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64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Since the review I'd written 2 yrs. ago of this Sinatra holiday album mysteriously vanished, I feel compelled now, early August, to write a new one. I own a pretty big collection of cool yule albums, cassettes & cd's, and A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra is easily in my top 10 faves. The opening tune, Jingle Bells, is the best I've ever heard-a fun, bouncy, swingin' tune that you just know Frank enjoyed recording. Who can resist hearing Frank, backed by the Ralph Brewster Singers, sing "I love those J-I-N-G-L-E BELLS-BONG-those holiday J-I-N-G-L-E BELLS-BONG!" Under the superb conducting of Gordon Jenkins(except for the last 2 cuts which were conducted by Nelson Riddle)the entire album takes you on an old fashioned holiday journey through traditional songs as well as beautiful hymns sung as only Frank can sing them. Even if you already own the classic yuletide albums by Bing, Perry, Johnny, Nat & Andy, your collection is not complete without this Sinatra holiday album. Very highly recommended!
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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2007
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
A question for Christmas trivia buffs: What did Frank Sinatra have in common with Andrae Crouch? ("father of modern Gospel music"). Both men instigated changes to the beloved seasonal classic, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." And both singers enjoyed the approval of the song's composer, Hugh Martin (who left us March 11, 2011 -- five months shy of his 97th birthday).

-----

It was 50 years ago this month (November, 1957) that Frank Sinatra's "A Jolly Christmas" album was released by Capitol Records - barely one month after the release of "Elvis' Christmas Album" -- which became the "Number 1" best-selling LP of the 1950s -- despite composer Irving Berlin waging a conspicuously unsuccessful campaign to keep Elvis' version of "White Christmas" off the radio: Elvis' Christmas Album sold 7 million copies!

In the 50 years since then, "A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra" -- a collaboration with "the orchestra and chorus of Gordon Jenkins" -- eventually sold one million copies (and is listed as the "Number 13" best-selling LP of the 1950s). But at the time of its release, the sales outlook for this LP wasn't nearly so bright . . .

[In 1957 Sinatra's career had reached a new peak, with albums that same year, including the masterpiece, "CLOSE TO YOU" (with the "Hollywood String Quartet") and an up-tempo classic, "A SWINGIN' AFFAIR." It was the same year his PAL JOEY ("Lady is a Tramp") movie soundtrack held the "Number 2" position in album sales (for one week -- and sold 500,000 copies.]

But at this time in 1957, music critics weren't in the spirit for a `traditional-style' Christmas LP. Some suggested that Gordon Jenkins' string arrangements and vocal choruses were "passé" and in "poor taste." (!)

Those critics are almost certainly all dead and gone, while this sublime Christmas collection touches the hearts of new sub-generations of Sinatra fans. Many of us consider this album quite simply the greatest ever -- especially among those which give us the best of the popular 'secular' Christmas songs, combined with traditional 'sacred' carols.

Friends with `high end' stereo systems insist that "NOTHING compares" with hearing an early, black vinyl version of this LP -- "the ones with the gray label," when played on "a decent" (read "costly") turntable.

Audiophiles at the "sinatrafamily" website seem to agree, that the original CD release of "A Jolly Christmas" - the one from 1987, "mastered by Larry Walsh" -- is still the best-sounding CD version of this album. Whereas, this "50th anniversary" edition is simply a re-packaging of the 1999 CD version -- which featured "24-bit, digital re-mastering by Bob Norberg at Capitol Mastering."

Sinatra's voice sounds a little more `up-front' in this version (and the orchestra not quite so well-balanced and a little more `distant'). Purists believe the earlier re-mastering by Larry Walsh is better -- more "faithful" to the original recording engineering. But in a blindfold test, on a portable CD player with good headphones, BOTH versions sound mighty fine!

-----

"What's your favorite track," a friend asked. Well, if I can have only ONE . . . it would have to be, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas " - a song for which Frank Sinatra suggested composer Hugh Martin "change a line" - to make it more up-beat, and in keeping with the title of this album!

A few years ago, in a radio interview, Hugh Martin revealed that he had written BOTH words and music for this one - but changed the original lyric --at Sinatra's request. Frank, in preparing this "Jolly Christmas" album, and was concerned about the words,

"Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow . . ."

"I got a phone call from Frank, saying, `Hey, I like your Christmas song, Hugh . . . but I'm doing an album called A JOLLY CHRISTMAS. Do you think you can jolly it up? (replace that somber, penultimate line).

"And I said, `Well, of course!' You don't say `No' to Frank Sinatra!

"So I went for a walk, and when I came back, I had the line about `Hang a shining star upon the highest bough' -- which Frank LOVED, and recorded."

40 years on, Hugh Martin (a late-in-life convert to Christianity) approved one final change to his beloved lyric, when the `father of modern Gospel music,' Andrae Crouch (on a recent, majestic, Christmas album produced by Quincy Jones) substituted the words, "If the LORD allows," for the original, "If the Fates allow". [Tony Bennett subsequently refined the change, to perfect the rhyme, singing: "SHOULD the Lord allow" (during his 2009 16th annual Christmas appearance on Conan O'Brien).]

Those who celebrate the true sanctity of Christmas are bound to cherish these changes, especially when those "faithful friends, who are dear to us, gather near to us, once more."

"Through the years we all will be together, if the Lord allows.
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough!
And have yourself a merry little Christmas . . .
Now."
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Even in 1957, how many more times could you have heard "Jingle Bells," "I'll Be Home For Christmas," or any Christmas classic before they seemed repetitive? Especially if you're Frank Sinatra and Gordon Jenkins (who had earlier worked on the sad, beautiful "Where Are You?") recording in mid-July Los Angeles. But the beautiful results heard here speak to the staying power of these songs and to the mastery of their singer. The songs mentioned above, plus "The Christmas Song," "Christmas Waltz," "First Noel," and Mendelsson's "Hark The Herald Angels Sing," receive beautiful, lush string treatments with the reverence Jenkins always gave to Sinatra's most serious material. On the remastered version, Nelson Riddle's "Christmas Waltz" is also uncovered; it's interesting to compare the two versions. This music is every bit as refreshing as a breath of cool Christmas air.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2011
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
A question for Christmas trivia buffs: What did Frank Sinatra have in common with Andrae Crouch? ("father of modern Gospel music"). Both men instigated changes to the beloved seasonal classic, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." And both singers enjoyed the approval of the song's composer, Hugh Martin, who died last March 11th, five months shy of his 97th birthday.

-----

It was 54 years ago this month (November, 1957) that Frank Sinatra's "A Jolly Christmas" album was released by Capitol Records - barely one month after the release of "Elvis' Christmas Album" -- which became the "Number 1" best-selling LP of the 1950s -- despite composer Irving Berlin waging a conspicuously unsuccessful campaign to keep Elvis' version of "White Christmas" off the radio: Elvis' Christmas Album sold 7 million copies!

Since then, "A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra" -- a collaboration with "the orchestra and chorus of Gordon Jenkins" -- eventually sold one million copies (and is listed as the "Number 13" best-selling LP of the 1950s). But at the time of its release, the sales outlook for this LP wasn't nearly so bright . . .

[In 1957 Sinatra's career had reached a new peak, with albums that same year, including the masterpiece, "CLOSE TO YOU" (with the "Hollywood String Quartet") and an up-tempo classic, "A SWINGIN' AFFAIR." It was the same year his PAL JOEY ("Lady is a Tramp") movie soundtrack held the "Number 2" position in album sales (for one week -- and sold 500,000 copies.]

But at this time in 1957, music critics weren't in the spirit for a `traditional-style' Christmas LP. Some suggested that Gordon Jenkins' string arrangements and vocal choruses were "passé" and in "poor taste." (!)

Those critics are almost certainly all dead and gone, -- while this sublime Christmas collection touches the hearts of new sub-generations of Sinatra fans. Many of us consider this album quite simply the greatest ever -- especially among those which give us the best of the popular 'secular' Christmas songs, combined with traditional 'sacred' carols.

Friends with `high end' stereo systems insist that "NOTHING compares" with hearing an early, black vinyl version of this LP -- "the ones with the gray label," when played on "a decent" (read "costly") turntable.

Audiophiles at the "sinatrafamily" website seem to agree, that the original CD release of "A Jolly Christmas" - the one from 1987, "mastered by Larry Walsh" -- is still the best-sounding CD version of this album. Whereas, this latest edition is simply a re-packaging of the 1999 CD version which featured "24-bit, digital re-mastering by Bob Norberg at Capitol Mastering."

Sinatra's voice sounds a little more `up-front' in this version (and the orchestra not quite so well-balanced and a little more `distant'). Purists believe the earlier re-mastering by Larry Walsh is better -- more "faithful" to the original recording engineering. But in a blindfold test, on a portable CD player with good headphones, BOTH versions sound mighty fine!

-----

"What's your favorite track," a friend asked. Well, if I can have only ONE . . . it would have to be, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas " - a song for which Frank Sinatra suggested composer Hugh Martin "change a line" - to make it more up-beat, and in keeping with the title of this album!

A few years ago, in a radio interview, Hugh Martin revealed that he had written BOTH words and music for this one - but changed the original lyric --at Sinatra's request. Frank, in preparing this "Jolly Christmas" album, and was concerned about the words,

"Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow . . ."

"I got a phone call from Frank, saying, `Hey, I like your Christmas song, Hugh . . . but I'm doing an album called A JOLLY CHRISTMAS. Do you think you can jolly it up? (replace that somber, penultimate line).

"And I said, `Well, of course!' You don't say `No' to Frank Sinatra!

"So I went for a walk, and when I came back, I had the line about `Hang a shining star upon the highest bough' -- which Frank LOVED, and recorded."

40 years on, Hugh Martin (a late-in-life convert to Christianity) approved one final change to his beloved lyric, when the `father of modern Gospel music,' Andrae Crouch (on a recent, majestic, Christmas album produced by Quincy Jones) substituted the words, "If the LORD allows," for the original, "If the Fates allow". [Which Tony Bennett further refined to "Should the Lord allow" (perfecting the rhyme during his 16th annual (2009) Christmas appearance on Conan O'Brien).

Those who celebrate the true sanctity of Christmas are bound to cherish these changes, especially when those "faithful friends, who are dear to us, gather near to us, once more."

"Through the years we all will be together, should the Lord allow . . .
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough!
And have yourself a merry little Christmas
Now."
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 1999
Format: Audio CD
THE CD CONTAINS 12 SONGS THAT HAVE BEEN 24-BIT DIGITALLY REMASTERED, THUS THE QUALITY OF THIS RECORDING IS EXCELLENT. FRANK DOES A WONDERFUL JOB ON ALL THE SONGS, ESPECIALLY "WHITE CHRISTMAS" AND "HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS". THE ARRANGEMENT BY NELSON RIDDLE IS A GOOD INDICATION WHY FRANK HAD SO MANY HITS WITH NELSON ARRANGING. THIS CD IS A MUST FOR EASY LISTENING FANS AND THOSE WHO LIKE SINATRA. OF ALL HIS CHRISTMAS RECORDING (THIS IS THE THIRD I KNOW OF-THE SINTRA CHRISTMAS ALBUM AND SINATRA SINGS CHRISTMAS SONGS BEING THE OTHER TWO) THIS IS THE BEST BY FAR. SINATRA IS CLEAR AND AT THE TOP OF HIS GAME IN THIS PERFORMANCE. IF YOU ARE A CHRISTMAS MUSIC JUNKIE LIKE ME, THIS RECORDING IS A MUST
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2006
Format: Audio CD
If I could only have one C-mas disc, this is the one. I hate to sound repetitive- judging from the reviews of this and the earlier releases of the same package of songs, everyone else feels the same way. I wanted to carry that five star rating over to this new re-release since there is only one review. This is a great album in every sense. There isn't a single throwaway here. "Mistletoe and Holly" and "Christmas Waltz" are my favorites since they're relatively unheard (Sinatra co-wrote Mistletoe). Jingle Bells is also quite definitive of Frank's style. This is a huge part of my family's Christmas, and I think it will bring wonderful memories to you and yours. Be advised that in addition to earlier versions, you can pick this package up under the alternate title "Sinatra Christmas Album" on Capitol, usually for bargain price. Thanks to Frank for this wonderful album, and to you for reading my review. Happy Holidays to you and yours.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Digitally remastered and released again in 2005, this Christmas album, arranged and directed by Gordon Jenkins, is one of the very best musical celebrations of the holiday season. Throughout, Sinatra's sounds are accompanied and enhanced by the Ralph Brewster Singers, whose unusually sweet voices and wonderful soprano high notes add warmth and holiday cheer as they echo Sinatra, provide choral variations between stanzas, and sometimes even harmonize with him.

Six modern Christmas songs begins the CD, including a swingy "Jingle Bells" ("I love those J-I-N-G-L-E Bells"), Mel Torme's "Christmas Song," and a song Sinatra has made his own, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." He follows these with six traditional carols. In "The First Noel," the Ralph Brewster Singers' large chorus sings behind him, featuring fine harmonies, expression, and counterpoint. Sinatra, with his trademark phrasing and sure sense of tempo, slightly changes some of the traditional lyrics on this song so that he escapes the standard phrasing and the lyrics flow more gracefully, something he also does on "Little Town of Bethlehem," resulting in new appreciation of the words and meanings.

Two bonus tracks, both directed by Nelson Riddle, include Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" and Sinatra's original 1954 recording of "Christmas Waltz," which gets a different tempo from the Jenkins arrangement, which is also presented on the CD. With style and panache, leavened with holiday emotion, Sinatra, the Ralph Brewster Singers, and Gordon Jenkins present Christmas favorites, many of which (like "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas") have become forever identified with Frank Sinatra. If I could have only one Christmas CD, this one would be high on the list of choices. n Mary Whipple
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
It practically goes without saying that the immortal Frank Sinatra could take any song and turn it into a tour de force--and we get fourteen excellent tracks (plus a bonus track) on this fine CD of some of Frank's best Christmas songs. I highly recommend this CD for any fan of traditional Christmastime vocals; Frank never disappoints!

The album starts with Frank singing a somewhat jazzy interpretation of "Jingle Bells." He never sounded better; and the backup vocalists enhance the natural beauty of this number. "The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You) shines like gold as Frank delivers this with a lovely choir in the background; and the melancholy "I'll Be Home For Christmas (If Only In My Dreams)" is both heartrending and sublime! Frank's excellent diction bolsters his ability to sing these fine songs all the more.

Listen also for "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas;" the lyrics are every bit as beautiful as the other reviewer states that they are! I love that backup choir, too. The strings are beautiful on "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas."

"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" sparkles like pure gold when Frank sings this to perfection; and I particularly enjoyed "White Christmas." The percussion on "White Christmas" is wonderful and when Frank switches a word or two it only serves to make this classic song even better.

The album ends with a brief clip of Frank making a plug for Christmas Seals. Excellent!

Christmastime songs are some of the most beautiful musical numbers that I've ever heard; and when Frank sings them I hear them more beautifully than ever before. Long after most "celebrities" are dead and forgotten, we will always remember the great Frank Sinatra. Frank sounds wonderful on this CD with some lush and sublime arrangements by Gordon Jenkins; and I highly recommend this CD for fans of classic Christmas holiday vocals.

You'll never get `em any better than Frank sang `em!
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2009
Format: Audio CD
Frank Sinatra's recordings on Capitol represent the pinnacle of American popular song. So why can't the label release the man's work as it was intended to be heard? So far Sinatra's Capitol albums have gone through two "complete" remasters - in 1987 by Larry Walsh and in 1999-2000 by Bob Norberg. The Walsh issues have their problems (Larry himself acknowledges that (a) he was given the wrong tapes to work with for most of the albums; and (b) he misinterpreted some of the reverb instructions on the tape boxes), but they are still far superior to the dead-sounding Norberg series (marketed as "Entertainer of the Century" and in the dark "Concepts" boxset).

Confusing things even further, Capitol has reprinted liner notes crediting Walsh on some of the discs that were actually mastered by Norberg, including this reissue of A Jolly Christmas. They've also changed the cover from the original so you think you're getting something "new" or "different." Sorry, but I can sacrifice hearing a 30-second Public Service Announcement in order to avoid the awful sound of a Norberg Sinatra disc.

There is good news however: The Norberg versions have never been sold in the United Kingdom, so if you know what to look for you can find some Frank that sounds reasonably good on CD. The Walsh version of A Jolly Christmas is available on two different UK CDs, both entitled "The Christmas Album". One has a white cover with a large picture of Frank wearing a fedora looking off to the side; the other has Frank looking at you with a blue snowflake background. I've seen them both new and used from US and UK Amazon, so grab one and have yourself a merry little Christmas now!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2004
Format: Audio CD
This is, without a doubt, the best Frank Sinatra Christmas CD available. The album was originally recorded in 1957, when Frank was arguably at the peak of his singing ability. The first side featured secular Christmas songs, while side two featured religious Christmas songs. They are all well sung by Frank, although he didn't seem to have the affinity for Christmas music that Bing Crosby did. The CD has two bonus songs, which are "White Christmas" and "The Christmas Waltz". These songs were released on a single in 1954, three years before the album was recorded. If you want to hear Frank Sinatra sing Christmas songs, this is the CD to get.
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