What would Christmas be without the voice of Bing Crosby?
And with radio stations going all-Christmas earlier and earlier each year, chances are you've already lifted your seasonal spirits with Crosby's famous recording of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," still the biggest-selling single of all time. Or perhaps you've heard "Jingle Bells," with The Andrews Sisters vocally supporting Crosby. But Crosby's holiday catalogue runs quite deep. Last year, Collector's Choice Music and Bing Crosby Enterprises released The Crosby Christmas Sessions, a 19-track entry in the Bing Crosby Archive Collection which drew on the singer's vast personal archive to present some true rarities.
Here at The Second Disc, I wrote of that release, "While each [Archive Collection] reissue so far has brought a number of treasures to light (whether expanding long out-of-print LPs or creating new compilations), the crown jewel may be Christmas Sessions," adding that the album "deserves a special place atop the discography for restoring a number of 'lost' tracks to print in a classy package befitting a true voice of Christmas, Bing Crosby." (Read my full review here. At that link you'll also find a mini-guide to the crooner's holiday recordings on CD.)
Yet with Collector's Choice Music having gotten out of the reissue business, and its guiding light Gordon Anderson having joined forces with Gabby Castellana to create Real Gone Music, The Crosby Christmas Sessions has proven elusive at traditional retail, like the other Archive Collection titles. As of November 29, 2011 at Amazon.com, there's not even a used copy available of this seminal holiday collection. Thankfully, the official Bing Crosby Store has the entire Archive line-up available individually and in special bundles, and each and every release there comes highly recommended.
Bing Crosby Enterprises and Sonoma Entertainment/South Bay Music are also offering a new title for 2011 that draws on one of our favorite releases of 2010. Bing Crosby Christmas is available this holiday season at select retailers including Wal-Mart, and includes fourteen of the nineteen tracks found on Christmas Sessions. To that core fourteen it adds two tracks not on the prior release: "I'll Be Home For Christmas," from a Kraft Music Hall radio performance, and a duet with Ella Fitzgerald on "A Marshmallow World," from Crosby's Chesterfield radio program. (The former has appeared before on a collection of Crosby's World War II V-Discs, while the latter can also be found on the Shout! Factory box set Swingin' with Bing.) Although it's disappointing that the new reissue includes no liner notes or discographical information, it's to the Crosby family's credit that this edition remains lovingly assembled with unique material.
Hit the jump for more, including the full track listing with discography!
What's missing? The Crosby Christmas Sessions included Frank Sinatra's duets on two tracks from Reprise's 12 Songs of Christmas album, including "Go Tell It on the Mountain" and the instant earworm, Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen's brassy "We Wish You the Merriest." The iconic David Bowie duet on "The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth" has also been excised, as well as one version of "Jingle Bells" and a lengthy medley of "Deck the Halls/Away in a Manger/O Little Town of Bethlehem/The First Noel."
But there's still more than enough to savor. Peggy Lee guests on "Here Comes Santa Claus," while Ella Fitzgerald also appears on "Silver Bells" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Many of the rarest tracks from Christmas Sessions get another hearing here, including the mid-1960s Reprise efforts "White World of Winter" and "It's Christmas Time Again," and two Columbia sides from 1959, "The Secret of Christmas" and "Just What I Wanted for Christmas," both written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. While the crooner's legendary Decca sides have been oft-anthologized, The Crosby Christmas Sessions and this abridged reissue shed light on some true hidden gems from a master of his craft.
Bing Crosby Christmas is available now at Wal-Mart (and other select retailers in the U.S. and Canada). At the retail monolith's asking price of $5.00, this may be the holiday music bargain of the season. Don't miss out on this extremely rare material a second time! And may I suggest as one Christmas wish that the Bing Crosby Archive Collection be resumed at Gordon Anderson's Real Gone Music? Hint, hint...?
Bing Crosby, Christmas (Sonoma Entertainment/South Bay Music SBX2 0385, 2011)
- White Christmas
- Silent Night
- Adeste Fidelis/O Come All Ye Faithful
- It's Beginning to Look a Lot Llke Christmas
- The Christmas Song
- I'll Be Home for Christmas
- Here Comes Santa Claus (with Peggy Lee)
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (with Ella Fitzgerald)
- Jingle Bells
- Sleigh Ride
- Silver Bells (with Ella Fitzgerald)
- It's Christmas Time Again
- The Secret of Christmas
- White World of Winter
- Just What I Wanted for Christmas
- A Marshmallow World (with Ella Fitzgerald)
Tracks 1-3, 5, 8 recorded November 30, 1952 for The Bing Crosby Show for General Electric
Track 4 recorded November 1951 for The Bing Crosby Show for Chesterfield
Track 6 from Army V-Disc, recording date TBD
Track 7 recorded December 3, 1949 for The Bing Crosby Show for Chesterfield
Track 9 recorded November 1960 for A Christmas Sing with Bing
Track 10 recorded November 23, 1952 for The Bing Crosby Show for General Electric
Track 11 recorded November 15, 1953 for The Bing Crosby Show for General Electric
Track 12 recorded June 19, 1964 for The 12 Songs of Christmas (Reprise LP, 1964)
Tracks 13 & 15 recorded March 25, 1959 from Columbia single 4-41496, 1959
Track 14 recorded September 28, 1965 for Reprise single R-20424, 1965
Track 16 from radio broadcast of November 29, 1950
All tracks other than Tracks 6 & 16 appeared on The Crosby Christmas Sessions (Collectors' Choice Music CCM-2161, 2010)
Judy, Publicist says
Joe - visit BingCrosbyStore.com - we've issued the 2009/2010 CDs under our own label - they are VERY MUCH available!
Publicist, Bing Crosby Enterprises
Joe Marchese says
Thanks for sharing, Judy! We've linked to the Store above, and couldn't be happier that these titles remain available!
Jeremy Earle says
I've always thought that a Bing Crosby Christmas/Holiday CD box set should be released, compiling all seasonal studio recordings by Bing between the 30s and the 70s on 4 or 5 CDs.
Most of Bing's studio material, to my knowledge, has been released on various Christmas CDs over the years (the most comprehensive being 1998's "The Voice of Christmas: The Complete Decca Christmas Songbook" covering the period 1935 to 1956). There are some exceptions, of course (1973's "Christmas Star" has never been released on CD, to my knowledge; and 1957's "How Lovely is Christmas" and 1964's "The Secret of Christmas" and "Christmas Candles" have never been collected on a holiday CD).
Unfortunately, with the exception of some of the more 'official' releases or more recent releases, the sound quality is inconsistent across the various holiday CDs.
I would love to see a Christmas box set of Bing's collecting all studio recordings, remastered. No one is more deserving of such a set than he.
Rich Dudas says
Best Buy has this "new" CD as well. Easy to find there.
I'll take a look sometime, but are the official website CDs available as REAL CDs, and NOT downloads or CD-R's?
Real CDs only for me. CD-Rs almost always deteriorate to unplayable discs and downloads evaporate.
judy, publicist says
Kevin - they are the real deal at http://www.BingCrosby.com - check out the site, the store, and more!
Bing Crosby Enterprises
If you bought the special edition of the Bing Christmas TV specials DVD set that came out last year, this being the set that included a Christmas Bing CD that was different than the regular Christmas Sessions CD release. This CD sounds just like the CD you're describing above, though the CD cover does not come with the original CD that was included in the Christmas Specials DVD set, the CD itself sounds like the same CD as the subject CD above (not the Christmas Sessions CD). Now here's what I'd like to see for this year's release, Bing's telling of "Night Before Christmas" on CD along with other rare Bing Christmas recordings not on either the Christmas Sessions or the Bing Christmas DVD set that included the CD I'm talking about and that's the subject of your review above.
The King of Jingaling says
The Christmas Sessions is available digitally here in Canada, at least on iTunes Canada.
In his piece last year about "Christmas Sessions," Joe wrote that Capitol's 2006 CD, "Christmas Classics," was an "oddly abridged" version of Bing's 1962 LP, "I Wish You a Merry Christmas." I'm not really acquainted with the original LP, but the '06 CD seems to contain all the tracks from the '62 LP, albeit reshuffled, plus several extra tracks. So I'm curious to know how the '06 CD abridged (i.e., shortened) the '62 LP, oddly or otherwise. Can anyone please explain? Thanks.
Joe Marchese says
Hi Ed, I don't have my original research notes handy, but I'll try to clarify. The CD's liner notes indicate "this album is an abridged version of the album previously released by Warner Bros. Records which carried a different title and album jacket." In quickly comparing with the track listing for Warner Bros. W 1484, it seems that you're correct (and Capitol isn't!) and the album isn't abridged at all. (What is oddly abridged is the version of "White Christmas" here, in which Frank Sinatra's vocal has been excised and the song chopped!) I'll pull it out later and amend the original article appropriately if need be. Thanks for reading and clearing this up!
Thanks, Joe. Could be that the folks at Capitol thought abridged means modified or altered. The excision of Sinatra from "White Christmas" is interesting. (Just to be clear, "White Christmas" was not part of the original '62 LP, but was among the extra tracks added later for CD.) My uneducated guess is that the excision might've been necessary for legal reasons. It's hard to believe that the CD compilers wouldn't have wanted the full track, as a duet, if it had been at all possible to include it.
Joe Marchese says
Indeed, Ed, these types of sets often come down to budgetary and licensing constraints. For those interested, the complete Crosby/Sinatra 1957 television duet of "White Christmas" can be found in full on Sinatra's terrific "The Christmas Collection" from Frank Sinatra Enterprises/Reprise (R2 76542, 2004).
Just a correction to what I earlier posted. The CD, which was the subject of the original article, IS different from the CD that was included as an extra in some of the BING Christmas Specials DVD set from last year. I checked out the lineup of each when I got home and the CD in the DVD set is different from the song line-up of the CD subject at top.
Herb P says
My Wal-Mart didn't have the one reviewed here but had a different one "Bing Crosby Christmas Favorites" with a green cover with 18 tracks for 9.96 (varies by location per website): White Christmas/Deck the Halls & The First Noel/Rudolph (w/Ella)/Silent Night/Little Drummer Boy (w/Bowie)/Jingle Bells (fast version)/Adeste Fideles & O Come All Ye Faithful/A Marshmallow World (w/Ella but she's not listed on back cover)/Let it Snow!/I'll Be Home for Christmas/Here Comes Santa Claus (w/Lee)/White World of Winter/The Christmas Song/Just What I Wanted for Christmas/Santa Claus is Coming to Town/The Secret of Christmas/It's Christmas Time Again - the last two tracks are reversed on the back cover.