By Jim Fusco:
I love traditions. If there’s one thing you must learn about me, it’s that. I get unreasonably upset when someone tries to break my time-honored traditions. So, every year, I painfully wait until the day after Thanksgiving to listen to Christmas music. And, if you must learn a second thing about me, it’s that I LOVE Christmas music. Christmas songs are synonymous with family traditions. And here, I will give you a good rundown of all my favorite Christmas albums and songs, plus a little section on why I love Christmas music so much.
How Can Someone Love Christmas Music So Much?
Many people I talk to really don’t like Christmas music all that much, especially around December 26th. But, I have a few reasons why I love it so much. First, I make sure that I do not listen to any Christmas songs at all before the day after Thanksgiving. Why? Because it’s more special that way. I don’t get sick of Christmas music because I refuse to get into the spirit too early (like in October, as you see in all the malls). So, when the day after Thanksgiving comes and I get up super-early for those amazing sales, I’m all too giddy to play my first Christmas song of the season. And by January 1st, I’m usually pretty bummed about the fact that I have to wait another 11 months to hear my favorite tunes again.
Another thing I love about Christmas music: for the most part, they’re all happy! And even if they’re not happy (like Nat King Cole’s “The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot”), they have hope. After listing to that song, I can only imagine that the “little boy”‘s mother re-marries and that boy has some happy Christmases ahead. I really don’t like sad songs. I mean, when I listen to music, I want to feel good. Give me a song about keeping the summer alive and a good guitar solo and I’m a happy person. And the innocence that you hear when the Beach Boys sing on their Christmas album- no drugs, no craziness, just kids singing and playing some really joyful tunes. You can’t listen to “The Beach Boys Christmas Album” without a smile on your face.
Christmas music is also timeless. It’s the one genre of music that crosses all style and age boundaries. You’ll hear teenagers singing to Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” and you’ll hear my parents rocking-out to “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band-Aid. What a season…
So, now you have some insight as to why I love Christmas music so much. But, you may be wondering- with all the Christmas albums and songs out there, what’s any good? Well, I’m taking a big leap here and making a Top 10 list of each of my favorite Christmas songs and Christmas-themed albums. It’s going to be tough, but here it goes:
Jim Fusco’s Top 10 Christmas Songs:
- The Little Saint Nick- The Beach Boys: Even though I love the song at #2, this classic Beach Boys tune gets the top prize. It even won “Best Original Christmas Song” on our radio station, WCJM. The tune to this song is great, the harmonies are tight, and Mike Love’s vocals are spot-on. The instrumentation is sparse (it’s actually the Beach Boys playing the instruments), but that makes me love it more- it’s truly a band effort. And, I have inside information proving that Brian actually wrote the lyrics!
- Santa Claus Is Back In Town- Elvis Presley: Hands-down, this is the coolest Christmas song ever. Over 50 years later, and this song still rocks. The groove, Elvis’ lead, the Jordanaires backing vocals, and that amazing piano solo prove that this song was ahead of its time. This is not only one of my favorite Christmas songs, but one of my favorite all-around songs, as well.
- Baby Please Come Home- Darlene Love: The Phil Spector Christmas Album (“A Christmas Gift For You”) is an amazing album, as you’ll see it in my Top 10 list of best Christmas albums below. I love many of the songs on that record, but the final song, “Baby Please Come Home”, just wraps it all up (no pun intended). Darlene’s soaring vocals and that classic Spector production give me chills every time I hear it.
- Don’t Need A Reindeer- The Moody Blues: I know, you’ve never heard of this song. But, trust me- you’re missing out. Off of their Christmas album from just a few years ago, this song has everything I love: a great tune, a good beat, great vocals, and a happy message. Please, do yourself a favor and buy a copy of this song!
- Merry Christmas Darling- The Carpenters: Most people who know my musical tastes know that I’m not the biggest fan of female singers. But, you’ll notice that there are three songs sung by women on this list! And, again, that’s what makes Christmas music so amazing- it crosses all boundaries of musical styles. In this case, I LOVE Karen Carpenter’s voice. She doesn’t do too much. The chords are great in this song, too. Why isn’t it #1? One word: “Christmas-ing”.
- Elf’s Lament- Barenaked Ladies: Okay, I’ll admit that I wanted to put “Footprints” here, but that’s a sad song, albeit great. Anyway, “Elf’s Lament” is such a fun song and gets you in the spirit very quickly.
- On Christmas Day- Brian Wilson: I can’t tell you why I love this song so much. But, it’s just got a great tune, great vocals, and interesting chord changes. Brian sounds so young in this recording, even though he was in his mid-sixties. I wonder if anyone else notices the striking similarities between this song and “Bells of Paris” from M.I.U.?
- Winter Holidays- America: Dewey Bunnell has such a gift of combining crazy inversions of chords and coming up with some off-beat songs. This Christmas tune is a not only a nice song, but gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling at the same time.
- Hey Santa!- Carnie & Wendy Wilson: Why is this song on the list? Well, the late-80’s cameo by Carl Wilson was certainly a factor. The ending of this song is so great. This is another example of women who don’t do too much with their vocals- they just sing the song. And even though this song gets a bad rep, you still gotta admit it’s a catchy tune.
- Run Rudolph Run- Chuck Berry: I don’t so much love this recording (Chuck sounds like he’s really phoning-it-in on this record), but I love the song. It’s classic Chuck Berry style and has some pretty nifty guitar work going on. I really started loving this song once we played it in concert and I got to do the nifty guitar work!
Jim Fusco’s Top 10 Christmas Albums of All Time:
- Elvis Presley’s Christmas Album (1957- recorded in two days and only 6 songs, but man, this album rules)
- The Beach Boys Christmas Album (everything from Al’s first lead vocal to Brian’s first solo performance)
- A Christmas Gift For You from Phil Spector
- Holiday Harmony- America
- Barenaked For the Holidays- Barenaked Ladies
- December- The Moody Blues
- What I Really Want for Christmas- Brian Wilson
- Our Christmas Gift To You- Chris, Jim, and Mike (that’s US!)
- What’s It Gonna Be, Santa?- Chicago
- I Wanna Be Santa Claus- Ringo Starr
I hope you’ve enjoyed my commentary and my lists. I hope to edit these as the holiday season goes on- remember, I’m doing this from memory, as I haven’t listened to any Christmas music yet this year! So, I’ll update the post as I see fit. Who knows, maybe Dylan’s new Christmas album will make the list! Yeah, and I hear Elvis is coming back to life this year, too… 🙂