You're on one side of the holly-and-ivy, Christmas music fence, or you're grimacing, arms folded on the other....or, yes, you're that one standing on the rails above, belting out the tunes on road trips and light-viewing expeditions, caroling even though you don't have the foggiest idea what wassail or figgy pudding is or why Jesus and Mary came sailing in on ships of three.
Those of us belting out the Christmas tunes ( starting in November) have our favorite songs performed by favorite artists, and we won't hesitate to defend what we believe is the "greatest rendition". Here are some of my favorite holiday songs and Christmas carols sung by both contemporary and legendary performers:
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas"
I think a great vocal gift is especially highlighted by simple and restrained arrangements, and this is how I feel about The Sinatra Christmas Album. I asked to borrow it from a teacher in middle school after I found a cassette version while helping to clean her home office. I have good memories of listening to it by the Christmas tree, Sinatra's voice making me feel more than a little wistful during these two beautiful songs especially.
Listening to Buble's voice is like being wrapped in layers of silk: soft, luxurious and soothing.
Want to become wistful again while at the same time feeling comforted by a favorite uncle? Listen to Taylor and his guitar.
"Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire"
Nat King Cole
Who can beat that voice, like clouds of perfectly whipped cream on a satiny custard pie? With this song, no one can.
Oh, am I mentioning this gentleman again? The silk thing, you know.
I think my dad believes there was never a woman blessed with a finer voice than Karen Carpenter. He may very well be right. If Buble's voice is silk, then Carpenter's is lush velvet.
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings"
Barenaked Ladies with Sarah Maclachlan
If you were stranded at a mountain cabin for the holidays with talented musicians and great vocalists and everyone pulled out their instruments and began to sing carols, this is what it would sound like. The arrangement and tempo are interesting, and of course Maclachlan's voice is absolutely captivating and gorgeous on "We Three Kings". It is one of my favorite versions of any Christmas song or medley ever.
"O Holy Night"
I once cried over a glass of wine when Dion's version came over the radio after supper. My husband and I were in the dining room, overhead lights low, the advent wreath lit in the center of our table.
Dion does this classic carol justice, avoiding vocal acrobatics that dilute the lyrics. The choir of children in the background only amplifies her annunciation of its message. It's a crystalline version.
Was there ever a man born with richer resonance in his voice? There's a reason we will listen to Crosby sing "White Christmas" every year.
Yes, it will always remind you of Home Alone, but have you encountered a more whimiscal version, one that makes you feel this peppy and carefree while listening to a group of singers with such vastly different but complementary tones? I haven't. They had me at doo-wop!