Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.
We continue our series of musical Christmas cards with this week’s feature, my picks for the five best Christmas albums.When it comes to Christmas music I’m pretty old-fashioned, preferring traditional fare. So no Bruce Bringsteen, Elton John, Jethro Tull, or Smash Mouth in my top five must-haves.
Let’s get started.
#5 – Christmas Favorites, The Hollyridge Strings
The Hollyridge Strings was an orchestra of studio musicians that recorded easy-listening covers for Capitol Records in the 1960s and 1970s. They became quite popular after releasing an album totally devoted to the Beatles that led to more Beatle renditions and tributes to other artists. The Strings covered tunes from just about anybody who was big.
Let’s put it this way. My dad didn’t buy a Beatles album. But he bought the Hollyridge Strings’ albums of Beatles hits.
The producers of the Christmas Cocktails CD series put together a medley of two hits from a 1965 album by the Hollyridge Strings. Tell me you haven’t heard these in ages, and if you haven’t, do they bring back classic memories?
The Hollyridge Strings was spearheaded by music industry veteran Stu Philips, a composer who also produced The Marcels’ “Blue Moon,” Shelly Fabares’ “Johnny Angel,” Paul Petersen’s “My Dad,” and James Darren’s “Goodbye, Cruel World.”
4. Mannheim Steamroller
Billboard, the industry’s leading magazine in music coverage including rankings of top artists and music, recently named the Top 25 Holiday Albums through the years. The list covered the time period of 1985, its initial ranking, through January of 2022.
Mannheim Steamroller has four albums in the Top 25.
One reviewer described Mannheim Steamroller’s approrach as a “clean, airy instrumental style.”
So which album would I choose among the many?
This one recorded in Prague features full symphonic arrangements of the ensemble’s Christmas favorites. Twin spin!
There’s also “Christmas Symphony II.”
Mannheim Steamrolelr enjoys the distinction of being the #1 Christmas music artist in history.
Elvis recorded two Christmas albums, one in 1957 and the other in 1971. His first album has sold more than 20 million copies.
After Elvis’ death one of his original backup singers in the Jordanaires, Gordon Stoker, remarked that the vocalists told him he couldn’t sing Christmas songs that way. He’d never get away with it. Elvis told them, “You just let me worry about that.
From Elvis’ 1971 LP. No hunka hunka on some of the tracks where Elvis played it straight.
I recommend “If Every Day Was Like Christmas,” a 1994 compilation CD combining both of the King’s Christmas albums with 24 tracks.
2. The Boston Pops
For more than 135 years, the Boston Pops has entertained audiences in Boston and beyond, with current Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart leading the orchestra since 1995. It all began in 1885, thanks to the vision of Civil War veteran Henry Lee Higginson. Four years earlier, in 1881, he founded the Boston Symphony Orchestra, calling its establishment “the dream of my life.” From the start he intended to present, in the warmer months, concerts of light classics and the popular music of the day. From a practical perspective, Higginson realized that these “lighter” performances would provide year-round employment for his musicians. The “Promenade Concerts,” as they were originally called, were soon informally known as “Popular Concerts,” which eventually became shortened to “Pops,” the name officially adopted in 1900.
You can’t go wrong with any Pops Christmas album, no matter the conductor. From 2013…
According to the orchestra’s website, conductor “Keith Lockhart (1995-present) has made 81 television shows, led 45 national and four overseas tours with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, led the Pops at several high-profile sports events, and recorded twelve albums. Mr. Lockhart’s tenure has been marked by a dramatic increase in touring, the orchestra’s first Grammy nominations, the first major network national broadcast of the July 4 Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular from the Esplanade, and the release of the Boston Pops’ first self-produced and self-distributed recordings.”
That’s it for this week’s segment.
Have a great weekend.
Before I give you my #1 here are other noteworthy recordings, in no particular order:
Christmas With The Rat Pack
Cool Yule-US Air Force Airmen of Note
A Merry Mancini Christmas
Christmas Is … Percy Faith, His Orchestra and Chorus
Boogie Woogie Christmas-Brian Setzer Orchestra
The best in my view has the voice of the angels with lush arrangements.
“The best holiday albums have the Pavlovian effect of evoking a rosy glow of comfort, while the worst of them remind you of being trapped at the mall. Thankfully, Christmas Portrait is of the former, blanketing the audience in strings, horns, bells, and cherubic backup singers that borders on celestial.”
—Laura Stavropoulos of uDiscoverMusic, a global editorial platform owned and operated by Universal Music Group
1.The Carpenters -Christmas Collection
Contains both of their Christmas albums.
ENJOY OTHER CHRISTMAS MUSIC BLOGS!