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Holiday Tunes Watch: Sony CMG Celebrates The Season with Bing, Buck, B.J., JB, Elvis and More

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Christmas With Bing CoverOccasionally the aisles of your local grocery or big-box store turn up releases you won’t find even in your local indie music store.  Such is the case with a recent batch of holiday-themed titles from Sony Commercial Music Group.  Just in time for Christmas ’13, CMG has unveiled a number of holiday compilations – and a handful of straight album reissues – for fans of classic pop (Bing Crosby, Patti Page), country (B.J. Thomas, Buck Owens, Roy Clark), rock-and-roll (Elvis Presley) and R&B (James Brown, and latter-day incarnations of The Drifters, The Platters, The Miracles and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes).  As you’ll see, there are some buried treasures to be discovered here.

Bing Crosby Enterprises has released a number of projects in recent years featuring ultra-rare Crosby tracks from the late legend’s archives, and the new Christmas with Bing! is no exception.  This release follows other recent, unique seasonal collections like 2011’s Bing Crosby Christmas from Sonoma Entertainment and South Bay Music and Christmas Favorites from Somerset Entertainment. Produced by Robert S. Bader, the compilation offers 14 tracks including a few reprised from the indispensable Crosby Christmas Sessions (Collectors’ Choice Music, 2010).  Three duets are sprinkled in among vintage singles and rare radio performances, including Ella Fitzgerald on “A Marshmallow World,” Bing’s widow Kathryn Crosby on “Away in a Manger,” and David Bowie on, of course, “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.”   Real Gone Music has recently reissued the late Patti Page’s 1955 Mercury release Christmas with Patti Page; now CMG has delivered the singer’s 1965 Columbia set of the same name which featured re-recordings of some of the earlier album’s music plus new holiday songs.  The Columbia Christmas with Patti Page includes such favorites as “Silver Bells,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Christmas Bells” and “Pretty Snowflakes.”

Buck Owens ChristmasThe late Bakersfield, California country hero Buck Owens has been in the spotlight for much of 2013 thanks to Omnivore Recordings’ stellar release program and the release of his autobiography Buck ‘Em!.  CMG’s Christmas with Buck Owens, produced by Rob Santos and licensed directly from Owens’ estate, includes twelve originals from Owens and his Buckaroos, including “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy,” “Santa’s Gonna Come in a Stagecoach” and a still-relevant lament about “Christmas Shopping.”  Its eleven tracks sample Owens’ Capitol long-players Christmas with Buck Owens and His Buckaroos (1965) and Christmas Shopping (1968).  Buck’s Hee-Haw co-host and compatriot Roy Clark also gets a holiday overview with A Christmas Collection, produced by Doug Wygal.  Its fifteen tracks including such classics as “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!,” “Home for the Holidays” and “White Christmas” have all been licensed from Grand Ole Opry member Clark.

B.J. Thomas - Christmas LiveSony collects twelve Christmas tunes from Lee Greenwood (“God Bless the U.S.A.”) on Christmas, licensed from Cleopatra Records.  As well as “Tennessee Christmas” and “Lone Star Christmas,” Greenwood sings traditional classics from “The Little Drummer Boy” to “White Christmas.”  For years, B.J. Thomas has successfully walked the line between country and pop, and he showcases his still-strong voice on his enjoyable Christmas Live set.  This collection, licensed from Cleopatra and of mid-2000s vintage, features twelve live Christmas songs from the “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” man, including “The Christmas Song,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Tennessee Christmas.”  A longer version of the concert, with some non-holiday material, can be obtained on CD-R from Goldenlane Records as Hooked on Christmas or on DVD from Video Music as B.J. Thomas’ Christmas.

B.J. shared some of his repertoire, such as “Suspicious Minds” and “I Just Can’t Help Believin’,” with Elvis Presley.  Twelve of the King’s Christmas staples are represented on Merry Christmas…Love Elvis, produced by Jeff James and Lisa Grauso and remastered by Tom Ruff.  The compilation is drawn from Elvis’ 1957 and 1971 Christmas albums plus the 1966 single “If Every Day Was Like Christmas.  On the classic rock front, CMG also offers up a reissue of Ann and Nancy Wilson’s A Lovemongers’ Christmas.  Originally released in 1998 as The Lovemongers’ Here is Christmas, credited to the Wilsons’ Heart side project, it’s since been reissued under the official Heart name.  This edition contains the two bonus tracks that did not appear in 1998 but have been added to subsequent reissues, Patty Griffin’s “Mary” and Ann Wilson and Sue Ennis’ “Let’s Stay In.”

After the jump: we have the scoop on the soulful titles in this series, plus full track listings and pre-order links for all releases, plus discographical information where available!

This group of Christmas releases is rounded out by five more R&B titles from the Cleopatra Records catalogue.  James Brown’s It’s a Funky Christmas is a reissue of the Godfather of Soul’s The Merry Christmas Album from 1999, and features a remake of “Funky Christmas” alongside “Clean for Christmas,” “Don’t Forget the Poor at Christmas,” and “Not Just Another Holiday.”

Christmas with the MiraclesFour more titles spotlight classic vocal groups in their late-period incarnations.  (Alas, no discographical information, recording personnel or dates of recording are included on these budget-priced releases, though we’ve done our best to fill in some information below.)  Christmas with the Miracles includes the post-Smokey Robinson group’s renditions of standards such as “White Christmas” and “Let It Snow” along with traditional hymns such as “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night.”  Likewise, Christmas with the Drifters has a similar blend of material but widens the net to include versions of Charles Brown’s “Please Come Home for Christmas,” The Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick” and the Gamble/Huff classic “Christmas Ain’t Christmas (Without the One You Love).”  Christmas with the Platters features a standard line-up of tunes like “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “Joy to the World.”  Lastly, Christmas with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes features a late, post-Teddy Pendergrass line-up of the Philly soul vocal group on songs both secular (“Jingle Bell Rock,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”) and spiritual (“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “O Holy Night”).  Melvin died in 1997 at the age of 57, and it appears these tracks have been in circulation since at least the early 2000s, if not earlier.

All of these titles are available for order now at the links below!

James Brown - It's a Funky Christmas

James Brown, It’s a Funky Christmas (Sony CMG CD 88883 72804-2, 2013)

  1. Funky Christmas
  2. Clean for Christmas
  3. Don’t Forget the Poor at Christmas
  4. Reindeer on the Rooftop
  5. A Gift
  6. God Gave Me This
  7. Christmas is For Everyone
  8. Mom and Dad
  9. Not Just Another Holiday
  10. Spread Love
  11. Sleigh Ride

Originally released in different sequence as The Merry Christmas Album, Waxworks CD 5110-2, 1999

Roy Clark, A Christmas Collection (Sony CMG CD 88883 77467-2, 2013)

  1. Christmas Time’s A-Comin’
  2. Home for the Holidays
  3. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
  4. O Christmas Tree
  5. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
  6. Silent Night
  7. Jingle Bells
  8. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
  9. Here Comes Santa Claus
  10. Away in a Manger
  11. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  12. White Christmas
  13. Winter Wonderland
  14. The Little Drummer Boy
  15. We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Discographical information TBD.

Bing Crosby, Christmas with Bing! (Sony CMG CD 88883 74922-2,2 013)

  1. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  2. Just What I Wanted for Christmas (Columbia single 4-41496, 1959)
  3. The Secret of Christmas (Columbia single 4-41496, 1959)
  4. Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy (with David Bowie) (rec. September 11, 1977 for Bing Crosby’s Merrie Old Christmas special)
  5. White World of Winter (Reprise single R-40424, 1965)
  6. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
  7. It’s Christmas Time Again (from Reprise album 12 Songs of Christmas, 1964)
  8. A Marshmallow World (with Ella Fitzgerald)
  9. Good King Wenceslas
  10. Joy to the World
  11. Christmas Star
  12. O Little Town of Bethlehem
  13. Away in a Manger (with Kathryn Crosby)
  14. The Night Before Christmas

Tracks 2-5 & 7 previously appeared on The Crosby Christmas Sessions, Collectors’ Choice Music CCM 2161, 2010
Track 8 previously appeared on A Bing Crosby Christmas, Sonoma Entertainment CD SBX2 0385, 2011

The Drifters, Christmas with the Drifters (Sony CMG CD 88883 72827-2, 2013)

  1. O Holy Night
  2. Silent Night
  3. Santa Claus Got the Blues
  4. Please Come Home for Christmas
  5. The Christmas Song
  6. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
  7. We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  8. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
  9. Little Saint Nick
  10. Winter Wonderland
  11. The Little Drummer Boy
  12. Christmas Ain’t Christmas (Without the One You Love)

Tracks 1-2, 4-6, 10-12 previously released on Christmas with the Drifters, KRB CD, 1999; a similar program was issued as The Drifters’ Christmas Album, Pinnacle, 2006

Lee Greenwood, Christmas (Sony CMG CD, 2013)

  1. Joy To the World/Hark the Herald Angels Sing
  2. Tender Tennessee Christmas
  3. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year/Winter Wonderland
  4. White Christmas
  5. Lone Star Christmas
  6. Till the Season Comes Around Again
  7. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On an o.pen Fire)
  8. Little Drummer Boy
  9. The Greatest Gift of All
  10. He Would Be King
  11. Jingle Bells/Sleigh Ride
  12. O Holy Night

Tracks have been previously released.

Heart, Heart Presents a Lovemongers’ Christmas (Sony CMG CD 88883 73694-2, 2013

  1. Here is Christmas
  2. Christmas Waits
  3. Mary
  4. How Beautiful
  5. William and Rose
  6. Let’s Stay In
  7. Balulalow
  8. Ave Maria
  9. The Last Noel
  10. It’s Christmas Time
  11. O Holy Night
  12. Bring a Torch

Tracks 1-2, 4-5, 7-12 originally released as The Lovemongers, Here is Christmas, 2B Records 10170, 1998
Tracks 3 & 6 added to subsequent reissues

Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Christmas with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (Sony CMG CD 88883 72834-2, 2013)

  1. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
  2. Joy to the World
  3. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  4. The First Noel
  5. Winter Wonderland
  6. O Tannenbaum
  7. Silent Night
  8. Deck the Halls
  9. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  10. Jingle Bell Rock
  11. O Holy Night
  12. We Wish You a Merry Christmas

All tracks except Tracks 3 & 10 previously released on Christmas with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, St. Clair CD, 2003

The Miracles, Christmas with the Miracles (Sony CMG CD 88883 72845-2, 2013)

  1. We Three Kings
  2. The Little Drummer Boy
  3. O Holy Night
  4. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
  5. Feliz Navidad
  6. My Favorite Time of the Year
  7. Silent Night
  8. Silver Bells
  9. Frosty the Snowman
  10. Jingle Bells
  11. White Christmas
  12. We Wish You a Merry Christmas/Auld Lang Syne

All tracks previously appeared on Christmas with the Miracles, BCI/Eclipse CD 78736 40098-2, 2001 and similarly-titled releases

Buck Owens, Buck Owens Christmas (Sony CMG CD 88883 74320-2, 2013)

  1. Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy
  2. Blue Christmas Lights
  3. Christmas Ain’t Christmas
  4. Santa’s Gonna Come in a Stagecoach
  5. All I Want for Christmas, Dear, is You
  6. Christmas Shopping
  7. Christmas Time is Near
  8. All I Want for Christmas is My Daddy
  9. Good Old-Fashioned Country Christmas
  10. Home on Christmas Day
  11. A Very Merry Christmas
  12. One of Everything You Got

Tracks 1-5 from Christmas with Buck Owens and His Buckaroos, Capitol LP ST-2396, 1965
Tracks 6-12 from Christmas Shopping, Capitol LP ST-2977, 1968

Patti Page, Christmas with Patti Page (Columbia LP CS 9214, 1965 – reissued Sony CMG CD 88883 74883-2, 2013)

  1. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  2. Silver Bells
  3. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
  4. Jingle Bells
  5. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
  6. Little Drummer Boy
  7. Happy Birthday, Jesus (A Child’s Prayer)
  8. Pretty Snowflakes
  9. Christmas Bells
  10. Santo Natale
  11. We Wish You a Merry Christmas

The Platters, Christmas with the Platters (Sony CMG CD 88883 72846-2, 2013)

  1. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  2. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
  3. Silent Night
  4. White Christmas
  5. Here Comes Santa Claus
  6. We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  7. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
  8. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  9. The Christmas Song
  10. Silver Bells
  11. Joy to the World
  12. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

All tracks previously appeared on A Classic Christmas, Big Eye Music CD 66649 64168-2, 2001

Elvis Presley, Merry Christmas…Love, Elvis (Sony CMG CD 88883 73696-2, 2013)

  1. If Every Day Was Like Christmas
  2. Santa Claus is Back in Town
  3. Winter Wonderland
  4. Silver Bells
  5. Blue Christmas
  6. It Won’t Seem Like Christmas (Without You)
  7. Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me)
  8. O Come All Ye Faithful
  9. I’ll Be Home on Christmas Day
  10. Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees
  11. Merry Christmas Baby
  12. If I Get Home on Christmas Day

Track 1 from RCA Victor single 47-8950, 1966
Tracks 2, 5 & 7 from Elvis’ Christmas Album, RCA Victor LP LOC-1035, 1957
Tracks 3-4, 6, 8-12 from Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas, RCA Victor LP LSP-4579, 1971

B.J. Thomas, Christmas Live (Sony CMG CD 88883 72840-2, 2013)

  1. When Christmas Comes This Year
  2. Tennessee Christmas
  3. Silent Night
  4. White Christmas
  5. God Bless the Children
  6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  7. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
  8. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  9. On This Holy, Holy Night
  10. The Christmas Song
  11. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
  12. Grown-Up Christmas List

All tracks previously issued on That Christmas Feeling, Madacy, 2005 and Hooked on Christmas, Goldenlane CD, 2012; also available on DVD as BJ Thomas, Christmas, Video Music, 2013

One Response

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  1. That Bing Crosby CD is an interesting release.

    There are a number of rare Christmas tracks included on here that – to my knowledge – have NEVER been issued on CD. Two of these – Bing’s reading of “The Night Before Christmas”, and his duet with Kathryn Crosby on “Away in a Manger” were released for the first time on a vinyl single a couple of years ago, but had not – until now – been released on CD. And, as far as I know, this is the FIRST time the song “Christmas Star” – one of the rarest Bing Crosby Christmas songs (released in 1973) – has been issued on a Bing Christmas CD.

    For Bing Christmas collectors, this may very well be the release of the season…and at a budget price!

    Jeremy Earle

    December 16, 2013 at 14:21

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