Joy

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

Where would Christmas be without snow and for that matter where would Christmas music be without it?

 

Let It Snow Tracklist
Rosemary Clooney – Suzy Snowflake
The Carpenters – Sleigh Ride
Jesse Winchester – Snow
The Raveonettes – The Christmas Song
Frank Sinatra – Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
Enya – Amid The Falling Snow
Johnny Duncan – Footprints In The Snow
Bing Crosby – White Christmas
Laura Marling – Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)
Pinky & Perky – Snowy White Snow & Jingle Bells
Ray Charles – Winter Wonderland
Belle & Sebastian – Fox In The Snow

There are plenty of places around the world that aren’t graced by snowflakes in December but its presence makes everything feel a lot more Christmassy. So for today’s white celebration we’ve uncovered the best songs ever recorded about the white fluffy stuff so you can curl up under the duvet as it gently falls outside. And they don’t come much cuter than Rosemary Clooney’s song from 1951 ‘Suzy Snowflake’ which was also turned into a short stop-motion cartoon of the same name.

For the most part this collection is full of familiar artists like Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby but you might find the most fun in the ones you don’t know. Like Danish band the Raveonettes whose song has graced several Christmas adverts and why not given its simple theme of lights, Santa, love and of course snow. Glasgow’s Belle & Sebastian are similarly fey in their approach and their tinkling of the ivories could just be the perfect antidote to the noise all around over the holidays.

For those of you who’ve never heard of Pinky & Perky you are in for a real treat. The TV puppets from kids TV in the UK released a album of Christmas songs in the 1969 and in many ways it was an attempt to challenge the Chipmunks foray into festive music matters. Most of the songs were retreads of old favourites but ‘Snowy White Snow & Jingle Bells’ was a bolt from the blue (it had been released in 1949 by Dorothy Squires and her Orchestra) and marked the album’s true highlight. This is just one of the many snowflakes of delight you’ll hear on this collection.

Thanksgiving Thanksgiving music.

Music for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving songs don’t get the attention that their Christmas counterparts get, but we’re hoping that this collection might change that!

 

Music For Thanksgiving Tracklist
Loudon Wainwright – Thanksgiving
Little Eva – Let’s Turkey Trot
The James Brown’s – Pass The Peas
Sly & The Family Stone – Thankful N’ Thoughtful
Adam Sandler – Thanksgiving Song
Bill Monroe, Doc Watson – Turkey In The Straw
Vince Guaraldi Trio – Thanksgiving Theme
Fats Waller – All That Meat And No Potatoes
Ray Davies – Thanksgiving Day
Massive Attack – Be Thankful For What You’ve Got
Fats Waller – All That Meat And No Potatoes
Graham Parker – Almost Thanksgiving Day
Thelonious Monk – Stuffy Turkey
Natalie Cole – Be Thankful
Mary Chapin Carpenter – Thanksgiving Song

Thanksgiving arrives on the fourth Thursday of every November and marks the beginning of what is known as the ‘Holiday Season’ in the United States, which culminates on December 25th. It a national holiday and a huge family occasion, characterised by a communal dinner with turkey as the centerpiece.

Despite the fact that Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays of the year there are precious few songs written about the occasion. So thin on the ground are they, compared to Christmas for example, that we’ve had to be creative in bringing you a playlist that celebrated a bumper harvest. So while the joyfully funky ‘Pass The Peas’ may not have been written about the holiday it sure is a feature of the big day as the green filled bowl is passed around the table. And like Massive Attack’s cover of William DeVaughn’s song you should ‘be thankful for what you’ve got’ even if it is just peas.

That most English of artists Ray Davies might not be someone you’d associate with an American holiday but he released a whole EP dedicated to the day back in 2005. Vince Guaraldi Trio are another surprise given that it is their soundtrack to Charlie Brown’s iconic ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ that is remembered so fondly. What is often forgotten is that they recorded the music for ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’ in 1973 and you can hear the main theme on this collection.

Secret Christmas Songs

These are the Christmas songs you can listen to before December without falling out with your seasonally adjusted friends and family.

 

Secret Christmas Tracklist
Billie Holiday – I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects
Gordon Lightfoot – Song For A Winter’s Night
Joni Mitchell – River
Teenage Fanclub – Christmas Eve
Waxahatchee – Rose, 1956
Lou Reed – Xmas In February
Vince Guaraldi Trio – Skating
The Flaming Lips – Christmas at the Zoo
Calexico – Gift X-change
Tracey Thorn & Green Gartside – Taking Down The Tree
Laura Marling – Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)
Paul Brady – Arthur McBride
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Time of the Season

It’s a difficult balancing acting retaining the sanity of those around you when all you want to do is snuggle up to a jingle bell as soon as September arrives. To avoid the inevitable pain and hurt make sure you have this playlist of secret Christmas songs by your side. That’s because for the most part songs such as ‘Time of the Season’ will slip the attentions of those within earshot, while you can secretly soak up lines such as “underneath the mistletoe and stars, you know you set my senses reeling”.

If you’re Christmas music obsessiveness germinates later as winter approaches there are plenty of songs to give you a yuletide fix. Chief amongst them is Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Song For A Winter’s Night’ which was never intended to be lumped in with Bing et al but such are his cozy vocals and guitar playing that it became inevitable. Billie Holiday’s ‘I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm’ is similarly inclined and quite the elusive for the Scrooge’s around you.

If you’re unlucky and your covert plan to escape festive-listening-recognition (FLR) is foiled there is thankfully an out. And it comes in the shape of Tracey Thorn’s rendition of ‘Taking Down The Tree’, which was written to herald the end of festivities. By throwing this ditty in the face of your accuser you can avoid any cruel aspersions they fling your way. Not that being labelled a Christmas nut should be anything to feel ashamed about. We regard it as a proud badge of honour.

Jazz Up Your Christmas

If you want to slip some jazz into your Christmas swing you’ve come to the right place.

 

Jazz Up Your Christmas Tracklist
Louis Armstrong – Christmas Night In Harlem
Vince Guaraldi Trio – Skating
Duke Ellington – Jingle Bells
Harry James – Brazilian Sleigh Bells
Tommy Dorsey – Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Ella Fitzgerald – White Christmas
Glenn Miller – Sleigh Ride
Frankie Carle – Little Jack Frost Get Lost
Woody Herman – Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
Artie Shaw – There Is Frost On The Moon
Louis Prima – Shake Hands with Santa Claus
Miles Davis – Blue X-mas (To Whom It May Concern)
Fats Waller – Swingin Them Jingle Bells
Billie Holiday – I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm

We might not necessarily think of jazz or swing when it comes to Christmas music but that would be denying oneself a rare yuletide pleasure. Quite simply this genre of music is made for the rough and tumble of the holidays. There is a controlled fury about jazz, a certain sense of perpetual motion that just mimics what we all get up to over the 12 days of Christmas.

For all that very few of the songs that you’ll hear on this playlist get much attention in the mainstream, which is a shame given that the perennials often lose their lustre once December wears on. How could you resist the short yet endlessly uproarious ‘Brazilian Sleigh Bells’ from trumpeter Harry James? It may have come out in 1950 but it still sounds as sprightly as the first day it bounced from the studio speakers. Older still is the positively ancient 1936 rocket from Fats Wallers called ‘Swingin’ Them Jingle Bells’, a party starter if ever there was one.

If the thought of unfamiliar Christmas material turns you off don’t give up on these jazz numbers because there are plenty old favourites to fuel your chestnut roasting self. Like the piano tinkling greatness of Duke Ellington’s ‘Jingle Bells’ or Ella Fitzgerald’s sultry rendition of ‘White Christmas’. For us however it is the white knuckle ride offered by records such as Louis Prima’s 1958 ‘Shake Hands with Santa Claus’ that excites the most.

A Classic Christmas

An old world playlist that may have you pining for the Christmases of your childhood.

 

A Classic Christmas Tracklist
Ella Fitzgerald – Frosty The Snowman
Dean Martin – Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
Doris Day – Winter Wonderland
Brenda Lee – Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree
Eartha Kitt – Santa Baby
Mahalia Jackson – Silent Night
Bing Crosby – White Christmas
Judy Garland – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Bobby Helms – Jingle Bell Rock
James Brown – Soulful Christmas
Tony Bennett – Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Burl Ives – Holly Jolly Christmas
Elvis Presley – Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)
Frank Sinatra – Mistletoe and Holly
Andy Williams – Sleigh Ride
Perry Como – It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song
Louis Armstrong – ‘Zat You, Santa Claus?
Ray Conniff – Christmas Bride

Depending on your age a classic Christmas song could well be something that was released in the 1980’s. Not for us though, the classic Christmas sound is one that originated in the 1940’s, 1950’s or 1960’s. Perhaps it was the onward march of advanced production techniques that robbed the more recent Christmas releases of that homespun warmth. Regardless, when it comes to the sound of ye olde festive times it is Christmas music of the mid-20th century that we hone in on.

And what a golden period it was with crooners such as Andy Williams, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and of course Bing Crosby treading the Christmas boards each year. And it wasn’t just on record either, with Crosby and Cole having their own TV shows that truly came into their own as December 25th drew closer. Bing big song ‘White Christmas’ deserves a place on any festive playlist with the Irving Berlin penned classic as intrinsic to the holiday experience as gift exchange and turkey.

Also worth mentioning is Nat King Cole’s reading of Mel Torme and Bob Wells’ ‘The Christmas Song’, a composition he returned to time and again with each of his 4 recordings making for essential holiday listening. And in a modern age of one-off (dollar chasing) Christmas singles isn’t it comforting to know that Andy Williams fastidiously ascribed to his Christmas mission by recording a full 7 different holiday albums. It’s no wonder he proclaimed the season to be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’.

Christmas Crooners

Their voices are as warm as a Christmas spent by the hearth and can’t you just bask in the lush orchestral embellishment.

 

Christmas Crooners Tracklist
Tony Bennett – Winter Wonderland
Bing Crosby – Christmas in Killarney
Johnny Cash – Little Drummer Boy
Mel Torme – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Perry Como – (There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays
Frank Sinatra – Jingle Bells
Nat King Cole – Mrs Santa Claus
Eddy Arnold – Jolly Old Saint Nicholas
Andy Williams – Christmas Is A Feeling In Your Heart
Bing Crosby – White Christmas
Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin – Marshmallow World
Michael Buble – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Pat Boone – Silver Bells
Dean Martin – Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
Johnny Mathis – Christmas Is A Feeling In Your Heart
Frank Sinatra – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra spent most of the year singing about non-Christmas matters but it’s their contribution to the most magical season of the year that still leaves us spellbound. And when these men got hold of a yuletide song it didn’t really matter who recorded it subsequently because it is the crooners definitive version that we return to time and again over the holidays.

With those big voices at the controls you could be sure that there was plenty orchestral trimmings included. What would Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ be without those dramatic strings or how would Dean Martin’s ‘Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!’ shorn of the dainty brass sound I wonder? Equally rich of voice and orchestra is Mel Torme’s ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ which memorably appeared on the classic 1990 Christmas movie ‘Home Alone’.

Moving away from the heavyweights there is plenty of lesser known lights such as Pat Boone, Eddy Arnold and of course Johnny Mathis. It was Mathis who gave the world a wonderful Christmas tome in ‘The Sounds of Christmas’ in the early 60’s. ‘Christmas Is a Feeling in Your Heart’ was the album’s main single and though it rarely gets an outing in December it is nonetheless a snow flecked dollop of magic.

Modern Carols

Some of our favourite contemporary artists turn their hand to the world’s most loved Christmas carols.

 

Modern Carols Tracklist
Julie Andrews – Wexford Carol
Sufjan Stevens – I Saw Three Ships
Bing Crosby – Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Johnny Cash – Away In A Manger
Kate Rusby – Here We Come A-Wassailing
Bert Jansch – In The Bleak Midwinter
Bright Eyes – God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
King’s College Choir- Gabriel’s Message
The Beach Boys – We Three Kings
Frank Sinatra – O Come, All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)
Mahalia Jackson – It Came Upon The Midnight Clear
Barbra Streisand – I Wonder As I Wander
Bette Midler – O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Perry Como – O Little Town Of Bethlehem
Westminster Cathedral Choir – Once In Royal David’s City
Elvis Presley – The First Noel
Whitney Houston – O Holy Night (Cantique De Noel)
Ella Fitzgerald – Angels We Have Heard On High
Sinead O’Connor – Silent Night

Christmas carols have been with us for centuries, long before Bing was singing about his dream of a white one or Wham! had revealed their story of broken December love. The continuing popularity of the humble carol can be put down to our faith in good old fashioned songwriting and the long lost art of storytelling. For all this our playlist mostly sticks to renditions of olden carols from contemporary artists, though the Westminster Cathedral and King’s College choirs make their presence felt.

One of the oldest carols on this playlist, ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)’ was faithfully recorded by Frank Sinatra and his big voice does justice to this most cherished of compositions. ‘Silent Night’ is another favourite and was written in Germany in 1818 as ‘Stille Nacht’. Franz Xaver Gruber himself would have been impressed by Sinead O’Connor’s hymnal and unforgettable performance. Such has been the impact of ‘Silent Night’ that in 2011 UNESCO awarded it the status of Intangible Cultural Heritage. No Christmas Eve would seem complete without it.

While you’ll know most of the carols in this collection there are a couple that may be new to you. One such is ‘Here Come A-Wassailing’ which was released by British folk artist Kate Rusby a few years back. Wassailing refers to the old English practise of giving alms, mostly warm food, to the poor over Christmas time in return for song performance and music playing. ‘I Wonder As I Wander’ originated from the other side of the water in the early part of the 20th century and took its inspiration from composer John Jacob Niles’ adventures through a barren California.

Christmas Songs For Kids

We might try and kid ourselves but the best Christmases happen when you’re growing up. So here’s some songs to make the smallies in your life even happier over the holidays! And if they’re happy so will you be.

 

Christmas Songs For Kids Tracklist
The Chipmunks – Christmas, Don’t Be Late
Spike Jones – All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)
Aled Jones – Walking in the Air
Burl Ives – Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Bing Crosby – Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Sesame Street – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
The Jackson 5 – Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Bradley Gillis – Santa Claus is Rockin’
Madonna – Dear Jessie
Sufjan Stevens- Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!
Gene Autry – Here Comes Santa Claus
Bing Crosby – Frosty The Snowman
Vince Guaraldi Trio – O Christmas Tree (O Tannenbaum)
Paul McCartney and The Frog Chorus – We All Stand Together
John Denver and the Muppets – The Twelve Days Of Christmas
Gayla Peevey – I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas

Our collection of kids Christmas songs should have their little ears all aglow but there is plenty for all the family to enjoy too. Most of these sprightly festive numbers have a pep in their step and a twinkle in their eye. How else could you explain Gayla Peevey’s request for one of the world’s biggest mammals to appear under the Christmas tree? I mean the backyard is barely suitable for the neighbourhood cat, not to mention a hippopotamus!

Elsewhere there are cowboys singing about Santa Claus (and you don’t get more genuine cowboys than Gene Autry), Welsh choirboys recounting the story of the flying snowman (Aled Jones and his unforgettable Christmas carol) and the much loved country singer John Denver with a big sleigh full of Jim Henson’s finest creations on their chaotic version of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. Henson’s characters appear elsewhere on this playlist too as the furry cast of Sesame Street breath new puppetry into ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’.

With our collection of children’s Christmas songs mostly going along expected lines we decided to throw in a few curveballs in the shape of a song each from Paul McCartney and Madonna. Madge’s effort is ‘Dear Jessie’, which while not strictly about the season was released in the run-up to Christmas 1989. The song’s video is a kiddie’s delight, as is the sense of wonder throughout with Madonna throwing herself wholeheartedly into proceedings. ‘We All Stand Together’ came out 5 years earlier in 1984, in the same week that Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ was released, and is another ode to childhood with a gorgeous singalong froggy chorus that deserves an airing each December.

Christmas Party

They don’t call it the silly season for nothing so let this Christmas party playlist whisk you into a yuletide frenzy of activity.

 

Christmas Party Tracklist
Slade – Merry Xmas Everybody
Paul McCartney – Wonderful Christmastime
Elton John – Step Into Christmas
Wizzard – I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday
Shakin’ Stevens – Merry Christmas Everyone
Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald – Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (John Beltran Remix)
Harry Connick Jr. – (It Must’ve Been ‘ol) Santa Claus
Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas Is You
Low – Just Like Christmas
Brenda Lee – Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree
U2 – (Christmas) Baby, Please Come Home
St. Etienne, Tim Burgess – I Was Born On Christmas Day
Darlene Love – Winter Wonderland
Run D.M.C. – Christmas In Hollis
Boney M. – Feliz Navidad
Louis Armstrong – Cool Yule

What is most surprising about Christmas music is how much of the mainstream stuff is slow, demure and a tad melancholy. So while we were hardly burning the midnight oil to come up with a playlist of upbeat festive numbers it was a little more difficult than expected. There are still plenty of big hitters on this collection however with everyone’s favourite 90’s Christmas song from Mariah Carey forming the incandescent centrepiece.

On ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ Carey set out to recapture the 60’s girl group sound of Phil Spector’s Christmas album. That she succeeded, and then some, was made all the more satisfying when you look at the retro video Mariah made to showcase the wall of sound. But hers is not the only loose-limbed number on this collection as Elton John’s ‘Step Into Christmas’ and Shakin’ Stevens ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ bequeath equal tinder for your dancefloor escapades.

For those who prefer to locate themselves in a velvet lounge type setting there are plenty of options, with Harry Connick Jr.’s ‘(It Must’ve Been ‘Ol) Santa Claus’ and Louis Armstrong’s ‘Cool Yule’ amongst the classiest compositions to grace the greatest season of them all.