Composing a Good Christmas Mix!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

I love the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The weather is cooling down. Most people start putting up their Christmas decorations. You might even find a snowflake or two. I love all that. Even more so, however, I absolutely love, love, love Christmas music.

Not all of it, mind you. Some of it absolutely blows. But I have a good selection of music I really enjoy, and every year, I like to ring in this season by throwing all of that music into one giant playlist. I’ve mentioned this on T.R.O.A.M.M. before, though I never wrote too much on the subject. I thought, this year, I’d take a little time to explain why I build my list as I do. Ladies and gentleman (and horses) I present the 2011 Super Crazy Train Christmas Mix-travaganza!

I should probably clarify something. My playlist changes from year to year. The 2011 mix shares some tracks with 2010, but I have added and dropped some. The playlist is a fluid beast, which largely depends on a number of factors, such as how nostalgic I’m feeling or what kind of emotions I’m carrying into the season. Alright, enough talk! Let’s get to some selections!

I always start planning my playlist with some classic tunes. This is probably the most shifty part of the list. Some years I want more classics, some years I want less. This is one of my less years. In fact, I can sum up my entire classic collection with one compilation. The Time-Life Treasury of Christmas:

Disc One (Christmas Spirit)

  1. “Home for the Holidays” – Perry Como
  2. “White Christmas” – Bing Crosby
  3. “Jingle Bells” – Ella Fitzgerald
  4. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” – Andy Williams
  5. “Medley: Carol of the Bells/Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly” – The Robert Shaw Chorale
  6. “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” – Harry Belafonte
  7. “Blue Christmas” – Elvis Presley
  8. “My Favorite Things” – Eddie Fisher
  9. “Joy to the World” – Julie Andrews
  10. “Here We Come A-caroling” – The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
  11. “March of the Toys” – Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra
  12. “O Holy Night” – Luciano Pavarotti

Disc Two (Christmas Memories)

  1. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” – Gene Autry
  2. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” – Andy Williams
  3. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” – Roger Whittaker
  4. “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” – Boston Pops Orchestra
  5. “Mary’s Boy Child” – Harry Belafonte
  6. “I’ll Be Home for Ch. ristmas” – Elvis Presley
  7. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – Brenda Lee
  8. “Sleigh Ride” – Johnny Mathis
  9. “Tennessee Christmas” – Alabama
  10. “Baby’s First Christmas” – Connie Francis
  11. “The Little Drummer Boy” – The Harry Simeone Chorale
  12. Auld Lang Syne” – Guy Lombardo

Yes, there are some newer songs on there, but for the most part, we’ve got the classics covered. We’ve got Bing. We’ve got Andy Williams. We got Perry Como. There’s a good mix of different styles and artists. Overall, I think these 24 songs really cover what I need for this particular section of my playlist. So, let’s move on.

In addition to some classics, I always have some mainstay collections, which appear on the list pretty much every year. For starters, we have A Very Special Christmas Volumes 1-3.

Volume 1

  1. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” – The Pointer Sisters
  2. “Winter Wonderland – Eurythmics
  3. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” – Whitney Houston
  4. “Merry Christmas Baby” – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
  5. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – The Pretenders
  6. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” – John Cougar Mellencamp
  7. “Gabriel’s Message” – Sting
  8. “Christmas in Hollis” – Run–D.M.C.
  9. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – U2
  10. “Santa Baby” – Madonna
  11. “The Little Drummer Boy” – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
  12. “Run Rudolph Run” – Bryan Adams
  13. “Back Door Santa” – Bon Jovi
  14. “The Coventry Carol” – Alison Moyet
  15. “Silent Night” – Stevie Nicks

Volume 2

  1. “Christmas All Over Again” – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  2. “Jingle Bell Rock” – Randy Travis
  3. “The Christmas Song” – Luther Vandross
  4. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” – Frank Sinatra/Cyndi Lauper
  5. “The Birth of Christ” – Boyz II Men
  6. “Please Come Home for Christmas” – Jon Bon Jovi
  7. “What Christmas Means to Me” – Paul Young
  8. “O Christmas Tree” – Aretha Franklin
  9. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – Ronnie Spector/Darlene Love
  10. “White Christmas” – Michael Bolton
  11. “Christmas Is” – Run–D.M.C.
  12. “Christmas Time Again” – Extreme
  13. “Merry Christmas Baby” – Bonnie Raitt and Charles Brown
  14. “O Holy Night” – Tevin Campbell
  15. “Sleigh Ride” – Debbie Gibson
  16. “What Child Is This?” – Vanessa Williams
  17. “Blue Christmas” – Ann & Nancy Wilson
  18. “Silent Night” – Wilson Phillips
  19. “I Believe in You” – Sinéad O’Connor

Volume 3

  1. “I Saw Three Ships” – Sting
  2. “Christmastime” – The Smashing Pumpkins
  3. “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” – Natalie Merchant
  4. “Santa Baby” – Rev Run & the Christmas All Stars featuring Mase, Puff Daddy, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Salt N’ Pepa, Onyx & Keith Murray
  5. “Oi to the World” – No Doubt
  6. “Blue Christmas” – Sheryl Crow
  7. “Christmas” – Blues Traveler
  8. “Oíche Chiún (Silent Night)” – Enya
  9. “The Christmas Song” – Hootie & the Blowfish
  10. “Ave Maria” – Chris Cornell with Eleven
  11. “Christmas in the City” – Mary J. Blige featuring Angie Martinez
  12. “Santa Claus Is Back in Town” – Jonny Lang
  13. “Christmas Song” – Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds
  14. “Christmas Is Now Drawing Near At Hand” – Steve Winwood
  15. “O Holy Night” – Tracy Chapman
  16. “We Three Kings” – Patti Smith

I’ll be honest. I’m not a huge fan of every song on these volumes. I like some more than others. There are even a few that I absolutely love. The thing is: making a good playlist isn’t about meticulously picking and choosing only the tracks you love. I enjoy all of these tracks in some fashion–I just enjoy some more than others. At any rate, making a good playlist is about creating a mix that has a fair share of ups and downs. When you come across a song you may not love, it makes the next track, which you do love, all the better.

Up next, in a similar vein, I include at least two volumes of Happy Christmas. For those who don’t know, the Happy Christmas compilations were released by BEC records in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. They collect some pretty fine versions of classic and new songs by some of the better Christian rock bands of that era.

Volume 1

  1. Joy to the World” – The O.C. Supertones
  2. Winter Wonderland” – Joy Electric
  3. O Come Emmanuel” – Chasing Furies
  4. A Holiday Song” – Starflyer 59
  5. You Gotta Get Up” – Five Iron Frenzy
  6. Heaven’s Got a Baby” – Sarah Masen
  7. Away in a Manger” – Plankeye
  8. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” – Almonzo
  9. Feliz Navidad” – Pep Squad
  10. Holly Jolly Christmas” – Bon Voyage
  11. O Holy Night” – Seven Day Jesus
  12. Mele Kalikimaka” – One Eighty
  13. Evergreen” – Switchfoot
  14. Do You Hear What I Hear?” – House Of Wires
  15. Asia Minor” – Fold Zandura
  16. It’s Always Christmas at My House” – The Huntingtons
  17. We Three Kings” – The Dingees
  18. Savior of the Fools” – Puller

Volume 2

  1. Christmas Day” – MxPx
  2. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” – Sixpence None the Richer
  3. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” – All Star United
  4. Jesu Bambino (The Infant Child)” – Plankeye
  5. O Little Town Of Bethlehem” – Hangnail
  6. Lollipop Parade (On Christmas Morn)” – Joy Electric
  7. O Come All Ye Faithful” – Flight 180
  8. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” – Starflyer 59
  9. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” – Viva Voce
  10. Peace Child (O Come Emmanuel)” – The Normals
  11. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” – Fanmail
  12. White Christmas” – Norway
  13. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” – Element
  14. Santa Claus Is Back In Town” – The Deluxetone Rockets
  15. Caroling, Caroling” – House Of Wires
  16. The Chipmunk Song” – Lost Dogs

I like to use compilations because of the variety they offer. However, I do enjoy throwing in a Christmas album or two for some specific artists. These are pretty rare and for variety’s sake, I don’t usually use more than two of them. First up is Barenaked for the Holidays by Barenaked Ladies. I’ve been a huge fan of these guys since the early 90’s, and there’s not a single track on this record I don’t love. It’s very rare for me to compose a Christmas playlist without dropping pretty much the whole thing on there. (Note: To be fair, this isn’t entirely a Christmas album. There are a couple of Hanukkah songs, and “Auld Lang Syne”. But I welcome all holiday songs into my mix. I’m open-minded like that.)

  1. Jingle Bells”
  2. Green Christmas”
  3. I Saw Three Ships”
  4. Hanukkah Blessings”
  5. O Holy Night”
  6. Elf’s Lament”
  7. Snowman”
  8. Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
  9. Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah”
  10. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings”
  11. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
  12. Carol of the Bells”
  13. Footprints”
  14. Deck the Stills”
  15. Christmastime (Oh Yeah)”
  16. Sleigh Ride”
  17. Christmas Pics”
  18. I Have a Dreidel”
  19. Wonderful Christmastime”
  20. Auld Lang Syne”

Finally, we finish the mix off with a new addition. I’ve heard this record before, but I’ve never included it. It’s not that it never fit, I had just never picked it up. This year, though, I decided that it was time to punk this list up. I’m including Oi to the World by The Vandals.

  1. A Gun for Christmas”
  2. Grandpa’s Last Xmas”
  3. Thanx for Nothing”
  4. Oi to the World”
  5. Nothing’s Going to Ruin My Holiday”
  6. Christmas Time for My Penis”
  7. I Don’t Believe in Santa Claus”
  8. My First Xmas (As a Woman)”
  9. Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies”
  10. Here I Am Lord”
  11. C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S”
  12. Hang Myself from the Tree”

And that’s it. I pop those songs on my iPod, hit the shuffle button and listen straight through December 25th. I started doing this a few years ago, and it’s kind of become a tradition. If you see me on the street, and I have my headphones on, you can pretty much guarantee someone’s singing about Santa Claus. Or Jesus, I guess. Santa or Jesus.

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