My family doesn’t have many family traditions, not like other families do. I might be making this up, but I’m pretty sure that other families have things they do on a regular basis that hold some sort of significance to the members of the family, or they pass things down from one generation to the next, things like that. Well, that isn’t my family, no. We’ve only got one tradition. We gather ‘round on the 17th of December and listen to A Christmas Together by John Denver and The Muppets.

I think that’s pretty much cutting the corners as far as traditions go, since Christmas traditions are probably the most likely of traditions to uphold. I could be wrong again. Either way, we love this album. When I was a kid we had it on vinyl, and in the middle of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, where Rowlf is singing, "Here we are/as in olden days/happy golden days" the record would hit a groove, skipping momentarily, and then getting stuck on a loop of, "Happy golden days/happy golden days/happy golden days..." until one of us would rush over to the record player and get the needle back on track.

Similarly, on the old record player, my parents would just throw the album on, and hit repeat. Each time it restarted my parents would say, "It started again! It must be Santa Claus who did it!" and I would flip out, running around, trying to find Santa Claus.

Last year while we were listening to A Christmas Together my dad began to cry during John Denver’s only original composition on the album, Alfie: The Christmas Tree. Making a grown man cry is a pretty tall order, and that’s kind of what I mean when I say this album is truly something else.

Sorry. I don’t mean to sit around, reminiscing about my past, because I actually do want to talk about how good this album is in more concrete terms.

Originally released in 1979, A Christmas Together is John Denver’s 17th full-length studio album. A TV special was spun through the success of the album, and also shown in 1979. The majority of the songs on the album are covers of traditional Christmas songs, which John Denver then tweaked a little bit, and rerecorded with the vocals of various Muppets in mind. Out of a pool of 20 songs that John Denver recorded for the album 13 were picked for the final cut.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the album is the ability for the Muppets to harmonize perfectly with John Denver. At first thought it would seem impossible for the Muppets to sing in character in the first place, but once you hear if you realize it’s not only possible, it also sounds amazing. Through the various voices a depth is added that can’t really be produced through regular singing.

This isn’t to say that the A Christmas Together is all Muppets and no John Denver. There is a distinct, very somber sound on the album that only John Denver can really create. On the slow songs this really shines through, and you feel the song more than you hear it. Even on the songs that kick up the tempo, and joyous sound, they still have a reserved, quiet side that turns the song into something else completely.

It’s easy to get too serious about this album, because of it’s personal importance to me, but that isn’t to forget that it is actually a fun Christmas album. I mean, it has people singing in funny voices on it. What would be more fun than that? As a kid I dug it because of this, but as I’ve grown older I’ve realized that it’s much more than that. I still have lots of fun listening to it, but at the same time I can appreciate the intricate composition, and production.

Whether you want to listen by yourself for quite, personal reflection or if you want to throw on something at the Christmas party, A Christmas Together is easily the best Christmas album ever created. Some people want their Nat King Cole, or their Bing Crosby/David Bowie combination. For me, however, it’s all about A Christmas Together.

Track listing:

I only heard static thunder through my earmuffs as the world around me celebrated another year of the tinniest success stories. Another year of the mankind’s stalemate and the complacency that snuffs out even the most meaningful lives. Celebration was the only response the world could conceive. It probably should have been snowing but it was raining instead. Since my earmuffs blocked out any meaning from the conversation, I delegated my own translation.

She stared off into the fireplace with the most earnest desire to please. “I hope you all like your gifts. I’ve been shopping for months and I think I finally found the perfect ones.”

“I’m sure they’ll be just great, Dear,” said the husband to his wife, meaning to ease her anticipation. The scent of pine candles made the air heavy and sleepy, but no one said a word about it.

“Mom, I hope you got me that new video game. I really wanted that video game. You know which one I’m talking about, right? The one with all the latest graphics and the coolest sound effects. That’s the one I wanted. I told you six months ago to the day, so I assumed you would remember.” With the utmost sincerity, the young man burned into his mother’s eyes with unwavering determination. He really did want that game.

She hadn’t bought it. Not yet.

The Christmas tree was on fire. I would have done something to stop it, but I liked the way it looked as it spread to the snow outside. No one else noticed so I assumed it had been intentional. People these days will do anything to achieve best in show. The world is a dog show.

“I hope the ham comes out alright. I mean, I had no idea what I was doing. The thermometer said that it was 82 degrees, but I just don’t want it to be undercooked. Maybe I should leave it in for another hour. You know, just in case.” She looked to her husband for reassurance, but he had been drifting. He would like to play that video game, too.

Mmmmph,” he replied, more in question than response. His wife took this as agreement, however, and sunk back into her leather recliner. She would rather the ham be burned to a crisp then give her family food poisoning. That simply couldn't happen on Christmas. Not again.

Paying no attention to his mother’s insecurity, the boy chuckled along to the latest episode of some controversial, grotesque cartoon. “Mom! Did you hear that?! He’s leaving his wife for a bisexual octopus! Dad! Dad! Would you leave Mom for a bisexual octopus?”

Mmmmph,” was the reply, “Only if it had nice legs.” He laughed at his own cleverness and continued thinking about the video game his son would probably receive.

At that, a shrill whine cut the thickness of the candle air and smoke filled in the cracks. There would be no food poisoning this year. Of course, there would be no ham either.

I closed the curtain on this scene and made my way to the next house. These families were all my own, so there was no guilt in stealing a few moments of their holidays for myself. I knew no one, but all families are the same. I never did enjoy spending the holidays alone.

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