The versions of these songs are the gold standard for secular Christmas music. While others have also taken a shot at recording these songs, and some of those versions may be good, these are the best versions produced. Convince me otherwise. Feel free to add your own selections.
Criteria of selections.1. These are secular pieces. Sacred music is entirely its own category, and sacred selections are sung best as a congregation.
2. These are songs that have been sung, sung again, and sung again by various artists. For example, I don’t know if anyone has re-recorded “Merry Christmas, Darling” by the Carpenters. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR1ujXx2p-I ; footage from a Christmas special). If it has been redone, the Carpenters are the gold standard.
3. Some songs, in my opinion, have yet to find their gold standard.
4. Some songs won’t have a gold standard. Ever. (Sorry, “I Saw Mommy Kissing santa Claus.” Go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsat4e8jgHA for the worst version of the worst Christmas song ever. (I am willing to listen to other entries for bad Christmas songs, but that’s another blog entry.)
5. Instrumental versions and lyrical versions may have different gold standards.
Caroling, Caroling – Nat King Colehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFSPGIHjak8
The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) – Nat King Colehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__kQ1PCP6B0 (Recorded on TV special)
White Christmas – Bing Crosbyhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJSUT8Inl14
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – Johnny Mathishttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYTnzNeTWmE
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williamshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFtb3EtjEic
Happy Holidays – Andy Williamshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSfzvrtgsSE
Holly, Jolly Christmas – Burl Iveshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Up1t5siifEw
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Gene Autryhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ara3-hDH6I
The Little Drummer Boy – The Harry Simeone Choralehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DT1fA59oH7Q
Sleigh Ride (Instrumental) – Leroy Anderson & the Boston Popshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuSl9PKx6M4
Here We Come A-Caroling – Ray Conniff Singershttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71js6tQr334
We Need a Little Christmas – Percy Faithhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDaDopTFRoU
O Tannenbaum (instrumental) – Vince Guaraldi Triohttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kw6h4mZO1oU
NOTE: I don’t think Nat King Cole and the Ray Conniff Singers have produced a bad version of any Christmas song. Perhaps add Bing Crosby. These should be essential additions to anyone’s Christmas CD’s (or iPod’s, for those more technologically advanced that me).