Want to fill your house with great Christmas music, but maybe not the same old stuff you’ve listened to for decades? Or, do you want to know which timeless Christmas albums to avoid at all costs? Either way, we’ve got you covered.
The A side
Here are three newly released albums we think are worth your time.
Keith and Kristyn Getty
This live album’s 19 tracks radiate joy and worship. Most of the songs are familiar, but carry a fresh sound that’s part Celtic, part Nashville and part contemporary worship. (You have not heard Sleigh Ride until you’ve heard it played like a sea shanty on Celtic instruments, but also with banjos.)
The Gettys are a husband-and-wife hymn writing team who split their time between Nashville and their native Northern Ireland. This is their second live Christmas album, following 2015’s Joy — An Irish Christmas, which also became a PBS TV special.
One of today’s best songwriters / hymn writers turns her contemplative lyrics and storytelling to her first Christmas album. Joyful standards like Go Tell It on the Mountain and Joy to the World are here, but this album is a lot more than background music during Christmas dinner. On original songs like The Space Between, McCracken confronts loneliness and longing that can accompany the holidays.
“I hope for my music to help stir people to ask the important questions, to bring comfort and hope, and to help people sing together,” she told CCM Magazine. “A Christmas album is all the more reason to do just that.”
A retired Anglican priest and a church music director have written more than 50 hymns together since meeting in 2015. Now they turn their attention to Advent music with a collection of nine new hymns.
From their website:
“Music is vital to Christian worship. It’s no wonder, then, that music is near the heart of the worship wars. The generations divide along fault lines of stylistic preference. When music is commodified to serve the people, it becomes entertainment. Music is supposed to be a service of the people, not a service to the people. This paradigm shift will help us defer our own musical tastes in worship and to consider what makes others sing. It will take a willingness for mutual appreciation, but in time our hearts will blend into one. A church may even discover its own unique musical expression!”
The B Side
Christmas music runs the gamut. For every O Holy Night, there are dogs barking Jingle Bells. So, we listened to a few ill-advised efforts so you don’t have to. These albums make excellent white-elephant gifts, but that’s about all. The Bottom Five:
William Shatner: Shatner-Claus
Here’s Shatner’s dramatic reading of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to a group of uncomfortable-looking kids. It soon gives way to a musical ending we can’t even begin to explain.
Roseanne Barr sings the Christmas Classics
Asking the musical question: Why?
Michael Bolton: This is the Time / The Christmas Album
Holiday stylings from the man who sings like he’s caught in a hydraulic press. We include this pick to represent every famous singer who slapped together a Christmas album to hear the ring-ting-tingling of the cash register.
Star Wars: Christmas in the Stars
Amid bizarre songs about Wookies, 18-year-old John Francis Bongiovi sings R2D2 We Wish You and Merry Christmas. The future Jon Bon Jovi was paid $180 … which was $179 too much.
Jingle Cats: Meowy Christmas
If you love cats, this should put a stop to it. Here’s not-so Silent Night.
Jim Killam is a journalist, author, teacher and terminal Cubs fan. He and his wife, Lauren, live in Rockford and work internationally with Wycliffe Bible Translators.