12 Days Of xMas Music: Day 6

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Various – A 1940’s Christmas

Of all the Christmas CDs I own, A 1940’s Christmas is my favorite. I’ve listened to this more than any other holiday album in my collection. When I wrote about the Ultra-Lounge xMas album I mentioned that the ‘90s also saw a swing revival. Well, that enthusiasm for the swing music of old prompted bargain label Laserlight Digital to put out this disc of recycled gems in 1995.
The funny thing about this collection – about the title, anyway – is that only half the songs are from the ‘40s. Some came out as early as 1935 and the most recent cut is from 1980. One of the strikes against Laserlight Digital is the sound quality – or lack thereof – on their releases, particularly on classical recordings. But for old-timely music that sounds like it would be more at home on the Victoria in your gran’s parlor, a little bit of hiss on the recordings lends an air of authenticity.
This album really swings, starting out with the king of swing himself, Mr. Benny Goodman, laying down a bouncy instrumental version of “Jingle Bells.” He shows up again later in the program with “Santa Claus Came In The Spring” featuring the warmed-honey vocals of Joe Harris. Jo Stafford’s cover of “It Happened In Sun Valley” features some nice harmonies and a galloping stand-up bass line. Tommy Dorsey’s hyper-tempo “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” the third track on the disc, marks the first song in the collection actually released in the ‘40s.
Helen Forest duets with Dick Haynes on the unbearably cute “Button Up Your Overcoat.” Bing Crosby and Judy Garland have the two most traditional tracks on the album with “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” respectively. Lena Horne’s “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” is one of my favorite versions of this song and Frankie Carle provides us with the playful “Little Jack Frost Get Lost.”
Dinah Shore’s “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” appears to be taken from a live broadcast, and Perry Como closes the disc appropriately with “We’ll Meet Again.”
Finally, the true standout track, smack dab in the middle of the album, is the Petula Clark/Rod McKuen duet “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” released in 1980 but done in a classic style that isn’t the least bit out of place on this compilation. It is one of the funniest and most lascivious takes on this classic ever recorded, and it’s played in such a way by both singers that it is clear – despite the lyrics and recent stupid uproar about the song – that the flirtation is equal parts male and female without anyone taking advantage of the other. When Petula Clark whispers, “Well, maybe another one of those… funny cigarettes?” you just know she’s already made up her mind.
This disc is long out of print – in fact, I think the label has folded, as well – but well worth seeking out and another one you can find used online for under ten bucks shipped. It’s very short, coming in at just over half an hour, but it has endless replayability. I’ve been listening to it for nearly 25 years and I’m not tired of it yet.
Thank you for reading!
Tune in for tomorrow for the next installment in the 12 Days Of xMas Music.

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Until next time, keep those discs spinning. Merry Christmas and all the rest…

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