I love to give and receive music for Christmas. It feels thoughtful and personal to me. Yuletide shopping for the Gleeks on my gift list — which is pretty much everyone on the list — will be easy as pie this year because “Glee: The Music – The Christmas Album” comes out Nov. 16.
The 11-track collection includes solo performances of “O Holy Night” and “Angels We Have Heard On High” by respective vocal powerhouses Lea Michele and Amber Riley. The guys of New Directions will no doubt get jiggy with their “Jingle Bells,” while the ladies make like the heavenly host on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Still, I have a feeling the highlight of the set might be the inspired pairing of Matthew Morrison and k.d. lang on the curmudgeonly classic “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”
If you’re searching for a music gift for someone who isn’t infected with gleebola, you might want to consider Mariah Carey’s new “Merry Christmas II You.” It’s a fine sequel to her stellar 1994 holiday blockbuster “Merry Christmas.” Good tracks abound, but my favorite cut is the album closer, a happy House interpretation of “Auld Lang Syne” that will be played in dance clubs from coast to coast to mark the changing of the year.
If neither of these sets will appeal to your intended recipient or you’d just prefer to give a truly personal gift, consider assembling a compilation album of your favorite yuletide tracks. Simply come up with your song list, download the tracks from one of the many online music retailers and burn your disc.
Decorate the CD and cover in a way that conveys your feelings and be sure to tell the recipient that you made this collection especially for them. Unless you’re dealing with the aforementioned Grinch, he or she will cherish it for years to come.
Here’s a list of the songs I’m putting on my Christmas gift album.
“Another Lonely Christmas” – Prince. Not your typical fare, this melancholy 1984 B-side to “I Would Die 4 U” is the tale of a man who’s spending another yuletide missing his deceased girlfriend.
“Blue Christmas” – Elvis Presley. The King’s holiday rhapsody in blue is a great showcase for his velvety tenor. The cheez-whiz girl-group backing vocals (“woo-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh”) are an added bonus.
“The Chipmunks Christmas Song” – The Chipmunks. Alvin, Simon and Theodore — under the capable direction of David Seville — capture perfectly the anticipation of the season. And, can someone please give Alvin a hula hoop?
“Christmas In Hollis” – Run-D.M.C. A rappin’ carol about Hollis, Queens and collard greens. If you don’t think that’s Christmas, you’re a sucka MC.
“The Christmas Song” – Nat “King” Cole. If you’re like me, anytime you come across the phrase “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” you hear it in your head as performed by the legendary Cole. Little wonder, his signature yuletide tune was voted the top Christmas song of all time.
“Christmas Time Is Here” – Toni Braxton. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” may have introduced this song to the world, but Braxton’s sultry-without-even-trying reading is anything but kid stuff.
“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” – Band Aid. This 1984 charity song for African famine relief is the blueprint for every supergroup fundraising track that’s followed — with one major difference. You actually want to hear this one.
“Do You Hear What I Hear” – Whitney Houston. Before Whitney’s velvet voice was reduced to a ragged rasp by drugs, she was capable of sending spirits soaring. Listen to this gem and weep…for a few reasons.
“Feliz Navidad” – Jose Feliciano. A Spanglish holiday extravaganza. Feliciano strums a mean guitar and I can never resist trying to phonetically sing along even though I have no clue what half the words are.
“Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” – Elmo & Patsy. Yes, I know it’s supremely silly, but it also always makes me smile. Sometimes you just have to indulge your inner child.
“The Hanukkah Song” – Adam Sandler. Sandler’s at his goofy best on this charming Jews-Who celebrity roll-call. Plus, it’s cool to see the non-Christmas set get a little airtime.
“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” – John Cougar Mellencamp. Roots-rockin’ version of the classic that’s as authentically Americana as Jack and Diane or those little pink houses.
“It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” – Johnny Mathis. Even a ubiquitous Gap holiday ad from a few years ago wasn’t able to dull the openly gay crooner’s sparkliest Christmas gem.
“Last Christmas” – Wham! Long before he was a drug-addled mess, George Michael and that other guy took a careless lover to task on this super-perky piece of mid-’80s bubblegum.
“Merry Christmas, Darling” – The Carpenters. Wounded songbird Karen left this mortal coil much too soon. At least we have performances like this to cherish forever.
“Put A Little Love In Your Heart” – Annie Lennox and Al Green. This winner from “Scrooged,” Bill Murray’s ’80s update of “A Christmas Carol,” will warm your cockles even on the coldest of days.
“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” – Bruce Springsteen. Another B-side from ’84 (“My Hometown” was the flip). The Boss’s trademark rasp raises a ruckus on this rocking version of the standard.
“Silent Night” – Barbra Streisand. Jewish Babs interprets what is arguably the most difficult to sing of all Christmas carols as if she was the featured soloist of the heavenly host.
“White Christmas” – Bing Crosby. Maybe not the boldest — or hippest — choice, but with the possible exception of those two front teeth, isn’t a lovely Christmas snow what everyone hopes for most this time of year?
“Winter Wonderland” – Anne Murray. “Sleigh bells ring / are you listening?” The answer’s a resounding “yes” when this feel-good Christmas classic is sung by ’70s country star and lesbian fave Murray. : :