Christmas is coming ever nearer, and the undisputed best part of the holiday season (besides family time, presents and tons of pie) is the music. Holiday songs have been filling people's minds and hearts for hundreds of years, and have become more than a tradition.
From "The Christmas Song" to "O Holy Night" to "The Little Drummer Boy," classic Christmas carols have become a major part of the holiday season and worked their ways into family life and popular culture. Thus, old Christmas favorites, which have some of the warmest spots in our hearts, get constant reimaginings and covers from all of music's major players.
But what versions of all the Christmas songs are the best? We here at Music Times are determined to find out. And, as a part of the 12 days of Christmas, we'll be counting down the days (and the best Christmas songs).
For day two, we'll continue the countdown to the happiest day of the year with the classical wintery piece "Sleigh Ride." Originally composed by Leroy Anderson in 1946 recorded as an orchestral piece, complete with horse clop sound effects and that wonderous "clap!", the song first got a classical recording in 1950. The year before, 1949, the song was given the vocal treatment the followingyear by The Andrews Sister. Though not technically a Christmas song, it's hard not to associate this snowy track with the holiday season.
So, who makes the best version of "Sleigh Ride?" Let's count it down.
Want a little '90s R&B nostalgia in your Christmas music? Look no further than TLC's non-traditional spin on "Sleigh Ride." The three ladies of the legendary girl group gave the song some funky vocals and a few added, changed versions. But, the way Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes sings "giddy up" is totally makes this odd spin worth it.
10. Sufjan Stevens
TLC weren't the only ones to put a slightly different spin on "Sleigh Ride," indie rocker Sufjan Stevens did it too for his Christmas album Silver & Gold. What makes this version particularly shiny is the friend-filled vibe it gives off, and isn't that the whole reason for the season?
9. Carole King
A Holiday Carole is a Christmas classic in many households, and there's a reason why. King's version of "Sleigh Ride" is no-nonsense, and the singer tackles the song in a simplistic manner. No real frills, no crazy effects and a solid vocal help to make this version a solid one to sing along to while passing around the coffee and pumpkin pie.
8. Harry Connick, Jr.
Of course, Harry Connick Jr. has recorded other music, but it's as if the future American Idol judge was just born to put his spin on Christmas music. Filled with some jazzy, jazzy trumpets and a few little kicks from the band, this song is a classic for the ages. Add in Connick Jr's smooth as silk voice, and there's little better.
It wouldn't be Christmas without the Carpenters, and one of the brother/sister duo's definitive holiday songs is their version of "Sleigh Ride." Karen Carpenter's classic, timeless voice is the true highlight of this track. There's just something incredibly pleasing about the way she pronounces "you" and "too." Add a nice accompaniment from a small choir, and this is a bona fide hit.
6. Dolly Parton
Though this is technically a mashup of "Winter Wonderland" and "Sleigh Ride," Dolly Parton's version of the song cannot be ignored. It's wonderfully peppy, youthful and just oozes of childhood Christmas. Plus, she manages to mesh the two songs together perfectly, which is a wonder of arrangement. The keyboard effect helps to add to this song's light, airy feeling and it's a unique spin on some holiday standards.
5. Ella Fitzgerald
There's just not denying that Ella Fitzgerald made some of the best Christmas music out there. Her spin on "Sleigh Ride" adds some smooth trumpets, swells of piano and just oozes that timelessness of Christmas like no other. Like Carole King, this version is no frills, but that's what helps to make it so strong. That and Fitzgerald's flwless voice.
4. The Andrews Sisters
The Andrews Sisters were the first to record a lyrical version of "Sleigh Ride," so obviously their version needs to be near the top of the list. The three sibling's voices mesh perfectly together and there's something incredibly charming about the vintage vibes of this version. Has it aged the best? No. But Christmas is all about the throwbacks, and it doesn't get any more old school than this.
3. Andy Williams
Andy Williams has the most ageless Christmas voice out there, and his crooning fits just as well today as it did back in the day. His spin on "Sleigh Ride" is a little more uptempo than most, giving it a jolly vibe. Of course, there's some nice trumpets, a peppy chorus backing and a solid key change that also help to distinguish this version. It's one of the most requested Christmas songs, and rightfully so.
2. Boston Pops Orchestra
Of course, no list about "Sleigh Ride" would be complete without the orchestral version, and Boston Pops Orchestra's version of the track is the standard to which all other "Sleigh Rides" are held. There's that bombastic low brass line, the light stringed swells, those fun handclaps, jolly jingle bells and that super fun trumpet "horse neigh" at the end of the song. Classical music is just done right here.
1. The Ronettes
Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without Phil Spector, and The Ronettes' version of "Sleigh Ride" gets everything right. There's the sunshiney (despite the winter) vocals, some old-timey accompaniment and a pure joy that should always be present in Christmas music. Mix in the trademark Spector production and that wall of noise turns into one of the most perfect Christmas carols.