SONG: O Holy Night ARTIST: Sufjan Stevens ALBUM: Songs For Christmas, Vol. 3 RELEASED: 2003 AVAILABILITY:CD/MP3 (5-pack of EPs)
"O Holy Night" has always been one of my favorite Christmas songs, and I was excited when I heard that Sufjan Stevens did a version of it. But when I first heard it, I wasn't quite sure what to think. In fact, I was even a little offended. It seemed almost sacrilegiously low-effort and bizarre. But eventually it won me over with its down-to-Earth charm, and now I think it's one of the best arrangements there is. It actually represents the subject matter perfectly. Because people were anticipating the birth of a messiah for centuries; and when they were told that it finally happened, and it was just some poor people in a stable, and he wasn't even planning to overthrow the government or anything, they also couldn't help but wonder: "Is this it?" But it couldn't have happened any other way. And that's the feeling that this version of the song captures, for me. When all of the instruments finally come in for the final chorus, it gives me chills.
So yeah, I just proved that if you don't like Sufjan's version of this song you don't know the true meaning of Christmas. I win!
SONG: Greensleeves / What Child Is This ARTIST: Kevin Max ALBUM: Holy Night RELEASED: 2005 AVAILABILITY: Amazon ( CD | MP3 )
Each of these two tracks would seem incomplete without its counterpart, so I included them both. Kevin Max's 2005 Christmas album adhered to traditional hymnal classics rather than songs about Santa Claus and stuff, but he even went so far as to include the medieval predecessor to "What Child Is This" in a brief, one-verse-one-chorus format. This gives him some leeway to double up on the "What Child" verses and choruses, lining them straight up instead of alternating between verse and chorus. It's thanks to this that we get my favorite moment on the album: the full-octave jump between verses 1 and 2. It demonstrates not only Kevin's amazing range, but that he sounds great at either end of it.
SONG: Nativity Suite part 3: Flight Into Egypt ARTIST: Phil Keaggy (featuring the London Festival Orchestra) ALBUM: Majesty & Wonder: An Instrumental Christmas RELEASED: 1999 AVAILABILITY: Amazon ( CD | MP3 )
The soundtrack to a Christmas movie that doesn't exist. Well actually, I guess the movie probably does exist... well, you know what I mean.