John Denver, the Muppets and the best Christmas album ever recorded.
I have a confession to make. I’m one of those insane people that LOVES Christmas music. From the Friday after Thanksgiving through Christmas Day, I play nothing but songs of the holiday genre. That’s not an exaggeration. I listen in the morning. I listen on my commute. I listen at work. I listen at night. It’s 24/7 jolly jams for this fella.
As a connoisseur of Christmas music, choosing favorites can be hard. For albums, Elvis Presley’s Elvis’ Christmas Album and Bing Crosby’s White Christmas (#1 and #2 in all-time sales respectively) are classics that stand the test of time.
For singles, it’s hard to beat Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas is You.
But for me, there is a clear-cut champion:
A Brief History Part 1: Made for TV
Fun fact: John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together was originally a TV special that aired December 5, 1979 on ABC. Oddly, it has never aired again and has never been released on any format (A grainy version exists on YouTube). The soundtrack was released prior to the special in October of that year.
A Brief History Part 2: My Youth
For me, this album IS the soundtrack of my childhood Christmases. My brother and I loved it, so my parents obliged our repeated requests to play the record (yes, I’m that old) again and again. Every memory I have of the holidays growing up has this album playing in the background.
“But, best of all-time? Come on, bro.”
I know that’s what you’re thinking (maybe not the “bro” part, but I’m including it in case a millennial has made it this far into the post). I understand your skepticism. Sure, everyone loves the Muppets, but John Denver? This dude?
Yes. Mr. Rocky Mountain High absolutely crushes this album.
You don’t want to take my word for it? You wanna go track by track?
Fine by me. Let’s do this.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’m relieved you asked this, since it’s the entire premise of my post.
“The Twelve Days of Christmas” (John Denver with the Muppets)
Probably the most well-known of the album’s songs. A cavalcade of Muppet stars help JD sing this one. Beaker almost steals the show with his accompaniment on “Nine Ladies Dancing,” but Miss Piggy is the hero with her “Bun-ump-bump-bump!” improvisation.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (Rowlf the Dog and John Denver)
So, you thought every song would be silly? Think again. Rowlf shows off his vocal range and piano skills as he joins JD on this quiet, yet powerful version of a classic. Highlight: Rowlf complementing JD’s verse with “That’s nice.”
“The Peace Carol” (John Denver and Scooter with the Muppets)
Scooter is a second-tier Muppet at best, but for 2 minutes and 47 seconds he is a rock star on this touching duet. It’s far from the best song on the album, but if you listen close you can hear Chicken adding a subtle harmony on the chorus.
“Christmas Is Coming” (Miss Piggy with Scooter, The Great Gonzo and Robin the Frog)
Everyone loves a good round and this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s Miss Piggy as her best — loud and self-centered while still a class act. A rare appearance by Robin the Frog gives this song some youthful exuberance.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’ve been listening to this song for nearly 40 years and only a few years ago did I realize it was “hay penny” not “half penny.”
“A Baby Just Like You” (John Denver with the Muppets)
After letting the Muppets take the reins for a number, John Denver is back at the helm for this a flute-driven love letter to baby Jesus and Denver’s own son, Zachary. If you hate love and joy, you will also hate this song.
“Deck the Halls” (The Muppets)
Fans clamoring for more Muppet-only music in the style of “12 Days of Christmas” get their wish with this hit. It’s basically the “We are the World” of Muppet Christmas songs with nearly every member getting a chance to serenade us.
“When the River Meets the Sea” (Robin the Frog and John Denver with the Muppets)
There are hits and hidden gems alike on this album, but very few hold a candle to this one. If you could turn a family laughing around a crackling fire on Christmas Eve into a song, this would be the result.
“Little Saint Nick” (Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem)
Finally, Dr. Teeth gets his turn! Joined as always by the Electric Mayhem, Dr. T brings his special brand of funk to this tune. With Animal adding “vocals” along with his unique drumming style, this is nice break to the slower parts of the record. A toe tapper for sure.
“Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913” (John Denver)
Speaking of slower numbers, John Denver goes solo for this forgettable one. Even great albums have at least one song you skip (I’m looking at you “Ghost Train”) and this one, while not terrible, feels out of place on this album.
“The Christmas Wish” (Kermit the Frog with the Muppets)
What is there to say about Kermit that hasn’t been said? He shows what makes him so special with a solo effort that returns the album to greatness. Another Muppets-only song, this one stands in sharp contrast to the silliness of “12 Days.”
Medley: “Alfie, the Christmas Tree/Carol for a Christmas Tree/It’s in Every One of Us” (John Denver with the Muppets)
I could do a whole post about this song—the best on the album. How can you go wrong with a song that starts with a monologue about a Christmas tree named Alfie? Highlight: This line right here.
So when you’re at Christmas prayers this year
Alfie asked me if I’d ask you
Say a prayer for the wind and the water and the wood
And those who live there too.
(all the goosebumps)
“Silent Night, Holy Night (Stille Nacht)” (John Denver with the Muppets)
German? Check. A history lesson? Check. One of the most heartfelt versions of the song ever recorded? You better checking believe it. It’s one of the highlights of the album and that’s before they all quietly wish each other “Merry Christmas” at the end. If you haven’t cried yet, this is the moment the waterworks will start…or you’re a monster.
“We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (Denver with the Muppets)
A great bookend to “12 Days,” this one is for Muppets fans of all ages. A short and sweet song that is the perfect ending to a perfect album.