Various Artists - Ultra Lounge Presents Best of Christmas Cocktails [$18.98]
Featuring 15 tracks gathered from three earlier volumes of the venerable Ultra Lounge series, this compilation presents a nice sampling of Christmas music that ranges from the kitschy to the classic. Unlike many of the other albums in the Ultra Lounge series, however, the Christmas Cocktails discs don’t just feature quirky, odd, and occasionally cringe-inducing musical oddities, but also include some wonderful old chestnuts, including a number of lesser known jazz classics from the '50s and '60s. For example, when’s the last time you heard "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Mambo" by Billy May? Other highlights include Dean Martin’s terminally cool version of "Winter Wonderland", Kay Starr’s "(Everybody’s Waiting For) The Man With the Bag", "Happy Holidays" by Peggy Lee, and "The Merriest" by June Christy. For kitsch, you can’t beat "Jing-A-Ling" by The Starlighters, the easy listening medley of "Sleigh Ride/Santa Claus’ Party" by Ferrante & Teicher with Les Baxter (unfortunately appearing without his "Band of Reknown"), or "Christmas Island" by Bob Atcher & the Dinning Sisters (though I prefer the laidback version of the latter by Leon Redbone). Finally, the album wraps up with a previously unreleased instrumental version of "My Favorite Things" by Martin Denny, substituting an accordion for the more traditional vocal melody. Forty minutes of Christmas coolness -- definitely worth picking up.