I originally bought this on vinyl, but after selling that copy (at a price), I had to wait many years before the album was finally released on CD. As it was always among my favorite Christmas albums, I was very pleased to buy it again. This time, it comes with a bonus track - a 1986 recording of White Christmas.
Originally released in 1982 with ten tracks, the album contains a re-recording of If we make it through December. Merle never intended this to be a Christmas song, but it clearly has a Christmas theme so it inevitable became identified as a Christmas song. It's certainly among the best country Christmas songs ever written. Fellow country singer Alan Jackson and jazz singer Holly Cole are among the notable artists to have covered the song, Alan's version being a faithful cover while Holly's is an interesting re-interpretation.
Elsewhere, the album as originally released contained just three familiar standards, these being Santa Claus is coming to town, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and Blue Christmas, although the tune of a fourth (O little town of Bethlehem) is used as the backing track for a spoken narrative, Grandma's homemade Christmas card. Apart from that track and If we make it through December, Merle wrote the title track and three other songs (Santa Claus and popcorn, Daddy won't be home again for Christmas, Bobby wants a puppy dog for Christmas) and they are all brilliant. However, it's worth remembering that Christmas isn't usually the best time to introduce a puppy dog into a family. Much as I love Merle's song and understand why Bobby wants a puppy dog, I really think it would have been better to buy that puppy at a different time of year. The closing track on the original album is Lonely night, which Merle didn't write but which I don't remember hearing elsewhere. It is also a great song, though not quite up to the best of Merle's own songs.
This is a superb traditional country Christmas album that might just appeal to some people who wouldn't normally like traditional country, but such people would be wise to listen to samples first. Meanwhile, traditional country music fans should have this high on their list of Christmas albums to buy, if they haven't already got it.
Actually this album was re-released on CD (and vinyl) in 1984, only two years after its debut, with no repertoire changes, although the original Epic catalogue number was retained.
I understand that Epic released very few (if any) albums in 1982 on CD, when the format was in it's commercial infancy.
It can be instantly recognised because it has a completely different sleeve front to the original - an artist's christmas card style scene of a log cabin in the snow, with rider approaching on horesback (see customer images).
This first re-issue version is now long out of print and a rare collectors piece.
It was made available in 1988 as a budget price CD on the CBS Special Products label, catalogue A21527. A reduced version (head and shoulders) image of Haggard was used, rather than the full length photo on the original (see customer images).
The two most recent re-issues have reverted to the complete 1982 sleeve photo and have the bonus track, as described. This additional recording is sung in a very different tempo from the more traditional version on Haggard's "Christmas Present" from 1973.
This album is available at attractive prices and a decent addition to anybody's Xmas collection.