Various Artists

The Ultimate White Christmas [Castle Pulse]

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In 1954, when Paramount Pictures released the movie musical White Christmas, starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen, Decca Records was contracted to issue the accompanying "soundtrack" album. The word "soundtrack" needed to be in quotation marks for two reasons. First, Decca preferred to use separately recorded versions of songs from a movie, not the actual performances heard in the film. Second, there were substitutions in the casting from screen to phonograph. Crosby and Kaye were signed to Decca, but Clooney recorded for rival Columbia Records and was barred from participating, so Decca used Peggy Lee instead. Also, Vera Ellen, a non-singer, had had her voice dubbed by Gloria Wood for the movie, and Decca swapped in a second replacement for its LP, using Trudy Stevens. The resulting ten-song album of Irving Berlin songs, old and new, was actually credited to Crosby/Kaye/Lee, and not even billed as a soundtrack. Meanwhile, over at Columbia, Clooney cut her own eight-song, 10" LP of some of the same material for a solo album called Irving Berlin's White Christmas. Fast-forward 50 years, and all these recordings have entered the public domain in Europe, allowing British reissue label Castle Pulse to assemble an unlicensed CD combining the Decca and Columbia albums, with a few added holiday songs by Clooney, on this "ultimate" rendering of the "soundtrack" of White Christmas. (The Crosby/Kaye medley of "Mandy" and "Blue Skies" from the Decca LP has been separated into two tracks here, making for a total of 22 selections.) It is still no such thing, of course, and now there are many repeated songs. Typically with such unauthorized efforts, there are errors. Annotator Gerald Mahlowe isn't aware of the double switch from Vera Ellen to Wood to Stevens. And, as is true of other renderings of these recordings, Stevens is mistakenly credited with performing a duet with Lee on "Sisters," when in fact that's Lee singing with her overdubbed self. (In any case, this version is rendered forgettable by the Clooney one for which she drafted in her own long-retired sister Betty Clooney and briefly revived the Clooney Sisters.) Still, it's nice finally to have an album of the music from White Christmas that does feature its three singing stars on the same disc, even if none of it actually comes from the soundtrack.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:27
2 2:43
3 2:46
4 3:06
5 2:33
6 2:37
7 2:36
8 3:03
9 3:02
10 2:44
12 0:41
14 2:58
15 2:44
16 2:51
17 2:05
18 2:28
19 2:57
20 3:13
21 2:40
22 3:16
blue highlight denotes track pick