The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra's Round the Christmas Tree is a collection of 14 pieces that, for the most part, does not constitute "familiar" Christmas fare as we generally understand it in the twenty first century. However, it doesn't claim to be "familiar Yuletide favorites" -- these are "vintage Yuletide favorites" drawn from a vintage of at least a century and counting. While many of the hymns associated with Christmas and the tune "Jingle Bells" do date from the nineteenth century, the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra and its leader, Rick Benjamin, keep faithful to its programmatic concept of providing us a glimpse of what a musical Christmas may have sounded like circa 1910. Paragon's in-house soprano Jody Dall'Armi sings on a number or two so we can experience the truly amusing nature of the lyrics of such numbers as "Please Let Me Sleep!" and "Mrs. Hooligan's Christmas Cake." Not all of the material is completely alien to one's ears, as the second strain in Leon Jessel's Parade of the Tin Soldiers is one of those tunes that make the listener exclaim, "So, THAT'S what the name of that thing is!" The Paragon is in top form throughout Round the Christmas Tree and it should make for a satisfying alternative to one's usual tree trimming accompaniment. By way of suggestion, it might not be bad idea to pause for the "Grand Yuletide Fantasia" Round the Christmas Tree of Theodore Moses Tobani, from which this album derives its title. This is a more ambitious work that makes for some exceptionally good listening and makes for a swell background to some quiet time and sips of hot cider.
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AllMusic Review by Uncle Dave Lewis
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