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Buy 'The Sinatra Christmas Album' from Amazon.co.uk.The Sinatra Christmas Album

A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra

Christmas...to some it's a tree tipped with a gleaming star...or a friendly get-together by the fireside...to others a reflective hour in church aglow with flickering candles and stained glass windows...or the eagerly-awaited sight of loved ones.

In this very special Christmas album, Frank Sinatra transforms these timeless impressions into a tapestry of Christmas music both new and old. The first part of the album is devoted to popular yuletide favorites of recent origin; the second is a collection of the more traditional carols. Lending a richly-woven intrumental and choral backdrop to each of Frank's selections are the orchestra and the Ralph Brewster Singers, both directed by Gordon Jenkins.

Presented with all the warmth, good cheer and best wishes at his command, here are the songs of Christmas as only Frank Sinatra sings them.

Christmas claims our hearts as does no other time of the year. It is for all of us a special time of warmth and closeness and sharing, when family, friendship and other ties are renewed and our deepest, most cherished values reaffirmed. And the music of Christmas - the venerable carols of ages past, reverent songs of praise and the cheerful popular songs of the holiday season - touches us with each new hearing, bringing to life all those happy memories of childhood, family, home and hearth, of joyous gatherings around a tree twinkling with festive lights, of the happy exchange of gifts, carolers serenading on crisp, chill nights, snow banked around a snug, warm house, of mistletoe, holly, the groaning holiday board, Christmas cards and messages from loved ones.

So deeply associated with the holiday season have they become, in fact, that Christmas literally would not be Christmas without the joy-filled songs and carols we have known and treasured from our earliest years. Each year as Christmas approaches and we hear those touching, heartfelt songs so fondly remembered from childhood, we thrill anew to their message of love and fellowship. Their appeal is universal: in countries around the world they unite all men in feelings of peace and joy, of shared emotions of love, friendship and goodwill, offering a respite from life's daily routines for reflection and renewal, which is the true miracle of Christmas.

These joyous, affirmative qualities rarely have been conveyed so perfectly, with such warmth sincerity and affecting persuasiveness as in the fourteen ingratiating performances that comprise this lovely program of Christmas classics. We would expect no less from Frank Sinatra, the foremost vocal artist of our times, who animates these favorite holiday songs with all of the distinctive, ravishing artistry for which he's long been noted. And the sumptuous orchestral and choral settings by Gordon Jenkins and Nelson Riddle furnish the perfect complement to Sinatra's deeply touching vocals.

Given the powerful emotional resonance Christmas songs possess by virtue of their long association in the listener's mind with this happy season, they're relatively easy to perform. All that accumulated emotional weight works so strongly in the performer's favor that in interpreting them all he has to do, literally, is sing them in tune and enunciate the words clearly and he'll have given wholly acceptable readings. And too, when one considers that this kind of recording generally assumes far lesser importance to the performer than his more comercially-directed efforts, no less than the fact that Christmas recordings are undertaken far earlier in the year than the holiday season, it's easy to understand why many possess something of a routine or perfunctory character. After all, it's not easy to sing at all convincingly of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose in, say, July or August. Still, the best singers always manage to rise above this sort of thing and, in Sinatra's case, it's clear from the stunning, heartfelt quality of his performances here that he more than rose to the occasion, despite their having been recorded in the middle of a sweltering summer in Los Angeles.

The selection of songs could not have been more felicitous, nicely balanced between the best-loved popular songs of the season and an equal number of familiar traditional carols of a more reverent cast. Sinatra gives each no less than its due and, as a result, the performances are among the most gracious and expansive of all recordings of Christmas music, sincere, direct, eloquent with feeling yet never overblown. Above all, they ring true. And what a wonderful, joy-filled holiday mood they create!

With words and music by John Pierpont, Jingle Bells is, strictly speaking not a Christmas song at all, since its lyrics never once refer to the Nativity season. Still, this song is one everyone knows and loves. Gay, bright and infectious, it is much beloved by children, and no Christmas would be complete without its unassuming, high-spirited exuberance.

Too, everyone knows The Christmas Song. "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire"- the song's opening line - caught the ears of every listener when Nat "King" Cole introduced the then newly-written song during the 1946 Christmas season, and in the years since this affecting Mel Torme-Robert Wells composition has become one of the all-time classic holiday favorites. Sophisticated without ever being arch or brittle, it is the perfect vehicle for Sinatra's special vocal magic.

Mistletoe And Holly reminds us that the singer occasionally has tried his hand at writing songs, and generally with quite pleasing results. Written specifically for this album, this charming holiday song was co-authored with Doc Stanford and Hank Sanicola, with whom Sinatra has collaborated on other songs.

Another song introduced in the 1940s, Walter Kent and Kim Gannon's I'll Be Home For Christmas captured for many the feelings of warmth and closeness the holiday season engenders, and for this reason has been a staple of American Christmases for four decades now. Its lovely melody and heartfelt lyrics are communicated perfectly by the singer.

One of the most unisual of recent popular songs of Christmas, The Christmas Waltz was written by two of the most accomplished and prolific of American songwriters, Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn. Since its introduction in 1954 it has become a favorite of some of our more accomplished singers who relish its lyric charm, musical sophistication and its graceful waltz tempo. A close friend of Cahn's, Sinatra was among the very first to record it, and it is this version, arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, which appears as the final selection on the CD album. Sinatra's second recording of the song, made three years later for the Gordon Jenkins-arranged and conducted album A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra, can be heard as the fifth selection here.

The popular music of Christmas, while rarely worshipful or reverent in character, can prove quite touching in the sentiments it evokes. As an instance of this, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas has all the lineaments of a pop song, yet it is a tribute to the powers of its authors, Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, that it is much more than simply that, moving us deeply with the unfeigned sincerity and great emotional power with which it expresses many of the sentiments which most of us feel as Christmas approaches. The artfulness of its straightforward lyrics contributes to its power.

The traditional British carol The First Noel made its first appearance in print in 1833, although it is undoubtedly of much greater age, perhaps by as much as two centuries and, given the long contact between England and France, may even have had its origins on French soil. In any event, it has been a longtime favorite in both countries. Like many such traditional songs based in folk heritage, its precise origins are unknown.

With a text by John Wesley, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is easily the most popular of all the 6,000 hymns the co-founder of Methodism wrote during his lifetime. The stirring music is by composer Felix Mendelssohn who originally had written it as part of a choral work commemorating the Tercentenery of John Gutenberg's invention of printing. The words and music were first united in 1855, when the composer had been dead for eight years and the author for 67.

The greatly popular Christmas hymn O Little Town Of Bethlehem, by Boston divine Phillips Brooks, later Bishop of Massachusetts, reportedly was inspired by a horseback trip from Jerusalem to Bethlehem he undertook shortly before Christmas while on a visit to the Holy Land. Brooks worte the words three years later for Christmas services in Philidelphia's Holy Trinity Church where he was then rector, with the musical setting by its organisy Lewis H. Redner.

Of uncertain authorship, the enduring Anglo-French hymn Adeste Fideles (known in English as O Come All Ye Faithful) dates from the 1740s. The words may have been written by John Francis Wade, a British music copyist then resident in Douay, France, manuscript copies of the song in his hand having circulated in England and Ireland. On the other hand, its early and consistent popularity in France argue, with equal weight, for French authorship. The ardent melody has been credited to John Reading, an English composer and organist active at Winchester College towards the close of the 17th century.

First published in 1850, the words to the Christmas favorite It Came Upon A Midnight Clear were written by Edmund H. Sears, who firmly believed the admonition, "Peace on earth, good will to men" to be one of the greatest messages of the Lord, and who used this song to communicate the ideal widely. The music was written by Richard S. Willis, an American composer and music journalist who earlier had studied in Germany with Felix Mendelssohn. While serving as vestryman at New York City's Little Church Around The Corner, he composed this melody, which he published as Christmas Carol the same year as Sears' words appeared. However, it was some time before the two were joined to make one of the most popular carols in the English-speaking world.

Although often mistakenly attributed to Michael Haydn, younger brother of composer Joseph Haydn, the words to Silent Night, the most popular of all Christmas songs, were written on Christmas Eve, 1818, in the Austrian village of Oberndorf, by 26-year-old assistant pastor Joseph Mohr, with music by schoolmaster and church organist Franz Gruber. Discovering on that day that the church organ was out of order, Mohr wrote the song, which Gruber set for two solo voices, choir and guitar, so that the congregation might have something to celebrate the Christmas services with. A popular touring troupe, the Strasser sisters, heard the song and circulated it widely during their travels, leading ultimately to its worldwide popularity.

Without doubt the best-loved of all popular songs of the Christmas season, the greatly appealing White Christmas was written by the gifted, versatile Irving Berlin who over a long, productive career has enriched American music with a sizable number of its finest, most enduring songs. None has greater claim to classic status than this touchingly beautiful ballad, first introduced to American listeners by Bing Crosby in the 1942 film Holiday Inn, for which it won an Academy Award as best song of the year. In the decades since it has become one of the most performed of all seasonal standards. Orchestrated and conducted by Nelson Riddle, this lovely reading of the holiday favorite takes its place among the great ones.

Frank Sinatra, the favorite music of Christmas and the orchestrations of Gordon Jenkins and Nelson Riddle - there can be no finer combination than this. A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra is an album to cherish this and every Christmas to come.

Pete Welding

The Sinatra Christmas Album (1957)

Capitol CDP 7 48329 2

Jingle Bells
The Christmas Song
Mistletoe And Holly
I'll Be Home For Christmas
The Christmas Waltz
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
The First Noel
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
O Little Town Of Bethlehem
Adeste Fideles
It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
Silent Night
White Christmas
The Christmas Waltz

Buy The Sinatra Christmas Album from Amazon.co.uk.

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