Capitol Records: Merry Christmas to You!
I love the Christmas season —the excitement and anticipation, the lights and sounds swirling around you, that feeling of pure joy. I’ve been a nut about Christmas all my life; I'm quite the geek, actually. But how could I not be in love with this magical season, with this imagination? My mother loves Christmas, too, so Christmas spirit filled our house from Thanksgiving evening through Christmas night. She made Santa come alive, and I believed as long as I could.
How did I find out about Santa? My third grade teacher asked those of us who believed in Santa to raise our hands. Four of us did. She then told us we were old enough to know the truth and spilled the evil beans. Broke my heart. Coal-hearted b*tch.
Putting up the Christmas tree kicked off the season. Mama, my sister and brother, and I would gather in the living room to decorate the tree — a rare treat, as the living room was off-limits unless company came over — and Mama would put on this Christmas album, her favorite holiday hits from her teens. We’d sing and hang ornaments and talk about what Santa might bring. When we finished,
And those memories are why Capitol’s Merry Christmas to You! (released around 1955) is my favorite Christmas album. And as it says on the cover, it’s a high fidelity recording.
The collection of songs is awesome. Okay, some are silly and a bit Dr. Demento — but they’re fabulous when you’re a kid. This album introduced me to Nat King Cole’s “A Christmas Song,” still one of the most sublime holiday songs ever recorded.
It has taken me years, more than a decade, to track down most of the songs on CD — an Eddie Bauer collection here, a Christmas cocktails album there — but I got the last of my favorites two seasons ago, thanks to the Elf soundtrack.
So here, dear readers, are my Capitol Christmas classics:
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Dean Martin: “Christmas Blues”
Dino at his Dinoest. This is one of the first five Christmas songs I listen to when I pull out the collection Thanksgiving night. Those brightly packaged, tinsel-covered Christmas blues. I wanna grab a martini glass and swirl and swig in front of a fireplace with every listen.
Frank Sinatra: “The Christmas Waltz”
The best Frank holiday song evah. I listen to this right after the first “Christmas Blues” spin. It’s that time of year when the world falls in love / Every song you hear seems to say / Merry Christmas, may your New dreams come true / And this song of mine, in three-quarter time / Wishes you and yours the same thing, too.
Johnny Mercer: “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”
Nobody has ever bested my fellow Georgian on making “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” swing better — no, not even Bruce Springsteen, so don’t even go there with me. Just listen. And swing.
Billy May & His Orchestra: “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer Mambo”
Speaking of swinging, did you know that Rudolph is better with a little mambo thrown in? ‘Tis so. Get up and dance around your desk right now, and get that party started.
Les Baxter: “Santa Claus’ Party”
I love the movie Elf, and the soundtrack is fab — plus, it includes this song, the one I’ve been missing since I packed up my turntable for another day. It’s goofy, it’s happy — just the kind of song a freckled-faced, bespectacled kid wanted to hear while putting her favorite Uncle Bob decorations on the branches. A Christmas tree so high / It pokes right through the sky / And Santa will be there to call / Merry Christmas to you all!
1. Frank Sinatra: White Christmas
2. Les Paul & Mary Ford: Jingle Bells
3. Frank Sinatra: The Christmas Waltz
4. Yogi Yorgesson: I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas
5. Margaret Whiting & Jimmy Wakely: Silver Bells
6. Mel Blanc: Christmas Tree
7. Johnny Mercer: Winter Wonderland
8. Les Baxter: Santa Claus’ Party
1. Nat “King” Cole: The Christmas Song
2. Billy May: Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer Mambo
3. Les Paul & Mary Ford: Silent Night
4. Louis Castellucci: Sleigh Ride
5. Dean Martin: The Christmas Blues
6. Johnny Mercer: Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town
7. Margaret Whiting: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
8. Nat “King” Cole: (All I Want for Christmas Is) My Two Front Teeth
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