The Unrecognized Albums of Christmas

from Issue 9

Of course, you know I would have to come out with an article touching on some of my favorite Christmas albums. In a season totally overshadowed by “Mistletoe” or “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” people tend to forego other, maybe more obscure records that should receive a bit more clout. Here are the four that highlight my Christmas season annually without fail.

A Christmas Album, Amy Grant. Released in 1983, the LP starts simply enough with the ballad “Tennessee Christmas,” but in true eighties fashion, it escalates quickly with the addition of an orchestra and an abundance of synthesizers, culminating in a glorious fanfare after a rollercoaster of ballads and rockers. The album features Michael W. Smith on piano and vocoder and her then-husband Gary Chapman as a producer and guitarist.

HIGHLIGHTS: “Preiset Dem Konig! (Praise the King!),” “Heirlooms.”

Breath of Heaven: A Christmas Collection, Vince Gill. 1998 saw this album as the second Christmas album that Gill released. Ironically enough, he did not play the guitar for this album, opting instead to add an orchestra and choir to his distinct voice. While mostly a country Christmas album, some tracks focus on jazzier and more choral arrangements.

HIGHLIGHTS: “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “A Cradle in Bethlehem.”

A Christmas Album, James Taylor. Released in 2004 through Hallmark, James Taylor’s CD has absolutely nothing to do with Amy Grant’s. After October Road in 2001, Taylor decided to become more diverse in the recording of A Christmas Album. From the jazzy “Winter Wonderland” to the harder-rocking “Jingle Bells,” listeners will find themselves enveloped in all styles that make the legendary artist legendary. The record was re-released in 2006 as At Christmas, omitting “Deck the Halls,” adding four other songs, and changing the track order.

HIGHLIGHTS: “Deck the Halls,” “Some Children See Him.”

If on a Winter’s Night…, Sting. After a reunion tour with the rock band The Police (“Every Breath You Take”), Sting recorded the folk-heavy, medieval-tinged, fifteen-song album that may not seem like a Christmas album at first due to its obscure references to Christmas. However, by the end of an album, it can only be clear that Sting expresses his Christmas wishes a little differently.

HIGHLIGHTS: “Soul Cake,” “There Is No Rose of Such Virtue,” “Balulalow.”

Take a poke around your local flea market and try to find these on CD or LP. You will not regret the adventures on which they take you.