10 Essential Vinyl Records to Get You Into the Holiday Spirit
December is upon us, and with that, the holiday season is in full swing. Lights are being strung up, cookies are being baked, and presents arriving in the mail are being covertly smuggled into closets in advance of the big day. The thing that really heralds the arrival of the holiday season, to me at least, is the music. We hear it as we shuffle through the radio stations in our cars, or scroll through curated playlists on our favorite streaming services, but few things can beat the feeling of placing an album on the platter, dropping the needle, and hearing the familiar sounds of your favorite holiday record. Here are ten vinyl records you can always count on to conjure that feeling and get you ready for the holiday season.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)- Vince Guaraldi
A Christmas jazz classic, you’d be hard-pressed to go through the holiday season without hearing selections from this record. Tapped to compose the soundtrack to the accompanying television special, Guaraldi delivers classics like “Linus and Lucy”, which has morphed into the Peanuts theme song, and “Christmas Time Is Here.” He also includes his own take on holiday standards, such as his jazzy interpretation of “O Tannenbaum”, giving listeners an example of his marvelous pianism and creating a true holiday masterpiece.
Elvis’ Christmas Album (1957)- Elvis Presley
The best-selling Christmas album of all time for a reason. Elvis puts his spin on the holidays, lending his distinct voice to some Christmas standards, such as “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, as well as a few gospel songs. However, it’s his version of “Blue Christmas” that takes this record over the top, with the melancholy track remaining a holiday staple.
The Christmas Song Expanded Edition (1967)- Nat King Cole
There is perhaps no better record for conjuring the feeling of relaxing in front of the fire on a cold, blustery night than Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song. From the moment Cole’s voice comes through the speaker with “chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” there is an instant feeling of comfort and warmth. Cole follows the title track up with an album full of traditional carols sure to make you want to break out the egg nog.
The Andy Williams Christmas Album (1963)- Andy Williams
The perfect record for a Christmas cocktail party. Williams’ first Christmas album includes some pop standards, as well as traditional carols, with his boisterous voice and personality shining through. This record is best known, however, for Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, which has earned its spot as a classic in the holiday pantheon.
Merry Christmas (1994)- Mariah Carey
The self-proclaimed "Queen of Christmas", Carey mixes a selection of traditional carols with original music, but there's one standout in particular, and that's the ubiquitous "All I Want for Christmas Is You". Serving as something of a Christmastime bellwether, nothing is a greater incidcator of the holiday season than the chime of the jingle bells during the song's intro.
A Motown Christmas (1973)- Various Artists
A Motown Christmas is an all-star compilation, a true "who's who" of artists signed to Motown Records. This record kicks off with the Jackson 5's memorable rendition of "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town", followed up by selections from superstars of the day like Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Smokey Robinson, just to name a few. The Temptations' "Silent Night" proves to be a highlight in an incredibly impressive collection of music.
Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas (1960)- Ella Fitzgerald
True to form as the First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald dazzles on her first Christmas album. Her smooth, jazzy style is on display during classics like "White Christmas" and "Jingle Bells", while showcasing her vocal power during a more intimate performance of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". With a full brass band backing her, this is the perfect record for some holiday swinging.
Feliz Navidad (1970)- José Feliciano
José Felicano delivers an album of true Christmas classics, including a number of instrumental selections that feature his incredible skill as a flamenco guitarist. However, it's the title track that vaults this record into the territory of holiday royalty, with "Feliz Navidad" becoming one of the most played Christmas songs of all time. Feliciano has stated he was inspired to write the track, sung partially in Spanish, after missing celebrating Christmas with his family in his native Puerto Rico.
Christmas on Death Row (1996)- Various Artists
Death Row Records released this compilation album in 1996, bringing together some of the biggest artists in hip-hop and R&B to produce this staple of any hip-hop holiday celebration. While most of the tracks are traditional Christmas songs sung with an R&B twist, it's Snoop Dogg's opening track that steals the show. "Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto" was an instant classic and has made its way into any essential holiday playlist.
A Christmas Together (1979)- John Denver and the Muppets
Who would have thought John Denver and Miss Piggy could harmonize so well? This album was produced for an accompanying television special, but has become a holiday essential in its own right. "A Christmas Together" is an unabashedly fun record, mixing Denver's soulful tone with the absurdity and comedic elements of the Muppets. Where else can you find a version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" sung partially by Rowlf the Dog?