Otis Redding - "Merry Christmas Baby" (White Christmas/Merry Christmas Baby single, 1968)
Way back in the days when Napster filesharing was all the rage, one of my co-workers burned everyone CD-Rs with a ton of Christmas MP3s on them as a Christmas gift. Many of them came from his own extensive Christmas collection, but judging by the quality, I’d have to say he… ahem… acquired the remainder of them from other sources. To this day, that collection makes up a large portion of my own Christmas music collection, although I have been systematically purchasing our favorites as stocking stuffers each Christmas. I still have quite a way to go. As for the song, it’s Otis Redding, and it’s soulful. What else is there to say?
Steven Curtis Chapman - "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing/The Music of Christmas" (The Music of Christmas, 1995)
At one point, Steven Curtis Chapman was my favorite CCM artist, and this particular Christmas collection is still one of mine and my wife’s favorites. It’s heavy on acoustic guitar, which I really like, although there’s still quite a bit of orchestration on it as well. This album opener starts with a familiar Christmas chorus but then segues into an original composition, one of several on the album, another aspect I really like about this disc. It’s a good mix of traditional and new (at the time) holiday songs.
Frank Sinatra - "Mistletoe and Holly" (A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra, 1957)
Hmm, I’m not super familiar with this one. It’s part of that same collection I mentioned earlier.
Bruce Mitchell Choir - “In the Bleak Midwinter” (Sleighride: World’s Most Beautiful Christmas Carols, 1998)
This comes from a 3-CD collection my wife and I acquired one Christmas early in our marriage. It contains mostly choral arrangements of carols and hymns, some of them really good, others not so much. This particular version is somewhere in the middle.
Amy Grant - "Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring" (Home for Christmas, 1992)
This arrangement of the Bach composition has a bit of a bluegrass-y flair in places and comes from another of my wife’s favorite Christmas albums.
The tree is up, the lights are on, the shopping is (mostly) done, and I’m finally in the mood for an all-Christmas Friday Five shuffle. Enjoy!
Bing Crosby - "Do You Hear What I Hear?" (I Wish You a Merry Christmas, 1962 rereleased in 2006 as Bing Crosby Christmas Classics)
Few others do Christmas as well as Bing. ‘Nuff said.
Sixpence None the Richer - "Angels We Have Heard On High" (The Dawn of Grace, 2008)
We go from a crooner to the sweet, wispy voice of Leigh Nash (although her vocal style can take a bit of getting used to). Sixpence reunited after a four-year hiatus to release this set of Christmas songs.
Elvis Presley - "I’ll Be Home for Christmas" (Elvis’ Christmas Album, 1957)
I almost wish this one had been “Blue Christmas,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” or “Santa Claus Is Back in Town” from the same album. Elvis definitely injected his own style into anything he did.
Phillips, Craig & Dean - "Go Tell It on the Mountain/Amen" (Repeat the Sounding Joy, 1996)
Upbeat, blue-eyed soul version of this old gospel spiritual by a CCM trio of pastors-turned-musicians.
Frank Sinatra - "I’ll Be Home for Christmas" (A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra, 1957)
Ol’ Blue Eyes’ take on this Christmas standard popularized by Bing Crosby is quite a bit different than the King’s interpretation, starting off like “Silent Night” before taking a left turn into the classic we all know and (should) love.