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4.6 out of 5 stars
Ultra-Lounge: Christmas Cocktails, Part One
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 1999
Love, love, love this CD! If you're a Christmas nut like me who listens to holiday music all year, this is for you! There were a few songs I didn't care for, but mostly this is a great CD. I've always liked Latinesque big band arrangements of holiday tunes, and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Mambo" hits the spot like no other. The powerful brass, the chugging rhythm, and those giggling marimbas all combine wonderfully. And love those slurping saxophones! My favorite part is when the whole band breaks into a slow, blaring "Jingle Bells." (And does anyone else think the guy talking every now and then on this track sounds oddly like Manny the Uncanny? ) Peggy Lee's breezy, unflappably cool "Winter Wonderland," bongoes and all, is the coolest Christmas song ever. And this recording of it was the first place I heard the alternate "snowman" verse. Noe, "Christmas Trumpets" doesn't agree with me at all. I think it sounds like a cheesy '70s game show theme waaay to much. (See a below review.) The baritone sax at the start of "Christmas Is" sets the tone for the whole song. Lou Rawls deeply soulful voice guides you on a jazzy trip, and you'll love every step. "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town/White Christmas" I could go either way on. I'm not terribly fond of them, but some may be. I do enjoy Julie London's sexy "I'd Like You for Christmas." Melancholy and teasing at the same time, the way she just breathes out the words will makes you want to scream "You can have me!" "Holiday on Skis" is a beautifully wintry piece played by guitarist Al Caiola (who can be heard on many other U-L CDs). The way the orchestra plays behind him brings a perfect mental picture of snow (especially the introduction). From the jazzy intro to the crashing close, "The Man with the Bag" is the best track on the whole CD. I don't know what it is about it, but I just can't stop listening to it! Now, the Hollyridge Strings...I don't really care for their music. (They're on other U-L volumes, too, sounding not different from here.) Their "Jingle Bells" medley will leave you wanting something less sugary. Dean Martin's "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" is just that: warm. A pleasant recording from his own Christmas collection, it gives way to the so-so organ version of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," which is packaged with a headache-inducing "Jingle Bell Bossa Nova." "Christmas Kisses" is a little annoying, feeling like a Christmas single from some one-hit wonder '50s girl group. "I'll Be Home for Christmas," by the Great One, Jackie Gleason, is far too depressing for a Christmas song, and jarringly brings the pace and feel of the whole CD thus far to a dead stop while every note holds on for what seems like minutes and the song stretches into what seems like infinity. Along with it is a somewhat annoying whistling version of "Baby, it's Cold Outside." Beginning with a music-box introduction, Nancy Wilson outclasses all else with her flirty and ever-so-slightly cocky "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" Sounding so sure that the one she's approaching will accept, she goes on anyway, and it's very fun. (For anoher beautiful version, check out Ella Fitzgerald's holiday offering.) Hold onto your seatbelts for "Cha-Cha All the Way"--it'll have you dancing in the aisles! Some, now, may find it hideous and bothersome, but others will adore it like I do. Can't you just tell Billy May had something to do with this track? Love the sax soloist! With its famous lush string opening, Nat King Coles legendary "The Christmas Song" IS included here, folks. And a very welcome addition it is. Les Brown and his Band of Renown do a great job on the over-six-minute "Nutcracker Suite." The lengthy but fun piece goes through pretty much the whole thing, hitting on all the famous pieces you remember and love. I'm not big on caroling or bells, so the next track bothers the daylights out of me. But the bonus tunes are wonderful. The Ultra-Lounge series' enigmatic 'The Continental' makes a holiday appearance here. (Who IS he really, anyway! And why did they record these! ) Next is a "Toys for Tots" advertisement featuring the Chipmunks, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, and Nancy Wilson singing a catchy tune for the good cause. The final bonus song is Billy May himself, singing (in a pleasant voice, too!) a Christmas greeting to all of Capitol's listeners. To the tune of "Jingle Bells," he thanks us for supporting Capitol, and wishing us merry christmas from the entire Capitol Records staff. Very cool--why doesn't everyone do this stuff?
This is a fantastic CD. The great tracks outweigh the clunkers, and the CD will leave you wishing you had been around Capitol Studios back in the '60s.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
This CD makes me laugh out loud.

That's saying something. Christmas is often a stressful time.

I love the CD, I love the concept, I love the packaging, I love the liner notes.

I suppose if I lived in the "swinging" era of night clubs, pointy bras, martinis, and ashtrays on every table, I would find it all a big drag; I don't smoke, don't drink, and I'm a feminist.

But, at this safe distance, the swinging, Rat Pack era is an archaelogical trove of great fun.

And, heck, these people really knew their way around a song. Even as I'm laughing at the anachronisms in the CD, I'm enjoying the heck out of some really good music. Kay Starr, Nancy Wilson, Nat King Cole -- these folks had pipes, and the bands are tight.

I think that if this CD can't shake someone out of his holiday blues, then hospitalization might be the only route.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2004
This CD features Christmas music from the 50s and 60s that would have been considered to be "adult pop" at the time. That is to say, pop music for adults, instead of teenagers. There is some great music on this CD, and some not-so-great music, but it's all a lot of fun. The three bonus tracks are "I Brought You Violets" by the Continental; "Toys For Tots" by Peggy Lee, Nat "King" Cole and Nancy Wilson; and "Jingle Bells" by Billy May. I would recommend this CD to anyone who is interested in "adult pop" of the 50s and 60s.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2005
Those with a taste for an "old-fashioned" Christmas collection, though one with the campy kick that a retro Christmas CD really should have, can do no better than Part 1 of a now-3 disc series of loungey holiday confections from the Capitol music vaults. The jingle-jangle instrumentals from the likes of Billy May and the Jackie Gleason Orchestra are pleasant if overlong, but the vocal selections are unbeatable. Nancy Wilson's buttery crooning on perhaps the most romantic holiday song ("What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?") is delicious, as are Peggy Lee's "Winter Wonderland" and Dean Martin's "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm". These discs are all worth owning, even if there's a too-soft chestnut or two amongst the treasures, and the swingin' 60's artwork is terrific.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2003
OH MY GOSH do I love this CD. I just got it yesterday and I've listened to it 4 times already. I've even played some songs over the phone for some friends. They all want it now too. Since radio stations are playing Christmas music 24/7 now-a-days, you hear the same ol' stuff. I can tell you that you haven't heard these yet (with one exception: Nat King Cole). It's very refreshing to hear something new. Plus if you're into lounge music, jazz, vintage music, swing music, or anything older, this is for you. I love swing and these songs are done with a REAL swing band. I'm thinking about having a martini Christmas tree decorating party this weekend now. Now I just have to get Volume 2 and I'm all set!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 1998
If you've got a silver christmas tree, with rotating color wheel, this is the music for it. If James Bond movies had a music score these would be the songs. The music conjures up visions of martini's, aquamarine furniture and the rat pack with a jingle bell kick.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2003
Tired of choral Christmas music? Tired of the songs you've heard year after year after year? Well, then this is the one you want.
This album has probably done something amazing, brought back some old chestnuts and helped them regain new classic status. Already, I've noticed stores playing these tunes. And, personally, I believe Kay Starr's "(Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man With the Bag" deserves such status.
So, yes, buy it. It'll give your holiday some extra verve, class and fun.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Christmas Cocktails, part one gives you twenty-one awesome tracks to make you feel toasty warm all over this holiday season! The quality of the sound is excellent and anyone who likes lounge music is bound to want this album.

There are several highlights of this album. The first track is Billy May's "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer Mambo." This tune's Latin beat uses the brass, percussion and perfect timing to make a great arrangement. Peggy Lee's "Winter Wonderland" is another track I really like; her excellent diction bolsters her performance. Moreover, listen for Ray Anthony's medley of "Christmas Trumpets/We Wish You A Very Merry Christmas;" this one's wonderful, too.

The incomparable Julie London does a perfect job on "I'd Like You For Christmas;" her voice conveys all the romance a man could ever want from a woman. Of course, Kay Starr's excellent "(Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man With The Bag" features Kay singing at her best; the big band style arrangement lacks nothing, either.

Dean Martin croons his way through "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm;" and Jackie Gleason and Jack Marshall give us a great medley of "I'll Be Home For Christmas/Baby, It's Cold Outside." Now THIS is mood music!

Nancy Wilson performs a charming, sensitive rendition of the classic "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?;" and the immortal Nat King Cole performs "The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)."

There are three bonus tracks. I especially liked the one that features several different artists encouraging people to contribute to "Toys For Tots;" and Billy May's eclectic version of "Jingle Bells" is a cute way for Capitol Records to wish us all a Merry Christmas.

The liner notes feature an essay by R. J. Smith; and we get two drink recipes--including one of the famous Hot Toddy. The artwork is excellent.

In short, if you like lounge music--and especially pop Christmastime music from the 1950s and 1960s--you have got to get this album. It's worth every penny you'll spend on it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2004
I love the Ultra Lounge series, especially the Christmas volumes.

Why?

When I was a kid, my dad had a tube hi-fi stereo, with turntable and AM/FM. Tubes? Well, they were used to help power the amplifiers. And they would wear out. Dad would have to go to the drug store to a machine called a "tube tester" to figure out which one died. He'd then buy a replacement and put it in the stereo (and in those days, the television). I still remember the smell of the thing when he'd turn it on. I remember the spindle. The sound of the record changer as the record would drop onto the platter, the player arm swinging over and then dropping its needle onto the disc. Memories.

Then when I was about 10, my parents took my sister and I on a tour of the Capitol Records building in Hollywood, where many of

these recordings were cut. So it's kind of cool to think I've been there and seen one of the recording studios where these songs were cut.

Most of the song arrangements here are very, very cool. Really lush. They are sung by some of the coolest singers of the post-WWII/pre-rock era.

And, probably best of all, many of these recordings are presented in amazing, virbrant, true Hi-Fidelity (yes, it was spelled in capitals on the album jackets) with maximum stereo separation. Wow! This sound is something long ago forgotten and/or neglected by the tasteless soybeans who run today's record companies. If for no other reason, please listen to these recordings to hear what REAL stereo sounded like at its advent. Far superior to anything since.

These are a real treat.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 1999
We bought this CD two years ago and it quickly became one of our favorites. It provided some desperately needed variety to the usual Christmas fare. A good mix of vocals and instrumentals, it also has a couple of fun bonus tracks. Check out Vol. 2 for even more fun.
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