Every year at Christmas I get tired of hearing the same holiday songs over and over – everywhere I go. I rarely like any music that is “played out.” However, on Christmas morning, I enjoy listening to Christmas tunes that are sung by some of my favorite artists. I usually wake up and put music on before waking my son. Previous Christmas’s have been filled with seasonal music from Louis Armstrong, Bright Eyes and of course The Chipmunks. This year I thought it would be fun, considering my topic, to find holiday albums by female musicians, some of whom I was familiar with and some I was not. After much extensive research, the following is a list I have compiled of my favorite holiday albums by female musicians/performers, in no specific order:
1. Tori Amos, Midwinter Graces
After making music for nearly twenty years, Tori Amos released her first seasonal album and 11th studio album in November of 2009. Midwinter Graces comprised mostly of traditional songs, also includes five original tracks by Amos (not including bonus tracks). The cover songs also include original lyrics by Tori Amos. This album is amazing, I am a long time fan of Tori and this album is all Tori. It’s what one would expect from a Tori Amos holiday album. It’s beautiful, melodic and enchanting. It’s perfect for those who are tired of traditional Christmas/holiday albums.
2. Sarah McLachlan, Wintersong
Released October of 2006, Wintersong includes such classics as “What Child is This? (Greensleeves),” “Silent Night,” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” The album also includes “River” a Joni Mitchell cover, “Happy X-Mas (War is Over)” John Lennon and Yoko Ono cover and a cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Song for a Winter’s Night.” List maker Diana Krall is also featured playing the piano on the last track “Christmas Time is Here.” This is another enthralling album from a captivating songstress.
3. Celtic Woman, A Christmas Celebration
Also released in 2006, this ethereal album contains breathtaking holiday classics like my favorite “Carol of the Bells” as well as “Silent Night,” “Away in a Manger” and the angelically sung “Wexford Carol.” A Christmas Celebration is the second album from Celtic Woman. At its inception, it took the #1 position on the World Music Charts, moving Celtic Woman’s self-titled first album to the #2 position after 68 weeks.
4. Ella Fitzgerald, Wishes You a Swinging Christmas
This jazzy Christmas album, recorded in 1960 and backed by a studio orchestra, is lively and vivacious. The album stays true to jazz in that it steps away from the traditional Christmas albums that are often times considered dull and monotonous. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman” and “Let it Snow!” are energetic favorites on this album full of spirited classics.
5. Diana Krall, Christmas Songs
In her first studio album with a big band, Diana Krall croons “Winter Wonderland” and “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” as well as ten other classics. This soulful album is a must for celebrating the holiday season.
6. Judy Garland, Christmas Through the Years
Judy Garland’s first stage performance, at 2 ˝, was during a Christmas show at her father’s theatre when she sang “Jingle Bells” with her sisters. It’s only appropriate that this compilation album, from such an amazing vocalist, makes the list. While she never actually recorded a Christmas album, the recordings found here are mostly holiday performances from film and radio recordings as well as from her TV series. I especially love the song “Smile” although it’s not traditionally considered a Christmas song. Other greats on this album include “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Birthday of a King” and “After the Holidays.”
7. Moya Brennan, An Irish Christmas
This intimate, ethereal album from Irish folksinger and harpist Moya Brennan, regarded as the first lady of Celtic music, is as traditional as it is enchanting. On this album Moya Brennan sweetly sings “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “In the Bleak Midwinter” along with ten other classics (the US version and Irish version are different by two tracks).
8. The Carpenters, Christmas Portrait
A 1984, reissue of their 1978 LP that sold one million records Christmas Portrait contains 21 tracks from the contemporary sibling duo. “Ave Maria” and “O Holy Night” quickly become favorites while listening to this timeless album. Also included on the album is “Merry Christmas Darling,” the group’s signature Christmas song that has since been covered by Vanessa Williams, among others.
9. Loretta Lynn, The Christmas Collection, The Best of Loretta Lynn
This 2005 release is an original remastered recording of Loretta Lynn’s third studio album A Country Christmas from 1966. Her twangy vocals make this album a necessity for fans of “old” country. The song “Christmas Without Daddy” is just as moving today, while soldiers are overseas fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, as it was in the ‘60’s when our soldiers were fighting in Vietnam. Loretta Lynn’s versions of “Silver Bells” and “Blue Christmas” are enduring and great additions to this album. If only Patsy Cline recorded a Holiday album before her untimely death, Loretta Lynn might have had some “old” country competition getting on this list.
10. Roberta Flack, The Christmas Album
Last, but most definitely not least, I round my list off with the tenth and possibly most soulful Christmas album of them all. Released in 1997 and rereleased as the album Holiday in 2003 (minus “As Long As There’s Christmas”), The Christmas Album includes two original compositions: “25th of Last December” and “There’s Still My Joy.” “As Long As There’s Christmas,” a duet with Peabo Bryson is from the Disney film Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. I love her versions of “We Three Kings of Orient Are” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.”
These ten albums are sure to fill your holiday season with delightful, musically enriched memories as you and yours enjoy the last days of the year.