The Beach Boys' Christmas Album is the seventh studio album by the Beach Boys, released in November 1964. Containing five original songs and seven standards, the album proved to be a long-running success during subsequent Christmas seasons, initially reaching number six in the US Billboard 200 chart in its year of release and eventually going gold. It is regarded as one of the finest holiday albums of the rock era.
While leader Brian Wilson produced and arranged the rock songs, he left it to Dick Reynolds (an arranger for the Four Freshmen, a group Wilson idolized) to arrange the forty-one piece orchestral backings on the traditional songs to which the Beach Boys would apply their vocals. One single was released from the album, the original song "The Man with All the Toys" backed with the group's rendition of "Blue Christmas". "Little Saint Nick", a single which had already been released the previous year, was included on the album.
In 1977, the Beach Boys attempted to follow the album with Merry Christmas from the Beach Boys, but it was rejected by their label. The entire Christmas Album plus selections from the Merry Christmas sessions were later assembled for the 1998 compilation Ultimate Christmas.
With the exception of "Little Saint Nick", sessions for the album spanned from June 18–30, 1964, one month after the All Summer Long album was completed. "Christmas Day" is the first Beach Boys song to feature a lead vocal from Al Jardine.
In a retrospective review, AllMusic's Jason Ankeny stated: "Brian Wilson's pop genius is well suited to classic Yuletide fare, and the group delivers lush performances of standards ranging from 'Frosty the Snowman' to 'White Christmas' as well as more contemporary material like 'The Man With All the Toys' and 'Blue Christmas.'"
While interviewing Wilson for a promotional radio special in 1964, Jack Wagner remarked that Wilson's decision to sing solo on a version of "Blue Christmas" could be "the start of a whole new career," to which Wilson responded "I don’t know. It could and it couldn't. I really don’t know." Referring to the standards which he believed "proved that the Beach Boys' vocal power was bigger and more agile than the surf and hot rod records [and] staking a claim for wider musical terrain," author Luis Sanchez reflected: "The Beach Boys' Christmas Album music shows a quality of aesthetic selectivity that none of the group's records that came before it do, aspiring not just to assimilate one of pop's stock ideas, but also enabling Brian to make one of his biggest artistic advances."
On April 6, 1982, the album was certified gold by the RIAA, selling more than 500,000 units.
First CD issue; the single mix of "Little Saint Nick" (in mono and with overdubbed sleigh bells) replaces the LP version as the first track. The first five tracks are presented in mono, while other seven tracks from the original sequence are in stereo.
All twelve original tracks are in stereo, plus the single mono version of "Little Saint Nick" and its B-side "The Lord's Prayer" (mono version) added as bonus tracks.
CDP 7 95084-2
All twelve original tracks in stereo and four bonus tracks added: the single version of "Little Saint Nick", its B-side "The Lord's Prayer" (this time in stereo), and alternate takes of "Little Saint Nick" (utilizing the melody from the group's song "Drive-In") and "Auld Lang Syne" (without Dennis' spoken message overdubbed). "The Man With All The Toys", "Santa's Beard", "Merry Christmas, Baby" and "Christmas Day" are in mono, while other eight tracks from the original sequence are in stereo.
A new CD compilation containing all of the twelve tracks from the original LP (in stereo, with "Little Saint Nick" presented in a new stereo mix that added the sleigh bells from the single version), all of the bonus tracks from the previous CD except for "The Lord's Prayer", and 11 additional tracks including the 1974 single "Child of Winter" and several previously-unreleased tracks from an aborted 1977 Christmas album.
2004: Christmas with the Beach Boys
Essentially a reissue of Ultimate Christmas with a new title and cover art and one song ("Christmas Time Is Here Again") deleted from the tracklist. Like Ultimate Christmas, it omits "The Lord's Prayer" from the "Little Saint Nick" single.
2009: Christmas Harmonies
Includes 11 of the 12 tracks from the original LP (including the single mix of "Little Saint Nick" and mono mixes of the other Wilson/Love compositions), as well as the alternate take of "Auld Lang Syne", the "Child of Winter" single, and two of the 1977 tracks.