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” is great, especially if your previous experience with “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” has been paunchy middle aged white guys singing it during Advent. I also like their version of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Please don’t judge this album based on “Twas Da Nite” because y’all, it’s super lame and someone should have advised Take 6 to leave that track where it couldn’t hurt anyone.
We have lots of other Christmas CDs that are great, but this is getting to be a long post, and I don’t want to bore you. I suppose if you WERE bored, you’d go out and buy a jar of calves foot jelly, and I would like to come with you, even though the weather has been awfully disappointing for the last 14 years.
I know, the Great Muppet Caper has nothing to do with Christmas. Consider it plot exposition, it had to go somewhere.