Christmas time comes but once a year, and with it comes the sounds of Christmas — carolers and Salvation Army bell tollers and Christmas songs piped into stores, performed on television, and played on one’s favorite radio stations. There’s country and rock and reggae and traditional music to be heard. There’s classical and humorous stuff as well.
But sometimes one simply would like to hear the music of Christmas — without all the singing and harmonizing. Sure Bing Crosby and Elvis and Andrea Bocelli are tremendous talents, their Christmas songs and albums just as relevant this Christmas as last, but there are times when just the musical arrangements would suffice.
Luckily, there are a few albums that pander to those who enjoy listening to just the music.
Kenny G, the saxophone virtuoso who became one of the bestselling artists of the ’80s and ’90s, has a few albums that might fit one’s bill. Actually, there are five. “Miracles: The Holiday Album” was his first. It has sold over 3 million copies to date and remains a consistent holiday seller. His last, “The Holiday Collection,” is a compilation album and seemed to be an addendum to his fourth Christmas album, “The Greatest Holiday Classics,” which was a “greatest hits” album of his first three holiday offerings. If one is into the songs of Christmas as interpreted by saxophone (“White Christmas,” “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” “What Child Is This?,” “The First Noel”), Kenny G’s works are perfect as background music for trimming the tree and holiday gatherings.
If one is more into renditions of holiday classics done by guitar, then Peter White might be more suitable. This smooth jazz legend released “Peter White Christmas” in 2007. On it, one finds the traditional music of Christmas, only done with the clarity of guitar notes struck by an incomparable guitarist.
For a more synthesized “New Age” sound to one’s Christmas music, perhaps Mannheim Steamroller’s bestselling “Christmas” should be considered. One of the bestselling albums in the past quarter-century (six-times platinum in the U.S.), “Christmas” was self-produced by creator Chip Davis when no record label would sign him. A 25th Anniversary edition is available as well, released last year. Along with the “Fresh Aire” Christmas series (the first of which, “A Fresh Aire Christmas,” has also sold over 6 million copies), Mannheim Steamroller has released 10 Christmas albums to date, all but two of which have been certified platinum. Only one of them has a vocalist — 1998’s “The Christmas Angel: A Family Story,” with Olivia Newton-John.
Still, others might want a little more volume, a little more loudness to their holiday music. Trans-Siberian Orchestra would no doubt be more to the hard rockers’ liking. “Christmas Eve And Other Stories” and “The Christmas Attic,” the project’s first two offerings, have become two of the bestselling Christmas albums in history. Blending hard rock guitars with orchestral arrangements, Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s successful formula for delivering a hard-rocking theatrical production to both traditional and original arrangements has made them a seasonal tour favorite, selling out concerts worldwide as they tour during the holidays. It must be noted that, although most of the “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” is primarily an instrumental offering, there are a few songs with vocals. “The Christmas Attic” is the opposite (which is what makes programmable discs and music downloads such a convenience).
One doesn’t have to sit and listen to Alan Jackson or Burl Ives or Mariah Carey just to get one’s fill of Christmas music these days, especially if all one wants is just to hear some holiday music. And with music service websites like Rhapsody, Amazon, and iTunes, one can pick and choose the music most suitable to one’s taste.
Sometimes Christmas music is just better if it’s just music…
“Kenny G Abums,” Billboard.com
“About Mannheim Steamroller and Chip Davis,” MannheimSteamroller.com