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The Top 10 CCM Christmas Albums of All Time

Given the season and the initial decision not to include Christmas or seasonal albums among those listed in the Top 500, I thought it worthy to stop and list those under consideration initially. One of these releases does not fit the CCM category, but is included here because of the overwhelming use of the album by Christians and Christian radio stations.

10. Over the Hills and Everywhere – Seabird

The wonderful, but tragically too short Christmas album from one of the great unheralded bands in Christian Music is an utterly brilliant album. The traditional songs have been, for the most part, rearranged, to fit the acoustic/alternative rock style of the band. One highlight is “Joy to the World,” which was a version used on the popular television program, Grey’s Anatomy.

9. Timeless Christmas – Denver & The Mile High Orchestra

Denver & the Mile High Orchestra is one of those artists in CCM that deserved a wider hearing. The big band, Michael Buble tinged Denver has released several wonderful albums that somehow could never garner proper decent distribution and, as a result, remain mostly unknown. That is truly a shame on this fun, rollicking and bopping album of Christmas favorites arranged in all their spectacular big band glory.

8. A Christmas Song – Russ Taff

Borrowing from relatively same era as Denver & the Mile orchestra but in a decidedly different style, Russ Taff walks through Christmas favorites in a gloriously sexy style of the Rat Pack crooner. Mellow, smooth and jazz filled favorites. This is fireside and candlelight Christmas music. Add Taff’s impeccably perfect voice and you have…uh… brilliance!

7. Christmas – Mannheim Steamroller

Silent Night.

Enough said.

6. Dawn of Grace – Sixpence None the Richer

Leigh Nash singing Christmas favorites. Really? What else does anyone need? How about some wonderful arrangements, stunning production and a more unique and creative collection of Christmas carols and hymns  than one will find nearly anywhere else. “Last Christmas” is just stunningly beautiful.

5. A Christmas album – Amy Grant

I don’t think I am going out on a limb here to assume that this album is the best selling Christmas album in CCM history. Fortunately it is also a wonderful collection that is headed by the original “Tennessee Christmas” that has become a long time standard. The album also hinted a more acoustic and country tinged artists that would develope as the years passed. And Amy Grant album for those who are not fans of amy Grant.

4. Christmas – Various Sparrow Artists

There have been countless collection Christmas album foisted upon the CCM buying public, but not many this good. Not a concept album featuring various artists like others on this list, this is simply a money grab by the label. But that notwithstanding the collection of songs, arrangements and artists make this a real treasure. each artists was allowed to perform within their own genre (roughly) and the BeBe & CeCe Winan version of “Silent Night” is awesome! And Steve Taylor’s mariachi version of Winter Wonderland is a wonderful mistake!

3. December – George Winston

George Winston’s most popular and possibly best album is a collection of “winter” favorites that are haunting, dark, brooding, joyful and celebratory. Over half would be considered “Christmas Carols” while other are more reflective of the season of winter. the opening track, “Thanksgiving,” is possibly Winston’s finest composition and never grows old. That song alone is worth owning the album.

2. An Evening in December – First Call (and Guests)

An a capella treat that remains a mainstay more then two decades later. Featuring (and actually introducing) First Call, the album has Marty and crew supporting many of Daywind records host of artists like Cynthia Clawson and Wayne Watson, the album is a wonderful collection of original and traditional carols sung in the best possibly way. The vocal arrangements are flawless, the production pristine and the performances spot on.

1. Noel – Various Artists

If you do not own this album, you are truly missing out on not only one of the great Christmas albums of all time (Christian or secular) but on one of the great albums. This album was initially listed in the Top 100 before the decision to remove the seasonal albums. Years before “City of a Hill,” short lived Via Records released this brilliant acoustic collection of original and classical holiday favorites. Artists include Derri Daugherty (The Choir), Michael Pritzl (The Violet Burning), Jerry Chamberlain (DA), Kevin Smith (DC Talk), Jenny Gullen (Hoi Polloi), Brent Bourgeois, Riki Michelle (Adam Again), Julie Miller and more. Simply brilliant from first to last and years ahead of the time.

  1. Strawshine
    December 16, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    I only have the “Noel” album…I don’t have many Christmas albums really, but I really enjoy Kevin Max’s “Holy Night”, made on a pretty slim budget as I recall. Sparse, but wonderful.

  2. December 16, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    I love the Noel album. I bought it when it first came out and I think I gifted a few copies of it to spread the joy!

  3. James
    December 16, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    I would love to track down a copy of that “Noel” album as I do not have it but it sounds like it would be brilliant.

    One of my favorite Christmas compilation albums is “Broken Christmas” from 1988, featuring many of the artists on Gene Eugene and Ojo Taylor’s Broken label, including The Holidays, Level Heads and 441, as well as both Eugene and Taylor’s respective bands Adam Again and Undercover.

    Another favorite would be “Happy Christmas” Tooth & Nail’s 1998 Christmas compilation featuring artists like Starflyer 59, Joy Electric, Puller, Bon Voyage, Pep Squad and Flight 180.

  4. Shawn McLaughlin
    December 17, 2010 at 1:05 am

    I pretty much despise everything that our society does to celebrate Christmas, including the music (that’s what 10 years of Christian Retail will do to ya) but that Noel album is the best! Right now, you can download a new version of “Babe in the Straw” (A Choir original and my fave on the album) at http://www.thechoir.net in their store. You can also watch the concert that the Choir streamed live on their website Tuesday night.

  5. Shawn McLaughlin
    December 17, 2010 at 1:07 am

    Oh…..and “ditto” on Broken Christmas. Very cool album.

  6. December 17, 2010 at 2:25 am

    I whole-heartedly agree with Sixpence. Such an amazing album!

  7. Ted Patterson
    December 17, 2010 at 5:32 am

    Listening to Cockburn’s Christmas album made me wonder if you had an idea of doing a Top 10 Christmas list. Weird thing is I was thinking this just today. Guess I know you too well…

  8. goozer
    December 17, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Your list actually has two non-CCM artists: Mannheim Steamroller and George Winston. But their albums are absolutely filled with the transcendent feeling that true Christmas music should bring, so they definitely belong!

    My top 10 (not that you asked…):

    Brave Combo – It’s Christmas, Man! (saw them perform this live – what a treat!)
    Bruce Cockburn – Christams (nice and mellow.)
    Jeff Johnson – Centerpoint (pure art.)
    Mannheim Steamroller – Christmas! (it’s not Christmas for me until I play it.)
    Vince Guaraldi – A Charlie Brown Christmas (this album is how I discovered jazz.)
    Various – A Broken Christmas (though I skip the awful Rudy track…)
    Various – Noel (no commercial schmaltz here!)
    Various – The Gift/A Colours Christmas (nice, eclectic collection)
    Various – Rock Power Praise Vol. 2/Christmas Hymns (love 80s hair rock cheese!)
    Various – Incantation (this was a Meadowlark Records collection, I somehow lost the CD and have been trying for nearly 20 years to find another one!)

    Honorable mention songs:
    Winter Wonderland – Steve Taylor (ayyyyyyy yiii yiii yiiiiiiiiiiiii!)
    Winter Wonderland – Stryper (I still have a cold, man.)
    Misty Winter Wonderland Mountain Hop- Fleming & John (this is my favorite Christmas song EVER!)

    YMMV : )

  9. goozer
    December 18, 2010 at 1:20 am

    oops – the Meadowlark CD is titled ‘Incarnation’…maybe that’s why I haven’t found it for so long! ; )

  10. David
    December 20, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    I have most of these and can understand their inclusion on this list. However, “Blues For The Child” is at least a top 3 Christmas recording. Definitely better than most on this list. Agree with “Noel” (#1 above) as it’s one of my very favorites as well.

  11. mark
    December 21, 2010 at 10:16 am

    December – George Winston
    This is an awesome record! But for sure no CCM. Winston explicitly says the references to “christmas” and christianity are only because of the season, not the content.
    Nonetheless one of my favorite next to Bugge Wesseltoft “snowing on my piano”.
    But Mahalia Jackson and Odetta have to be in it!

    • low5point
      December 21, 2010 at 9:58 pm

      My blog, my rules. So says Shawn 🙂

      • Shawn McLaughlin
        December 23, 2010 at 9:14 am

        Yessiree Bob!

        But I gotta agree with Blues For the Child(Lanny Cordola and friends). Also…….The Jars of Clay Christmas release from two years ago was REALLY good.

  12. Greenchili
    March 9, 2011 at 6:40 am

    The Sixpence christmas album was indeed a pleasant surprise.

  13. Jon
    March 10, 2011 at 6:32 am

    A Broken Christmas and Bruce Cockburn’s “Christmas” both would be on my list, as well as the Meadowlark album. Russ Taff’s Christmas album is simply brilliant, and should be more popular than it is.

  14. June 7, 2011 at 2:53 am

    Where’s Steven Curtis Chapman’s Christmas album? I love that one!

    • low5point
      June 7, 2011 at 6:14 am

      It’s performed by Steven Curtis Chapman…that alone would keep it from a Top 50 Christmas albums

  15. June 18, 2011 at 10:56 am

    I am not a fan of Christmas albums. Amy Grant’s “A Christmas Album” is the only album I have from that list. Overall, I find Christmas albums made by CCM artists quite weird. After all, Christmas is not even Christian – it comes from pagans.

  16. y2daddy
    February 2, 2012 at 1:33 am

    To the pagan comment, you know the days of the week were named after… nah, you know what, not even going there. Don’t have the energy for it.

    Glad to see someone else who appreciates the Noel album. Can’t find a soul in my life who has ever heard of it. One of the few Christmas CDs I own.

  17. Andrew J. Persac
    February 25, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    I HAVE the Noel CD somewhere in my collection. BTW, I DID include Christmas projects in my own personal Top 100 CCM projects of all time list. Amy’s made the list, as did her Home for Christmas as well, plus the Sparrow Christmas project also. Noel didn’t, but probably because I never listened much to it to be honest. The Broken Christmas project mentioned by others is excellent as well, plus serveral of the Happy Christmas ones, though later editions repeated certain songs or different versions of ones from previous ones, covers & originals.

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