Universal revive the Christmas Album


New vinyl comp is a shadow of its former self

Later this month Universal are to release a festive vinyl compilation called The Christmas Album which revives the style and spirit – if not the quality – of its 30-year old ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ predecessor.

Although there has been a myriad of Christmas compilations over the decades, with multi-CD sets in latter years rather bloated and lacking in curation, the original Christmas Album had a close to perfect selection of festive singles from an era where the quality was high and aiming for the top spot of the UK singles chart at Christmas was actually a respected endeavour, undertaken by A-list artists as opposed to a Syco-driven commercial opportunity for X-Factor nonentities.

The original 1985 Christmas Album

The original album was issued under the Now That’s What I Call Music banner (check out the original ‘gift-tag’ graphic), and actually knocked Now 6 from the top spot for a few weeks. The record and cassette (The Christmas Tape) contained 18 tracks, while the quaintly titled The Christmas Compact Disc – issued a year later in 1986was limited to 16 songs, omitting Lennon‘s Happy Xmas (War Is Over) and Greg Lake’s I Believe In Father Christmas.

The Christmas Compact Disc was issued in 1986

The Christmas Album 2016-stylee only has six tracks in common with the original record and is a significantly weaker collection. McCartney, Elton John, Mike Oldfield, The Beach Boys, Jona Lewie and Queen are amongst the omissions, although it does include The Fairytale Of New York which of course didn’t exist in 1985.

By piggybacking on the design and charm of the original compilation and issuing this on vinyl, the record label clearly hopes to sucker fans into a nostalgia-based purchase, although surely it’s close to pointless exercise. Most people already have at least one Christmas collection on CD and while I have nothing against trying something on vinyl, they should have either issued the original as is (perhaps on a double vinyl set), or not bothered at all.

The Christmas Album is issued on vinyl on 25 November 2016. Bah, humbug!

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Various Artists

Now The Christmas Album [VINYL]



The Christmas Album on vinyl LP (2016)

1. John & Yoko and The Plastic Ono Band with The Harlem Community Choir – Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
2. Wham! – Last Christmas
3. The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale Of New York
4. Shakin’ Stevens – Merry Christmas Everyone
5. Brenda Lee – Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree
6. Andy Williams – It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
7. Wizzard – I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday
8. Chris Rea – Driving Home For Christmas
9. Dean Martin – Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
10. Slade – Merry Xmas Everybody
11. Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?
12. Bing Crosby – White Christmas

The Christmas Album (original 1985 edition)

1 Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid
2 I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Roy Wood With Wizzard
3 Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade
4 Last Christmas – Wham!
5 Step Into Christmas – Elton John
6 In Dulce Jubilo – Mike Oldfield
7 Another Rock ‘N’ Roll Christmas – Gary Glitter
8 Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney
9 Blue Christmas – Shakin’ Stevens
10 John & Yoko and The Plastic Ono Band with The Harlem Community Choir – Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
11 I Believe In Father Christmas – Greg Lake
12 A Spaceman Came Travelling – Chris De Burgh
13 Stop The Cavalry – Jona Lewie
14 Little Saint Nick – The Beach Boys
15 Thank God It’s Christmas – Queen
16 Lonely This Christmas – Mud
17 When A Child Is Born (Soleado) – Johnny Mathis
18 White Christmas – Bing Crosby

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[…] across two LPs. It’s certainly miles better than Universal’s stingy 12-track The Christmas Album from […]

Ryan Sinclair

I can see why they are releasing this and I’m glad. My old copy has seen better days and I’m looking forward to buying this. I do however think they should have released it more in line with their current CD version. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a little test. If this does well, could we see ‘Now 96’ being released on vinyl? Would be the first since ‘Now 35’…. I hope so…

Kevin Henry

I had the original album and loved it. Wizard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday is my favourite Christmas song and I adore Christmas Time Again by Extreme which was on a CD single. Although not a Christmas song Stay Another Day by East 17 is wonderful.


To be honest, take out Mr Glitter{obliviously} I worked in retail from 85 to 90..this album was always played, this was the best “Xmas compilation”..I just went on eVilbay and purchased the original.



Another classic cue is Frank’s wishful ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ into Kate’s bubbling curio ‘I’ll Be Coming Home For Christmas’ !

Mic Smith

I’d say the original 18 track CD had 9 essential Christmas songs on it, which is par for the course on these Christmas compilations in my experience. As with all of these things the content is as variable as predicting a White Christmas itself.

A number of years ago, fed up with the unevenness of these sorts of compilations suffer from I decided to make my own compilation of the best Christmas hits along with the stuff that never features on these sorts of compilations that have a Christmas feel or that compilers wouldn’t even know about. That provides me with all the Christmas songs I need really. It’s free of Cliff, free of Macca, free of Shakey, free of Wham! and definitely no Glitter!

On the subject of the alternative version of December Will Be Magic Again, I have this on a single CD called Instant Xmas Party and agree that it is a great version and one of my favourite rarities – I heard it in ASDA one year in the run up to Christmas and wondered what album it could possibly be on….. It turns out its on several albums and anyone looking for a potential source needs to find the version that clocks in at around 3′ 50 (the normal version of the song is about 4′ 50″) and my advice is go on Discogs.com and search the Kate Bush – Appearances – Compilations section of her discography then look for those releases with December will be magic again as the tagged track then check the track-listing of each one to confirm what length is stated for that track. You might also want to check with the seller to make sure the information listed is correct. I hope that helps.


Oh dear – I carried up 3 flights of stairs, processed, security tagged and shrink-wrapped about 26 Billion copies of this back in the 80’s . . . and it’s still a pile of rancid fat.


Not when you have to listen to it all day and every day for weeks!
I have similar feelings about the Joshua Tree and Graceland . . oh and Simple Minds Live In The City Of Light and probably hundreds of others I have thankfully blanked out over the intervening years.
Sheer torture ‘;0)


Let’s put it this way, Metallica being used to break prisoners borrowed a lot from the Great British Record Shoppe . . .

jobo the 3rd

No king of Christmas Cliff Richard, what a travesty.

Dan H

Wow – they can’t even spell the Mike Oldfield title correctly!

The title is ‘In DULCI Jubilo’.

‘Dulce’ means sweet in the context of food.

Over and out from Pedant’s Corner.

Ian F

I have the original vinyl of this tucked away and have countless cd compilations of Christmas faves (I wasn’t aware of the different mix of December Will Be Magic until I got one of these) but the first two Very Special Christmas albums hold a special place for me (Alison Moyet’s Coventry Carol, Eurythmics Winter Wonderland. No Doubt’s Oi To The World!)


The best Christmas album I have seen, which had a mix of ‘classics’ and ‘contemporary’ is the 44 tracks, over 2 cd’s “The Best Christmas Album in the World …Ever!” and it can be had for a decent cost too.


I know ;) I just hope they read this and decide to swap Last Christmas to the original full length mix & release a CD version of this for getting my/our money (Wham/GM fans)! Hahaha… (my X’mas wish this year)!


@Simon Long, thank you for the info. I didn’t know that.

Yeah, if they can swap the “remixed” version of Last Christmas (7″ or 12″) with the original but then the full version (same as the Japanese 4:45 version but then in full length)! For that alone the Wham or Goerge Michael fans & me of course will buy the CD version of this. :D I have the remixed 7″, remixed 12″ and even the Japanese 4:45 original & now the full length original mix please ;)


The UK Market looks a little quiet this season but Black Friday more than compensates.

An armful of candy-cane vinyl, old & new !


Smith and Burrows released an album a couple of years ago called ‘Funny Looking Angels’ with a mix of Xmas themed covers and originals. It’s a lovely low key record.


Don’t forget that the more tracks they squeeze on a vinyl record the quieter the volume is. At least with so few tracks on the Christmas LP they should sound okay. I listened to my old vinyl versions of Now 6 and Now 7 recently and was disappointed how thin and quiet they were.

Paul English

I’ve made vinyl rips of almost all my 1980s compilations – including Nows 2 to 9 – and put them on my iTunes. They sound great turned up.

Stan Butler

That’s true. I used to record those Now’s onto tape (for my sister) in the 80’s on a hi-fi with a variable recording volume. You always had to crank up the level compared to an ordinary album.

John Hirst

This new compilation strips all that is special about the original, the variety of artists and styles and plays it so safe as to make the exercise futile.


This Christmas Stereo cranks up with the following:

‘Once Upon A Long Ago’
‘Evening Falls’
‘A Winter’s Tale’

“Oooh, it’s bliss..”

Andy J

Echoing bert’s comment, that original album was played on repeat during the festive period in when I worked in the photo dept. of Boots. I know every nuance of those tracks. Despite, at the time, wanting to gouge my own ears out rather than hear them AGAIN, time has softened my relationship with them, and I quite enjoy casually hearing them now – even the less ‘classic’ ones.

Billy Dojcak

I bought this all the way back in 1999,
The Best Christmas Album in the World…Ever!
This is my core xmas cd. There are other tracks on other discs, but this one is pretty complete.

I just got the reissue of The Ventures Christmas Album.

I don’t start playing xmas music till around December 1st or whenever we put up the tree.

Jay Kranz

could they have lowered the track listing for sound quality purposes? I have noticed lately that people seem less inclined for vinyl sides of much greater than 20 minutes I think I even have an album that is like 42 minutes total spread over 2 LPs (and still 33 RPM).

obviously they shoulda gone full deluxe 2 LP with the new songs and the old ones for a nice full set but I guess if you are trying to be budget then this is what you get…

Paul English

@ Craig

The 12″ mix of Do They Know It’s Christmas and the B-Side Feed The World can be found on this compilation CD.


The real rarity is the B-side of the 1985 reissue – One Year On – which has never made it to CD.

Stan Butler

Has any Christmas compilation ever included Thanks for Christmas by The Three Wise Men ( aka XTC)? Great song that never gets much airplay.


Great post and comments. There is a Japanese CD single release of Do They Know it’s Christmas with 12″ mix. Picked it up at Tower long ago. Need to dig it out. If anyone is interested in discovering a great Christmas album, please explore Christmas Portrait from The Carpenters. The entire album is solid, top production and a great mix of classic songs and originals. Year after year I go back to this – this time of the year. For me Karen Carpenter is the voice of Christmas.

Regarding other songs that get dusted off this time of year…
Pet Shop Boys It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas
Everything But The Girl 25th of December
Prince Another Lonely Christmas.


I have loads favourite Christmas tracks but Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses is the top for me.

O(+> Peter B

The best Christmas compilation without a doubt is James Brown’s Funky Christmas, good enough to listen to any time of the year.

Ben Williams

I gave the original ’85 LP away to a charity shop earlier in the year. I would recommend anyone wanting this on vinyl to look in a charity shop near you. A good selection (except the Glitter song) thought astoundingly, last Christmas a card shop I was in had this album playing on their stereo and I was shocked to hear Rock n Roll Christmas playing… But its a product of its time.

All the labels are jumping on this vinyl band wagon. Its funny cos as a record collector, I buy mainly new CDs and mainly old vinyl. Half the joy of vinyl ownership is the fact its from the time the new music was ‘new’.

Stan Butler

It’s understandable that Another Rock ‘N’ Roll Christmas doesn’t get the time of day anymore. No arguments with that. However, it was a brilliant Yuletide sing-a-long and was much loved by many up until the late 90’s. Whether you can detach the man and his crimes from the music is up to the individual. It took a long time for me to do so. Now I enjoy the song as I did before and I’ll give it a spin or two this Christmas.

Paul E.

I’ve never seen such creativity and risk in a Christmas comp track listing. How about swapping out the album version of Wham’s “Last Christmas” for the [better?] Pudding Mix from the 12″? I’ll stay serious here and even state that the shuttlecock is sold separately.


Even though I don’t consider myself AT ALL religious or Jeebus-y, I must admit that Boney M’s versions of “When A Child Is Born” and “Mary’s Boy Child/Oh My Lord” are my absolute Christmas favourites!

In a 3-way tie with (how’s this for a complete contrast!) Pogues and Kirsty Mac’s “Fairytale Of New York”.


As a non-religious person, I probably shouldn’t even be celebrating Christmas to begin with. But I can’t help it – I try to keep calm and stay out of it but I get carried away with all the joy, etc. I get caught up in all the excitement – like a bystander in a riot.


For years I was waiting for a CD Single release of Band Aid like the original 12″ vinyl (radio version b/w extended mix with the holiday messages from the artists).

It never came out.

Since the advent of iTunes, I can’t believe they haven’t done a digital EP. No cost, and it would still sell and kick a little more $$ into the trust.

Craig Hedges

It’s going to be very difficult to listen to the 12″ of Do they know it’s Christmas? I’ve always cried when David Bowie says “Its Christmas 1984…..” This years I’ll be in pieces.

Metal Mickey

It’s not meant to be a definitive collection, it’s just a (rather lazy) gifting idea – “Are you buying Dad / son / brother a record deck for Christmas? Why not get this to go with it?”

The fact you could throw a rock in pretty much any British High Street and hit a charity shop with a copy of the original in it is neither here nor there :-)


Call me the Grinch, but I only really like the commercial Christmas songs by Greg Lake, Macca, The Pogues, John & Yoko and Jona Lewie. What I really like are the indy full Christmas albums by Low, Mark Kozelek, Sufjan Stevens and the Polyphonic Spree and I also like Bob Dylans Christmas album.
I am supposed to be one of those soft rock Dads (recently a Grandad), but on the Classic Rock Anthems album post track list, I realised I only own the tracks by Blue Oyster Cult and Patti Smith… Doubt I will ever get a compilation for either ‘theme’ suited to me LOL.


Sorry missed Kate Bush, really like that one as well but its rarely played..


A colleague in the office, remember it being broadcast (Kate Bush Bongo Mix) on tv. Apparently she was fidgeting in red, in a red chair, throwing silver flakes about.

On about Kate Bush, news on bbc


A note for your diaries- special hour-long programme, Kate Bush on 6 Music, at 13:00 GMT on Sunday 20 November.

The interview did ask
I mean, tell me there’s going to be another album at some point. This is not a full stop or anything, is it?

Oh no, I don’t think so. I think it’s just a rather big comma.

I haven’t written a song for ages. I haven’t been writing.

Sorry Paul, good news an interview, but no new album

CJ Feeney

Not writng new material, not doing any more live dates. No word in the extracts about a Before the Dawn video. It makes me wonder why she gave an interview. WHy break her silence just for a live album?

In other news a Jethro Tull Christmas EP is being released for Black Friday RSD with Ring Out Solstice Bells and it’s instrumental, along with a couple of other Christmas tracks. Two of the tracks are mixed by Steven Wilson for the forthcoming Songs From the Wood deluxe package:




I have my 2 CD Time-Life ‘Rock Christmas’ – that does me quite nicely, thank you very much. (Plus it has nearly all of these tracks anyway!) It’s been ages since I’ve listened to it though – lost among the piles of CDs I’ve amassed over the years.


I really need to dig it out to see which version of Kate’s “December…” it has. I’ll need to dig out my ‘Woman’s Work’ box-set as well, see if the “December…” on that is the same or different.

Stan Butler

I’m happy enough to stick Smooth Extra on the DAB. During December it switches to Smooth Christmas and plays a wide selection of songs. First time I heard Donna Summer’s sublime “Winter Melody” was on there, which prompted me to check out the rest of her back catalogue.
I know it’s cool to knock it, but I love McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime”.

Todd R.

Well said. Ever since 1987’s A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS I’ve been collecting pop (and what one would say non-traditional) Christmas music collections. I’ve seen the multitude of reissue after reissue of the same compilation(s) with lesser and lesser quality tracks/liner notes/packaging each time.

Mark Bumgardner

Having lived in Germany in the mid 70s and heard most of these songs on Radio Luxembourg, this (well, the original) is one of my very favorite Christmas albums ever, and I probably own around 400+ Christmas albums all told. I bought the original on cassette while visiting my family in Germany in 1985, then begged them to bring me a CD of it when they visited the states in 1986. The original album is, for me, as close to perfect a Christmas album that’s ever existed. I was fortunate enough to locate a nice vinyl copy of it a few years ago, one of my best ever thrift store finds, and I also have the “It’s Christmas” CD mentioned above, which is excellent as well. This newer version has nothing on it that would make me want to buy it. Replacing those songs from the original does seem a travesty and doesn’t (in my opinion) improve the album at all. For those who never had the original, this will be a nice buy.


This post “Now Christmas” and the immediately preceding one “Rock Anthems” vinyl – both items I would expect to see in a bin in the corner of the supermarket for £1 on December 27th – to me at least, indicate the shape of things. The golden age of record (and CD) collecting is truly over isn’t it? There have been no re-issues that I have been remotely interested in for several months now. Unless – of course – you’re into the bloated box sets that are interspersed amongst the “Now” and “Anthems” style releases …


What a lacklustre release. 16 quid for 12 tracks when you could buy a 100 Greatest Christmas Hits 5 CD bonanza from Sainsburys for a fiver. Personally, I don’t own any Christmas themed albums. Bah humbug!

elliott buckingham

the original was a perfect comp obviously reissue as dbl white vinyl remove paul gadd and stick the pogues on

Rob Deighton

Picked up a used copy for about 50pence a few years ago which was in great condition , Think i will stick with that.


Thanks for this recommendation, I’ve just bought this CD for a song from Amazon and damn fine it is too.


Why bother?


Is there a white vinyl release of this new album?

The NOW team have had several attempts at releasing a follow-up to the 1985 original. None of them work quite as well as the first one.

There’s also the It’s Christmas compilation which includes the Bongo Mix of the Kate Bush track mentioned by Paul above.

I’ve reviewed both in recent years

Now That’s What I Call Music – The Christmas Album (1985)

It’s Christmas (1989)

Chris Squires

It’s so very lazy. EVERY single one of the dropped tracks deserves a place. They are obviously trying to keep it within a price bracket for impulse purchase at the counter. A 20 track double album would have allowed the original to remain along with Fairytale, but that would have gone to £20+ which isn’t such an impulse. But I would have bought it. I would have even bought the 18 track original on decent new vinyl.

Dave, it’s a wonderful thing (to me at any rate) and a real sign that Christmas is coming to dig out “The Christmas Album”, so to Quote the Full Monty “I do Dave”.


No Mud? A four week number one single! Honestly. Admit it, right now you’re picturing Les singing to that Mud On Road dummy.

Stan Butler

The new album is an abomination. Brenda Lee? No Jona Lewie? Why did six tracks need to get dropped?

Dave Butterfield

Totally pointless. Who would really want aa xmas album on vinyl. Limited play window…songs that on this occassion are better suited to aa ipod playlist.

Andrew Spokes

They’ve removed the Chris de Burgh song – that alone is a crime! Jona Lewie should also still be on there, I reckon.

The Andy Williams and Dean Martin tunes were almost never heard at the time of the original release, now you can’t escape them sadly so no surprise that they’re on there…

By the way, 12 tracks on vinyl given how short some of them are isn’t particularly generous.


From a german atheistic point of view i prefer the original tracklisting but would omit the tracks by Elton John, Shakin’ Stevens and Johnny Mathis and would add The Pogues, Chris Rea and Dean Martin from the new record instead. Obviously for other than musical reasons the track by Gary Glitter would be left out still, my suggestion for replacement would be “December Will Be Magic Again” by Kate Bush, “2000 Miles” by The Pretenders or “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” by The E-Street Band. I wish a nice and quiet festive season to all the believers amongst the SDE-readers.

simon taylor

Agreed on the bongo mix, one of my very favourite Christmas songs, love that guitar playing in the background during the chorus. Lovely!

I still have the original vinyl here in my collection of the Now Christmas set. I love it although as you say does miss some great songs. Understandable about Gary Glitter but some other choices are strange.

The one Christmas song that always gets ignored is Showaddywaddy – Hey Mr Christmas. I love that one. To be honest I never play the Now Christmas vinyl anymore, I have my own MP3 Christmas Classics playlist.

ian s

Hey Mr Christmas is included on a new 2 CD compilation Top Of The Pops Christmas which is released on November 11th.


And talking of Kate Bush, have you heard or seen the extract from the new BBC 6 Music interview?


Kate Bush recalls the ‘terror’ of her 2014 live shows

Chris Squires

OK, I can see why they had to depose Gary Glitter but this is a travesty. The original is my go to December album. It is just about perfect.
My tired wallet will not be opening for this. As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. They have turned perfection into an also ran…..


The Christmas compilation album was the bane of my life when I worked in a supermarket. Five or six weeks of the same CD on repeat.

I regularly removed the disc between songs and binned it. Unfortunately there was a handy supply on the shelf for the manager to get a replacement.


Also – if I remember correctly, the album and cassette of the original were subsequently reissued, possibly the following year – but Queen wasn’t on it?