Online since August 2002

Classic cocktail cool

Reviewed December 2009

Christmas With Sinatra and Friends
Christmas With Sinatra and Friends
By Frank Sinatra and friends

Concord: 2009

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

In the history of Christmas recordings, there are only a handful of specific performances that really stand out through the years. Bing Crosby's version of "White Christmas," of course. Nat King Cole's take on Mel Tormé's "The Christmas Song."

In each case, the singer so imbued their interpretation of the song that every other version is compared to that gold standard.

There are two by Frank Sinatra in that elite company: "The Christmas Waltz" and "Mistletoe and Holly."

The first is perhaps the definitive Christmas song by Sinatra; written by the great Sammy Cahn and Jules Styne, arranged by Gordon Jenkins, the track was recorded in 1957 at the very height of Sinatra's artistic powers. That same session resulted in "Mistletoe and Holly," a fun, almost kid-oriented song that is one of the few Sinatra himself helped write.

Any holiday collection with those two tracks is worthy buying by anyone who doesn't already have them in their collection. Taking eight tracks from Sinatra's "A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra" (including the two mentioned above) and a 1964 album he did with Bing Crosby and Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, this new collection from Concord (produced in collaboration with the Sinatra estate) also includes one song apiece from Tormé, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett and the team of Ray Charles and Betty Carter.

The Clooney track is taken from her 1990s' work, when her voice had lost much of its elasticity and range. Still, there's a sweetness and charm to it. Charles and Carter knock out a funky R&B take on "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (laid down about a half-century ago), while Tormé tackles his own "The Christmas Song," which he wrote for Cole. It's not clear from the notes when the Tormé track was recorded, but he recorded the same song on a 1992 holiday album for Telarc – which is now owned by Concord (which also released Clooney's 1996 holiday outing).

Anyone seeking to put a nice holiday cocktail party together could do worse than this polished, balanced little set.

Review by Jim Trageser. Jim is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif., and was a contributor to the "Grove Press Guide to Blues on CD" (1993) and "The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Blues" (2005).

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