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Holiday Gift Guide Spotlight: Diamond, Streisand, Williams, Cash, Jones, Wynette and More Join “Classic Christmas Album” Roster [UPDATED]

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Andy Williams - Classic Christmas Revised CoverLegacy Recordings’ Classic Christmas Album series has grown this holiday season.

Last year brought volumes from a variety of artists across the rock, pop, country and R&B spectrum including Barry Manilow, Luther Vandross, John Denver, Willie Nelson, Kenny G and Elvis Presley.  For 2013, another eight seasonal anthologies have arrived under the Classic Christmas Album umbrella from Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash, Andy Williams, Barbra Streisand, Alabama, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Martina McBride.

Christmas is the one time of the year you’re guaranteed to hear the voice of the late, great Andy Williams on the radio.  In fact, thanks to Andy, you just might think of Christmas as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  And that 1963 Edward Pola/George Wyle standard is just one of the sixteen favorites you’ll hear on Williams’ Classic Christmas Album, newly remastered by Tim Sturges.  Selections have been drawn from all three of Andy’s Columbia Christmas recordings: 1963’s timeless The Andy Williams Christmas Album, 1965’s equally-impressive follow-up Merry Christmas, and the far lesser-known, low-key 1975 Christmas Present.  On the latter, Williams mainly limited his repertoire to traditional hymns, and the new compilation features five of them (“Joy to the World,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “What Child is This,” “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Ave Maria”) tenderly sung in the vocalist’s pristine tone.  Highlights from the first two, perennial Christmas albums include “Kay Thompson’s Jingle Bells” and “The Christmas Song” (1963) and “Winter Wonderland,” “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” and the haunting reading of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” (1965).  One simply can’t go wrong with any anthology of Andy Williams’ holiday recordings, including The Classic Christmas Album.  But one would be better advised to check out Real Gone Music’s new 2-CD anthology The Complete Christmas Recordings.  This set, licensed from Columbia, includes the entirety of Williams’ three Columbia Christmas LPs plus three singles and two previously unreleased tracks.  As every track is essential listening, it’s one-stop shopping for Andy’s Columbia-era holiday music.

Barbra Streisand - Classic ChristmasAnother Columbia Records mainstay, Barbra Streisand, released her first Christmas album, simply entitled A Christmas Album, in 1967, not recording another holiday-themed set until 2001 and Christmas Memories.  Barbra’s Classic Christmas Album reprises nine titles from the first LP and seven from its belated sequel.  Naturally, among the 1967 tracks is Streisand’s iconic reinvention of “Jingle Bells,” along with other staples such as “The Christmas Song,” “My Favorite Things” and “White Christmas.”  From 2001, you’ll hear standards like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” as well as more contemporary material including Ann Hampton Callaway’s “Christmas Lullaby,” Alan and Marilyn Bergman and Don Costa’s “Christmas Mem’ries,” the Bergmans and Johnny Mandel’s “A Christmas Love Song,” and Streisand’s seasonal reinterpretation of Stephen Sondheim’s haunting “I Remember,” written for the 1967 television musical Evening Primrose.  This is an intelligently-compiled sampler, but both complete original Streisand albums are essential.  Tim Sturges has again remastered.

Neil Diamond - Classic ChristmasStreisand’s fellow Brooklynite and onetime duet partner Neil Diamond is the subject of his own Classic Christmas Album.  Diamond’s twelve-track compilation is drawn from his first two massively successful Columbia Christmas releases, 1992’s The Christmas Album and 1994’s Volume Two.  (Diamond returned to Christmas music for 2009’s A Cherry Cherry Christmas, which blended five new songs with nine returning favorites, but its new songs – among them the self-referencing title track and a cover of Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song” – have been overlooked here.)  Classic Christmas Album makes room for Neil’s very own holiday standard “You Make It Feel Like Christmas” (originally recorded on 1984’s Primitive but remade for The Christmas Album) alongside Diamond-ized renditions of songs both spiritual (“Joy to the World,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “O Holy Night”) and secular (“The Christmas Song,” “Silver Bells,” “Sleigh Ride”).  Don’t let Neil’s country-western attire on the cover artwork fool you; The Classic Christmas Album features 12 tracks of traditional holiday pop, even if selections from A Cherry Cherry Christmas would have made this Christmas dish even sweeter.  (An extra bonus: whereas most titles in this series have no liner notes, Diamond has penned an introduction for his volume.)  Diamond’s preferred mastering engineer Bernie Becker has handled those duties here.

After the jump: we cross over to the country side of town and beyond!  Plus: we have full track listings with discographical annotation, and pre-order links!

Like Andy Williams, Neil Diamond has occasionally dabbled in country over the years.  Four more titles come from artists firmly ensconced in that tradition.  George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s Classic Christmas Album promises to be a bit more placid than the couple’s famously tempestuous marriage.  It’s bookended by both sides of Mr. and Mrs. Jones’ 1973 Epic single “Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus” b/w “The Greatest Christmas Gift,” with the remaining fourteen tracks evenly split between Jones and Wynette holiday solo sides.  Legacy has gone the extra mile for this set, drawing material from non-Sony sources including Jones’ 1957 Mercury single “A New Baby for Christmas” b/w “Maybe This Christmas” and his 1962 United Artists track “Lonely Christmas Call.”  His “Jingle Bells” and “Joy to the World” have been drawn from Columbia’s 1979 various-artists set Christmas with the Country Stars.  Most of Wynette’s material hails from her 1970 Epic album Christmas with Tammy; both sides of her single “One Happy Christmas” and “Merry Christmas (We Must Be Having One)” are also included.  For collectors, this might be the most exciting of this current batch of releases, and it’s a fine way to remember another side of the late, great George Jones.  Vic Anesini has sublimely remastered all tracks.

Johnny Cash - The Classic Christmas AlbumJones could be said to be one of the few artists in country-and-western to possess the same legendary status as the late Man in Black, Johnny Cash.  Cash’s entry in the Classic Christmas Album series taps three of his holiday long-players, all for Columbia Records: 1963’s The Christmas Spirit, 1972’s The Johnny Cash Family Christmas, and 1980’s Classic Christmas.  Cash’s holiday albums were family affairs, and the choice of material reflected his homespun tastes, relying less on secular, Tin Pan Alley material than many of his contemporaries.  The sixteen tracks here include takes on “Silent Night,” “Blue Christmas,” “Joy to the World,” “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” and Cash originals like “The Christmas Spirit” and “Christmas with You.”  June Carter’s “Christmas as I Knew It” also appears, as well as Johnny’s brother Tommy Cash’s “That Christmasy Feeling.”  With so much unique material, the more festive colors of Johnny Cash are a joy to rediscover here, especially with Vic Anesini’s stellar remastering.

Alabama - Classic ChristmasSouthern rockers Alabama combined the best of the country and rock traditions into a sound all their own.  The sixteen tracks on their Classic Christmas Album are drawn from numerous collections including both volumes of Alabama Christmas, from 1985 and 1996.  The Top 40 country single “Christmas in Dixie,” the band’s most popular holiday offering, kicks off the anthology, which also plucks tracks from 1993’s Cheap Seats (“Angels Among Us”) and 2006’s Songs of Inspiration (“Silent Night”).  Anesini has remastered.  An even more contemporary artist than Alabama, Martina McBride, receives her own Classic Christmas Album, as well.  McBride’s set is heavily drawn from her platinum-selling album White Christmas.  Originally released in 1998 on RCA Records, White Christmas has been reissued twice – in 1999 and 2007 – with new tracks each time including a virtual duet with Dean Martin on “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”  All three iterations of the record are represented here (!) as newly remastered by Anesini, and the disc is rounded out by an appearance of McBride’s posthumous duet with Elvis Presley of “Blue Christmas.”

Gladys Knight - Classic ChristmasThe eighth and last offering due is a set dedicated to the holiday music of Gladys Knight and the Pips.  Atlanta native Knight and her Pips have returned to the Christmas songbook numerous times over the years, and their 14-song Classic Christmas Album is primarily drawn from 1975’s Buddah Records set The Christmas Album and 1982’s Columbia album That Special Time of the Year.  Another bona fide Christmas legend, Johnny Mathis, raises his voice with Gladys and co. on two tracks here, the stirring “When a Child is Born” and “The Lord’s Prayer.”  Knight and the Pips also tackle seasonal favorites both modern (“This Christmas”) and vintage (“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” Frank Loesser’s “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”).  Tim Sturges has remastered all of these enjoyable tracks from some of the most recognizable voices in R&B, and this compilation makes a fine companion to the recent series of eight expanded Knight reissues licensed from Sony and available from Funky Town Grooves.

All eight titles are available now from Legacy Recordings and can be ordered at the links below!

Alabama, The Classic Christmas Album (RCA/Legacy 88883 74444 2, 2013) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Christmas in Dixie
  2. A Candle in the Window
  3. Christmas in Your Arms
  4. Tennessee Christmas
  5. When It Comes to Christmas
  6. The Night Before Christmas
  7. Hangin’ ’Round the Mistletoe
  8. New Year’s Eve 1999
  9. The Blessings
  10. Angels Among Us
  11. I Was Young Once Too
  12. Tonight is Christmas
  13. Joseph and Mary’s Boy
  14. O Little Town of Bethlehem
  15. Little Drummer Boy
  16. Silent Night

Track 1 from A Country Christmas (RCA CPL1-4396, 1982)
Tracks 2, 4 and 12-13 from Alabama Christmas (RCA, 1985)
Tracks 3, 5-9, 11 and 14-15 from Alabama Christmas Vol. II (RCA, 1996)
Track 10 from Cheap Seats (RCA 07863 66296 2, 1993)
Track 16 from Songs of Inspiration (RCA 88697 00532 2, 2006)

Johnny Cash, The Classic Christmas Album (Columbia/Legacy 88883 73609 2, 2013) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. TBD)

  1. Christmas As I Knew It
  2. Christmas Time’s A-Comin’
  3. That Christmasy Feeling
  4. Christmas with You
  5. Blue Christmas
  6. The Little Drummer Boy
  7. The Gifts They Gave
  8. King of Love
  9. Merry Christmas Mary
  10. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
  11. Joy to the World
  12. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
  13. Ringing the Bells for Jim
  14. The Christmas Guest
  15. The Christmas Spirit
  16. Silent Night

Tracks 1-4, 8-9 and 16 from The Johnny Cash Family Christmas (Columbia KC 31754, 1972)
Tracks 5-7, 10, 13 and 15 from The Christmas Spirit (Columbia CS 8917, 1963)
Tracks 11-12 and 14 from Classic Christmas (Columbia JC 36866, 1980)

Neil Diamond, The Classic Christmas Album (Columbia/Legacy 88883 74363 2, 2013) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. White Christmas
  2. Joy to the World
  3. O Come All Ye Faithful
  4. The First Noel
  5. Winter Wonderland
  6. You Make It Feel Like Christmas
  7. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on An Open Fire)
  8. O Holy Night
  9. Silver Bells
  10. Sleigh Ride
  11. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  12. Silent Night

Tracks 1, 6-9, and 12 from The Christmas Album (Columbia CK 52914, 1992)
Tracks 2-5 and 10-11 from The Christmas Album Volume II (Columbia CK 66465, 1994)

George Jones & Tammy Wynette, The Classic Christmas Album (Epic/Legacy 88883 75897 2, 2013) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Mr. & Mrs. Santa Claus – George Jones & Tammy Wynette
  2. A New Baby for Christmas – George Jones
  3. Maybe Next Christmas – George Jones
  4. Blue Christmas – Tammy Wynette
  5. Lonely Christmas Call – George Jones
  6. White Christmas – Tammy Wynette
  7. Jingle Bells – George Jones
  8. One Happy Christmas – Tammy Wynette
  9. Silver Bells – George Jones with Gene Watson
  10. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear – Tammy Wynette
  11. O Little Town of Bethlehem – George Jones
  12. Away in a Manger – Tammy Wynette
  13. Joy to the World – George Jones
  14. Silent Night, Holy Night – Tammy Wynette
  15. (Merry Christmas) We Must Be Having One – Tammy Wynette
  16. The Greatest Christmas Gift – George Jones & Tammy Wynette

Tracks 1 and 16 from Epic single 5-11077, 1973
Tracks 2-3 from Mercury single 71225, 1957
Tracks 4, 6, 10, 12 and 14 from Christmas with Tammy (Epic E 30343, 1970)
Track 5 from United Artists single 530, 1962
Tracks 7 and 13 from Christmas with the Country Stars (Columbia C 36088, 1979)
Tracks 8 and 15 from Epic single 5-10690, 1970
Track 9 from Nashville Christmas Album (Epic PE 40418, 1986)
Track 11 from Country Christmas (Epic PE 36823, 1974)

Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Classic Christmas Album (Columbia/Buddah/Legacy 88883 73539 2, 2013) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Do You Hear What I Hear?
  2. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
  3. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on An Open Fire)
  4. This Christmas
  5. Jingle Bells
  6. The Night Before Christmas
  7. It’s the Happiest Time of the Year
  8. Away in a Manger
  9. When a Child is Born (with Johnny Mathis)
  10. That Special Time of Year
  11. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?
  12. Silent Night
  13. Bless This House
  14. The Lord’s Prayer (with Johnny Mathis)

Tracks 1, 3, 6, 8 and 12-13 from The Christmas Album (Buddah BDS-5651, 1975)
Tracks 2, 4-5, 7, and 9-11 from That Special Time of the Year (Columbia FC 38114, 1982)
Track 14 from Columbia single 11-11409, 1980

Martina McBride, The Classic Christmas Album (RCA/Legacy 88883 74365 2, 2013) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on An Open Fire)
  2. Blue Christmas (with Elvis Presley)
  3. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
  4. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
  5. Winter Wonderland
  6. Silver Bells
  7. Baby, It’s Cold Outside (with Dean Martin)
  8. Do You Hear What I Hear
  9. Away in a Manger
  10. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  11. What Child is This
  12. O Come All Ye Faithful
  13. Silent Night
  14. O Holy Night
  15. White Christmas
  16. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Tracks 1, 3-4, 6, 9, 11 and 13-16 from White Christmas (RCA 07863 67654 2, 1998)
Track 2 from Christmas Duets (RCA 88697 35479 2, 2008)
Tracks 5, 7 and 10 from White Christmas (RCA 88697 15469 2, 2007)
Track 8 from White Christmas (RCA 07863 67842 2, 1998)

Barbra Streisand, The Classic Christmas Album (Columbia/Legacy 88883 76933 2, 2013) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  2. The Christmas Song (Chest­nuts Roasting on An Open Fire)
  3. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
  4. A Christmas Love Song
  5. The Best Gift
  6. It Must Have Been the Mistletoe
  7. I Remember
  8. I Wonder As I Wander
  9. Sleep in Heavenly Peace (Silent Night)
  10. Snowbound
  11. Jingle Bells
  12. My Favorite Things
  13. Christmas Lullaby
  14. O Little Town of Bethlehem
  15. Christmas Mem’ries
  16. White Christmas

Tracks 1-2, 5, 8-9, 11-12, 14 and 16 from A Christmas Album (Columbia CS 9557, 1967)
Tracks 3-4, 6-7, 10, 13 and 15 from Christmas Memories (Columbia CK 86203, 2001)

Andy Williams, The Classic Christmas Album (Columbia/Legacy 88883 72585 2, 2013) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Joy to the World
  2. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
  3. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on An Open Fire)
  4. Winter Wonderland
  5. Silent Night
  6. O Little Town of Bethlehem
  7. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  8. The Little Drummer Boy
  9. What Child is This
  10. Silver Bells
  11. Kay Thompson’s Jingle Bells
  12. Angels We Have Heard on High
  13. My Favorite Things
  14. O Holy Night
  15. Ave Maria
  16. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Tracks 1, 6, 9, 12 and 15 from Christmas Present (Columbia C 33191, 1974)
Tracks 2, 4, 7, 10 and 13 from Merry Christmas (Columbia CS 9220, 1965)
Tracks 3, 5, 8, 11, 14 and 16 from The Andy Williams Christmas Album (Columbia CS 8887, 1963)

6 Responses

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  1. It looks like Johnny Cash’s cover has been changed.


    September 3, 2013 at 12:11

  2. These are nice collections, but I have issue with the title. These are not “classic Christmas albums” by these artists. They are new compilations of Christmas tunes taken from each artist’s classic Christmas albums. How can it be a “classic” (let alone “THE classic”) if its a brand new album? “Classic Christmas SONGS” would have been a better and more accurate title for this series.

    Of course, they easily could have done these as “The Classic Christmas AlbumS” and included the full track listing from all the artist’s Christmas albums. Most of these artists (and last year’s selection) only had two or three Christmas albums each. They could have added a buck or two to the price and made them double disc sets fully covering each artist’s holiday music output.

    If this series continues, I’m sure in a year or two we’ll start to see “The Classic Christmas Album, Volume 2” for some of these artists, scraping together the remaining tracks.


    September 3, 2013 at 15:32

  3. Real Gone Music is releasing the “Complete Andy Williams Christmas Collection” later this year, so this makes this “Classic Christmas Collection” single CD superfluous (unless someone is looking for a “budget” collection).

    Rich Dudas

    September 3, 2013 at 20:40

    • Thanks for the heads up on that, Rich. I’ll definitely be picking that up.


      September 4, 2013 at 09:48

  4. Joe – If you read this, check out “Glen Campbell – Icon Christmas” — Glen’s 1968 “That Christmas Feeling” is finally getting released on CD here in the US !!! Release date is September 17th on MCA Nashville.


    Rich Dudas

    September 3, 2013 at 20:44

  5. Amazon is picturing a new cover for the Andy Williams CD on their site — I like the one pictured above better…..

    Rich Dudas

    September 3, 2013 at 21:17

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