Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas, Indeed!
By Kristin Battestella
First Lady of Song Ella Fitzgerald makes a swanky 1960 holiday debut with Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas, and this is a hip education indeed thanks to the timelessly toe tapping renditions delivered here as only Ella can.
Sleigh Ride sets the feel good, brassy tone immediately, bringing effortless fun and a rousing but smooth mood. You really want to head out into the snow or jitterbug around your tree with the whole family thanks to Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas. I recently heard this version playing over the airwaves in a department store and found myself tapping along, regardless that I was probably embarrassing myself in public! Likewise, White Christmas (Swing) harkens the Crosby style with its breezy wartime-esque arrangement, yet this isn’t a crooning ballad but a dancing dinner party good time. Winter Wonderland continues this grooving, easy December with more festive notes. Despite Ella’s gloriously strong, happening delivery, we can still sing along because she’s just having such a great, infectious time. The speed kicks up a notch on Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas for a hep cat, clapping along Jingle Bells. The pace, backing singers, and Ella’s varying vocals feel like the dashing fun and racing peril of which the lyrics speak.
Let it Snow, however, is downright jazzy – a pouring cocktails and getting swanky fireside evening as the song’s story suggests. This album is certainly a family friendly listen, but also remains a very classy and adult, sophisticated sound superior to today’s often of the moment, trying too hard adult contemporary fickle, uneven efforts. Santa Claus is Coming to Town is indicative of the universal, longstanding flawlessness here. Rather than remaining a solely playful kid’s mindful and humorous tune, Ella bends on the theme with a catchy snapping your fingers vibe, making a swing standard sound one expects to toe tap over any time of year. The background singers and DeVol orchestration may date Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas for ultra modern millennial listeners – you hear the beats and immediately recognize the decidedly mid century design and rightfully presume it as “old.” However, this is the time of year when such quality, venerable tunes deliver on the merriment promised, unaware fifty years have passed.
Normally so wonderfully brooding and seasonally sad, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas makes room for Ella’s excellent and certainly Judy worthy voice whilst also keeping the cheek to cheek sway moving on Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas. Instead, the less frequently heard What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve serves up the swanky melancholy. This is yet another delightful ballad one could listen to year round just for Ella’s perfectly lovelorn, post war styled invitation. Not to be outdone, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman step up the elegant bemusement again by upgrading the expected juvenile with ritzy orchestration, catchy ad-libs, and more Ella feel good. I apologize if I’m repeating myself, but I’m running out of adjectives!
Maybe there are audiences out there who mysterious don’t like the blues, but Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas gets down with Good Morning Blues, remaining stylish with mostly just Ella and a piano for this Count Basie Santa ditty. The We Three Kings of Orient Are/O Little Town of Bethlehem medley represents the lone carols here – unlike the all spiritually laden, near perfect but too short 1967 Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas release, which contains both songs in full. Rather than feeling out of place, this one somber voice slowly, beautifully, and respectfully gives of itself for the spiritual meaning of the season. Yes, just, yes. Following the reverence, Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas goes tropical with Christmas Island. This simply charming, easy treat with fun lyrics adds more warmth and catchy spins on the season, yet another Ella rendition I’ve caught myself singing along to in public!
Going slow and soft, The Christmas Song is another track done in perfect time for a slow dance before that fire, wonderfully capturing the seasonal lyrics thanks to Ella’s kindhearted delivery. For all the show-stopping spectacles so called singers feel they must do today to sell records – err downloads on iTunes – Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas proves that a tender voice is all it takes to move a listener’s feet or heartstrings. For the Frosty the Snowman (Alternate Take), however, Ella changes up her delivery with a kiddie type vocal. Granted, this would seem goofy from any other singer, but Ella knows which words to make juvenile so there isn’t any unlistenable baby talk abundance. She can still hold some pretty big notes, too, and this is a fun moment for children to enjoy. The absent Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney, of course, may seem kid friendly on the outside, but perhaps remains too suggestive to contemporary, naughty listeners, tee hee. Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas concludes with its longest track, a White Christmas (Slow) version capturing the melancholy moment with every note. It’s especially somber but nonetheless a swaying good time perfectly encapsulating the classic festive of the album and the season. There’s really no need to rush through the malls, pressure yourselves into giving presents, and buy buy buy when you could just swing.
Though not as short as Ella’s Christmas Album, with 16 tracks and at 44 minutes, Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas still feels too short. I want moar! The tracks themselves aren’t long – none reach four minutes and are on average two minutes and change. There are different track listings on the original LP and in several CD reissues, but a touching The Secret of Christmas and a longer, simmering (Alternate) The Christmas Song are part of the current Amazon download options. A completist might be made batty by all the odd editions or missing selections, and sadly, there isn’t always a lot of information available. Fortunately for Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered an album that was so gosh darn aptly named. This isn’t the bombastic, loud, marathon spectacle we may expect today, but this is a down right rhythmic good time guaranteed to put you in the swinging Christmas spirit. This session is not only perfect all season long, but at home, the office, for the kids, or the dinner party. If you are somehow one of the poor, unfortunate few souls who haven’t yet heard Ella Fitzgerald sing, press play on Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas ASAP.