Nowadays, every singer in the world is putting out a
Christmas album. There are entire racks in music stores of
easy-listening Christmas albums, country Christmas albums, rap Christmas
albums, novelty Christmas albums, Jewish Christmas albums... it goes on and
Not to question the motives of all the artists who are
slipping holiday albums onto the racks, but it is nice to remember that once
upon a time singers did songs of the season because they liked the songs,
not as a marketing strategy.
Frank Sinatra was arguably the best interpretive
singer of the 20th century. With a career that spanned five decades,
it is inevitable that he would have put his distinctive stamp on some of the
greatest yuletide standards in history. Between his albums and his
radio and TV shows, Sinatra took on the current carols of the day quite
often, and eighteen of the best are collected here.
Occasionally the arrangements can sound a teensy bit
dated, but Sinatra's vocals are always spot on. His version of "Have
Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" is simply definitive, a duet with Bing
Crosby on "We Wish You The Merriest" is jaunty and "I've Got My Love To Keep
Me Warm" swings like a house afire.
The Chairman of the Board gets a little overshadowed
on a duet with Bing Crosby on that singer's signature song, Irving Berlin's
"White Christmas." Sinatra generously recognized that the song
belonged to his costar, so he just adds some lovely harmony fills to spice
up der Bingle's song.
Probably the highlight here is a sparse, previously
unavailable version of "Silent Night," which adds a sense of quiet
melancholy to the well-covered classic.
Sometimes it can get a bit cutesy; a revised version
of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" Ol' Blue Eyes did with daughters Nancy and
Tina and son Frank, Jr. is funny, but just a bit too much of an in-joke.
That's okay, too, the holiday is about family and having fun. And this
CD is fun. More importantly, it swings.
So, if you're about to overdose on "Grandma Got Run
Over By A Reindeer" and the singing dogs doing "Jingle Bells" on holiday
radio, take a gander at how Christmas songs are supposed to be done.