Song: Fairytale Of New York
Artist: Pogues, England
Notes: This seasonal classic, with its sweeping, timeless melody, terrific orchestral arrangement and achingly authentic vocals from Shane McGowan (b. December 25!) and the late, great Kirsty MacColl, is celebrating its 25th anniversary - though it remains a lost treasure in the US.
Artist: Chris Rea, England
Notes: Breezy and enchanting festive road song written by Rea in his old Austin Mini car while sitting in a traffic jam on a freeway north of London as he was heading home to Middlesborough for Christmas.
Song: Human Spirit
Artist: Amy MacDonald, Scotland
Notes: A rocking mid-tempo number from her third album inspired by the Copiape mining accident in Chile in 2010, when 33 miners were rescued after 69 days underground.
Artist: Smashing Pumpkins, Chicago, IL
Notes: Billy Corgan's contribution to the worthy album series benefitting the Special Olympics leads off with the sound of Christmas chimes, with a nod or two to Mike Oldfield and a delicious ending featuring bassoon and oboe. Mention should be made of record industry honcho and producer Jimmy Iovine, whose brainchild this charitable series is.
Artist: Amie Miriello, Stamford, CT
Album: I Came Around, 2008
Notes: The one-time lead singer of Dirtie Blonde, and now part of the LA-based sextet So & So, with a bleak and reflective solo track. The simple piano and cello backing meld perfectly with her stunning vocals.
Song: Christmas Without You
Artist: OneRepublic, Colorado Springs, CO
Notes: Written about the band's constant life on the road away from their families, it was first performed at the lighting of the national tree in Washington, DC last year and again on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. Now it makes a valuable contribution to the 25th anniversary 'Special Olympics' album.
Artist: Now The Rabbit Has The Gun, Los Angeles, CA
Notes: Begun as a side project by a trio of excellent songwriters (Michael Seminari, C. Todd Nielsen and Dwight Baker - they wrote 'Save The Day' for American Idoler David Archuleta), the band remains somewhat of a mystery. More on them at NowTheRabbitHasTheGun.bandcamp.com (but not much more).
Song: Christmas Carol
Artist: Lindi Ortega, Canada
Notes: A track which wouldn't seem out of place in the Emmylou Harris canon, beautifully sung with banjo and pedal steel backing. Nominated for two Juno Awards in her native country earlier this year, and after touring as a back-up singer for the Killers' Brandon Flowers in 2010 and 2011, she's now based in Nashville.
Song: Wait Till It Snows
Artist: Emilie Mover, Canada
Album: Le Pop Fantastique, 2010
Notes: An adorable, innocent folk/pop ditty from the Montreal-born daughter of jazz saxophonist Bob Mover. Popular on the Toronto club circuit, find out more at emiliemover.com
Song: Snow Globe
Artist: Matt Wertz, Kansas City, MO
Album: Snow Globe, 2011
Notes: Jaunty singalong piano and banjo backed song, with some terrific horns - one of the handful of self-penned tracks from a industrial design graduate whose festive album also includes favorites 'Winter Wonderland', 'White Christmas', 'Have Yourself A Merry Christmas' and 'Sleigh Ride'.
Song: Christmas Lights
Artist: Coldplay, England
Notes: Never included on an album, but a sterling festive pop-rock corker in classic Coldplay style. Trying to emulate the anthemic glory of the Pogues' all-time winner (see above) and nearly making it. Fabulous accompanying video.
Artist: Mozella, Detroit, MI
Album: Glow (single), 2012
Notes: Obviously JC Penney were so thrilled using the singer's 'This Is Love' for their 2010 Christmas holiday TV commercial, they've come back for more this season and are using her unreleased track - an irresistibly hooked-filled melody over a backing track that owes much to George Michael's 'Faith'. The Motortown-born singer has just released an album with Motown legend Brian Holland.
Artist: Barry White & the Love Unlimited Orchestra, Galveston, TX
Notes: A minor hit for Felice Taylor back in 1967, but this definitive version by its co-writer, the Walrus of Love, with his female vocal trio and 40-piece orchestra, stands the test of time almost forty years on.
Artist: Joshua Radin, Cleveland, OH
Album: We Were Here, 2006
Notes: The singer's first composition, written in 2004 and initially championed by actor Zach Braff, led to its use in 'Scrubs', 'Leverage', 'Noah's Arc' and 'Shameless'. Beautiful harmonies, a plaintive cello throughout - a simple and heartfelt song for the season.
Artist: Tracey Thorn, England
Album: Tinsel And Lights, 2012
Notes: The female half of Everything But The Girl with a standout track from her seasonal album, which features songs by the likes of Randy Newman, Ron Sexsmith, Jack White and Sufjan Stevens, but it is this new gem with thoughts of 'tinsel on the tree, holly on the door, candles in the gloom' which evokes the best of Christmas.
Artist: World Leader Pretend, New Orleans, LA
Album: Punches, 2005
Notes: A 100-second instrumental treasure from a combo which who took its name from an R.E.M. song. They cut one album, 'Punches', in 2005 and then split up on the verge of recording of their second album in 2008 citing the usual 'artistic differences'.
Song: Silent Night
Artist: MercyMe, Greenville, TX
Album: The Christmas Sessions, 2005
Notes: A jaunty rendition of a carol written in Austria in 1818, its lyrics by Father Joseph Mohr, the priest of St. Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, where it was first sung that Christmas Eve, and melody by Franz Gruber, a schoolmaster and organist in nearby Arnsdorf. This lovely version sees lead singer Bart Millard joined by guest vocalist Amy Grant.
Song: Home For Christmas
Artist: Maria Mena, Norway
Notes: A demo version of a beautifully-sung tune with just a simple piano backing and the heartbreaking lyrics 'and so it a part of my courageous plan to leave with a broken heart tucked away under my sleeve'. The song was written for Bent Hamer's film of the same name.
Song: In Love For Christmas
Artist: Tony Reyes, Macon, GA
Notes: A well-known and respected writer/producer (Gwen Stefani, Shakira, Lady Gaga, Janet Jackson, Leona Lewis and others too numerous mention) steps out on his own with an irresistibly catchy hook-laden R&B/soul winner.
Song: When The Leaves
Artist: Ingrid Michaelson, Staten Island, NY
Album: Snowfall (EP), 2011
Notes: A track which first appeared as a single back in 2008, it then made an appearance as one of four tracks from a seasonal EP, the title track of which has been featured in episodes of 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Bones'. An endlessly inventive creation, with beautiful harmonies and cello throughout.
Artist: Darlene Love, Hawthorne, CA
Notes: Still going strong at the age of 71 (or 74 depending on which biography to believe), despite a heart attack earlier this year, the 2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Famer comes out every year and blows the roof off the dump on the Christmas edition of the 'Late Show With David Letterman' - and this year will be no different - with the Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry classic written with producer Phil Spector, who won't be coming home for Christmas.
Artist: Parachute, Charlottesville, VA
Album: Winterlove (EP), 2009
Notes: A pop/rock band, who formally went by the name of Sparky's Flaw, which has amassed a faithful following touring constantly since forming in 2008. Neat lost nugget written by the group's lead singer, Will Anderson.
Artist: Colbie Caillat, Malibu, CA
Album: Christmas In The Sand, 2012
Notes: Originally cut with producer Mikal Blue in 2007, becoming the most-downloaded holiday song of that year, but this version has just been re-produced by the singer's father, Ken Caillat, who includes the production of Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours' in his resum�. This new, improved version is more anthemic and all the better for it.
Song: The Heartache Can Wait
Artist: Brandi Carlile, Ravensdale, WA
Notes: First released as a single in 2007, it became part of an-all female Christmas album, with seasonal savories by Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson, Catherine Feeny, KT Tunstall, even a rare early number by Katy Perry before she went off in another direction - all neatly curated by the legendary Hotel Caf� venue in Los Angeles.
Song: Sleigh Ride
Artist: Fun., New York City, NY
Album: Holiday Rules, 2012
Notes: A traditional orchestral opening makes way for some wonderful quirkiness from these indie favorites, with singer Nate Ruess sounding like he's enjoying every moment. From an album which also features the likes of the Civil Wars, Calexico, the Head and the Heart and Andrew Bird offering their interpretations of some Christmas classics. The song was started by Leroy Anderson in July 1946 during a record summer heat wave and recorded as an instrumental three years later. It took another year before Mitchell Parish added its singalong lyrics.
Artist: Sarah McLachlan, Canada
Album: Wintersong, 2006
Notes: The only self-penned track from the songstress' exquisite Christmas album, a desolate and self-poignant piece of magic, framed around a simple piano part.
Artist: Joni Mitchell, Canada
Album: Blue, 1971
Notes: With a piano intro of 'Jingle Bells', this song of lost love ('I'm so hard to handle, I'm selfish and I'm sad, Now I've gone and lost the best baby that I ever had') still tugs at the heart-strings more than four decades after it was written. Often covered, never bettered.
Song: Wonderful Christmastime
Artist: Shins, Albuquerque, NM
Album: Holiday Rules, 2012
Notes: An update of the Paul McCartney Christmas classic from 1979 brilliantly re-fashioned in the style of the Beach Boys - albeit instrumentally, using most of Brian Wilson's best trademarks. Perhaps sacrilegous to say, but this version has more passion than McCartney's original.
Song: Christmas All Around
Artist: Shelly Fraley, Nashville, TN
Notes: Originally from rural Kansas, before studying at Southwestern College, the perky singer/songwriter has had her material featured on TV and film in 'Private Practice', 'Pretty Little Liars', 'One Tree Hill' and 'Good Deeds' and many more. Since this delicious morsel of Christmas fare, she has released her second album 'Hush'. More on her at www.shellyfraley.com, where another Christmas tune, 'For The Holidays', is available for download.
Song: Lonely This Christmas
Artist: Mud, England
Album: The Very Best Of Mud, 1998
Notes: Glam-rock quartet's dreadful festive UK number one from 1974 written by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. Best remembered by anyone old enough for lead singer Les Gray mimicking Elvis while inexplicably operating a ventriloquist's dummy on BBC-1's 'Top Of The Pops'.
Song: Lonely This Christmas
Artist: KT Tunstall, Scotland
Notes: Simple yet riveting vocal treatment of the above Mud original which does more than justice to the song. From a five-year old EP which also featured her interpretations of the Pretenders' '2000 Miles' and the Pogues' 'Fairytale Of New York', with Ed Harcourt taking Shane McGowan's role, since when the singer has only released one studio album.
Artist: Tom Waits, Pomona, CA
Album: Blue Valentine, 1978
Notes: Described as a 'laconic first-person sketch', this was recorded - like so many Christmas songs - in the middle of the summer, from the sessions which resulted in the penultimate album between the singer and his most-compatible producer Bones Howe. The singer's own bluesy-piano is augmented by Harold Battiste's tasteful electric keyboard work. The saddest lost Christmas song of all-time by the peerless wordsmith.
Artist: Alma Cogan, England
Notes: A novelty of its time by the singer known as 'the girl with the chuckle in her voice' and the highest-paid British female entertainer of the late 1950s, who died too early at the age of 34. The song was written by Tommie Connor, who made quite a career out of seasonal favorites, also penning 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus' and 'The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot' as well as 'Lili Marlene.'
Song: I'm Coming Home
Artist: Ross Copperman, Roanoke, VA
Album: I'm Coming Home (demo), 2012
Notes: The ukulele seems to be emerging as the Christmas instrument du jour, and it features prominently in this irresistibly catchy tune from a much-underrated singer-songwriter, who despite ten years of music making, remains a secret. Taken by his father to the Rolling Stones on their 'Steel Wheels' tour when he was seven, he cut his second album, 'Welcome To Reality' in the UK, with assists from Guy Chambers and Graham Gouldman.
Song: A Christmas Compromise
Artist: Bird and the Bee, Los Angeles, CA
Notes: Delightful, catchy and fun piece of nostalgia, despite being a recent recording. Inara George's boop-oop-a-doop vocals are ably backed by Greg Kurstin's cheesy Casio keyboard and a splendid clarinet solo. More on this terrific duo at www.thebirdandthebee.com.
Artist: Paul Simon, Newark, NJ
Album: So Beautiful Or What, 2011
Notes: From the 2012 Polar Music Prize honoree comes a thoughtful seasonal song, with a spoken vocal sample thrown in from a 1941 sermon by the Reverend J. M. Gates. Perhaps the only legendary singer/songwriter capable of writing a Christmas song which makes mention of both Iraq and Pakistan.
Artist: Kyler England, Los Angeles, CA
Notes: Catchy festive tune, enhanced by a ukulele backing and a brief whistling 'Deck The Halls' interpolation thrown in for good measure, from this excellent singer/songwriter, who moonlights as one quarter of the excellent folk/pop-rock combo the Rescues.
Artist: Hurts, England
Album: Happiness, 2011
Notes: Synth pop-rock pairing of Adam Anderson and Theo Hutchcraft from the always-fertile music breeding ground of Manchester in the north of England singing about 'the worst Christmas of our lives' - amid the perfunctory bells, both sleigh and tubular.
Song: New Year's Eves
Artist: Greg Laswell, Long Beach, CA
Album: Landline, 2012
Notes: Starting out with a simple piano-backed vocal, the song takes on anthemic qualities that owe a nod to Coldplay. Taken from his fourth album, it was recorded in a converted church in a small fishing town in Maine.