You never know where you’re going to find that next great Christmas record. Today’s three under the tree are more recent, quite unexpected and altogether pleasant finds.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Jim was having another record sale. Jim lives in one side of a tiny duplex. His basement is wall-to-wall records. He’d just put out a bunch of new additions, but hadn’t pulled the Christmas records from them. So I did it for him as I went through the boxes.
Then Jim pointed me to the rest of his Christmas records. I found this:
“White Christmas,” the Edwin Hawkins Singers, from “Peace Is ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’.” 1972. It’s out of print.
You probably know the Edwin Hawkins Singers as great gospel singers, which they are. But they also did a little R&B. Here’s proof. “White Christmas” isn’t one of my favorite Christmas tunes, but this is a wonderfully smooth, stylish version, with the solo by Tramaine Davis.
Although five of the eight cuts on this record are Christmas songs or hymns, it’s not presented as a Christmas album. The liner notes say: “This album contains Edwin Hawkins’ message, peace poetry.”
Our second tune comes off a record I came across almost two years ago. I couldn’t afford it that January day, but I found a more reasonably priced copy at our local record show a couple of months ago.
You probably know Charles Brown for his classic “Merry Christmas Baby” and “Please Home For Christmas.” Here’s another, a slow R&B number that’s reminiscent of Dean Martin’s “Everybody Loves Somebody.”
“Let’s Make Every Day A Christmas Day,” Charles Brown, from “Charles Brown Sings Christmas Songs,” 1975. It’s out of print.
My vinyl copy is the Gusto Records re-release of the 1961 original on King Records. It adds “Merry Christmas Baby” but drops “My Most Miserable Christmas.” Some of the tunes were re-recorded for the 1975 release. I don’t know whether this one was recorded in 1961 or 1975. This record also was released on CD in 1995.
Our third tune comes from a record I never would have heard it if not for our son Evan, a middle school kid at the time. If you know Relient K as a Christian band, don’t let that put you off. Its 2007 release, full of bright pop-punk, has become one of our favorites.
“Angels We Have Heard On High,” Relient K, from “Let It Snow Baby … Let It Reindeer,” 2007. It’s an expanded version of their out-of-print 2003 release “Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand,” on which this cut originally appeared.
Shredding the guitars and bashing the drums, they rip through this in 1:55. You don’t often hear this song on Christmas records, which makes this energetic version all the more remarkable. (Anyone for Handel’s “Messiah” in a breathtaking 1:10?)