Discovering New Holiday Albums

Holiday recordings

Although I live in one of the prettiest spots in the world (hey - National Geographic said so so it must be true!) there is one drawback: sparsely populated places mean no malls. And no malls mean no holiday music. And no holiday music means no new holiday albums, so every year, we dust off the same ones again and again and play them non-stop for one day, and then file them away again.

This year, it's time for a change.

In the 'spirit' of the hunt, I've been browsing around for some interesting takes on the old classics.

First stop was Home Theater Hi Fi, where Music Reviewer Jason Victor Serinus has a list of Classical Holiday CD Reviews for the Audiophile that provided lots of great reading. In particular, he recommends A String Quartet Christmas, a three CD compilation that had gone out of print but is back on shelves now. The addition of a harp to a string quartet has me intrigued!

Next up, a visit to JC's favorite, AIX Records. Sure enough, they have a high-definition holiday album called "Surrounded By Christmas, on DVD-Audio. Listening to a sample of "Oh Tannenbaum" imagined as a jazz standard certainly put me in mind of holiday cocktails by the fire, and the almost-country-twang rendition of Jingle Bells was refreshing.

Being part Irish (the impish part, naturally!) I am always drawn to Celtic recordings, and in addition to the ones already getting annual play, I ran across The Chieftans' The Bells of Dublin on iTunes the other day. Maybe not audiophile quality recording, but their tracks The Skyline Jig and Past Three O'Clock almost danced right out of my Audiobytes and have the added advantage of not being on every other holiday album we own.

Those are a few of the holiday albums I'm looking at this season. How about you? Any recommendations? And do you take advantage of the extra time around the holidays to listen on vinyl, or are you in the car so much going from dinner to dinner that it's MP3 or bust?

Amie Colquhoun

2 Comment(s)
  • Ken.C

    As usual, I have to plug "A Toolbox Christmas" by Woody Philips. The idea sounds like a gag album, but it's well recorded and really enjoyable.
  • Andrew W

    Most of my Christmas listening is similar to yours: cherished alubums that are pulled out year after year.

    For the audiophiles out there:

    Star of Wonder - Reference Recordings
    I'm not sure if this was ever released on CD but it features some very nice choral renditions of Christmas favorites and some seriously deep organ pipes that will give your subwoofers a workout!

    Cantate Domino - Proprius
    An wonderful album of mostly European traditional tunes on the Swedish Proprius Records label. This album features some of the most realistic choral recording I've ever experienced. I suggest you seek it out!

    For the rest:

    Alligator Records Christmas Collection
    A wonderful disc full of unique blues based Christmas tunes. Just try and sit still while listening to this one!

    A Very She & Him Christmas
    Finally a new Christmas album that's different from the usual. The duo of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward show us that there is life left in the traditional tunes while adding a number of unique new additions. For the record fans out there (like me) it's pressed on red vinyl. Too cool!

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