For generations of baby boomers, year-end festivities would not have been the same without Fred Waring & His Pennsylvanians. This ten-song compilation is derived from the classic Now Is the Caroling Season (1957) and Sounds of Christmas (1959) collections, the former bearing the distinction of heralding in the era of the holiday music long-player. Waring initially assembled a group he christened the Collegians during his tenure at Penn State. He incongruously arrived at the Pennsylvanians moniker after the band relocated to Michigan. The combo had become an instantly recognizable fixture from numerous appearances on radio as well as the silver screen. When television was introduced, Waring and company were the first combo to have their own show. All that exposure guaranteed that when they began to release albums, the platters were sure to become instant best-sellers. True to form, Now Is the Caroling Season reached the upper tiers of the charts in 1957 and 1958. The highlights included here aptly represent what makes those original recordings so very special. The material is drawn from sacred and secular titles, with longtime Waring arrangers Robert Shaw, Roy Ringwald, Jack Best, and Hawley Ades adapting the traditional tunes. The opening track has been renamed from "Now Is the Caroling Season" to "Caroling, Caroling." Regardless, it immediately evokes the romanticism and nostalgia inherent in the customary celebration. There is a discernible innocence in "White Christmas" and "The Christmas Song" that has escaped most other versions. The robust vocal blend and tastefully discreet orchestration are flawless. That similarly translates into the placidity and reverence of "O Holy Night" and "Angels, from the Realms of Glory." Sadly, they don't make 'em like this anymore, but luckily repackagings such as this remain readily available for interested parties.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer