White Christmas, or, as the songwriter who instigated the project would have it, Irving Berlin's White Christmas, was the big holiday movie of 1954 (and, ultimately, the highest grossing picture released during that year). It was certainly a familiar entertainment, distinctly reminiscent of Holiday Inn (1942), with which it shared not only that setting at an inn in New England and the song "White Christmas," but also a full song score by Berlin combining newly written numbers and old standards. The big difference was that Bing Crosby, again leading the cast, was paired not with Fred Astaire, but with Danny Kaye. Their romantic interests, respectively, were Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen (her singing voice dubbed by Gloria Wood). Typically for the time, this soundtrack album consists not of recordings taken directly from the film itself, but of studio recordings made separately. Not so typically, there has been a major substitution in the cast. Clooney, an exclusive Columbia Records recording artist, was contractually prohibited from appearing on the album (she made her own solo disc of the songs), and Decca Records instead had Peggy Lee fill in. Lee provides an interesting contrast. For example, her "Love You Didn't Do Right by Me" has much more of a blues feel than Clooney's. But Clooney, who coaxed her retired sister Betty Clooney back to duet with her on the witty "Sisters," has it all over the double-tracked Lee, whose version has none of the humor of the Clooney Sisters' rendition, and doesn't even make much sense. Crosby is forced to sing "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep" alone (it was a duet with Clooney in the film), but manages. Kaye is his usual zany self on the novelty tune "Choreography" and partners with Crosby well on a couple of medleys. The new "Snow" and the inevitable title song, done as quartets by Crosby, Kaye, Lee, and Trudy Stevens (who replaced Wood on the recording), give the score its holiday flavor. The album does not represent the best efforts of any of these talented artists, but it is a solid, reliable piece of entertainment, just as the movie it accompanies is.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Peggy Lee
feat: Peggy Lee