The best Christmas songs missing from your playlist

A few of our favourite Christmas tunes

Welcome to the Tri-Cities Dispatch office party! It’s like a regular office party only someone fact-checked the egg nog.

Here’s a few of our favourite songs of the season.

The party songs

The Harmony Grits: Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Made up of outcasts from The Drifters, The Harmony Grits only recorded a couple songs, including this up-tempo doo-wop gem with a gospel call-and-response that’s the perfect way to kick off a Christmas party.


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Cheap Trick: I Wish It was Christmas Today
An arena rock Christmas anthem that began its life as a Saturday Night Live skit written by the host of the Tonight Show and Horatio Sanz. Somehow, the song’s very implausibility adds to its joyfulness.

Barbara Streisand: Jingle Bells?
With a voice as strong and wintry as the Abominable Snowman, Streisand re-creates a Christmas classic with humour and infectious energy. In my experience, kids love this one.

Detroit Junior: Christmas Day
Maybe best known as Howlin’ Wolf’s piano player, Detroit Junior released this uproarious, horn-filled Christmas jam as a B-side in 1961. It should’ve been a hit.

The Reverend Horton Heat: Frosty the Snowman
The Texas psychobilly trio plays it straight on this one, capturing the fun, the exuberance and thumpity-thump-thump-thumpity the song deserves.

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects
A gorgeous piece of neo-soul, Jones tells the story of a child’s skepticism and a mother’s reassurance.

The Cadillacs: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
The funniest, finest version of the classic song.

Slade: Merry Xmas Everybody
Whatever your opinion of glam rock, this tune just might be the ultimate sing-along Christmas rocker.

The Rubber Band: Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
Here’s the concept: an album full of Christmas songs re-arranged to sound like Beatles tunes. Doesn’t sound great, does it? Well, for the most part it’s not but this version of Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree melded with I Saw Her Standing There is – inexplicably – wonderful.

Whitney Houston with the Georgia Mass Choir: Joy to the World
It starts out fine. Nice, but nothing you haven’t heard before. And then the choir hits and the song becomes overpowering and infectious.

The ballads

Jim Croce: It Doesn’t Have to be That Way
A beautiful, heartrending ballad about missing the person you love on Christmas. Things “just don’t seem the same/ And the Christmas carols sound like blues / but the choir is not to blame.”

Vanessa Williams: What Child is This?
This is smooth and melancholy, captivating and understated. Williams conducts a church service in a jazz joint.

Ray Charles: The Snow is Falling
The Genius is at his gloomiest and bluesiest on this Lieber/Stoller tune. “All I do is cry/ Gonna buy me a coffin, well I’m gonna lay right down and die.”

Something smooth

Lou Rawls: Christmas Is
You want something a little mellow, something smooth you can put on when the chaos is over? Lou Rawls somehow manages to be Nat King Cole, Otis Redding and Santa Claus all in one on this track.

Dinah Washington: Ole Santa
From ribald blues to sophisticated jazz, Dinah Washington could do just about everything. This song captures a child’s anticipation on Christmas Eve.

Brook Benton: Soul Santa
As smooth as rayon, as deep as a crevasse, Brook Benton stays in a lowdown groove on this track that imagines Santa Claus as a “fine soul brother.”

Duke Ellington: Sugar Rum Cherry (Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy)
I wish I had the vocabulary to do this song justice. As slinky and silky as, um, a silk Slinky? It’s great, is the point.

The classics

Stan Rogers: At Last I’m Ready for Christmas
Rousing and sweet, it’s a Christmas folk song that pays tribute to parental exhaustion. Some lyrics may be a bit dated (Christmas bonus?) but the story of toiling to give the kids a great Christmas remains both true and moving.

Solomon Burke: Presents for Christmas
The musical titan who fused rock ‘n’ soul gives us a joyful groove here. It’s the rare Christmas song you can dance to and the even rarer Christmas song you’ll want to dance to.

Nat King Cole: Caroling, Caroling
OK, it’s not quite as beloved as “The Christmas Song,’ but still, this is a joyful tribute to singing and to the songs and sounds of the season.

Marvin Gaye: I Want to Come Home for Christmas
Written in 1972, this tune was intended to be a contemporary Christmas song told from the point of view of a U.S. soldier spending Christmas as prisoner of war in Vietnam. Fifty years later, the song is still stirring. The lyrics may be timely, but Marvin Gaye is timeless.

Louis Armstrong: Christmas in New Orleans
Before he wrote songs for Disney classics like Mary Poppins and the Jungle Book, Richard M. Sherman contributed to this classic about “A Dixieland Santa Claus leading the band/ to a good old Creole beat.” Another singer might’ve done it justice but that joyful genius Louis Armstrong made it a classic.


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