Christmas Music holds a special place in my heart. For some reason, I have always been drawn to alternate versions of Christmas songs. It’s not to say that I don’t love the “canon” versions of Christmas classics done by the Rat Pack, Motown stars, schmaltzy orchestras or Manheim Steamroller (okay, I don’t love Manheim Steamroller’s version of anything), but I love hearing artists I already like doing their own take on Christmas classics. It’s a dangerous land to enter, because 70 to 90 percent of all pop covers of Christmas are total garbage. There are some really solid sets of alternative covers of Christmas music, which I have sorted through:
I’ll start with the unquestionable–Sufjan Stevens. His “Songs for Christmas” releases are a great combination of respectable covers, complete reinterpretations and Christmassy originals. They started as a personal gift he gave to his friends, then morphed into something more as Sufjan gained notoriety. Asthmatic Kitty Records has his 5 disc set of discs (2001-2005) streaming on their site for free listens! Check it out at xmas.asthmatickitty.com
Sufjan also handed out a Christmas album for 2008, which found its way onto the internet.
Speaking of the Sounds Familyre/Asthmatic Kitty crew, superstar producer, composer, and family man Chris Schlarb has put out his family’s auditory Christmas card, featuring some short, fun tracks. Download it here.
In a less-free manner, singer (and also friend of Sufjan–what’s up with that?) Rosie Thomas has released A Very Rosie Christmas. It’s on emusic and AmazonMP3, and the same original song is available free at both places. I’ve provided, below, another song from that album–an unbelievably great reinterpretation of The Chipmunks’ classic hit, re-titled “Christmas Don’t Be Late”. It bears only a passing resemblance to the original, and it is fantastic in its own right.[audio:09-Christmas_Dont_Be_Late.mp3]
Finally, some of you might know that I used to co-host a Christian radio show in San Luis Obispo with Fred Ghansah. We used to record the shows and, once a year, we’d do an annual Christmas show. It’s made up of songs from Tooth and Nail Records’ Happy Christmas compilations, Plastiq Musiq’s (out of print?) Plastiq Christmas comp, and various other Christmas covers.
A note: while 756-5277 may still be the KCPR request line, this show is at least 3 years old. Those Palm Theatre tickets are long gone.[audio:in_the_light_12-4_Christmas_Show.mp3]