Today, we take a look back at The Judds‘ 1987 release, “Christmas Time With The Judds”. This release featured refreshing takes on eight Christmas classics, plus one newer track. Released in October, the album has been available every Christmas, since.
I hadn’t listened to this album in it’s entirety for quite a few years, when I pulled it out a few days ago. When I began playing it, I was, again, blown away by just how outstanding this album really is. Every bit of it is impressive; the vocals, the musicians, and the arrangements.
It’s hard to pick a highlight on this disc. You could make a valid argument for any of the tracks to be considered the best. That said, my personal opinion is that The Judds really shine performing the traditional religious-themed tracks; “Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem”, “What Child Is This”, “Away In A Manger”, “O Holy Night”, and “Silent Night”. The sparse, almost bluegrass-style arrangements, are mixed with some of the best vocal work Wynonna and Naomi ever did. The results are, at times, breathless, and almost constantly angelic. Their rendition of “Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem” rivals Emmylou Harris’ stellar version; either version is a winner. “Away In A Manger” is a song that I can give you several versions, over the years, that I think are simply wonderful; Kitty Wells, Statler Brothers, Patty Loveless, to name a few. The Judds’ version may well be my favorite. The sound is pure, full of depth, and like the whole album, the sparse arrangements allow the vocals to shine. The same can be said for “O Holy Night”.
Their performances on the popular classics “Winter Wonderland”, “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town”, and “Silver Bells” are also noteworthy, nothing whatsoever to complain about, here. However, after you hear their work on the religious-themed tunes, you really find yourself wishing they would have done the whole album with those songs. They are that good.
I’ve noticed on many Christmas albums, and perhaps you have as well, that one or two new songs will be included with the classics, but the new songs turn out to be not on the same level as the others. There’s one newer song, here, “Who Is This Babe”, and in this case, that’s not an issue. It fits right in, sounding every bit as classic as the actual classics. In fact, it’s a bit surprising that this song hasn’t garnered more popularity, over the years.
My only complaint, here, is the album’s length of nine tracks. It was during this time that RCA Records was on a kick of releasing albums with less content than the then-standard ten tracks. It’s a shame, here. I’d have loved to have heard Wynonna and Naomi tackle classics like “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” or “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear”. It’s a bit surprising that RCA didn’t pull out their recording of “Light Of The Stable”, which they had recorded in 1984 for one of the label’s various artist compilations. When The Judds finish, here, you are definitely left wanting more. Unfortunately, we never got more, as this would turn out to be the only Christmas album they released together.
The Judds made a lot of great music during the 80’s, but this album may well be the epitome.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, and focuses on classic country and top 40 oldies music. He convinced Vincennes University to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting. He’s worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.