So I have it in mind to count down the definitive list of the greatest 25 Christmas songs. (As determined by the scientific method of coming up with a list off the top of my head.)
The first item up for bid is “Sleigh Ride”, by anybody you like. Because here’s the thing about “Sleigh Ride”: I’ve never heard a bad version of the song. It seems to be pretty hard for musicians to mess up; you can get just about anybody to do it and it’ll come out okay. (There’s another Christmas song that shares this property, and we’ll get to it a bit later in the month.) (The wikipedia entry for “Sleigh Ride” says that it’s been done by a broader range of performers than any other song “in the history of western music.”)
One thing I like about it is that it’s sort of a vocal instrumental. The lyrics come at you so fast, tumbling over each other, that it almost doesn’t matter what they are; it just matters what they sound like. But if you can pick them out, they’re just as Christmassy as ever you please, even if they don’t specify Christmas. I give you Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride”.