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)