MY "TOP TEN" CHRISTMAS MUSIC CDs. Okay, so if we're going to listen to Christmas music ad nauseum let's at least be a little selective! Here's the first five of my current "Top Ten." Submit yours if you'd like.
10. Windham Hill: A Winter Solstice Reunion. 1998 Windham Hill Records. Moving-- even haunting--instrumental arrangements of old and new Christmas songs by the best new age genre musicians around.
9. Bethlehem After Dark. Butch Thompson, piano; Laura Sewell, cello. 2000, Daring Records. Butch plays on the weekly public radio show "A Prairie Home Companion." This combo plays a subdued but very crisp rag style.
8. Gary Hoey: The Best of Ho! Ho! Hoey. 2001, Surfdog Records. Gary Hoey defined Christmas music in the surf guitar genre. Once you hear what Hoey does to these traditional songs and carols, you'll want to head to the beach for Christmas. I could not find this in stores; I had to order it at www.surfdog.com.
7. Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration. 1992, Reprise Records. You guessed it: the classic masterpiece in soul style featuring well-known African-American artists. Very cool.
6. Now It Is Christmas Again. 1994, Angel Records. Garrison Keillor and company sing and storytell their way through 25 traditional songs (some sung in the languages of the northern Europe). You'll laugh and cry.