By Gillian G. Gaar
‘Tis the season for Christmas records; here’s a look at some of them.
“Christmas with Elvis and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra” (RCA/Legacy) comes about undoubtedly due to the success of Elvis’ previous releases with the Royal Phil. The tracks are drawn pretty evenly from “Elvis’ Christmas Album” and “Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas,” and it’s the songs from the latter album that benefit the most from the orchestral treatment. But you really can’t improve on the original arrangements of such Elvis holiday classics as “Blue Christmas,” “Santa Claus is Back in Town” and “Merry Christmas Baby.” Be sure to get the deluxe edition, which includes all four tracks from the “Peace in the Valley” EP. On a related note, Graceland is hosting a weekend of Elvis holiday concerts in Memphis, December 15-16; check graceland.com or 800-238-2000 for more info … Blackmore’s Night is Deep Purple/Rainbow guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and singer/songwriter (and Blackmore’s wife) Candice Night, and their holiday album “Winter Carols” (Minstrel Hall Music) gives a classical, Renaissance spin to traditional carols like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “We Three Kings,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” among others First released in 2006, the album’s first reissue had a second disc of live tracks and the holiday single “Christmas Eve”; this new reissue adds three new songs, giving you the most holiday bang for your buck … “A Tav Falco Christmas” (ORG Music/Frenzi Music & Films) has the Southern rocker tackling eight modern holiday tunes like “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Jingle Bell Rock.” The vocals are surprisingly lackluster, sounding more like a bland karaoke singer and at times (as on “Christmas Blues”) sliding embarrassingly off key. But collectors should note, a red vinyl album is scheduled for release on Record Store Day … Herb Alpert hasn’t released a holiday album since 1968’s “Christmas Album.” Now comes the welcome release of “The Christmas Wish” (Herb Alpert Presents). He’s backed by a symphony orchestra and choir, but it’s Alpert’s trumpet that’s the star attraction here. The album leans toward the modern holiday song (“Santa Baby,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”) with a few traditional/classical selections (“Silent Night,” “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring”), all featuring clean, crisp arrangements. It’s classic Alpert — and a sure to be classic album … it’s a family affair on Frank Sinatra’s “Ultimate Christmas” (Capitol/UMe), with Ol’ Blue Eyes going solo, and bringing his kids Nancy, Frank Jr., and Tina in for three numbers, including a reworked version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and a lovely “The Bells of Christmas (Greensleeves).” Sinatra also mixes it up on his solo tracks, featuring both standards and newer numbers like “The Christmas Waltz” and “Mistletoe and Holly.”
Other holiday albums set for release: Cheap Trick’s “Christmas Christmas” (Big Machine Records) features modern songs like “Run Rudolph Run” with three new ones from the band … ‘50s revivalists Sha Sha Na deliver “Rockin’ Christmas: The Classic Christmas Collection,” with tracks including “I Saw Mama Twistin’ with Santa Claus,” and a new number, “Ugly Christmas Sweater” … “Soul Christmas” features contributions from Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, and Booker T and the MG’s … Chris Isaak’s “Christmas Live on Soundstage” serves up a yuletide concert of 17 songs, including the Hawaiian number “Mele Kalikimaka” … The Supremes’ “The Ultimate Merry Christmas” delivers two CDs packed with holiday tunes, from classic carols (“Silent Night”) to modern numbers (“The Little Drummer Boy”).