Taking Back Christmas Music

I love Christmas music, and I am not embarrassed. I love to sing Christmas songs and I love to play the Christmas records my Mom played when I was growing up, especially Johnny Mathis’ Merry Christmas.

But years of retail work spoiled too many Christmas songs for me. In retail, hearing bubblegum cover versions of “Wonderful Christmastime” multiple times a day for nearly three months straight is an inevitable occupational hazard.

I’m not about to let the season’s rabid consumerism ruin all my fun. You don’t have to, either. Take back Christmas music by creating your own holiday programming at home with offbeat selections from the library’s extensive selection of Christmas CDs. Here are some of my favorites.

The Original Soul Christmas, a compilation originally released in 1968, offers funky delights aplenty, especially Clarence Carter’s “Back Door Santa,” whose opening riff many of us will recognize from the sample in Run-DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis.” It’s both Christmas-y and groovy all at once, and great for parties.

Best known as the original vocalist for Judas Priest, Rob Halford might seem an unlikely musician to record a Christmas album. His Winter Songs offers a mixed bag of classics and originals, but it’s worth listening to just for the mighty metal glory of his uptempo yet appropriately majestic “We Three Kings.”

My most beloved of the library’s Christmas CDs is Mario Lanza Sings Christmas Carols. The Italian-American tenor from Philly with the bombastic pipes (he was the Josh Groban of the 1950s) died in 1959, the same year he recorded this collection of secular and sacred classics; it’s borderline cheesy, but I love the deliciously dated way he enunciates “fa la la la la.” Its old-timey charm sets my heart aglow with transmissions from yore.

(And a here’s a bonus! You can download the aforementioned “Christmas in Hollis” from our Freegal service. Thanks, Library Santa!)