Sinatra’s first Christmas album, now 50 years old, sounds lovelier than it ever has thanks to the magic of remastering, but that’s unfortunately faint praise. The Ralph Brewer singers are predictably majestic, and the orchestra conducted by Gordon Jenkins is as sweeping and full of wonder as the season dictates, but Frank himself seems a little bit tired on A Jolly Christmas. Perhaps it’s the choice of songs on display, an odd mix of slow, slower, and “Jingle Bells”, that weighs him down, but it’s more likely that on those slow songs, it’s that he sounds like he’s being desperately careful to hit each note perfectly. He doesn’t have his usual energy, and he sounds constrained by his surroundings. “Jingle Bells” and “The Christmas Waltz” manage to transcend these limitations, but they’re not quite enough to make Sinatra’s Christmas the definitive one of the era. The PSA tacked on to the end of this 50th Anniversary Edition is cute, and would make for a perfectly nostalgic sort of interlude on a Christmas-themed mix tape, but that’s all the “new” you get from this latest edition. Still, the familiarity of these versions may well make for a worthwhile purchase. Just make sure you save A Jolly Christmas for later on Christmas Eve night, when your guests are leaving and you’re ready to welcome those visions of sugar plums dancing in your heads.
// Notes from the Road
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