Midway through her 12 Days of Christmas Music project, my true love asked, "Do you really believe that older Christmas music is always the best Christmas music?"
"I don't know that I'd put it quite so baldly as that," I answered , happy to be back in the role of Mr. Music Expert. "But since tradition comprises a large part of the Christmas tradition, it's only natural to prefer the albums you've heard year after year." "OK, then," she said. "What would be your 10 favorite older Christmas albums?"
Picking up a note pad, I wandered over to the CD shelves, and scribbled a few things down. Then, after some internal debate and a lot more scribbling, I handed her the following list:
1. King's College Choir, "Christmas at King's" (London 430 146) recorded 1959-'65. A classic English choral collection; the more recent "O Come All Ye Faithful" (Argo 414 042, from 1984) is a close second.
2. "A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector" (Phil Spector 4005) recorded in 1963. Nobody has done rock and roll Christmas better.
3. Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra, "Pops Christmas Party" (RCA 61685) recorded 1959-1964. A perfect mix of orchestral carols and light classics.
4. Wall Matthews, "The Heart of Winter" (Clean Cuts 710) recorded in 1988. Acoustic guitar carols that are long on atmosphere without being short on melody.
5. The Ventures, "The Ventures' Christmas Album" (EMI 94994) recorded in 1966. Surf guitar Christmas? Cowabunga!
6. Liz Story, "The Gift" (Windham Hill 11151) recorded in 1994. What Wall Matthews does for guitar, Story does for New Age piano.
7. London Brass, "Christmas with London Brass" (Teldec 46443) recorded in 1990. A golden collection of brass choir carols.
8. John Fahey, "The New Possibility: John Fahey's Guitar Soli Christmas Album" (Rhino 71437) recorded in 1968. Steel-string guitar that plays like a music box.
9. Ella Fitzgerald, "Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas" (Mobile Fidelity 586) recorded in 1960. The perfect jazz Christmas album.
10. Bruce Cockburn, "Christmas" (Columbia 53026) recorded in 1993. Lustrous traditional carols and a few less-familiar gems.