25 November 2014

Quick Christmas Oldies

Quick Christmas Oldies!
by Kristin Battestella

Need a pleasant, traditional, office acceptable, or family friendly playlist that’s quick, easy, and full of perennial favorites? Look no further than this handful of surprisingly short holiday albums for your speedy, festive fix!  

Christmas with Perry Como – There is most definitely no shortage of holiday music from Mr. C! This 32-minute CD is not the same as the Season’s Greetings from Perry Como previously reviewed here though this compilation does cross over somewhat with The Perry Como Christmas Album. Yes, it is exhausting to keep up with these numerous releases, but everyone needs the mid century snappy of Jingle Bells, Toyland, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town provided here. The spiritual dominates this session with backing choirs on the usual carols Silent Night and O Holy Night, but Perry also presents the Adeste Fideles refrains in O Come All Ye Faithful, a subdued God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman, slow and somber Ave Maria, rousing Do You Hear What I Hear, and simply stirring Little Drummer Boy. This is short, true, but there’s a little bit of everything for everyone in the Christmas brevity here. 

Perry Como sings Merry Christmas Music – Stay with me now for this oft reissued 1956 LP repeating O Come All Ye Faithful, God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman, Jingle Bells, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Silent Night but adding more seasonal hits not found on other Perry editions including the nostalgic C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S and sentimental That Christmas Feeling. A ‘Twas the Night before Christmas reciting, bittersweet I’ll Be Home for Christmas, and The Twelve Days of Christmas join the family friendly Frosty the Snowman for a singing along good time, but a lively Joy to the World is the only new carol – and it’s exclusively here. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, The Christmas Song, White Christmas, and Winter Wonderland finish the set, but they can be found on Season’s Greetings, too. Whew! Pleasant as the tunes all are, it takes longer to figure out which songs are where than it does to actually listen to them! And is anyone else thinking of Blast from the Past right now?

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer – Duo Elmo and Patsy recorded several more humorous holiday hits for this 30-minute 1982 album, and yes, the eponymous funfest is of course here along with well known tunes such as the kid friendly Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, catchy Jingle Bell Rock, and hoedown worthy Jingle Bells. Even Joy to the World and Silent Night receive twangy treatments, too. While bemusing original songs like Percy the Puny Poinsetta and Senor Santa Claus might not be for everyone, these are relatively short tracks. Surprisingly, the longest tune Here’s to the Lonely is a subdued and bluesy December bittersweetness. Sure, it’s easy to pick and choose your download favorites nowadays, but this is a quirky, affordable CD to add to your Christmas collection when you want some country light with your egg nog – but don’t drink too much or forget your medication when you stagger out the door into the snow!

A Tenor's Christmas Despite adding a reverent, operatic, and international tone, Mario Lanza makes the runtimes even shorter with this 28-minute session seemingly abbreviated from the longer Christmas with Mario Lanza CD also available. Deck the Halls and O Tannenbaum traditionals are the only secular nods, but choirs and lofty octaves accent the Old World feelings and pleasant pace of the no less peppy Joy to the World. The First Nowell, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear are also hymnly arranged with less frequently heard verses – lovely to hear in an age where so many feel the need to revise and meddle. Likewise, We Three Kings of Orient Are adds deeper notes to match the O Little Town of Bethlehem and Silent Night lullaby sounds. Mario takes his time with the longest concluding track O Holy Night and hits all the big notes as expected. This isn’t for every office or to sing alongside yet remains a very satisfying seasonal sound and merry mood maker akin to an old-fashioned, even Victorian styled Christmas from whence most of our traditions arose – what’s wrong with that?

We Need a Little Christmas – This 45 minute Andy Williams CD is a 1995 contemporary redo of his prior holiday classics along with several new tracks. Yes, there’s a bit much on the attempted hipness with the opening Mary’s Little Boy Child, the grooving Up on the Rooftop, somewhat tame What Child is This, and the seemingly smashed together and jarring Angels We Have Heard on High/Hark the Herald Angels Sing medley. Some Christmas carols just don’t need to be jazzed up. Fortunately, I’ll be Home for Christmas is a perfectly modern melancholy and swanky befitting Williams’ delivery, as are The Christmas Song, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, and the Silent Night finale. Of course, there’s some family fun, too, with Away in the Manger, Jolly Old St. Nick, and the still catchy titular staple. Though evenly split between religious and secular tunes, this update is ironically more dated than the traditional renditions one expects to hear from Williams every December. Longtime listeners may even find this millennial rerecording unnecessary altogether, however, the easy tone here nonetheless remains a charming addition to the tree trimmings playlist.

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