Various Artists

The Christmas Anthology: 1930-1950

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In June 2005, Stardust/Cleopatra put out two releases that used the phrase "Christmas Anthology." One was a single-disc Bing Crosby collection titled The Christmas Anthology: 1942-1955; the other was The Christmas Anthology: 1930-1950, a two-CD, 35-track compilation that spotlights a variety of jazz and pop artists from the pre-rock era. The title The Christmas Anthology: 1930-1950 is a bit misleading because one of the tracks is a radio broadcast of Jan Garber performing "Frosty the Snowman" in, perhaps, December 1954. Regardless, there is a lot to enjoy on this double CD, which Stardust/Cleopatra divides into two categories -- the first disc is titled "The Vocalists: Songbirds and Crooners," while disc two is called "The Bands: Swing, Sweet and Dance." Solo artists dominate disc one, which boasts a who's who of traditional pop thanks to recordings by the likes of Crosby, Perry Como, Kay Starr, and Peggy Lee, among others. And big bands of the '30s and '40s reign supreme on disc two -- mostly jazz bands (including the orchestras of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, and Glenn Miller), although sweet bands (jazz-influenced pop orchestras) are nicely represented by Kay Kyser on "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" and Guy Lombardo on "Auld Lang Syne." Stardust/Cleopatra's picks aren't necessarily definitive; Crosby, for example, is heard on a 1944 radio broadcast of "White Christmas" but not the smash 1942 version. Even so, the selections are generally enjoyable -- and it's hard to go wrong when you're hearing the Nat King Cole Trio on "Jingle Bells," Dinah Shore on "The First Noël," Woody Herman on "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," and a young Peggy Lee on Mel Tormé's "The Christmas Song." Bottom line: this double-disc isn't the ultimate or ideal compilation of its kind, but it's still a pleasure to hear if one enjoys Christmas songs and has a taste for swing, traditional pop, and sweet bands.

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