Elvis' only album of the '50s with no fast tempo rock and roll, and for good reason: it was his first Christmas, so the decibel level had to be lower. He does wail on the incredible blues-rock opener, "Santa Claus Is Back In Town". It's Elvis doin' his thing, driving home the double-entendres. It's been written that this album was banned, and the banners didn't have to go too far into the album to find something...too strong.
"Blue Christmas" is medium-tempo blues-rock, a gem of a tune, featuring a typically great vocal and some genuine Presley low-down blues licks. If there was room back in the day, this could gone into the Top 20.
"Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me" is a nicely syncopated rocker, a soft vocal over a hard beat. It works. The vocal approach is reminiscent of Conway Twitty's later work on "It's Only Make Believe".
And for the remainder - the reason I decline from giving the album/CD *five* stars. Although the material is excellent and well-arranged, we have a near-copy of the Drifters' "White Christmas" and Gene Autry's "Here Comes Santa Claus". They're fun to hear, but you wonder if Elvis and the boys could have come up with a more *original* sound. "I Believe" finds Elvis givin' it his all, but strangely, he seems to be struggling to stay on top of this inspirational power ballad.
The gospel sides are done with conviction, beautifully phrased by Presley, but the listener is a bit uncomfortable with the "oil and water" mix: his vocal mannerisms are "pop" and the lyrics are pure gospel.
On later gospel releases, Elvis seems to take a step back stylistically and showcase the quartets and instrumental back-up; the song itself. On several tracks from "His Hand In Mine" (1960) and "How Great Thou Art" (1967) maybe he should used more *voice*; on "He Touched Me" (1972) he found the balance.