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Top 10 Christmas CDs

Updated on December 6, 2014

My picks for all time best

Ah, Black Friday. Some brave souls look forward to battling other shoppers for the perfect discounted gifts. Me, I get excited about dusting off our box of Christmas music.

I love good holiday music and have been collecting it for decades. Choosing 10 all-time favorite Christmas CDs for this lens was not easy. I had to focus hard and think, what 10 albums would I take to a desert island in December? Below, a diverse mix of Christmas CDs that made the cut.

(Rockin' Christmas card: KKG)

Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas

This is the granddaddy of Christmas albums in our family. An absolute classic. We trim the tree to Johnny's rich, warm voice every year. This CD was one of the first gifts I gave to my husband's family, before we were married. As stressful as the holidays can be, when this guy belts it out, it seems like nothing can go wrong.

 
Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas
Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas

Ella's voice crackles with energy and style. Santa, Rudolph & Frosty are all here for the kids--but done in the classiest way you'll ever hear. Adults will appreciate less-traveled tracks like "Good Morning Blues" and "What Are You Doing New Year's Day?" An aptly titled CD, this swings from start to finish.

 
A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector
A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector

I fretted over including this 1963 classic, in light of Phil Spector's recent murder conviction. But I couldn't leave it out. Honestly, it's one of the very best Christmas albums ever made. Spector's famed wall-of-sound style layers bells, percussion, and piano with powerhouse vocals from the likes of Darlene Love and the Ronettes. A must.

 
Christmas
Christmas

A haunting, atmospheric masterpiece and probably my all-time favorite nontraditional Christmas album. Low's minimalist style sheds a whole new light on chestnuts like "Little Drummer Boy," "Blue Christmas," and "Silent Night." Inspired originals round out the mix, from the instinctive joy of "Just Like Christmas" to the sobering "If You Were Born Today."

 

What's new in Christmas music for 2014?

There's an interesting mix of holiday releases this year, including offerings from Darius Rucker, Sara Evans, opera icon Renee Fleming and a capella stars Pentatonix. But TV- and film-inspired records could be a mini trend in the making, with Idina Menzel of Frozen fame throwing her hat in the holiday ring, along with the casts of Nashville and Downtown Abbey. In a nutshell -- something for everyone!

Charlie Brown Christmas
Charlie Brown Christmas

It's hard to believe that at one point I actually got sick of this album. One of my old roommates was a huge fan, and I probably heard it a few times too often. I'm over that now, and able to appreciate once more the jazzy genius of Vince Guaraldi. The vocal pieces have a nostalgic pull for me, after dozens of Charlie Brown Christmas special viewings. But the instrumentals are the tastiest treats, especially "Skating."

 
Barenaked For The Holidays
Barenaked For The Holidays

These Canadian popsters are known for their wit, and they don't disappoint here. My kids love the silliness of "Jingle Bells" (yep, Batman does indeed smell in this version) and "Deck the Stills." "I Saw Three Ships" fast-tracks me to the holiday spirit, as does "God Rest Ye/We Three Kings" (with Sarah McLachlan). The BNL cover of the 1984 famine-relief song "Do They Know It's Christmas?" is the best of many I've heard. The guys break the mold by mixing in several Hanukkah tunes, too. (If you've tried to create a soundtrack for a class holiday party, as I have, where half the kids are Christian and half Jewish, that alone is enough reason to buy this album.)

 
Wintersong
Wintersong

Sarah McLachlan wraps her lovely voice like a handmade blanket around a dozen holiday songs, 11 well-executed covers and one pretty original. I still prefer Joni Mitchell on "The River," but McLachlan holds her own--which is no easy feat. Bonus: When the school-break honeymoon's over and the kids start climbing the walls, this album will mellow them out.

 
Christmas
Christmas

Combine 3 parts rockabilly, 2 parts country, 1 part gospel & a splash of pop-rock. Stir with an Elvis swizzle stick and serve in a hula-dancer glass. YUM! Start to finish, Chris Isaak just seems to be having a blast on this album. Rarely can originals compete with classics on holiday disks, but Isaak pulls it off with panache. I love his melancholy "Washington Square," rockin' "Hey Santa," and intimate "Brightest Star."

 
Esquivel! Merry Xmas From the Space-Age Bachelor Pad
Esquivel! Merry Xmas From the Space-Age Bachelor Pad

When the backup singers twirp "zoot-zoot-doobee-wah," you know you're in for a kitschy treat. To say this is not your typical Christmas record is like saying Vegas ain't your typical American town. Wonder what it says about me (or my friends) that I received not one but two copies of this as Christmas gifts? 1950s/60s Mexican sci-fi lounge maestro Juan Esquivel kicks things off with a little flattery for you, the listener ("The cut of that suit is impeccable!"), then takes you on a 12-track carnival ride that's perfect for an offbeat holiday cocktail party. "Feliz Navidad, baby!"

 
Maybe This Christmas Tree
Maybe This Christmas Tree

There are more alt-Christmas compilations out now than you can shake a mistletoe branch at, but this one strikes a better balance--hip, yet festive--than some of its counterparts. Highlights: Ivy's languid "Christmas Time is Here," Death Cab for Cutie's earnestly tuneful "(Christmas) Baby Please Come Home," Polyphonic Spree's slightly otherworldly take on "Happy Xmas (War is Over)."

 

Sound off: What style?

What's your favorite Christmas music genre?

See results

Runners-Up

Any of these albums would be an awesome addition to your collection, too!

Christmas With the Beach Boys -- Prefer sand beneath your feet to snow? You need this.

The Best of BB King: Christmas Collection -- "Lucille" is deployed masterfully for the Christmas cause.

James Taylor at Christmas -- Perennial soundtrack of department stores in December -- but that doesn't make it any less loveable.

XFM: It’s a Cool Cool Christmas -- The two "cools" are justified, with tracks from the Flaming Lips, Belle & Sebastian, Eels, Calexico, Teenage Fanclub.....ahh....almost too much for the indie heart to take.

The Best of Louis Armstrong: Christmas Collection -- If Louis's not enough, check out the ladies: Dinah Washington, Peggy Lee, Eartha Kitt, Lena Horne. What a wonderful world.

Christmas With Sinatra and Friends -- Who can resist Sinatra, any time of year? Fast-track to a more glamorous era with this collection featuring Mel Torme, Tony Bennett and Rosemary Clooney.

Nat King Cole, Christmas for Kids: From One to Ninety Two `` Ultra-playful holiday album from one of the silkiest voices ever. Even "All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)" sounds classy, coming from Nat.

Chieftains Christmas: The Bells of Dublin -- One my hubby's faves, this Celtic-flavored classic features Marianne Faithful, Jackson Browne, Elivs Costello & other luminaries. I personally could do without Rickie Lee Jones on "O Holy Night," but the rest is rock solid.

James Brown’s Funky Christmas -- The sure cure if you've overdosed on somber hymns, family holiday drama, or Christmas cookies (dance 'em off!).

Where Will You Be Christmas Day? (compilation) -- Wasn't it Jeff Tweedy who reminisced about "the old, weird America" in music history? He'd enjoy this crazy-quilt of recordings from 1917 to 1959.

Are any of your favorites on my list? What musts did I neglect?

Comments

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    • verymary profile image
      Author

      Mary 4 years ago from Chicago area

      @anonymous: oh my gosh, I don't know the first group :( -- will need to check 'em out!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      The Johnny Mann Singers, Mitch Miller, Arthur Fiedler!

    • tedwritesstuff24 profile image

      TedWritesStuff 4 years ago

      How quickly does Xmas disappear.. only 363 days to go!

    • sheilamarie78 profile image

      sheilamarie78 5 years ago

      So many greats here! I love many of your choices but have found a couple of new-to-me classics I look forward to discovering. Thanks for your Christmas music selections. I love Christmas music.

    • profile image

      xtianfriborg13 5 years ago

      Classic Christmas music!!

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 5 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      Frank Sinatra is great, I also love Andy Williams, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, and Rosemary Clooney.

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      Christmas will be here before we know it!

    • nephthys lm profile image

      nephthys lm 6 years ago

      Jingle bells...

    • love4randomness1 profile image

      love4randomness1 6 years ago

      Cool lens! Squid-liked! Cheers :)

    • profile image

      smicks 6 years ago

      cool lens happy xmas :)

    • trektark lm profile image

      trektark lm 6 years ago

      Love Christmas Music!! Nice lens!

    • Doctone profile image

      Doctone 6 years ago

      Great selection of cd's

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

      I've got a couple of the CDs on your top Christmas CD list. Must check out the others! I've already seen Christmas merchandise in the stores and we'll be hearing Christmas music before we know it.

    • agoofyidea profile image

      agoofyidea 6 years ago

      I love the Spike Jones albums. They are funny Christmas songs. Nice lens.

    • DanMoriarity LM profile image

      DanMoriarity LM 6 years ago

      Nice lens. I especially liked the inclusion of the BNL album, one of my favourite albums by one of my favourite bands.

    • gbrettmiller profile image

      gbrettmiller 6 years ago

      Charlie Brown Christmas is the best, though I also like good rock Christmas CDs like Merry Axemass or Ho-Ho-Hoey.

    • Spartak LM profile image

      Spartak LM 6 years ago

      I love this lens - all the xmas classics at one place :)

    • wondersmoke lm profile image

      wondersmoke lm 6 years ago

      love it love it!

    • Nightowl John profile image

      Nightowl John 6 years ago

      Delivering Christmas Day blessings from a Squid Angel.

    • pyngthyngs profile image

      pyngthyngs 6 years ago

      The Jackson Five had a great Christmas album

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Have to say that even though I buy the new released albums still prefer the classics like Bing Crosby White Christmas etc

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      great lens, I love old christimas music.

    • GoPoochYourself profile image

      GoPoochYourself 7 years ago

      Good list. I'm not the biggest Christmas music fan, but I adore "A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector."

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 7 years ago

      Nice list, but I would add Leon Redbone! Yes, he did a Christmas album and I have it!

    • pcgamehardware profile image

      pcgamehardware 7 years ago

      Charlie Brown Christmas music And the Movies rule all.

      Great lens, A Like, A Share and A Roll with my Christmas Gift Ideas 2010 lens.

      Thanks for sharing this cool lens...

    • verymary profile image
      Author

      Mary 7 years ago from Chicago area

      @petermurray: not my style so much, but I read a great article about TSO in the Chicago Tribune that made me want to see one of their live shows! sounds like quite the experience.

    • MagpieNest profile image

      MagpieNest 7 years ago

      I didn't know Sarah Mclachlan had a Christmas CD. You've got some great choices in there.

    • petermurray profile image

      Peter Murray 7 years ago from Izmir, Turkey

      Great lens, but you have missed the Christmas Trilogy by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. See my lens at http://squidoo.com/trans-siberian-christmas.

    • Cath1125 profile image

      Cath1125 7 years ago

      Nice list

    • JackieBlock profile image

      Jackie Block 7 years ago from SE Michigan

      I have a few of these! Nice list. Thanks.

    • profile image

      GrinningFool 7 years ago

      Christmas Music is one of my favorite! Thanks for sharing.

    • kougar lm profile image

      kougar lm 7 years ago

      Great Holiday music lens. I might have to go buy some mp3s. Thank-you

    • verymary profile image
      Author

      Mary 7 years ago from Chicago area

      @anonymous: hi Stan! I do love the James Taylor album & play it a bunch. Never have been much of a Chicago fan, except for the name [ have lived in or near Chicago most of my life ;) ]

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Any list that does not include the James Taylor CD and Chicago CD is well just an incomplete list.

    • sarita garg profile image

      sarita 7 years ago from Hisar

      Great lens... Thanks for sharing...

    • profile image

      Yeti_Works 7 years ago

      Great lens! Quest helper!

    • noobeegin profile image

      noobeegin 7 years ago

      I personally love dean martin christmas songs. They are my favorite. However, Tony Bennett is a very close second.

    • Jhangora LM profile image

      Jhangora LM 7 years ago

      Like your selection. Thanx for the share.

    • profile image

      supermom_in_ny 7 years ago

      Wow. You have a lot of stuff here that I never heard of. So cool. I love to listen to new stuff. Tired of the same old Christmas music in all of the malls...

      Thumbs up for you!

      :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      You have a good selection here. Thumbs up.

    • profile image

      delawson734 7 years ago

      I'm glad to see Sarah MacLachlan's CD made your list. It is a great CD. I also like Jewel's Christmas CD.

    • chrissuard lm profile image

      chrissuard lm 7 years ago

      Great Choices, can't wait to go shopping and hear them in the stores.

    • EdTecher profile image

      Heidi Reina 7 years ago from USA

      What? No Mannheim Steamroller? Still a wonderful collection. I'll be sure to check out Ella's christmas music CD. Thanks for sharing it.

    • verymary profile image
      Author

      Mary 7 years ago from Chicago area

      @anonymous: hi Michael--I previewed your CD--pretty stuff! Can't part with any of my all-time top 10, but congrats on making such a nice album, and thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Hi Would you please give a listen to my 'Dashing Through the Snow" CD to see if you might considerate it for your 2010 list? http://michaeljohnhallmusic.com/music.html

    • Ceeshell profile image

      Ceeshell 8 years ago

      I had no idea that Low, Death Cab and The Polyphonic Spree had Christmas songs. It's nice that you featured cool Christmas albums for a wide variety of musical tastes.

    • Violin-Student profile image

      Violin-Student 8 years ago

      I love Gardiner's 3-disc set of Messiah, as well as Trans Siberian Orchestra's and Mannheim Steamroller's albums. I had the good fortune to play with TSO's stringmaster Mark Wood a couple times. Great fun. Great albums.

    • CrossCreations profile image

      Carolan Ross 8 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Loved many of these in the past, having a different feeling about the holidays these days and made a lens about a totally different type of xmas music that's kinda quirky and crazy - lensrolled it here, very nice page presentation! 5*s!

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Blessed, and featured, by a Christmas Angel (squidoo.com/angel-christmas)

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 8 years ago

      Nice! Will purchase the A Charlie Brown Christmas for my kids. They will definitely enjoy listening to the carols. Thanks for adding it on your list.

      Hope you could visit my lenses as well. Thanks again.

    • kerbev profile image

      kab 8 years ago from Upstate, NY

      Yay! Barenaked for the Holidays! I'm singing Elf's Lament all year long.

    • HorseAndPony LM profile image

      HorseAndPony LM 8 years ago

      Love the Christmas music. I am the same no shopping and out with the Christmas music. What a great lens. This has me excited for Christmas and it is not even Thanksgiving.

    • sheriangell profile image

      sheriangell 8 years ago

      Well my vote goes to Sarah McLachlan with her hauntingly beautiful voice. Great Lens!

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 8 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      love the lens, and my fave is Chris Isaak.

    • justholidays profile image

      justholidays 8 years ago

      Nice lens! Will lensroll to my Marvelous Xmas Songs and Carols!

      Dom.

    • capriliz lm profile image

      capriliz lm 8 years ago

      Great selections! I like the idea of Ella singing Christmas music.

    • MsSnow4 profile image

      Carol Goss 8 years ago

      Very nice lens, Music is my life. Thanks :)

    • momto4 lm profile image

      momto4 lm 8 years ago

      One of my favorite things about Christmas time is the music. Great top 10 list! I'll have to get the Charlie Brown cd. My kids would love it! 5*'s!!

    • squid-janices7 profile image

      squid-janices7 8 years ago

      Great list of CDs....I also love the Amy Grant holiday albums. Thanks and 5*!

    • SherryHolderHunt profile image

      SherryHolderHunt 8 years ago

      Super great music! See lots of my favorites here. 5*s

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      Lensroll to Using Lists to Lower Your Holiday Stress

      Lizzy

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      I'm so looking forward to Christmas. If my husband would let me, I would play the music year-round.

      Great lens

      Thanks for sharing.

      Lizzy

    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 8 years ago

      I love Christmas songs too. Actually could listen to em' all year long, if I could get away with it ;) Super list, most I had not heard of before. And your personal recommendations added real value to my visit here.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Very nice list! :)

    • verymary profile image
      Author

      Mary 8 years ago from Chicago area

      [in reply to stargazer00] Dianne, thank you for the cute border images I borrowed from you for this lens!

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 8 years ago

      I also love getting out my Christmas CDs after Thanksgiving. Well done.

    • profile image

      bdkz 8 years ago

      Great list here!

    • profile image

      bdkz 8 years ago

      Great list here!

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 8 years ago from Canada

      Nicely done; I love Christmas music in December.

    • seashell2 profile image

      seashell2 8 years ago

      Love Christmas Music... for a couple of months! :-) We like Michael W. Smith and 98 Degrees! Lots of others too! Fun lens!