The Second Disc

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Columbia Compiles “Classic Christmas” From Tony Bennett

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Tony Bennett once famously asked in song, “When do the bells ring for me?”  Well, this week, sleigh bells are ringing for the 85-years-young crooner.  Bennett, who recently topped the charts for the first time in his long career with Duets II, has added yet another title to his considerable catalogue.  The Classic Christmas Album was released yesterday by RPM, Columbia and Legacy, and brings together 18 holiday-themed recordings recorded between 1968 and 2008.

With Bennett’s typical class, the well-curated package draws on more than just his two Columbia Christmas releases, issued forty years apart (1968’s Snowfall and 2008’s A Swingin’ Christmas).  Those two seminal “bookend” albums are represented via five tracks each.  Four tracks come from 2002’s Hallmark-exclusive Christmas with Tony Bennett and the London Symphony Orchestra, and two are derived from Our Favorite Things: Christmas in Vienna, a Sony Classical album from 2001 featuring Bennett, Placido Domingo, Vanessa Williams and Charlotte Church.  A particularly nice inclusion is that of “Christmas in Herald Square” from Bennett’s 1998 children’s album The Playground, and for collectors, there’s his rendition of the traditional hymn “What Child is This” arranged and conducted by veteran talent Marion Evans.  (Evans recently reunited with the singer to write arrangements for Duets II.)  The discographical information included in The Classic Christmas Album indicates that this track is previously unreleased.  Bennett did, indeed, record “What Child is This” for Columbia Special Products’ release Great Songs of Christmas Volume 8, a 1968 tie-in for the Goodyear Tire Company.  Eagle-eyed Bennett fans noticed the song is missing from Barnes and Noble’s track listing for the upcoming Complete Albums Collection box set.   The version on Classic Christmas is a longer take than that original Goodyear cut, although the arrangement is identical; it’s possible that the Goodyear track was an edit of this original, lengthier version. (For those wondering, the Goodyear album also included performances by many Columbia mainstays of the holiday season like Robert Goulet, Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, Ray Conniff, Percy Faith and of course, Andy Williams!)

The eighteen tracks offer a nice mixture of the secular and the religious.  In the latter tradition, Bennett offers a swinging take on Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s “My Favorite Things,” as well as his buoyant medley of Freeman and Brown’s “I Love the Winter Weather” and Irving Berlin’s “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.”  (Berlin’s song appears twice on the album, the second time in a duet version with daughter Antonia Bennett.)  The great Robert Farnon’s arrangements of “Winter Wonderland” and Berlin’s “White Christmas” are equally indelible.  On the sacred side, Bennett offers a duet with Placido Domingo on “The First Noel” as well as versions of “Silent Night,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” all accompanied by The London Symphony Orchestra.

Hit the jump for more info, including the complete track listing!

Vic Anesini has remastered all tracks on the new compilation, which might be an omen of things to come in the Complete Albums box set.  A recent photo by E.J. Camp of an avuncular Tony Bennett sets the cover apart.  The Classic Christmas Album is in stores now from RPM, Columbia and Legacy, and makes a fine alternative to another repackaging of Snowfall.  If Bennett’s Christmas performances are some of your favorite things, you just might want to check this one out.

Tony Bennett, The Classic Christmas Album (Columbia/RPM/Legacy 88697 95576 2, 2011)

  1. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
  2. My Favorite Things
  3. Christmas Time is Here
  4. Deck the Halls
  5. The First Noel (duet with Placido Domingo)
  6. The Christmas Song
  7. Silver Bells
  8. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  9. O Little Town of Bethlehem
  10. I Love the Winter Weather/I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm
  11. I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm (duet with Antonia Bennett)
  12. Christmas in Herald Square
  13. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
  14. O Come All Ye Faithful
  15. What Child is This
  16. Winter Wonderland
  17. Silent Night
  18. White Christmas

Tracks 1, 3, 7, 11 and 13 from A Swingin’ Christmas featuring the Count Basie Big Band, Columbia/RPM 88697 34321 2, 2008)
Tracks 2, 6, 10, 16 and 18 from Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album (Columbia CS 9739, 1968)
Tracks 4, 9, 14 and 17 from Hallmark Presents Christmas with Tony Bennett and the London Symphony Orchestra (Hallmark EDM 7009, 2002)
Tracks 5 and 8 from Our Favorite Things: Christmas in Vienna (Sony Classical SK 89468, 2001)
Track 12 from The Playground (Columbia/RPM/Sony Wonder CK 69380, 1998)
Track 15 attributed as previously unreleased; possibly recorded for Great Songs of Christmas Volume 8 (Goodyear/Columbia Special Products CSS 888, 1968)

Written by Joe Marchese

October 12, 2011 at 12:50

2 Responses

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  1. I wish they had left the original “Snowfall” cuts on this instead of the ones from “Swingin’ Christmas”. I found that CD with the Basie (in name only) Band to be as processed as Kraft Velveeta cheese!

    Paul M. Mock

    October 12, 2011 at 12:59

  2. I’m sitting here trying to decide which is worse: music that is terribly “overprocessed” or Kraft Velveeta Cheese?

    Think of it this way: which would you rather do, listen to a fine recording while eating a huge serving of Kraft Velveeta Cheese, OR listen to some terribly overprocessed music while enjoying some fine cheese?


    October 13, 2011 at 08:34

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