09 December 2010

The Platters Christmas Legends

The Platters Christmas Legends Indeed
By Kristin Battestella

I’m not a fan of the current secular, non-religious Christmas trend- but I love the old school classic groups like The Platters. Although this 2002 compilation set Very Merry Gentlemen: The Platters Christmas Legends is indicative of this Ho Ho Ho over the Creche, fans young and old can’t help but enjoy this upbeat, swinging, fifties styled collection.

Here Comes Santa Claus leads off Very Merry Gentlemen and sets the hip, fun pace of the album.  It may seem a little juvenile, but hey, what’s wrong with that?  Besides, this rendition is dang catchy for the kids to sing along to.  Deck the Halls also adds some charm and spin to what can sometimes be a stuffy tune.  These two starting tracks are the shortest on what is actually a short, almost fleeting 30-minute set.  Fortunately, The Platters keep the music airy and jolly with more tunes like I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. Usually slowed down to being a little too soft and kinky, the innocence, tongue in cheek, and jazzy nature wins here.

Silver Bells is the first slow rendition presented, and the easy stylings make room for The Platters to hold notes and harmonize as only they can. I’ve tried to research when these recordings were done and which line up laid down these tracks, but I’ve had no luck.  It sounds good, and sounds like how we expect The Platters to sound- in the end I suppose that’s all that matters.  I don’t know how anyone cannot like them, honestly.  Next is God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman, the first of three traditional carols in this largely generically festive set.  Though it’s a medieval-esque carol, The Platters step this one up with quick beats and snappy refrains. Can carols be doo-wop? Yes!  Who knew?

The Christmas Song slows Very Merry Gentlemen down some again for a nice, mellow fireside evening.  There’s isn’t a lot of room for the breakout notes some singers add, but The Platters add in some very pleasant, unexpected ad-libs around this timeless melody.  Likewise, We Wish You A Merry Christmas keeps the traditional lighthearted and fun.  You just want to get up and do a little jitterbug with this one.  Silent Night, however, is as slow and reverent as they can come.  All those sweet fifties notes are allowed room to get down and spiritual. In some ways, you need not have any other serious carol on the set if you are going to do a sweet Silent Night like this.  A tune like this is usually served best as the final track on an album- sending the evening out on a somber note- but that isn’t really indicative of the total overall vibe here.

Joy to the World continues some of the spirit with a surprisingly slower that usual arrangement.  Instead of getting fun and happy go lucky, The Platters take their time with some flute-like harmony.  Of course, it’s still a sweet listen and easy sing a long.  Some songs you just can’t do wrong. Lastly, White Christmas sends the set out in traditional holiday Americana fashion.  One might expect The Platters to go super hip like The Drifters rendition, but they charmingly stick to this bittersweet Irving Berlin ode of the season. Ah, the simplicity of a fifties Christmas!

No, Very Merry Gentlemen is not the best album by The Platters- perhaps nothing will ever compare to my Greatest Hits vinyl collection with all their classics like ‘Only You’, ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’, ‘The Great Pretender’ and my favorite ‘Love of a Lifetime’.  Even the title and set editions seem to be a conundrum- ‘gentlemen’ for a group with a female singer? Last year Amazon listed the CD as discontinued, but I was fortunate to find a second hand copy.  However, this year it’s back in stock.  Sadly, it doesn’t look like Amazon offers individual MP3 downloads from which the new generation can pick and choose either.  Several other Christmas compilations from The Platters are also readily available or equally elusive, with repeat songs and varied track listings to haunt a collector.  Technicalities aside, this set is great for young families to dance and sing along with while wrapping the presents and yet sophisticated enough for a swanky uptown holiday party.  Reminisce and enjoy the season with Very Merry Gentlemen: The Platters Christmas Legends.

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