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|Frank Sinatra||Primary Artist|
|Didier C. Deutsch||Reissue Producer|
|John Francis Wade||Composer|
|E. H. Sears||Composer|
Posted October 1, 2010
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Christmas Songs by Sinatra is a compilation of Christmas songs recorded by Frankie during the '40s and released as a series of 78s. With lush arrangements by Frankie's Columbia mainstay Axel Stordahl, these fifteen songs capture a Sinatra slowly evolving from "boy singer" with Harry James in 1939 and with Tommy Dorsey in 1940-42 to confident swinger by the early 1950s shortly before Sinatra left Columbia for Capitol (the tracks were recorded between '44 and '50). <BR/><BR/>Opening the set is a slow, mellow cover of "White Christmas," made famous by Bing Crosby in Holiday Inn. To be fair, Frankie's version is fairly similar, buoyed by the Bobby Tucker Singers. Next up is Silent Night, with a soft, haunting bell introduction. The Ken Lane singers provide a very soft harmony to Frankie's melody. This is one of the more beautiful vintage versions of Silent Night that I've heard; Axel's sweeping string bridge is unmistakably cinematic in only the way that the 1940s could be. <BR/>Adestes Fidelis sounds almost identical in arrangement to the first two songs. <BR/><BR/>But Jingle Bells shakes things up; not as much as Bing and the Andrews Sisters (this version is a tad slower), but it's still a pleasant change of pace from the seriousness of the first three tracks. Other notable tracks include Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Christmas Dreaming, and the brassy, bold Santa Claus is Coming To Town from 1947. This is the first track where Frankie's really swaggering; there's strong hints of his future swinger status on display. Let It Snow is also brassy and assertive, where the earlier tracks were soft, reverent and string-drenched. Here, muted trumpets and bass provide a rhythmic, lively backdrop for Sinatra. This track most clearly foreshadows Frank's work on Capitol and Reprise, and is the latest of the tracks, from 1950. <BR/><BR/>Overall, Christmas Songs by Sinatra is a pleasant throwback to a simpler era, full of familiar Christmas tunes and a few surprises such as Christmas Dreaming (which I wasn't familiar with). The arrangements are in that 1940s style: string-drenched, with earnest-sounding female backup singers. The songs from the WWII era reflect on the values of family and faith, evident in religious songs such as Schubert's Ave Maria and the Lord's Prayer in addition to Silent Night and Adeste Fideles. Several of the tracks suffer from Axel's sameness in arrangement, but this is beautiful background music for a quiet Christmas season evening spent around a fireplace, or sitting in the hushed glow of the Christmas tree. Collector's of Frankie's Columbia works will want to add this to their collection. If you're a fan of Frank's later work on Capitol and Reprise, Frank rerecorded most of these songs at a later point (many are on A Jolly Christmas with Frank Sinatra). If you're tired of the latest tween music "sensation" covering Muzak-lite versions of traditional carols, consider returning to the basics with a young Sinatra.
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