Let’s be honest, most Christmas music isn’t very interesting musically. This Christmas, I took my seven-year-old granddaughter to see the full Nutcracker Ballet, not the kiddie version where someone narrates the story. About twenty minutes into the performance, she whispers to me, “Papa are there no words?” The good news is, even with no words; she sat on the edge of her seat the entire time. Good music has a way of pulling you in like that.
On the way home, I begin to think about an LP that I believe I had. I looked, and sure enough, I did. That album is, Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite.
What can I tell you about this LP is more than great. How could Duke Ellington playing Tchaikovsky not be great? It’s amazing how swinging and bluesy the Nutcracker Suite can sound. If you want to listen to some great music this Christmas, this is it. It will surprise you, and most of all, involve you in a very emotional experience.
The next LP I would like to mention is about as far from Tchaikovsky as you can get. Johnny Cash’s Family Christmas album really sounds like Johnny, June, the Carter family, Carl Perkins and the Statler Brothers are sitting around the living room yakking and singing.
This album has been out of print for decades, and it is with honor that Friday Music announces the first time 180-gram audiophile vinyl presentation of Christmas by the late great Johnny Cash. This limited edition audiophile masterpiece is now impeccably mastered by Joe Reagoso and also for a very limited time is pressed by RTI on red vinyl. The LP features the original LP artwork not seen in years, in its original gate-fold presentation exclusively from the Columbia Records archives.
The pressing and mastering are the only things about this album that is the least bit “audiophile quality.” The recording sound like they just put a mic in the room somewhere near Johnny and let the tape run. The songs are a little weird, and the conversation is fairly personal. So, why would I list this LP in this article? Well, it’s simple: All music doesn’t happen in music halls. Lots of great, emotional and fun music take place in people’s homes around a piano or a guitar player. This is real music that is really fun to listen to. There is nothing boring here.
Willie Nelson’s Pretty Paper has been a favorite Christmas LP for many years. I mention this album every Christmas. I’ve had the same LP for around thirty-five years. Last year, I told you there was supposed to be a reissue out by the time you read the article. Well, I was wrong, but it was out by early January, and I have it now.
If you like Willie’s album Stardust, you should love this Christmas album. Every song on the album is a Christmas Classic and except for the title song “Pretty Paper,” all are just good old Christmas songs. The reissue is great, but this LP is all about the music and Willie. This is as good as traditional Christmas music gets!
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