Perry Como | The Classic Christmas Album/Frank Sinatra | The Classic Christmas Album (Legacy)

cd xmas-comoCome with me on this little yuletide adventure I have dubbed “A Tale of Two Crooners.”




Knowing me as the PLAYBACK:stl staffer who volunteers to cover the “old” and/or “weird” stuff, it should come as no surprise that I’m here to tell you about new holiday releases by two red-hot singers named Perry Como and Frank Sinatra. Apparently, these cats recorded Christmas tunes. Weird, right?

So come with me on this little yuletide adventure I have dubbed “A Tale of Two Crooners.” We’ll start off by taking a look at Mr. Como’s latest release titled, appropriately enough, Perry Como: The Classic Christmas Album.

If Sinatra was a reckless grab-life-by-the-nards troublemaker, RCA Records’ golden boy Como was the man whose fans would find themselves absolutely mortified if they ever spotted him in the gossip rags for being a shit disturber. His fans worshipped him for this, and his complete devotion to his principles and good taste were reliable trademarks for as long as he was in the public eye. I know this firsthand, as my Aunt Lorraine, who was a lifelong Comosensual, collected clippings from a local appearance, put them in a book, and shot them off to Mr. Como at his ComoQuarters. He promptly sent her back a handwritten thank-you letter for taking the time. So why do I bring this up?

It may be hard to believe in this age of nipple slips, sex vids, and multiple DUIs, but this was a very popular singer who managed never to set his comfy slippers anywhere near a controversy or scandal. He was also a natural for recording Christmas songs. This latest release from Camp Como has been digitally remastered, so if you close your eyes, you can almost imagine him singing in your place of assisted living. There’s a famous SCTV sketch in which Eugene Levy portrays Como in a concert “commercial” that shows him singing from a couch, eyes at half-mast, and generally being relaxed to the point of being a corpse. What makes it funny is that it really isn’t too off the mark, but that’s part of Como’s charm. This is something you listen to when the season—and all of the associated stress and commercialization that comes with it—starts to get overwhelming. Put this on, get on down to Comoville, and feel the anguish leave your body as you inevitably succumb to a very solid sleep.

cd xmas_sinatraOn the other end of the spectrum is Mr. Sinatra, the pride of Hoboken and the scourge of Federal investigators for much of the ’50s and ’60s. Though he would later more than earn his reputation as an international hell-raiser of the highest order, a young Sinatra appears on The Classic Christmas Album, not yet caught up in all of that tough-guy image nonsense. While the aforementioned Como release is pretty much what one would expect, I was rather surprised by the different sides of Sinatra presented here.

He good-naturedly praises the Lord in the swampy gospel blues of “Jesus Is a Rock in the Weary Land,” coming across like the smooth-talking hipster preacher who knew just how to talk to all those Catholic girls. Of particular note this collection’s two previously unreleased tracks. Sinatra lets his guard down and gets downright goofy in a live version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” a duet with Dorothy Kirsten that’s almost revelatory in its untamed silliness. The other unreleased track is a live version of “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” with the Page Cavanaugh Trio. This particular version follows a more contemplative pattern than the more swinging song he would record four years later with the B. Swanson Quartet. Incidentally, both versions are included here, so Sintraphiles interested in comparing alternate versions can do so with ease. Extra bonus: His pre-song showbiz patter on the Cavanaugh version features young Sinatra not under the influence of bourbon, but of the Godfather of Crooners himself: the one and only Bing Crosby.

Bottom line: Buy one for your mother, by the other for your mother’s mother, or keep them both and have a mother of a good time for Christmas. | Jim Ousley

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