I’m listening to Christmas carols and songs. Or is that redundant? I think of carols as being about Christ and his birth, and Christmas songs as being about the season and Christmas and trees and getting together with loved ones. Anyway, that started me thinking about which of the carols and songs are the best, the greatest, and which great ones are best versions sung by best singers. First, let me get rid of all the really irritating seasonal songs—out goes Elvis’s “Blue Christmas,” ditto for Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad,” and so long Gene Autrey’s “Rudolph,” bye bye Burl Ives’s “Frosty,” and now we can forget those irritating little kids who want two front teeth and saw Mommy kissing Santa, and most obnoxious of all, Randy Brooks’ “Gramma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”
Now, back to the best. I’d have to rank Mel Tormé’s “The Christmas Song” as the best and his the best version, although there are a bunch of others who have sung it well. “Jingle Bells” may be the most often sung, but it’s too much a jivey little thing to be considered a great song. And if you want to hear a really frenetic version of those bells, Barbra Streisand’s triple-tempo will grate on your nerves for the entire season. One of the least well known but best songs is by Faith Hill, “A Baby Changes Everything.” Then there’s the old Claude Thornhill band’s theme song, “Snowfall.” And the very best version of this one is by The Manhattan Transfer. So many of the songs we know and sometimes love have been sung by so many different artists, it’s hard to pick who’s the best. But here are some suggestions: “The Little Drummer Boy” by Faith Hill, “River” by either Dianne Reeves or Madeleine Peyroux, “I Wonder As I Wander” by Barbra Streisand, “Some Children See Him” by Kenny Loggins, “White Christmas” by--who else?--Bing Crosby, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ by Johnny Mathis, “The First Noel/Mary Mary” by Sarah McLachlan, and “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” by Andy Williams. Nearly every singer worth his/her salt (and some not worth even two grains) have put out at least one Christmas album. So, which do I recommend? I go old school and pick Sinatra’s oldie, Andy Williams’ oldie, and Barbra Streisand’s not so oldie. Everybody’s got an opinion. Let me know what you think.
I’ve included a YouTube selection by a YouTuber, some of which I agree with, some I don’t. Again, what do you think?