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8 Great Christmas Albums That You Might Like Even If You Hate Christmas Music

December 5, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

by Caleb Nichols

I am not afraid to tell you that I really like Christmas music, have always liked Christmas music, and frankly enjoy the Christmas season. I say this fully understanding the ultra-capitalist implications of my holiday-lust, but whatever; I enjoy nostalgia. That being said, I know many many many people who despise this time of year, and who really really really hate Christmas music.

I get it – Christmas is annoying. It is religious. It is oppressive.

For me though, there is something interesting about the music of the season, and the infinite interpretations that exist of the holiday music canon. Perhaps its appeal lies in its commonality; we all know these songs (like it or not), and these days our culture is sort of lacking in tradition and communal experience, isn’t it? Whatever it is, I humbly submit eight of my favorite Christmas-themed albums. These are just eight though! I have left out a bunch. Feel free to comment on your faves as well.

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Various Artists – God Rest Ye Merry Jazzmen (Columbia Records, 1981)

An outstanding collection of concise and occasionally weird versions of all the classics; a real mood-setter. Perfect for cookie-baking and general Christmas-related household puttering. Required listening for the Christmas-music enthusiast.

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Duke Ellington and his Orchestra – The Nutcracker Suite (CBS, 1960)

This is an often overlooked piece of pure holiday gold. A Christmas miracle, really. Original pressings are hard to find (and typically pricey), but reprints and CD versions are out there. Go get.

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Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy Records, 1965 & 2006)

There is not much to say about this expect that it is just the best. The remaster from 2006 sounds really great and includes awesome liner-notes that tell the story of how Guaraldi was hooked-up with the Peanuts gig, and how his music became synonymous with both Schultz’s work and Christmas.

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Various – Death Might Be Your Santa Claus (Legacy, 2012)

This was a Black Friday Record Store Day release in 2012 and the most festive thing about it is the cover. The music may not put you in the traditional capitalist Christmas spirit, but it is rad, and spooky, and real-feeling, which is perfect for that particular darkness one can feel during this special time of year.

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Various – A Very Special Christmas Volume I (A&M, 1989)

This is perhaps included on this list due to nostalgia – it is one of the first Christmas music albums I can remember listening to with my mom and my brother, and it contains awesome versions of the classics as well as some amazing originals such as Run DMC’s modern classic “Christmas in Hollis”. My favorite track is U2’s impressive rendition of “(Its Christmas) Baby, Please Come Home,” which is full of verve and yearning, like most of pre-Zooropa U2.

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John Fahey – The New Possibility & Christmas with John Fahey Vol. II (Takoma, 1968, 1975)

It always blows my mind when someone hasn’t heard The New Possibility, John Fahey’s sort-of famous album of Christmas songs reworked for finger-picked guitar. It is more likely that people have heard that album, but haven’t heard Volume II, which is just great and also features a bizarre psychedelic lion on its cover. These are both (usually) easy to find on vinyl.

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The Beatles – The Beatles Christmas Album (Apple, 1970)

The Beatles never released an official collection of Christmas songs, but each year from 1963 to 1969 they released an un-official Christmas-themed EP which was given to members of the Beatles Fan Club as a gift. These flexi-discs featured a Christmas message and a song or two (hastily recorded). In 1970, the year of the band’s demise, they compiled all of these on one 12” LP, as a thank you to their loyal fans. This record is hard to find, and typically expensive. It has never been officially released but bootlegs abound! Happy hunting.

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