The Showcase Magazine - Articles

Six Holiday Albums to Help Slow the Season’s Rush

by Erik R. Slagle

From my parents’ collection of holiday vinyl, to filling cassettes with tunes heisted from Z100’s “24 Hours of Christmas,” to boxes of Christmas CDs, and now digital playlists that stretch for hours – the soundtrack to this time of year never leaves me scrounging. (And full disclosure, I’ve kept all those boxes of CDs – don’t sleep on Christmas album artwork!) It’s my favorite Showcase issue to write this column for.

Of course, for every playthrough of Salsoul’s “Christmas Jollies” and Ray Conniff’s “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” for every time “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” comes up on New York radio rotation, you also need to chill a bit. Here are my picks for a handful of Christmas albums that will help you do just that.

Jonn Serrie, “Christmas Prayers”: In 2010 Serrie – three decades into an illustrious career composing New Age-y soundtracks for LucasFilm, IMAX, and more – released “Christmas Prayers.” This intimately synthesized collection features readings of a dozen beloved holiday selections and is ideal for a little meditation on the meaning of the season, whatever it may mean for you.

David Arkenstone, “Christmas Pan Pipes”: Like Serrie (and Tim Janis below), Arkenstone’s catalogue is remarkably deep and varied. Included are more than 10 holiday albums – “Enchantment,” “Native Christmas,” “Winter Fantasy,” and “Christmas Lounge” are some of the genre’s most unique offerings. But go with “Pan Pipes,” which, despite its title, is an even blend of flutes, guitar and keyboards. All your standard traditional songs are covered, from “Coventry Carol” to “Midnight Clear” to “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” and nine more.

Tim Janis, “All Is Bright”: I first encountered Janis’s music at the Hereford Lighthouse in North Wildwood; “Along the Shores of Acadia” was a transformative experience and changed the way I listened to music. “Acadia,” it turned out, was just one of dozens of recordings from this multi-talented composer. Whether orchestral or electronic, his music is sure to soothe – and this album, including classics like “O Holy Night,” “The First Noel,” and “In the Bleak Midwinter” is no exception.

White-Eisenstein, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year”: If it seems like this album finds its way to the Playlist every holiday season, that’s because it does. It’s simply, indescribably, beautiful. Hard to find in physical form but find it on iTunes under Lee Eisenstein as “Christmas for a Dreamer.” It’s an instrumental album of acoustic guitar, winds and strings, perfect for relaxing near the glow of a lit tree. Renditions of “O Come O Come Emanuel” and “Coventry

Carol,” and even the lively “Pat-a-Pan,” are great choices for slowing down the pace of the holidays.

Vince Guaraldi, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”: Nothing more needs to be said about this one, but I’d be remiss if it wasn’t on this “chillout” list!

Craig Russell, “The Gift/Selah”: My space here is winding down, but I need to put in a plug for this hard-to-find selection of world music renderings. You may need to shell out for a physical copy on eBay (last I checked it’s not streaming on iTunes or Amazon), but if you want to hear some one-of-a-kind interpretations of your favorites, this album from the same guy who brought us “Bamboo Tales” is a must-have.

Happy Holiday Listening!