It’s a daunting responsibility and one I never take lightly – the proverbial Christmas Eve drop-in. It’s a time honored tradition for many as we welcome in friends, family members, co-workers, and those we may not have a chance to catch up with throughout the year. Christmas cookies are all lined in rows. Crock pots simmer with delicious meatballs, those lil’ smokies, and that mystery dip that you never quite seem to find outside of the holiday season.
While my wife is the master of the kitchen, one of the roles I take very seriously is the procurement of the holiday playlist. Speaker placement and volume are key - not too loud and not too soft. A festive holiday music blend makes preparation as enjoyable as the main event. So, here are my suggestions for your 2016 drop-in.
1. “Skating” – Vince Guaraldi Trio
This timeless classic comes from the original 1965 “A Charlie Brown Christmas” CBS television special. If you are like me, this jazz album resonates in many childhood Christmas memories.
2. “This Christmas” - Donny Hathaway
A beautifully soulful tune written by Hathaway and Nadine McKinnor originally released on Atco records in 1970. With limited chart success (at that time), the song has now become a Christmas standard covered by dozens of artists. The world tragically lost Hathaway at the age of 33 in 1979 but his soulful voice endures each holiday season on this track.
3. “Let it Snow” – The Count Basie Orchestra (featuring Ellis Marsalis)
Instrumental Bliss - Part I
4. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – Darlene Love
The story of Darlene Love is quite inspiring. She was the voice heard (and often uncredited) on numerous early Phil Spector recordings. You can see the magic of Darlene Love and several of her back-up singer contemporaries in the documentary, “Twenty Feet From Stardom.” It’s worth your time if you find it on your favorite streaming service.
5. “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo” – Trans Siberian Orchestra
Instrumental Bliss - Part II
6. “O Holy Night” – Jordan Smith (with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir)
Smith was season nine winner of “The Voice.” This is off a new album entitled, “Tis the Season” which was released in late October.
7. “What Christmas Means to Me” – Stevie Wonder
Maybe it’s the brilliant vocal from this legendary recording artist? Perhaps it’s the tight groove being played by the Motown funk brothers? Whatever it is, this song always puts me in the Christmas spirit and brings a smile to my face.
8. “Christmas Wrapping” – The Waitresses
The Waitresses were a new-wave band formed in Ohio in the 1970s. On a whim and at the request of a record company executive, the band’s founder, Chris Butler, penned this tune and lead singer Patty Donahue had to memorize almost 500 words in order to perform the song live. It’s homage to the holiday overcommitted.
9. “Go Tell It On the Mountain/Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” – Anita Wilson & Gregory Porter
Porter was a Grammy Award winner in 2014 for Best Jazz Vocal Album and Wilson has been a back-up singer for Gospel legends including Hezekiah Walker and Marvin Sapp. This inspirational track is off the Motown Christmas album released in 2014.
10. “Santa Will Find You” – Mindy Smith
This is off Smith’s 2007 album, “My Holiday.” It’s a sweet track for the season.
11. “The Nutcracker Suite” – Les Brown & His Band of Renown
Instrumental Bliss - Part III
12. “Christmas is all in the Heart” – Steven Curtis Chapman
Chapman, a five-time Grammy winner, has sold more than 11 million records over a 30-year career. This has been a favorite in our house since it was released back in 2003.
Paul Crutcher is the broadcast specialist and XLR Radio general manager at Lander University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at@PaulCrutcher.