Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Best Christmas Album Ever

Let's face it...I've completely fallen off the blogging wagon. But now it's Christmastime and the season has reinvigorated me. Just like I did last year, every post from now until the New Year will have a Christmas theme. This year, I will focus specifically on sharing the best Christmas music, movies and Web sites with anyone who might come across my blog (or actually reads it when I actually post). Hopefully this will also get me to post more frequently. We'll see...

To get things started, I want to recommend the best Christmas album of all time: Harry Connick Jr.'s When My Heart Finds Christmas. The album was released in 1993 and is the most enduring legacy of Connick's career. It's also currently about $4 on Amazon, so do yourself a favor and buy it right now.

Harry Connick Jr. fancies himself a latter-day Frank Sinatra and his belting voice and swingin' big band do an admirable job transporting you back to the old school sound of Old Blue Eyes, which is exactly what you want in a Christmas album. In addition to interpreting classics like Sleigh Ride, he also writes some awesome original carols, culminating in the epic (It Must've Been Ol') Santa Claus, perfectly performed in his native New Orleans-jazz style. When my family first bought the cassette of this album, we would keep rewinding this song (remember rewinding?) and playing it over and over again.

One of my other favorite tracks is a song that rarely appears on Christmas albums, which is probably because it's technically not a Christmas song. Nevertheless, Connick's version of What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? is the definitive version of that song in my mind--even surpassing Sinatra's attempt.

Harry Connick Jr. has since released two more Christmas albums, but they can't live up to his original masterpiece. Harry for the Holidays has its moments (check out The Christmas Waltz), but his much-anticipated (by me) 2008 Christmas album--What A Night!--is a pretty big letdown. It lacks the charming arrangements and big band bravado of When My Heart Finds Christmas and the original songs are pretty wretched. I guess I can forgive him though, considering the undeniable greatness of When My Heart Finds Christmas. When you peak early, it's hard to top yourself.

So what's your vote for Best Christmas Album Ever?


Chris said...

Did you know the first album employed a 70-piece orchestra? I think that's why "O Come All Ye Faithful" on the new one sounds like it belongs in an elevator on the Death Star.

Joezilla said...

"Elevator in the Death Star"...that itself could be the name of an album someday.

I like the term "Big Band Bravado." Very descriptive, I may just have to use it sometime myself!

P.S.: I still haven't had the guts to listen to anything but the best from "What a Night!" yet.