I was decorating our tree with my daughter Emily the other night and when I heard her singing along with “Frosty the Snowman” it seemed like everything was quiet in that moment. Music is such a significant part of the holiday season and it never goes out of style. This year brings another great bunch of variety to add to your classics. They also make excellent holiday gifts/stocking stuffers! Giving the gift of music is truly a gift that keeps on giving. Enjoy!
Rocknoceros comes forth with a rock solid collection of holiday jams. Happy Holidays contains 9 tracks that start from Halloween and end with New Years. What I love most are the combination of musical styles and the creative approach this Virignina-based trio takes towards traditional tunes. In many ways they remind me of They Might Be Giants. “Christmas Brie,” for example, features some punny dialogue around the words “Christmas Tree” and is layered over some Vince Guaraldi-esque jazz. The Peanuts quality of this song goes well with the album cover which also reminds me a bit of scenes from the TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas. “The Dreidel Song” honors a traditional Chanukah game and “Wenceslas” echoes all the gratitude, love and giving of the season with a memorable story set to the toll of beloved holiday bells. Happy Holidays will help you glide through the last quarter of the year and send you happily sailing into the coming new year.
Happy Holidays is available through Rocknoceros’ official store.
Josh and the Jamtones – Jammin’ with Jew!, Volume 2 Holiday Xxplosion!
A huge part of Jewish tradition is centered around music – song, and especially dance. Each one significantly contributes to the practice of traditions and observance. So the fact that Josh and the Jamtones, known for their high energy kindie jams, put out an album that promises to be a “Holiday Xxplosion” (double X for Xtra Large fun!) just makes sense, and is awesome. Though there are plenty of songs for Jewish families out there, the Jamtones bring a hip, cohesive alternative to the fold. Jammin’ with Jew!, Volume 2 is a collection of 14 songs in both English and Hebrew. The prayer for peace, “Oseh Shalom” sounds even more on point backed by some equally harmonious reggae rhythm, while the more secular “Amen,” a Bluegrassy/Big Band track encourages gratitude in a bold way. “Amen” is such a joyful song, there’s no doubt you’ll find yourself engaged with this song while clapping along. Chanukah specific songs include a rollicking ska-drenched version of “Oh Chanukah” – super danceable for those ready to turn their living room into a mad Horah dance party – and a swingin’ version of “Dreidle.” Jammin’ with Jew!, Volume 2 offers families a one-stop destination ready for a happy set of celebrations throughout the year. We are a family that celebrates both Christmas and Jewish holidays and having an album with popular Jewish songs all in one place has been an especially welcome convenience.
Jammin’ with Jew!, Volume 2 is available through iTunes, CDBaby and Amazon.
Andrew & Polly – Other Days
Representing the West Coast is the wonderfully warm duo of Andrew & Polly. They are offering up a sweet little gift of 4 songs celebrating tradition and family. As a bonus gift, the duo teamed up with master collaborator Mista Cookie Jar in “L.A. Christmas” which delights with festively mellow sun and sand style. Together they remind us that regardless of whether you’ve got pine trees or palm trees (or are rockin’ a Hawaiian shirt), this is simply the season to fill up on love and just sway together. The beauty of Other Days is that it truly can persist beyond the holiday season. Though half of the songs include holiday specific references, “Thank You for the Box” and “A Mapmaker’s Song” go beyond the boundaries of this time of year, and feature what makes Andrew & Polly so lovable – a little whimsy and a whole lotta charm. Ending with “A Mapmaker’s Song,” families will relate to the sentiment that home truly is where the heart is.
Other Days is available through Andrew & Polly’s online store, and iTunes.
Greg Page – Here Comes Christmas!
Greg Page, otherwise known as The Yellow Wiggle, has embarked on a solo path with a new production group called Yellow Entertainment and a children’s program called Butterscotch’s Playground (available through DVD ). Just in time for the holidays, Page has produced a holiday album full of original and traditional songs which display vocal chops that easily put him in even footing with some of the holiday’s best crooners. Page’s voice, like Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, and even Ol’ Blue Eyes, is full of the same smooth characteristics that have made the aforementioned notables significant voices of the season. Here Comes Christmas! will be nostalgic for adults reminiscing on their own childhood traditions while gleefully making new memories with little ones to reflect back upon when they are grown. Beloved tunes such as “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “White Christmas,” “Silver Bells,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” among other favorites found in this collection are why music has become such a staple for invoking the holiday spirit. The arrangements are preserved to the tee for the most part, although “The Twelve Days of Christmas” gets wild and wooly as it features guinea pigs, goldfish and puppy dogs with a bonus of goat’s milk (which is made into…well, you’ll have to listen to find out! No holiday spoilers here!). Among the aforementioned albums in this post Here Comes Christmas! is a comforting and familiar place to return to, just like coming in from the cold and being handed a warm mug of cocoa and some freshly baked cookies. This is definitely an album you can just spin while gleefully trimming your Christmas tree. Every now and then you might just catch yourself singing along and then smiling as you look around and see your little ones joining you in the chorus.
Here Comes Christmas! also contains 4 bonus songs from Butterscotch’s Playground and is available from iTunes and the official Butterscotch TV website.
Maestro Classics – The Nutcracker
One of the most iconic soundtracks of the season is The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky’s lush orchestration is truly prized and unforgettable.
Adapted and conducted by Stephen Simon and narrated by Jim Weiss, Maestro Classics presents music (performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra) that tells the story of this enchanting ballet.
This retelling of The Nutcracker is punctuated by the majestic sounds of the ballet in the background. Jim is a master storyteller and his enthusiastic narration will adorn children’s imaginations with lavish scenes full of wonder featuring Clara, her Nutcracker Prince, the battle with the Mouse King, and the dance with the Sugar Plum Fairy.
The Nutcracker will always conjure up feelings of Christmas and this album is truly an excellent gift of the season. Maestro Classics is dedicated to fostering a love of classical music and their storytelling series will help children pair important works with time honored soundtracks, thereby identifying with the music (independent of the story) later on. Combining a story with the music also serves as a great resource for children who may not already be familiar with or who may not prefer classical music or songs without words.
Each CD set comes with an activity booklet which includes bite-sized educational features such as The History of Ballet, a few lines of music for “Overture to The Nutcracker,” information about the Harp, a brief bio of Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, and some word games. In addition to The Nutcracker, Maestro Classics offers other timeless pieces as part of their Stories in Music series which brings the magic of theater, classical music and storytelling into a very accessible space for families, whether you are listening at home, or traveling in the car.
You can purchase this set, along with other fabulous classical music collections at the Maestro Classics official site.
Laurie Berkner – A Laurie Berkner Christmas
The following songs are from one of our favorite holiday albums, A Laurie Berkner Christmas, which features a mix of Christmas, Chanukah and seasonal songs. “Candle Chase” has a nice rhythm similar to the beat found in many Jewish songs. Perfect for celebrating around the brilliant glow of your menorah.
Laurie recently came out with a new video for “Children Go Where I send Thee” which also features 2-time Grammy nom Brady Rymer. It’s such an infectious version of this classic song which is featured on an equally heartwarming and upbeat album. You’ll love it. “Children Go Where I Send Thee” is featured on both A Laurie Berkner Christmas and Laurie’s recently released Laurie Berkner’s Favorite Classic Kids’ Songs.
Read my previous review of A Laurie Berkner Christmas here.
For posts from previous years featuring our favorites, check out Songs for the Season – Part 1, Songs for the Season – Part 2, Untangling the Christmas Lights – Brady Rymer, Santa Flying in your Sleigh – Todd McHatton.
Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam – “Summertime Santa”
As a native of New Jersey, and a resident of California, the sounds of this song, and seeing Santa give the shaka (aka “hang ten”) sign makes me smile. Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam’s new holiday track, “Summertime Santa” rings with jingle bells and some good ol’ Jersey Rock n’ Roll. So what does Santa do in the summertime? He hangs up his big red winter coat, and heads down the shore to unwind, basking in the glory of all that the boardwalk has to offer. Didner and the crew conjure up some classic Springsteen sounds with this happy holiday number. Check it.
“Summertime Santa” was produced by Marc “Baze” Bazerman (from Baze and His Silly Friends), and is available for download via CD Baby, iTunes, BandCamp, JungleGymJam.com
A good blend of original and traditional tunes keeps the music of this season feeling fresh. Each one of the albums and videos mentioned in this post, as well as those from previous years, is guaranteed to fill you up over the coming holi-days!
Stay tuned for the addition of holiday songs!