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Sinatra + R. Brewster Singers + Gordon Jenkins = terrific CD
on 17 December 2005
Digitally remastered and released in 1987, this Christmas album, arranged and directed by Gordon Jenkins, is one of the very best musical celebrations of the holiday season (even if Sinatra is not your favorite singer). Throughout, his sounds are accompanied and enhanced by the Ralph Brewster Singers, whose unusually sweet voices and wonderful soprano high notes add warmth and holiday cheer as they echo Sinatra, provide choral variations between stanzas, and sometimes even harmonize with him.
Six modern Christmas songs begins the CD, including a swingy "Jingle Bells" ("I love those J-I-N-G-L-E Bells"), Mel Torme's "Christmas Song," and a song Sinatra has made his own, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." He follows these with six traditional carols. In "The First Noel," the Ralph Brewster Singers' large chorus sings behind him, featuring fine harmonies, expression, and counterpoint. Sinatra, with his trademark phrasing and sure sense of tempo, slightly changes some of the traditional lyrics on this song so that he escapes the standard phrasing and the lyrics flow more gracefully, something he also does on "Little Town of Bethlehem," resulting in new appreciation of the words and meanings.
Two bonus tracks, both directed by Nelson Riddle, include Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" and Sinatra's original 1954 recording of "Christmas Waltz," which gets a different tempo from the Jenkins arrangement, which is also presented on the CD. With style and panache, leavened with holiday emotion, Sinatra, the Ralph Brewster Singers, and Gordon Jenkins present Christmas favorites, many of which (like "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas") have become forever identified with Frank Sinatra. If I could have only one Christmas CD, this one would be high on the list of choices. Mary Whipple