Ella Fitzgerald: Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas (1960)
Most people don’t expect much from Christmas albums, other than a host of familiar songs with a hint of nostalgia to play while decorating the tree. What a treat it is, then, to discover one that raises the bar and doesn’t seem like a half-hearted effort to make a quick buck for the holidays. One could argue that the late fifties and early sixties was the heyday of Christmas albums (everyone from Sinatra to the Chipmunks had one out), and the fact that Ella was capable of turning out a fantastic Christmas album should come as no surprise. She delivers each tune with a childish exuberance combined with flawless technique. From the swinging opener “Jingle Bells” it’s apparent that she and arranger Frank De Vol mean business, generating more heat than the solemn versions of carols heard by other singers. Of course there are the obligatory stabs at creating new standards with new material fashioned at the sessions (has anyone ever successfully done this?), but overall the old chestnuts are the winners, swinging hard and even featuring a solo here or there. It’s surprising that Verve never hit upon the idea of re-releasing this 1960 recording earlier, because once you hear A Swinging Christmas it’s likely to be the first disc in the changer come next season.
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Track Listing: 1. Jingle Bells 2. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town 3. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas 4. What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? 5. Sleigh Ride 6. The Christmas Song 7. Good Morning Blues 8. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! 9. Winter Wonderland 10. Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer 11. Frosty The Snowman 12. White Christmas 13. The Secret Of Christmas 14. Medley: We Three Kings Of Orient Are/O Little Town Of Bethlehem 15. Christmas Island 16. The Christmas Song 17. White Christmas (Alternative Take) 18. Frosty The Snowman (Alternative Take).
Personnel: Ella Fitzgerald-vocals with the Frank De Vol orchestra.