It comes but once a year, yet Christmas music is strangely important to many people. That shouldn’t be taken as a negative viewpoint, I just find Christmas Carols to be gimmicky and dare I say it, pointless. However, I didn’t always feel this way. I once owned many Christmas albums and thoroughly enjoyed listening to them as a child.
So what changed?
I think one of the key aspects for my Christmas music rebellion was my mother’s influence. She is a Christmas fanatic and from the middle of November, every song and every album played was related to Christmas. I would became even more introverted as I would delve into a musical oasis with headphones, for I could not use my stereo unless it was belting out the Christmas classics.
Seriously, she would play Christmas music from sunrise to sunset. Now, I play music in that manner, but have to switch it up. Metal in the morning, Hard Rock by midday, Classic Rock by Dinner, and Jazz, Classical, Pop, and Reggie in the evening. Sometimes, just for fun, I work through the genres in reverse.
As I reflect on some of the albums my mother would play continuously, I recall she owned albums that included: Neil Diamond’s The Christmas Album and The Christmas Album, Vol. II (she even had the The Christmas Special on VHS), Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, Barbara Streisand’s A Christmas Album and Christmas Memories, Kiri Te Kanawa’s Christmas With Kiri and Carols from Coventry Cathedral, The Three Tenors’ Christmas, and Placido Domigo’s Christmas In Vienna series (there are simply too many to list. Plus, my mother had them all on VHS so she could watch them when she got tired of listening). This isn’t all, her collection also included a variety of compilations and albums that I have since long forgotten.
Now I’m starting to remember why I became disinterested. It is true, you can have too much of a good thing, and you can lose interest in certain styles of music if you listen too often. For example, think of radio playback and hearing the same song over and over again. The song may be fantastic, the artist may be a true performer of professional standards, yet you disassociate when you have heard the song played to death. This is how I have felt with Christmas music over the years.
As you would have likely noticed, none of the artists that my mother collected are b-grade performers. I thoroughly enjoy their regular catalogues; I just stay clear of the Christmas albums as I simply can’t tolerate listening to more than one or two Christmas albums per year.
That said, this year I decided to revisit Bill Crosby’s compilation, White Christmas (Merry Christmas in some regions and formats such as the 2014 vinyl re-issue). Interestingly, I didn’t know this was a compilation until doing a little additional research for this article. Nevertheless, it amazes me that many of these songs were recorded in the early 1940s, with the initial vinyl release being on 78rpm records. That is just cool!
Despite a few aging elements in the original tapes, that were used for the current releases, White Christmas is simply amazing. This is certainly a case of ‘they don’t make them like that anymore.’ Contemporary recording artists and production teams could certainly learn a thing, or two, from records such as this.
What I like about this album is that it keeps to a simple style that highlights Crosby’s beautifully smooth vocal style. So many modern albums are simply over produced and are nothing more than a representation of artistic ego. Crosby keeps things light hearted in his classic version of Jingle Bells (feat. The Andrews Sisters) and who can forget Mele Kalikimaka? Ok, so it is memorable to me because of its inclusion in one of my favourite Christmas films, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Despite this questionable addition, I truly believe that White Christmas is the only album one needs for Christmas, should one celebrate the silly season.
I have even emailed Ben, from Goldmine Records, to see if he can source the limited edition white/red split vinyl edition. Until then, and for the rest of this festive season, I will listen to the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi, but it is also available on CD, standard edition vinyl, Apple Music, and iTunes.
So, what Christmas albums you enjoy listening to? Who knows, by this time next year, you may have encouraged me to add a few more Christmas albums to my collection.