My Top 5 Traditional Christmas Songs
by Adam Kuban
On Wednesday night I gave you my Top 5 Non-Traditional Christmas Songs. Last night it was my Top 5 Worst-Ever Christmas Ditties. Tonight, Christmas Eve, it’s time for my top 5 traditional numbers. Here, it’s more about the song and words themselves and less the artist — although I can’t say that strong performances by various artists over the years haven’t influenced my choices here. Anyway, let’s roll …
5. ‘We Three Kings of Orient Are’
I like how, as a song, “We Three Kings of Orient Are” starts out all SERIOUS and then pops into the peppy “star of wonder” part. This Beach Boys version is pretty damn good, IMO. As a bonus, here’s a cool version of them doing a snippet of it on a TV show:
And now let’s shift to this:
I wanted bring you THE BEST versions these songs. But that would have pretty much meant a post filled entirely with Mariah or Beach Boys videos. So I did some googling for alternate versions. And the people out there recommended this one of “We Three Kings.” It’s from Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Celebration, which I have never seen, but I was surprised at its quality.
4. ‘It Came Upon a Midnight Clear’
This is just one of my favorite Christmas songs ever. I flitted around on YouTube to find a good one to post here, and this Frank Sinatra version was one of the best.
3. ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’
I especially like when this one is arranged so that it starts with the Latin “Adeste Fidelis” version intro and then goes into English. Because as cool as Latin sounds, I don’t know but a lick of it. I know I’ve been foaming on Yuletide Mariah this year, but you really can’t beat Perry Como for Christmas songs. Go read the Wikipedia entry on him — he’s sort of a fascinating guy.
2. ‘O Holy Night’
OK. So here’s where I wanted to put in a non-Mariah version of this, but there really is no better version than hers — except … wait … what’s this? The people in Googleville recommended Michael Bolton’s version. Seriously? Oh, wow. It’s not bad. Following that trail, though, I found this mashup of Bolton’s rendition and Mariah’s into a “duet.” For my money, I don’t know if it gets any better than this.
Also while searching, I came across the version above from the Christmas episode of NBC’s now-defunct show Studio 60. In it, the producers of “Studio 60,” the SNL-like show within the show, hire refugee New Orleans musicians for their Christmas show as a way to get them cash and help them get union cards. Turns out that Aaron Sorkin and the producers of the actual Studio 60 did much the same thing. Confused, just read this. Anyway, the jazz band in that episode was called “The City of New Orleans,” but it doesn’t really exist. The trumpeter here, though, is Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. [via 101 Squadron]
1. ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’
My favorite traditional Christmas song of all time. I love the line that says “To save us all from Satan’s power …” It’s so hardcore and old-school. But I guess if you’re getting traditional and getting into the religious aspects of the holiday, it all boils down to that.
Again, I wanted a version other than my old standbys, and this one came up. I’m just going to say now that I HATE Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLaughlin’s stuff. But they do a great version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Even the wife here was asking who it was when she heard it coming out of my computer. Enjoy.
And, Merry Christmas!