This Vandersluys household has a semi-closed canon of Christmas music. Here are our favourites, in order of play time:
1. A Charlie Brown Christmas – The Vince Gauraldi Trio
This is the hands-down winner. Some days the first thing we do when we get up is shuffle over to the stereo and press “play” (A Charlie Brown Christmas already being in the cd-player). When I remember, I will set the stereo to “repeat all”, such that the soundtrack will play indefinitely. The trio’s warm, smooth jazz really marks Christmas (in the sense of “the holiday season”) for us.
2. Christmas – Bruce Cockburn
Bruce Cockburn is one of a handful of artists whom Dixie and I wholeheartedly agree on, and this is a Cockburn classic. It combines sacred music with artistic skill. He takes sacred Christmas standards and puts his own stamp on them. It’s a quality album.
I think it’s fair to say that there is a wide gap, in terms of air-play, between the first two and what follows. But don’t let that fool you, as they are all quality albums
3. Feast of Seasons – Steve Bell
For similar reasons as the Cockburn album, though Steve Bell includes original material as well.
4. Do You Hear…: Christmas with Heather, Cookie and Raylene Rankin (of the Rankin Family)
The opening song–“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”–is what does it for me, but the rest of the album is top-notch as well. Lots of tight harmonies. It’s Christmas with an East Coast Gaelic twist.
5. A Prairie Home Christmas – Garrison Keillor (and the whole Prairie Home Companion gang)
This one was added to the canon last Christmas. Warm, funny, sometimes sacred. A mix of carols, humourous songs, and comedy sketches on 2 CDs. Our kids particularly enjoy the sound-effects version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.
• Child – Jane Siberry. Dixie is a huge Jane Siberry fan. I have mixed feelings. She has moments of brilliance musical beauty and moments of eye-raising oddness. At any rate, this is a 2-disc live Christmas album.
Confession: the live version of her song “Hockey”, which is on this album, once made me cry.
• Christmas with James Last – James Last
For purely nostalgic reasons. It gets nothing but eye-rolls and mockery from Dixie, but I better make sure the record gets some airtime this year. Maybe I should download it from emusic.com.