'Tis the Season: 10 More Essential Vinyl Records for the Holidays
Last year, we covered some of our favorite records to listen to during the holiday season, from the warm pianism of Vince Guaraldi to Mariah Carey's whistle tones. Nothing heralds the arrival of the holidays like the sounds of our favorite holiday songs. After all, how many holidays have their own genre of music? There's something about the warmth, the nostalgia, and the familiarity that makes holiday music special. With that in mind, here are some more of our favorite holiday vinyl records.
On their Christmas album, the Beach Boys put a sunny California spin on the winter holiday. Recorded as the band reached the height of their surf rock image, the record features a few holiday classics like "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "Auld Lang Syne," but its the original compositions where the band really shines. "Little Saint Nick" in particular has become a holiday staple in its own right, receiving heavy radio airplay to this day.
Alicia Keys has become renowned through her career for her incredible talent. How many other artists can sing the way she can, compose her own music, and demonstrate virtuoso skill on the piano? Santa Baby is her first Christmas album, a combination of holiday standards and original songs like "December Back 2 June," a fun, funky R&B track destined for classic status.
Shotgun Willie was the face of Outlaw Country when he released Pretty Paper in 1979, an album featuring a mix of Christmas standards and a couple of new compositions. Willie's gentle voice is a welcome change of pace from the typical crooner sound, providing a new spin on well-known tracks. The title song, originally recorded by Roy Orbison, has become a must-have on any holiday playlist.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra began as a side project featuring members of the progressive metal band Savatage, but quickly gained popularity as its own entity. Their debut album is essentially a Christmas rock opera, telling the story of an angel in search of Christmas kindness. However, unlike many Christmas stories, this one is told with headbanging and blistering, neoclassical guitar solos.
The kind of record you think about when you picture sitting by the fire with a blanket and your drink of choice. Jazz piano legend Dave Brubeck is the only musician featured on the album, a collection of solo piano pieces. Brubeck had always been known more for his phrasing than flashiness, which especially apparent on the original composition, "To Us Is Given."
When you're a musician as accomplished as Cher, all that really remains is checking boxes. Christmas is Cher's first Christmas album, and she pulls out all the stops, collaborating with other legends like Stevie Wonder and Darlene Love. The lead single, "DJ Play a Christmas Song," is the holiday track of 2023, owing largely to Cher's iconic voice.
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The announcement of a Backstreet Boys Christmas record led to collective millennial euphoria. After a pandemic driven interruption, A Very Backstreet Christmas dropped in 2022, featuring two entirely original tracks. The highlight is the boys' cover of "Last Christmas," putting a boy band-y twist on the Wham! classic.
For many years, Sufjan Stevens went into the studio to record Christmas EPs that he would then distribute to friends and family as Christmas presents. These were never released to the public until Stevens compiled them all in a box set for us to hear. Stevens has become well-known as one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, and that's more than apparent on original tracks like "Sister Winter" and "Put the Lights on the Tree."
Herb Alpert had become well-regarded for his ability to bring jazz into the mainstream, rattling off a series of top five albums in an era when rock music dominated the charts. Alpert's brand of easy listening resonated with audiences, and his Christmas album was a welcome hit. The record features arrangements of popular holiday tunes, and "Las Mañanitas" is a particular standout, an example of Alpert's reverence for Latin jazz.
Having already released two standout Christmas albums, Dolly Parton went for the hat trick in 2020, releasing A Holly Dolly Christmas, as well as a television film entitled Christmas on the Square, which she also scored. A Holly Dolly Christmas is loaded with holiday classics, and features Dolly collaborating with the likes of Miley Cyrus, Willie Nelson, and even Jimmy Fallon. Parton, as adept a songwriter as there has ever been, wrote several original tracks for both the record and film.
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