Around this time of the year, one of my favorite things to do is kicking back to Christmas music. Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas is the one that I return again and again each Christmas season. That “Linus and Lucy” joint gets me every time. In addition, “Christmas is Coming” and “O Tannenbaum” bring out the holiday spirit in me. This year, the album gets a remastered release, which I am more than excited to revisit this classic. Gosh, I love the trio’s delightful swing. I can listen to this album all the way to 2014, but there are additional Christmas releases this year as well.
A Mary Christmas from Mary J. Blige brings out the soulful vibe from the hip-hop-r-&-b queen, especially “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “Mary, Did You Know?” The standout track has to be “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Who would have imagine that MJB could swing? Not only she could swing, but she could also scat. The track ends with MJB saying, “Man, that was fun.” There is no doubt she was having a blast recording this tune.
While MJB’s take on “My Favorite Things” is tasteful and laid-back, Kelly Clarkson’s swings it up in her new Christmas release titled Wrapped In Red. Clarkson has a few flavors on her Christmas covers and a few exceptional include country blues “Blue Christmas,” jazzy “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (a duet with Ronnie Dunn) and soothing “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”
Whereas Mary J. Blige’s and Kelly Clarkson’s album are straightforward and jolly, Nick Lowe brings wit and subtlety to his Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family. “Christmas at the Airport” brings out the sentiment of traveling during the holidays. The track that has been on repeat for five or six times straight while on the road is “The North Pole Express.” Our two-year-old Dan has been watching The Polar Express the time he wakes up until the night he goes to sleep. Both Dao and Dan love “The North Pole Express.” Every time Dan hears this song, the first thing that comes out of his mouth would be, “All aboard.”
It’s not a coincident that “Silent Night” appears on all three albums. Lowe’s rock, up-tempo rendition is not doing the tune the justice. MJB’s version has the Spanish verse with Marc Anthony and it doesn’t sound quite right either. As much as I appreciate the new flavors on Lowe’s and MJB’s, I still prefer the classic approach from Kelly Clarkson. She just delivers the tune with her big voice backing up by a choir. That alone does the trick.
As for the past Christmas records, I still enjoy the eccentricity of Jingle All The Way from Bela Fleck and The Flecktones, the joyfulness of Christmas with the Puppini Sisters, the tasteful Christmas Songs from Diana Krall, the soothing Jazz Piano Christmas from Beegie Adair Trio and multicultural mixtures of Joy to The World from Pink Martini. Damn, that’s a lot of Christmas records. The good thing is that I have a whole month to enjoy them.