Over the holidays, we're looking back at some classic Christmas albums taking some track by track and just digging on others.
Christmas music comes in all shapes and sizes. From jazz and blues to hip hop and heavy metal, everybody thinks they have an interesting take on holiday classics, but most turn out to be little more than cutout bin cast offs (a little record store lingo for you kids to look up). What makes for a truly great Christmas album is that it is made with the same care and attention to detail as a regular album and few people spent as much time tweaking records in the '60s as Phil Spector.
Despite the fact that he is serving a ton of years in prison for murder and his disemboweling of what should have been one of the all time great Beatles albums is still a travesty, Spector was something of a genius when it came to making music. His "wall of sound" drove an entire generation of California pop artists and still influences a ton of hipster producers who overuse the reverb the way hippies overdo it with patchouli. He got a lot of things wrong, but A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records was not one of them.
This Christmas album is widely considered one of the greats of all time. In fact, simply as a record, setting aside the holiday theme for a moment, it reached number 142 on Rolling Stone's top 500 albums list and Brian Wilson called it his favorite record ever made. Pretty significant for a record that includes "Frosty the Snowman" and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."
It also has an amazing cast of musicians that include Sonny Bono (percussion), Cher (vocal chorus), Hal Blaine (drums), Leon Russell (keyboards) and Tommy Tedesco (guitar), among others.
It produced the classic original "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," which was covered by U2 on A Very Special Christmas. It inspired Bruce Springsteen's now famous version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." In short, it was big time and it was different.
Instead of relying on traditional arrangements, Spector shoe-horned classics like "White Christmas," "Sleigh Ride" and "Silent Night" into his own brand of sonic overload. The recording sessions were exhaustive, typical of Spector. The record was treated with care and near obsession, both common ingredients in brilliant albums.
For kids in the 1960's, this was a release that resonated with their generation and, because it was so unique and so well made, became a classic for future generations to appreciate.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
"Christmas" (Baby Please Come Home)"
Check out previous classic Christmas album recaps:
Frank Sinatra - A Jolly Christmas fro Frank Sinatra The Carpenters - Christmas Portrait Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Charlie Brown Christmas George Winston - December Various Artists - A Very Special Christmas Mel Torme - Christmas Songs