Various Artists: Swingin' Christmas Party! (2002)
A hearty mid–price bowl of holiday cheer served up by eleven celebrated big bands and one irrepressible prankster, Thomas “Fats” Waller, courtesy of the bounteous RCA Bluebird vaults, repository of some of the more memorable music from the swing and big–band eras. Several of the themes on offer should be quite familiar to those with more than a strand or two of gray above ear–level (who could ever forget Vaughn Monroe’s amiable rendition of “Let It Snow!,” Guy Lombardo’s New Year’s eve staple, “Auld Lang Syne” — yes, Clarence, it is “a wonderful life” — or Spike Jones’ madcap City Slickers with George Rock vocalizing on “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth”). Waller is typically playful on “Winter Weather” and “Swingin’ Them Jingle Bells,” and there are pleasurable turns by the Glenn Miller Orchestra (with Tex Beneke and the Modernaires) on “Jingle Bells,” the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (vocal by Cliff Weston and Edyth Wright) on “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” and Sammy Kaye’s Orchestra (featuring Johnny Ryan — clearly no match for Bing Crosby — and the Kaye Choir) on “White Christmas.” Merv Griffin, who went on to bigger and better things, is the vocalist (with the Martin Men) on Leroy Anderson’s picturesque “Sleigh Ride” by the Freddy Martin Orchestra, Ford Leary sings “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” with Larry Clinton’s Orchestra, and Joe Harris is front and center on “Santa Claus Came in the Spring” with the Benny Goodman Orchestra. Besides “Auld Lang Syne,” the instrumentals are “Winter Wonderland” by Ralph Flanagan’s Orchestra and the Claude Thornhill Orchestra’s brooding theme song, “Snowfall.” More than enough high–spirited merry–making to set any seasonal soiree off on a swingin’ course. Sound reproduction is adequate, the 39:13 playing time less so.
Contact: RCA Victor Records, 1540 Broadway, 41st Floor, New York, NY 10036 (phone 212–930–4000).
Track Listing: Jingle Bells; Winter Wonderland; Santa Claus Is Comin
Personnel: Glenn Miller; Ralph Flanagan; Tommy Dorsey; Freddy Martin; Vaughn Monroe; Claude Thornhill; Sammy Kaye; Larry Clinton; Fats Waller; Benny Goodman; Spike Jones; Guy Lombardo.