Two Jeffs Share Their Favorite Holiday Music


I asked a few audio friends what music they listen to for Christmas, and this is what I got from the two Jeffs. This post is in our December newsletter, which is a tribute to Christmas music.

Jeff Day’s Christmas Playlist

Thanks to Jeff Day of Jeff’s Place and Jeff Catalano of High Water Sound for sharing some of their favorite Christmas albums with us.  Let’s start by looking at what Jeff Day’s playlist.

“I got a nice message from Jack about the holiday music column he was planning to do on favorite Christmas or Holiday LPs here on the Audio Beatnik and asking if I’d like to make some recommendations. Sure, I thought, “That’d be fun!”

From my family to yours, may your holiday season be filled with peace, joy, and love in abundance!”  — Jeff Day

From my earliest memories, the 1957 Capitol Records A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra was always in heavy rotation on the turntable during the holiday season at Mom and Dad’s place. A fire burning in the fireplace, snow falling outside the windows, the aroma of Thanksgiving and Christmas meals wafting through the house, friends, and family laughing and making merry, that was the holiday season at the Day’s home.

Fun holiday music and a great recording make the 1957 Capitol Records A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra a must have album during the holiday season.

Bing Crosby’s 1942 Decca Merry Christmas album was another holiday favorite at the Day household. When my Dad was growing up in Spokane, Washington, working as a kid at the Davenport Hotel, Bing was known to occasionally show up at the Davenport for dinner and drinks.

One fine evening a very stoned Bing jumped up on the table and began to sing to the gasps and delight of guests and staff. An instant beloved story to pass on to the kids for those in attendance! This Decca Records 1942 mono recording doesn’t have the best fidelity in the world, but it is chock full of delightful holiday music, and “White Christmas” is worth the price of admission alone.

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, my ultra-talented musician friend Jonathan Barnett used to go the Estes Park, Colorado, music festival and play music with his friends, which included a young Amy Grant.

In 1983 when Amy Grant’s A Christmas Album was released on Reunion Records I bought a copy. A Christmas Album remains one of my favorite holiday albums, and every time I play it I think of the good old days and remind myself that it has been way too long since I have visited with my friend Jonathan. This Amy Grant album is full of beautiful holiday music, and it is a decent recording as well!

The 1965 Fantasy Records A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio is a stunning album both musically and sonically. The version of A Charlie Brown Christmas I have is the Analogue Productions 45rpm version, and it is a fantastic album. Aside from being a great holiday album, this is jazz at its finest, and it deserves a place in every jazz lover’s music library!

The 2011 Merge Records A Very She & Him Christmas by folk/indie rockers Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward became an instant favorite of mine the first time I heard it. Fantastic recording quality and an intimate setting make A Very She & Him Christmas a must have holiday album!

The 2015 Analogue Productions 2 LP set The Wonderful Sounds of Christmas is chock full of great holiday music that is beautifully recorded. It’s a new favorite holiday album for me, and I predict you’ll enjoy it too!

Jeff Catalano’s Playlist

At every audio show, I look forward to the High Water Sound’s room. Not only does Jeff Catalano consistently have one of the best sounding rooms at the show, but he also has some of the best LPs and many times they are LPs. The first thing I ask Jeff is to play me something he thinks I may not have heard before. So he was a logical choice to ask for Christmas albums.

“Christmas records are a bit tricky but, like most things, our African American brothers and sisters seem to cut through the bullshit and actually deliver music instead of just a money grab.” — Jeff Catalano

Let’s start with the album It’s a Holiday Soul Party from Brooklyn’s finest purveyors of classic funk, soul, and R&B, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings fulfills these essential obligations.

Booker T. & the MG’s were the heart,  and soul of Stax Records. They cut their incredible Christmas album, In the Christmas Spirit in1966. Their unique, soulful interpretation of the yuletide classics is really special.

Atco Records’ Soul Christmas can’t help but be a great Christmas album with artists like Otis Redding, Clarance Carter, King Curtis and Booker T.

I promise you that James Brown’s Funky Christmas is a Christmas album you will never forget.

The ‘Rolling Stone’ said Phil Spector’s: Christmas Gift for You is not just the greatest Christmas record ever, but a bona fide pop classic in its own right.

Best wishes from
Jeff Catalano and High Water Sound