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Various Artists

Headin' For The Christmas Ball: 31 Swing And R&B Christmas Crooners

Review by Gary Hill

This new collection from Bear Family includes a whole playlist of holiday music. There are a few instrumentals, but it's mostly vocal music. Most of it is jazz-based, but there is a wide range of sounds within. While not everything here works completely for me, there is a real charm to the set. I should mention that I previously reviewed the final song on another collection and have used the track review of that one here for the sake of consistency.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 6. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
Georgie Auld & His Orchestra feat. Bill Darnell - Christmas Ball
There is a big band kind of groove at the heart of this. I love the piano work on the tune, but the vocals aren't really my kind of thing. The cut has a killer vibe, though. The saxophone solo is tasty.
Louis Prima & His Orchestra - Shake Hands With Santa Claus
I love this powerhouse jazz romp. It's a lot of fun.
Bill Bronson s Overtones with The Tommy Ferguson Trio - Christmas Is On Its Way
More of a lighthearted, pop music (contemporary for the time) sound is on board here. I'm not overly fond of this one, but it is fun.
Roy Milton & His Solid Senders - Christmas Time Blues
I dig the rocking blues groove on this cut. The piano and horns both lend a lot of magic. The vocal performance and general vibe of the song remind me of B.B. King just a bit.
Jo Stafford - Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
While this might not be the version of this song everyone knows, it similar and a classy rendition.
Knuckles O'Toole & The Brigadiers - Jingle Bells
This has a bouncy sort of arrangement that's unusual. It almost feels like an electronic take in some ways, but this predates that sound by a long time.
The Andrews Sisters - Jing-A-Ling, Jing-A-Ling
Feeling like something that would have been at home in a Loony Toons cartoon, this is fun.
Benny Goodman & His Orchestra feat. Peggy Lee - Winter Weather
I dig this bouncy jazz groove. It's very much a product of its time, but holds up pretty well. The horns have some opportunities to shine here, and shine they do.
Georgie Auld & His Orchestra feat. Bill Darnell - It Ain't Snowin' Outside
This is a jazzy arrangement that is among the best here. It just has such a cool sound and groove.
Leroy Anderson & His 'Pops' Concert Orchestra - Sleigh Ride
A traditional sounding number, this is just what you'd expect in an instrumental Christmas tune of the time.
Art Mooney & His Orchestra - The Christmas Choo Choo Train
A bouncy and playful arrangement, this is pretty standard fare for holiday music of the time.
Lawrence Welk's Little Band feat. Janet, Brian, Cubby & The Lennon Sisters - Outer Space Santa
This goofy little science-fiction sort of tune is a lot of fun. It's very much a novelty number, but it's entertaining.
Barry Gordon - Zoomah, The Santa Claus From Mars
Staying in science-fiction zones, this is another playful novelty song. Don't expect too much other than fun here, and you won't be disappointed.
Fred Waring & The Pennsylvanians with The Glee Club - Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer
This rendition of the holiday classic has a Spike Jones kind of thing going on. It's silly, but also fun.
Dorothy Collins - Mister Santa
This is a playful tune that's pretty infectious in a lot of ways.
Cary Grant - Christmas Lullaby
Some mellow, incidental music serves as the backdrop for this. Cary Grant speaks the words. For the first half of the song. After that point it's partly sung and partly spoken. This isn't one of my favorites here.
Mickey Rooney - Susie, The Snow Girl
A bouncy little romp, this is a lot of fun. It's built around "Frosty the Snowman," but presents a variant.
Kay Martin & Her Body Guards - Come On Santa, Let's Have A Ball
The lyrics to this one are pretty risque for the time. The music is dominated by a rather noisy organ.
Kay Martin & Her Body Guards - Santa's Doing The Horizontal Twist
A similar arrangement is on hand for this one. Again, the lyrics are risque.
Dinah Washington - Ole! Santa
This is a pretty typical female crooner styled number. It's a solid piece.
Ramsey Lewis Trio - Christmas Blues
Starting with sleigh bells, the blues groove on this is all class. This instrumental is probably my favorite tune here. The bass just shines like crazy, but don't overlook that piano. This whole piece is on fire.
Dave King & The Keynotes - Hotta Chocolata
This is a fun jazzy number, but it's sort of an "also ran."
Tina Robin - Winter Wonderland Cha Cha
You get exactly what the title suggests here. It's rendition of the holiday classic with a cha cha cha groove added to it.
The Enchanters - Mambo, Santa, Mambo
This is a mambo with some lyrics about Santa. It doesn't really feel like holiday music, other than some sleigh bells. That said, it's a nice bit of variety and a lot of fun. It's definitely entertaining.
The Surfers - Here Comes Santa Claus In A Red Canoe
Basically a barbershop quartet kind of an arrangement is at the heart of this. There are some hints of island music here, particularly on the instrumental break, but overall this is a vocal piece.
Louis Armstrong - Christmas In New Orleans
You just can't beat Louis Armstrong. This powerhouse number is trademark Armstrong, too. It's also a highlight of the set.
Noël Chiboust Et Son Orchestre, feat. Django Reinhardt - Noël Blues
This instrumental is classy. The guitar is exceptional, but then again, it's Django Reinhardt. What else would you expect?
Jerry Lewis - I've Had A Very Merry Christmas
Jerry Lewis is doing a Christmas song. What do you expect? Well, that's what we get here. It's silly and rather fun, but also a throw-away.
Johnny Otis & His Orchestra - Happy New Year, Baby
This groove is bluesy and a lot of fun.
Ramsey Lewis Trio - What Are You Doing New Years Eve
The piano really steals so much of the show on this classy instrumental tune. This is a slow moving jazz number that is pretty and effective.
Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians - Auld Lang Syne

Well, not really a Christmas piece, but, hey, it is a classic and you need to have it in your collection for New Years Eve.

 
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