Seriously. Why does a kid who grew up in South Texas with Cuban parents love this album? I say "album" because we actually had it as a kid. I can only imagine my mother got this at some point. And now knowing it was released the year I was born I love the idea that I could've heard this every year of my life.
Sure, I can take the Nat King Cole album, even though its been played into the ground. But Barbra's A Christmas Album....MERCY!! I give up.
So here's my reasons (beside the obvious one that I'm a gay boy and have such predilections). By the way, "you can get you" a used copy on Amazon for $2. TWO DOLLARS!! Get thee to an online merchant and shop!Reasons Barbra Streisand's Christmas Album is a great album.
1. The cover.
Look at that outfit (please click on the picture above for the large size). It's like a sheer muu-muu. And her hair is just piled up and pulled back with that band. For its sheer outrageous late 60s frockness this is a great album before you even listen to it. Which leads us to
2. The orb.
What is that thing? It looks like they asked her to hold a disco ball in her hand and shined ten kleig lights on her. The effect is stunning. Even though this was six years before Woody Allen's Sleeper, it somehow foreshadows the sex pleasure ball from that movie. It's also reminiscent of Logan's Run for some reason. Does anyone else see that? Is this supposed to be some kind of symbolic birthing of the light of the world? "I am Barbra. I have brought you this gift my people!" Barbra as a modern day Mary. Which leads us to
3. Barbra's version of "Ave Maria."
Frankly this is the best track on the recording (track 8). Set phasers on "stunning." It's also, as she points out in the track listing, "Gounod's Ave Maria." Oh yeah. This ain't no pedestrian Franz Shubert. This is Gounod, Damnit. Barbra would never be so predictable. In making such a choice she introduces her audience to a graceful melody and a superior version of that song about Mary. Well, I don't know that it's superior to Shubert's version but it's certainly more of a pleasure. I remember when singing this as a solo in church as a kid. This was in a Spanish-speaking Methodist church so this was a congregation full of post-Catholics, whose Protestantism was a at times a viciously anti-catholic. So, the preacher's son getting up and singing "Ave Maria" was pretty gutsy (although I didn't get it at the time). But I'd decided to sing what I wanted to sing.
4. Conceptual Weirdness.
But perhaps the best thing about this album is its inherent conceptual wierdness. It was post-modern in a way I couldn't fully comprehend at the time. I mean here's Barbra Streisand. Nice little Jewish girl singing on an album filled with Christmas songs. I mean its even called, "the CHRISTMAS ALBUM." Its all about Christ! Not one dreidel song to be heard! She even ends the album by singing "The Lord's Prayer." THE LORD'S PRAYER!!! It's insane! It was many years before I even realized this inconsistency.
All in all its still a great album. Aside from the already mentioned Ave Maria, my other highlights are I Wonder As I Wander. I think there's a version of it by Johnny Mathis that might be a bit better but I could be mistaken. I do have to warn newbies of the near psychotic version of "Jingle Bells" that opens this album. One listening will do you fine for the rest of the year.
Curious to hear about your favorite albums for this time of the year?