Ray Conniff was only a step or two above Lawrence Welk, where edginess is concerned, on the easy listening scale, and it is true that his albums could often have a sort of bland, soulless quality in their weakest moments. Nevertheless, there is something undeniably lovely about the orchestral and vocal arrangements on many of his albums, and that is never more so the case than on We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Even if you ignore the album's holiday aim, it is possibly Conniff's single finest recorded moment, with an incomparably strong choral vocal performance from his Singers. You cannot really segregate the music from its purpose, however, and to do so would be to gloss over the album's single greatest attribute: its timeless, sparkling mood. It remains as fresh, in its way, 30 years later as it was on the day that it was recorded. Moreover, it can rightly be called a Christmas classic. While most of Conniff's music has drastically dated, some of it quaintly and some of it rather embarrassingly, few albums have come along in the subsequent years that have better captured the sort of sprightly holiday joie de vivre present on the album, nor its wonderfully exuberant, almost guileless charm. There is a nostalgic cast to the music, even if you aren't exactly certain what you are being nostalgic about. It instantly invokes the kind of old-time Christmases that existed in the pre-urban sprawl past (sleigh rides, ice skating on rural rivers, carolers moving from house to house), even if you never actually experienced them yourself and even if they no longer exist in quite that same way anymore, or were rosy fictions in the first place aside from on tree ornaments and in Andy Williams television specials. On strictly musical terms, the backing is mostly unobtrusive, a pleasant but rather conventional orchestral backdrop. Still, the music is delicately played and always pretty. That prettiness is simply overshadowed by wonderful arrangements, particularly the vocal arrangements. In addition to a wonderful take on "Ring Christmas Bells" and one of the few recorded "Twelve Days of Christmas" that doesn't ultimately grow irksome, Conniff spliced together four expert medleys for the album. But the superior singing is what makes the album so special. The Singers effortlessly pull off intricate rounds ("Ring Christmas Bells") and glorious harmonies throughout that seem tailor made for tunes such as "The Little Drummer Boy" and "O Holy Night." In places, they even almost manage to swing along with the orchestra. Hip or not, though (and it is not far often than it is), We Wish You a Merry Christmas is a gorgeous little gift package ringing with the season's jubilant spirit.
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AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart