Christmas with Sinatra and Friends
I’m frustrated. Every year a flood of new Christmas music is released, both new and reissued, and it’s just no good. Bob Dylan’s hilariously sublime Christmas album and Billy Childish’s yearly output excepted, why have they released David Archuleta’s Christmas record this year and why is Red Simpson’s Trucker’s Christmas almost impossible to find? Why can’t I buy Hasil Adkins’ or Solomon Burke’s Christmas songs? Which brings me to Frank Sinatra. Why is it that an artist of his magnitude has been so ill-served in the compiling of his holiday-related output? The central premise of Christmas With the Rat Pack had so much potential, but the finished product was downright shoddy, from Dean Martin’s sauced rendition of “Rudolph” to Sammy Davis Jr’s alllllllmost racist “Christmas Time All Over the World” to a laughable group take of “Marshmallow World” that falls apart at the end, there just wasn’t much to make merry to. And don’t get me started on the Sinatra family version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” on the The Frank Sinatra Christmas Collection.
This year’s Christmas With… is a whole lot more satisfying package. The song selection is strong, the performances and takes chosen are even stronger. The sound quality is crisp and clean from remastering, while still retaining the sonic characteristics that make analog recording so appealing. I will take issue with the spuriously broad criteria applied to consider the performers on this record Sinatra’s “friends.” So what you’re telling me is that the Rat Pack wasn’t Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., or even Joey fucking Bishop (all absent) and was instead Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, and Ray Charles? Did he even know who Rosemary Clooney was? Anyway, it’s a pleasure to hear Mel Torme’s take on the “Christmas Song” — the Velvet Fog nails the song he wrote in one languid, Christmas Cookie haze. Ray Charles and Betty Carter’s “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is downright naughty, in a good way. And Rosemary Clooney does a great “White Christmas.” The main man nails it on “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” and “Mistletoe and Holly,” though hearing him claim to want to trade the Manhattan skyline for Christmas in a small town makes you want to bite your lip in laughter. This is a solid cohesive album. I think the stores are open late…..