The Impossible Task of Finding a Good Christmas CD

When faced with the possibility of actually paying cash, money that we have worked hard to earn, for a CD of Christmas music my wife and I found that picking out a quality collection of Christmas songs is far more difficult than we could have imagined. While the songs are mixed on a radio, there are hits and misses, and even the classics have a wholly pleasant ring for the two or three minutes they are crooned by an old standby such as Crosby or Sinatra.

All of this changes at the prospect of purchasing a whole CD with nothing but ONE KIND of Christmas music.

Perhaps I aim too high, but if I’m spending money on a CD, I want to enjoy at least half of the music. A quick scan of the titles selected for most CDs ends up in classifications such as too sappy, too traditional, too brainless, too ditzy, and the list goes on. I’m like Goldilocks looking for a CD with the right musical temperature.

I have to confess that I just can’t stand Silent Night. There I said it. If you drag me into a church, stick a candle in my hand, and wave a flame in front of my face I may get into the spirit, but don’t count on it. Julie and I don’t mind the Christmas classics, but we still could not stomach the thought of sap poured out in such quantities. We initiated an all-out search of Amazon.com.

We searched and found that Christmas music can be classified in the following categories:

– The aforementioned classics.

– Pop Christmas music by today’s “stars” who are probably forgotten by the time the CD is released. These are the inexcusable compilation CDs with tons of “contemporary” holiday music that could make a cat gag (or a rabbit in our case).

– Twilight albums by former stars. Once a performer runs out of gas, a Christmas album is produced on fumes. Johnny Cash, who had two or three twilights in his roller coaster career, produced nine Christmas CDs. Not counting live and studio albums, U2 has only produced eleven records…period. No Christmas CD yet.

– Instrumentals with all of the great tunes, but none of the lyrics. I think this may be the only way we can enjoy Christmas music on a regular basis in our home.

We ended up purchasing a collection of 20 Celtic Christmas Favorites. It’s not bad. There is a blend of older Christmas songs and some from the past 100 years or so. I played it while washing the dishes last night and it worked. We’ll see if I’m still saying that three weeks from now.

Of course the obvious solution is to listen to Christmas music over the radio … oh, but we don’t get decent reception of ANY radio stations in our little mountain valley. Ah, but there is always internet radio? Yes, but there is no high speed internet infrastructure in our neighborhood. We have satellite internet and online streaming there is about as efficient as writing on a slab of rock.

And so, we are stuck with our Christmas CDs.

7 thoughts on “The Impossible Task of Finding a Good Christmas CD

  1. Adam Malliet

    Some Christmas CD recommendations:

    Sufjan Stevens: Songs for Christmas – this is 5 discs of christmas music… orignals, traditional, instrumentals. Seriously, I listen to these cds all month. (http://asthmatickitty.com/music.php?releaseID=63)

    Over the Rhine: Darkest Night of the Year and/or Snow Angels – beautiful, really. Listen to Snow Angels here: (http://www.overtherhine.com/recordplayer/recordplayer.html)

    Low: Christmas – Dark brooding Christmas music, good advent music from some awesome Mormons.
    (http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Low/dp/B00003G1P3)

  2. Jesse Joyner

    Ed,

    Sarah and I love this CD:

    The Canterbury Cathedral Choir: A Choral Christmas (2002)

    1 O Come, All Ye Faithful (Adeste fidelis) (2:49)
    2 Gabriel’s Message (Basque) (2:42) arranged by Willcocks
    3 How Far Is It to Bethlehem? (Children’s Song of the Nativity) (Tune: Stowey) (English) (2:13)
    4 O come, O come, Emmanuel (Veni, veni, emmanuel), carol (2:59)
    5 Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht (Silent Night) (3:15)
    6 Unto Us Is Born A Son (Puer nobis nascitur; Piae Cantiones, 1582) (1:57)
    7 The infant King (Basque) (2:21) arranged by Willcocks
    8 In dulci jubilo (Piæ Cantiones) (3:20)
    9 Personent Hodie (On this day Earth shall ring) (Piae Cantiones) (2:28)
    10 Ding Dong! Merrily on High (French) (2:05)
    11 Angels From the Realms Of Glory (3:16)
    12 Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day (English) (1:47)
    13 The Holly and the Ivy (English) (2:58)
    14 Masters in This Hall (2:18)
    15 We Three Kings of Orient Are (3:59)
    16 God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen (English) (3:20)
    17 Seven Joys of Mary (English) (2:55)
    18 Hark! the Herald Angels Sing (adapted by W. H. Cummings from Mendelssohn’s Festgesang for the Gutenberg Festival) (3:07) arranged by Willcocks
    19 In dulci jubilo (Piæ Cantiones) (3:41)

    I got the list of tracks from this website which also tells about the CD:
    http://www.bestprices.com/cgi-bin/vlink/096741036422?source=GBase

  3. ed Post author

    Thanks Jesse.

    Choral music, eh? I don’t know about that. I’ll have to give it a listen. Julie may like it.

  4. Sprechfam

    Look for CDs with covers of any of the Alfred Burt Carols. The Singers Unlimited is an acapella group that does a good version.

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