A Holiday Dozen

I mentioned to my friend Max that I had hoped to post a Christmas song every day from December 1st through Christmas Day. When it comes to holiday tunes, I could probably post a favorite Christmas song for every day of the year …

At any rate, rather than spend the time to do that, I was asked by a friend to pick my Top 10 favorite Christmas Albums. How can I do that? I have so many! I could easily pick my Top 10 Christmas albums for each genre – pop, country, classical, jazz, etc… So here is what I decided to do. I took a piece of paper and jotted down the 10 albums I felt were “must have” albums for me every year. I couldn’t narrow it down to just 10, so I made it 12.

In no particular order, here is the Holiday Dozen I came up with:

Ok, you gotta have Bing! He was often referred to as “The Voice of Christmas,” and for good reason! It was an album that often accompanied us while we opened gifts.

A great album of great songs – Brenda Lee, Bobby Helms, Stevie Wonder, Roy Orbison, The Drifters, James Brown, and Aretha Franklin are all represented in this amazing collection!

When Charles Schulz was asked to write a Christmas Special, he said he would on one condition – it had to include the story of Christ’s birth. When he chose the soundtrack for the special, he wanted something that he felt could relate to everyone – so he picked Jazz. Vince Guaraldi’s songs are synonymous with Christmas for me.

Growing up, I always disliked The Christmas Song. I guess I couldn’t relate to it as a kid. As I grew up, it became more and more meaningful to me. This album is full of many other fantastic cuts that never get played on the radio.

This one represents the “novelty” side of Christmas! Yes, it includes the Chipmunks, but it also includes some classic novelty songs from Allan Sherman, Bob & Doug McKenzie, Cheech & Chong, and Weird Al Yankovic. It is also one of the few places you can find Stan Freberg’s Christmas Dragnet. Oh, yeah, and that dumb Hippopotamus song is on here, too (but I skip that one).

This is one that a friend told me about. The story goes that a couple of members of the Glenn Miller Orchestra were sitting around talking one day. They asked each other what they thought Glenn would be doing if he were still around. One of them said “Probably working on a Christmas album.” The idea was born. They contacted former members of the Glenn Miller Orchestra and they recorded this one. It is truly a great album and tribute to Miller.

Bing Crosby may have been called the “Voice of Christmas,” but Frank Sinatra was THE VOICE. This collection includes one of my favorites: Whatever Happened to Christmas. You also get his amazing version of Have Yourself a Marry Little Christmas and other classics.

Some great songs from Al Martino, Jo Stafford, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, and other pop singers of the 40’s and 50’s.

I have talked about this one before. It is just an amazing album with something for everyone. I love listening to Doc and the Tonight Show Band jamming on songs like Winter Wonderland, Let It Snow, and my favorite version of Jingle Bells! You’ll also love the Children’s Choir and Bell Choir on other numbers.

Mel, of course, wrote The Christmas Song, and I just love to hear his version of it. Nat King Cole’s version doesn’t include Mel’s extra lyric: “Love and joy come to you, and a Merry Christmas, too. And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year.” Known as “The Velvet Fog,” Mel’s voice is perfect on Christmas Time Is Here, The Christmas Medley, Sleigh Ride, and a Christmas version of The Glow Worm.

I have so many favorite Elvis Christmas songs that aren’t on this album, but I love how they have added the orchestra to his classics on this album. Santa Claus is Back in Town sounds so much fuller with them. I only wish that they had done If Every Day Was Like Christmas for this album.

Before both of his Christmas albums were made available, they took tracks from both his “Winter Romance” album and “The Dean Martin Christmas Album” and combined them for this collection. I have both of those albums now, but for one collection – I pick this one. Marshmallow World is one of my favorite cuts!

How about you? What’s your Holiday Dozen??

Tune Tuesday – Nat King Cole

 

nat_king_cole-studio_bw_4-c_capitol_photo_archives_0While driving into work this week, I heard part of a special on Sirius XM honoring Nat King Cole in honor of his 100th birthday.  The part that I heard was from a special done on WNEW radio in New York.  It was some DJ interviewing Nat, having him sing songs and play piano.  For Tune Tuesday, since his 100th birthday would have been March 17th, I thought I would share a few of my favorite Nat King Cole songs. I guess this blog should be titled Tune(s) Tuesday.

Before I post my favorites, let me say that Nat King Cole was truly one of the great voices in American music.  He was first known for being a jazz pianist (he had some classical training), and then began singing with the Nat King Cole Trio. His dad was a Baptist pastor and one of Nat’s early hits “Straighten Up and Fly Right” was inspired by one of his dad’s sermons.

In the 1950’s he became a solo performer and had many pop hits.  When Rock and Roll music came on the scene in the mid-1950’s, his career began to dwindle, but not for long.  He, like many, poked fun of Rock and Roll and often did a song in his live act called “Mr. Cole Won’t Rock and Roll”.  In the 60’s he reached the charts again with a couple hits.

He was the first African American performer to host his own TV Variety show in 1956. He had many stars on the show, but the lack of a national sponsor led to the demise of the show.  He appeared in movies Istanbul, China Gate, St. Louis Blues (playing blues legend WC Handy), and Cat Ballou (with Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin).

Nat was a very heavy smoker.  He often credited smoking for giving his voice the unique baritone sound that it had.  He even mentioned in the special I heard on Sirius XM how important it was to smoke, and even told the host that if smoked more, it would improve his singing voice.  Sadly, smoking is what led to his early death.  In 1964, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.  It was only a few months after the diagnosis that he succumbed to the disease (February 15, 1965) at the very young age of 45.

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Route 66 

With the Nat King Cole Trio – probably my favorite version of this song.

Answer Me My Love

Beautiful song about a guy who has lost his one and only.

Mona Lisa

Yes, it’s about the painting.

When I Fall In Love

WOW!  One of his best right here.  I could listen to this over and over

Autumn Leaves

One of those songs from Nat that you rarely get to hear.  It is really a wonderful arrangement and pretty song.

A Blossom Fell

My great uncle actually recorded this song when I was a kid at some local recording studio.  That was how I was introduced to this song.  I often think of him when I hear this song.

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer

This one always reminds me of my days at Honey Radio.  We often played summer songs when the season changed and this was one of those songs.  It’s a feel good song – gotta love the banjo!

Smile 

A song that was written by the great Charlie Chaplin, this is one of those perfect songs.  Many have recorded this song, but Nat’s version remains the one that remains my favorite version.

L-O-V-E

Nat’s last recording.  It can be heard in many movie soundtracks and one of his best!

Nat had so many wonderful songs.  He was a talent that was taken from us much too soon.  Give a listen to his other hits Orange Colored Sky, Ramblin’ Rose, The Very Thought of You, I Love You for Sentimental Reasons, Unforgettable, and, of course, The Christmas Song.

Happy 100th Birthday, Nat!  Thanks for the music and melodies!