The holiday season brings out the nostalgia in most of us, and nothing seems quite as cool as breaking out the Christmas wax with a few friends and sharing some good tunes. Since the tactile nature of vinyl makes it a great sentimental gift, here are some great records to acquire for (yourself or) others as you celebrate the holidays.
1. John Denver & The Muppets – A Christmas Together
Say what you want about Denver and his antiseptic brand of environmental folk-rock… his work with the Muppets was truly outstanding. Back in 1979, he performed a one-off Christmas Special with the Muppets entitled A Christmas Together, which has never been released onto home video or DVD. Regardless, the soundtrack has become quite the holiday classic. I mean come on; the admission price is worth it just to hear Fozzy forgetting words and Miss Piggy over-articulating “gold” in “The Twelve Days Of Christmas.” In terms of vinyl, you have some great options if you look hard enough. There is the standard black edition, however; if you are looking for the ‘wow factor’ there is either the more coveted green vinyl or picture disc.
2. Dr Seuss – How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Nothing quite like Frankenstein’s monster (Boris Karloff) narrating a beloved holiday classic… and, of course, you have the singing of Tony the (Frosted Flakes) Tiger (Thurl Ravenscroft) with the most outrageous holiday lines ever… turning this into a ‘must have’. Two separate editions of this classic are available on vinyl for fans. The first has the familiar animated special cover while the other has the Dr Seuss original Grinch version. Both editions have special ‘Grinch Green’ coloured versions available.
3. Imagene Peise – Atlas Eets Christmas
Back in 2007, the Flaming Lips were still at their peak as they were touring 2006’s At War With The Mystics. So, with a massive backstory written on the CD jacket, they put out a Christmas record in very limited quantity under the pseudonym Imagene Peise. The only clue to it being the Lips was a sticker on the plastic wrap that read “Merry Christmas from the Flaming Lips.”
Fast forward a few years and the Lips have re-released Atlas Eets World, a record that mixes joy with quiet reflections and darker hues of green and red that doesn’t so much shine a warm fire glow as threaten to burn in post apocalyptic flames. Last year’s Black Friday / Record Store Day version was released in translucent red vinyl and is still widely available at your favourite record retailers.
4. Soundtrack – The Nightmare Before Christmas
For those of us who like our stop motion animation specials a little darker in tone than the various Rankin/Bass giggles, The Nightmare Before Christmas provided the annual holidays with a refreshing blast of gothic insanity. After all, nothing says Christmas like skeletons and zombies learning lessons about the spirit of the season. Interestingly, the vinyl versions of this record have only been released as two 180 gram picture discs; making it a very collectible gift for that Tim Burton fan in your life.
5. Big Star – Jesus Christ (10 inch)
This Black Friday – Record Store Day has seen the re-release of Big Star’s epic “Jesus Christ” on coloured vinyl. Originally found on Third/Sister Lovers, “Jesus Christ” has been covered by artists ranging from REM to Blue Rodeo and many points in between. The 10” also contains six other classic tunes by the power-pop pioneers, making it both a great gift and an introduction to one of the 20th century’s most overlooked and influential bands.
6. She & Him – A Very She & Him Christmas
A few years back, music hipster M. Ward and New Girl star Zooey Deschanel teamed up as She & Him, putting out a string of albums with a sound reminiscent of well crafted pop songs from the 60’s and 70’s. With that same motif intact, they also released the wonderful A Very She & Him Christmas covering classic hits “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, “Blue Christmas”, “Sleigh Ride” and a slew of others. Last year saw the album rereleased on clear vinyl or, if you don’t mind shipping, Newbury Comics in the US has a special 180 gram vinyl version in translucent green. Limited to 1200 copies, it is sure to be a coveted collectible in the near future.
7. Various Artists – Soul Christmas
The 60’s really was the golden era for Christmas music, producing a virtual ton of soul infused classics. Coming out of the southern Stax and Atco record companies was a compilation of some of the era’s biggest soul acts. Led by artists as inspired as Otis Redding and Booker T. & the MG’s, Soul Christmas has appeared on many best Christmas albums of all-time lists. If this album appeals to you, you’re in luck, as it has just been reissued on vinyl this year.
8. James Brown – A Soulful Christmas
As long as there have been great Christmas records, there has also been outstanding contrarian holiday music. Rather than cover the standards or spin the same old cheer with familiar themes, Brown took Christmas in a more observational direction. Starting off with “Santa Claus, Go Straight To The Ghetto”, he would follow it with “Believers Shall Enjoy (Non Believers Shall Suffer)”, “Say It Loud: I’m Black and I’m Proud”, “Let’s Unite The World For Christmas” and “Santa Claus Gave Me A Brand New Start”. It may not be the usual Christmas tunes, but they are all outstanding. A Soulful Christmas was re-released on vinyl last year.
9. Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas
For many of us, our introduction to jazz was through Vince Guaraldi and his work with the Peanuts. The music itself takes us on Charlie Brown’s search for meaning amongst all the tinsel and can bring you to tears without any need of the cartoon itself. The playful nature of “Linus and Lucy” and the sadness of “Christmas Time Is Here” are only eclipsed by that incredible performance of “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing.”
As a gift, you have three outstanding options on vinyl. Most record stores carry a special green translucent version. If you are looking for something a little more… um … special; Newbury Comics is selling two different variant editions. The first is a red and white split vinyl while the other is a pink ribbon-coloured copy.
10. Various Artists – Phil Spector: A Christmas Gift For You
Music being subjective, we could all argue until we are blue in the face about what the greatest pop-focused Christmas record is; suffice it to say, this one is mine. When Darlene Love breaks into the opening of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” you get a song that conveys joy, sorrow, hope and yearning all at once. Phil Spector used his ‘wall of sound’ to create an atmosphere rich in texture and emotion.
Last year A Christmas Gift For You was released for Black Friday/Record Store Day on limited edition red translucent vinyl. However, this year has seen another edition made available in a much wider release in both standard black or translucent red. It is well worth the cost.
So this year, instead of giving another ornament to hang on the tree, give the gift of spinning coloured wax. It’s sentimental, sounds great and is the perfect gift for that special someone whose turntable is amongst their prized possessions.