Bing Crosby

The Christmas Anthology: 1942-1955

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The late Bing Crosby (who would have turned 102 in 2005) wasn't a jazz singer per se, but he was a pop crooner who used his love of jazz to his creative advantage and went down in history as a major innovator. When you consider how many heavyweights he influenced -- an impressive list that includes Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jr., Mel Tormé, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Vic Damone, Art Lund, Chet Baker, Perry Como, and countless others -- it is no exaggeration to say that Crosby was as much of a trendsetter as Charlie Parker or the Beatles. One of the things that Crosby -- who, in the '30s, did more than anyone to point traditional pop singing away from the overblown, quasi-operatic approach of Rudy Vallée and Al Jolson -- became famous for was his charismatic performances of Christmas songs, which is the focus of this CD. The Christmas Anthology: 1942-1955 isn't an ideal collection of Crosby performing Christmas favorites; for one thing, neither of the two versions of "White Christmas" that Stardust/Cleopatra provides is the definitive 1942 version. Nonetheless, everything is enjoyable on this 39-minute disc, which ranges from 1942-1944 performances on the old Kraft Music Hall radio program to radio broadcasts from 1952 and 1955. It should be noted that all of the 1952 material -- which includes "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," "Silver Bells," and "White Christmas" -- finds Crosby joining forces with Ella Fitzgerald, who was very much in her prime throughout the '50s. And Crosby is also in respectable company on the CD's other version of "White Christmas": a 1944 Kraft Music Hall performance with Paul Whiteman's orchestra. Although The Christmas Anthology: 1942-1955 falls short of essential and is not recommended to casual listeners, it is a pleasing collection that Crosby's hardcore fans will easily appreciate.

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