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David Vernier, November 2001

"Yes, there really was a simpler time, when a simple song with a direct, unapologetic sentiment could be sung by a smooth-voiced baritone or a sweet-toned soprano--and people actually sang along (because they could), bought the sheet music, and cherished the tune, its words, and its particular situational meaning for the rest of their lives. And that was also when, in most North American homes, mixed in among those classical LPs from the Columbia or RCA record clubs were a few entries from singers such as Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Mel Torme, Nat King Cole, Doris Day, or Judy Garland. And it was more likely than not that those selections would include Christmas albums, an almost yearly offering from some of the biggest pop singers to their legions of fans. If you remember this, and when tunes such as 'White Christmas' and 'Winter Wonderland' reigned at the top of the radio charts (I'm not saying that I do, but I certainly have a place in my heart for this stuff!), then you'll be very interested in this new compilation from Naxos of '21 Vintage Seasonal Hits', most of which figure prominently in the last century's parade of favorite Christmas tunes and were among the highlights of the careers of many of the period's most popular performers.

Don't get me wrong: this isn't all great music. Among the classics--such as Bing Crosby's 'White Christmas', Richard Crooks' 'The Star of Bethlehem', Gene Autry's 'Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer' and 'Frosty, the Snowman', and Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song" (the version from 1946 with his trio)--are the terminally silly 'Christmas Eve in Fairyland' (Gracie Fields) and the downright dumb 'I Yust Go Nuts At Christmas' (Yogi Yorgeson). Oh, yes, there's also the Spike Jones 'All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth' and Reginald Purdell's 'The Ghost of the Turkey, along with a shaky Judy Garland ('Have yourself a merry little Christmas' from 1944) and an unusually angelic Frank Sinatra ('Silent Night' from 1945). But ya gotta love Perry Como's immediate-post-war 'That Christmas Feeling' and 'Winter Wonderland' from 1946 and Nelson Eddy's impassioned 'O come, all ye faithful'. Research, transfers, digital restoration, and notes on many of the selections are by Peter Dempsey, who does a terrific job with the sound, which naturally is dependent on a variety of sources. Some tracks show some edginess in the voice, others give full bloom to the voice while constricting the sound of the orchestra. No matter. These are some of the classic documents of Christmases past--well worth the expenditure of a few dollars, and a few nostalgic moments."

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