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 re-imaginings 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).
Just eight days remain until Christmas, and since this series is titled after the 12 Days of Christmas, how about we look at the traditional carol based off the ultimate Christmas countdown? Originally written as a traditional carol in the 18th century, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" has an unknown origin (thought to be from France or England) and has become a major holiday player over the years. With cumulative lyrics, the song has lent itself to numerous parodies and covers over the years.
However, who has done the song the most justice? Let us count the ways...
8. Bob & Doug McKenzie
Recorded for the sketch comedy show SCTV in 1982, Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas acted as their characters Bob and Doug McKenzie for this muddled version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Since it is a comedy sketch at its core, the characters can't quite keep track of the days exactly, asking for things such as french toast, golden tooks and a beer in a tree.
7. Burl Ives
Burl Ives was one of the first popular artists to do a traditional cover of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and did so in 1951. His cover is perfectly straightforward, which actually fits for this old school song. As always, Ives' smooth as silk voice gives this song a touch that's just as golden as those five rings in the song.
6. Perry Como
Like Ives before him, Perry Como gave "The Twelve Days of Christmas" a straightforward cover. However, his deeper voice gives the song a stronger backbone. In order to keep the song from feeling stale, Como resorted to invoking backup singers and choirs to join him for this cumulative track, and that's always a solid call. If you're looking for a classical version of this song, there's little need to look any further.
5. Twisted Sister ("Heavy Metal Christmas")
Just in case you missed it, hair metal band Twisted Sister dropped a holiday album A Twisted Christmas in 2006, and it's understandably awesome. To close out the record, Dee Snider and co. recorded a re-imaging of "The Twelve Days Christmas" filled with metal references. The band receives such rocking gifts like skull earrings, a tattoo of Ozzy Osbourne and some black mascara. Hell yeah.
4. Jeff Foxworthy ("Redneck 12 Days of Christmas")
OK, so Jeff Foxworthy's redneck schtick may be a little old by 2013, but there's no denying that his version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" isn't silly. Someone gone done went to the Walmart and picked Foxworthy up some wonderfully white trash gifts. There's "wrastling" tickets, probation, SPAM, flannel shirts and "some parts to a Mustang GT." Ain't nothing wrong with laughing at that.
3. Bob Rivers ("The Twelve Pains of Christmas")
So, as Christmas comes closer and closer, there's no denying that beyond all the joy and love this season brings, there's also a fair amount of annoyances. Bon Rivers absolutely nailed the worst things about December in his "The Twelve Pains of Christmas." Because, let's be real, who doesn't want to complain about hangovers, crying children, overspending and more. Plus, the way this song builds and builds is pure comedic brilliance.
2. Roger Whittaker
Perry Como and Burl Ives' classical takes on this carol are totally fine standards, but British singer-songwriter Roger Whitaker actually nailed "The Twelve Days of Christmas" better than anyone else out there. His vocals are as rich and refined as anything else out there, and like any solid version of the song, he incorporates choirs and backup singers to shake things up.
1. John Denver & The Muppets
Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without the Muppets, and John Denver's classic holiday album with everyone's favorite furry creatures is a true standard. There's some awesome "meeping," the perfectly placed Miss Piggy on "five golden rings" and the jolly guitar makes this the perfect blend of something funny and traditional, and this version is always a pure joy to hear this time of year.