Various Artists | Perfect Christmas: 1920s, 30s, 40s Festive Vintage Tunes & Carols

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Perfect Christmas: 1920s, 30s, 40s Festive Vintage Tunes & Carols

by Various Artists

From out-and-out festive, holiday favourites to well-known sacred carols - from the greatest crooners through to legendary tenors - and more besides.
Genre: Holiday: Easy Listening
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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town
Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters
2:44 $0.99
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2. White Christmas
Frank Sinatra
3:23 $0.99
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3. Jingle Bells
Fats Waller
2:59 $0.99
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4. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Judy Garland
2:48 $0.99
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5. Bounce of the Sugar Plum Fairy
John Kirby Sextet
2:26 $0.99
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6. The Christmas Song
Nat King Cole
3:14 $0.99
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7. Christmas Night in Harlem
Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra
3:28 $0.99
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8. The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot
Phyllis Robins
3:01 $0.99
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9. Winter Wonderland
Perry Como
2:33 $0.99
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10. Don’t Wait Till the Night Before Christmas
Dick Robertson & His Orchestra
2:41 $0.99
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11. Christmas Dreaming
Frank Sinatra
3:00 $0.99
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12. I'm Going Home for Christmas
Sydney Lipton & His Grosvenor House Band
2:54 $0.99
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13. The Fairy on the Christmas Tree
Gracie Fields
3:08 $0.99
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14. O Little Town of Bethlehem
Perry Como
3:07 $0.99
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15. Say It with Carols - Medley
Billy Mayerl
5:44 $0.99
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16. Adeste Fideles (O Come All Ye Faithful)
John McCormack
3:41 $0.99
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17. While Shepherds Watched / It Came Upon a Midnight Clear / Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
Westminster Central Hall Choir
3:42 $0.99
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18. The Star of Bethlehem
Webster Booth
4:33 $0.99
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19. Silent Night
The Celebrity Quartette
3:03 $0.99
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20. Cantique Del Noel (O Holy Night)
Marcel Journet
3:19 $0.99
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21. The First Nowell
The Celebrity Quartette
3:17 $0.99
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22. O Du Frohliche
Richard Tauber
2:48 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Santa Claus Is Cornin’ To Town - and you’d better believe it when intoned by Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters, then at the height of their popularity. This song, dating from 1934, had to wait nine years for this best-selling version to come along and give it a new lease of life.

Frank Sinatra is the kind of singer who comes along once in a lifetime - but why did it have to be my lifetime?’ quoth Bing Crosby. But the two top American crooners were on good terms and had a great deal of respect for one another. Bing’s White Christmas was the original, top-selling record from the 1942 film Holiday Inn’. Frank Sinatra’s version from a couple of years later, whilst not necessarily ‘better’, is equally relaxed and perhaps more ‘modern’ sounding. In Christmas Dreaming we can well understand why Frank is doing his ‘Christmas dreaming a little early this year’.

The harmful little armful’, or ‘Mrs Waller’s 285 pounds of jam, jive and everythin” as he described himself. Who else but the irrepressible Fats Waller? No other artist communicates such an unbridled sense of joie de vivre through his recordings - what matter that (Swingin’ Them) Jingle Bells was recorded over 60 years ago? With Fats at the helm it comes through open-armed and greets you like an old friend. Even the yard dog enters into the spirit of the occasion (you be a good yard dog now, mind...). By way of contrast, Judy Garland brings us one of the best of the Christmas songs, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas from her 1944 film ‘Meet Me In St Louis’. One of Judy’s best movies, it centres on a year in the life of a prosperous St Louis family early this century. Two other song hits from the film were ‘The Boy Next Door’ and ‘The Trolley Song’.

In Tchaikovsky’s original ballet ‘The Nutcracker’ Suite, the Sugar Plum Fairy is the Queen Of The Kingdom Of Sweets and her graceful little dance is accompanied by a solo celeste. John Kirby’s cheeky version however is retitled Bounce Of The Sugar Plum Fairy and, just when you think she’s ‘dun bouncin”, she bounces back for two sneaky encores. Who’s a greedy little fairy then, eh?

The Christmas Song was written by Bob Wells and up-and-coming vocalist Mel Tormé during a heatwave in July 1945. They rushed it round to Carlos Gastel, Nat King Cole’s manager, and the upshot was that the Nat King Cole Trio recorded it with a string backing the following year. It was worth the wait. With Nat’s impeccable dark and intimate vocal the disc reached No.3 in the Hit Parade. It has remained a popular favourite ever since.

We are then abruptly yanked off to Harlem, where we learn that it’s Christmas Night In Harlem. Major league popular lyric writer Johnny Mercer was also one of the best rhythm singers. Here he’s having a ball, joining forces with Jack Teagarden at a time when the great trombonist/vocalist was under contract to the Paul Whiteman organisation for five years.

Mawkish and over-sentimental maybe; despite this, the ‘ever-so-sad’ tale of The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot remains in the seasonal repertoire. Phyllis Robins puts the song across in an appealing but straightforward manner. Born in Pennsylvania in 1912, Perry Como’s first job was as a barber. He used to sing at work and many of his customers urged him to become a professional vocalist, sacrificing the tonsorial for the tonsillar, so to speak. Perry took their advice and served his apprenticeship as a band vocalist for nine years from 1933 (six of those years with the high-profile Ted Weems Orchestra). Going solo in 1942, Perry has enjoyed a long and fruitful career as one of America’s top entertainers. Like Bing Crosby, his manner exudes an air of supreme relaxation. In the cheerful Winter Wonderland there’s the familiar, mellow-voiced Como but as a marked contrast in 0 Little Town Of Bethlehem he sings with true reverence and sincerity - no lightweight performance here -further proof (if proof were needed) of his versatility and stature.

Brooklyn born Dick Robertson (1903-1979) recorded prolifically with US Decca studio bands in the seven years from 1935. Dick’s pleasing vocal style together with his flair for picking top jazzmen means that today many of his records are highly prized by collectors. On the Dixieland-style Don’t Wait Till The Night Before Christmas there’s the bonus of a short muted cornet chorus from Bobby Hackett.

Now we come to our only British dance band offering on this collection, the jaunty I’m Going Home For Christmas by Sydney Lipton & His Grosvenor House Band. Sydney (1906-1995) enjoyed a long association with London’s Grosvenor House Hotel from 1931 through to 1972 (save for a five year stint in the Royal Corps Of Signals from 1941.)

Every little girl would like to be The Faity On The Christmas Tree’ sings Gracie Fields, and who are we to argue? There is ample evidence here of Gracie’s pure, bell-like tones so it is easy to understand why the great diva Luisa Tetrazzini attempted to persuade her to study opera and forsake the variety stage. It is fortunate for us that she didn’t heed the diva’s words. We get more than a glimpse, too, of Gracie 'guying’ the song by hardening her voice and being typically oh so Lanca-sheer’. No matter, she was principally a comedienne.

Billy Mayerl (1902-1959), ‘The King Of Syncopation’, emerged as a formidably gifted solo pianist and composer in the mid-1920s. He opened his own Billy Mayerl School Of Music in 1926 which offered, amongst other things, correspondence courses in ‘Modern Syncopation and Rhythm’. Mayerl’s own music lives on in two societies in the UK devoted to furthering his reputation, also in a growing number of CD releases. As pianist, however, listen to his yuletide arrangement, Say It With Carols, played with great authority and verve.

We now come to the second section of our yuletide celebration, featuring traditional Christmas songs and carols, performed by some of the greatest classical artists of the period.

We begin with the great Irish-born tenor John McCormack, who took American citizenship in 1917. Never comfortable as an actor, he forsook the operatic stage for the concert platform during World War I. His clear, even and unmannered delivery (as in Adeste Fideles) provides an object lesson to many an aspiring singer.

Our collection of traditional fare continues in a rousing medley of three well-loved carols, specially gift-wrapped by the Westminster Central Hall Choir.

One of the finest British tenors of this century was Webster Booth (1902-1984) who had a considerable career outside the partnership with his wife, the soprano Anne Ziegler. Webster gives an immaculate and stirring rendition of The Star Of Bethlehem, written by Fred Weatherly to music by Stephen Adams - the team who composed ‘The Holy City’.

Fifteen years separate the two Celebrity Quartette recordings of Christmas carols. It appears that Columbia chose four of their most prominent soloists for each session, comprising soprano, contralto, tenor and bass or baritone. In his posthumously published book, ‘Joe Batten’s Book - The Story Of Sound Recording’, Batten cites this record of Silent Night, Holy Night as the one he would take to that mythical desert island with him. It is truly a fine recording and arrangement of a song voted as ‘top carol’ in a 1996 opinion poll - beating its nearest rivals with over twice as many votes. The First Nowell, where The Celebrity Quartette is discreetly and sympathetically accompanied by organist Herbert Dawson, includes only Isobel Baillie from the original 1932 line-up.

The distinguished French bass Marcel Journet (1867-1933) belies his 58 years in Cantique De Noel. The young Ezio Pinza was a great admirer, writing ‘I never heard anyone go from high notes to low ones with the ease and sonority of the middle-aged Journet’.

To conclude our nostalgic celebration, we have 0 Du Frohliche, known in English as ‘0 Most Holy One’. It was recorded in Berlin by Richard Tauber in a full-blooded performance in 1929. Tauber was first and foremost a superb musician and singer who was outstanding in conducting and composition, opera, operetta, lieder, ballads and popular song. In later years he tended towards the lighter side of his repertoire but excelled at it, as always. Being part Jewish, Tauber had to leave Vienna in a hurry in 1933 on the rise of the Nazi Party and was happy eventually to settle in London and take out British nationality in 1940.

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