Lou Rawls

Merry Christmas, Baby

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Of the major R&B stars of the 1960s and '70s, Lou Rawls was the singer who seemed most comfortable slipping into the easy groove of Las Vegas-style lounge belting, which is no insult -- Rawls had both the voice and the musical instincts to sing straight-ahead soul, jazz, or supper club blues and sound perfectly at home in either camp. As a consequence, Rawls could handle pop standards more comfortably than most of his peers, as this disc of Christmas material easily demonstrates. Merry Christmas, Baby features all 11 tunes from Rawls' 1967 holiday album Merry Christmas Ho! Ho! Ho!, seven selections from 1993's Christmas Is the Time, and two songs from his final recording session, and Rawls is clearly enjoying himself on all of this material. The 1967 sessions have a punchy, swinging sound that befits Rawls' presence on the label that Frank Sinatra helped build, while the 1993 recordings possess a more easygoing smooth jazz feel (as well as a glossier production), and Rawls rocks the blues on his farewell recordings, sounding strong and confident to the last. Anyone looking to add a smooth but soulful touch to their Christmas celebration would do well to pick up this CD, which captures a great singer delivering the goods with style and aplomb; it's the work of a gifted professional working at the top of his game on music he clearly enjoyed.

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