>> The Merriest Time Of The Year (2009)

Artist: Various

Album: The Merriest Time of the Year

Genre: Holiday

Label: Capitol

Tracks: 15

Type: Digital

Release Date: December 1, 2009

Rating: 3.20 (out of 4.00)

Grade: B

It’s that time of year again, when colored lights dangle from roofs, giant Santas and reindeer pop up on lawns, and frantic parents try to track down the last Zhu Zhu pet for their kids.  It’s also a time for kicking back in front of a glistening ornament-laden tree next to a roaring fire with a sugar cookie and a cup of hot chocolate.  Ah, Christmas.  To complete the picture, you need just the right music and Capitol Records thinks it has the solution in their digital-only compilation The Merriest Time of the Year.

Standards abound in The Merriest Time of the Year: Nat King Cole’s version of “Joy to the World” is lovely and I adore Celtic Woman’s sweet take on “O Holy Night.”  “Silent Night,” as sung by Sinead O’Connor is pretty enough but surprisingly flat.  Kenny Rogers sings a Muzak-inspired version of “White Christmas,” but Ella Fitzgerald’s gorgeous vocals on “Hark the Herald Angels Sing more than make up for it.  My favorite carol of all time, “Carol of the Bells,” is wonderfully sung by Deana Carter with some interesting (if non-traditional) and perfectly fitting instrumentation.  I’ve never been a big fan of “Jingle Bell Rock” and Wayne Newton doesn’t help, but somehow I do like Johnny Mercer singing “Jingle Bells.”  I think it’s just corny enough to be fun.

Whenever I hear The Beach Boys singing “Little Saint Nick,” I get an image of Santa on a surfboard, and I smile every time, so I’m glad it was included.  I wish Peggy Lee’s “Happy Holiday” had been left out because it always grates on my nerves, but I still love Dean Martin singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”  Bing Crosby, in fine form, tells the story of “Frosty the Snowman” and Kay Starr gets Santa grooving with “The Man with the Bag.”  Lou Rawls delivers a terrific bluesy “Merry Christmas, Baby” and Dave Koz sends his saxophone into melancholy overdrive in the beautiful and bittersweet “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

While my usual taste in Christmas music runs more in the You Sleigh Me vein, I still love hearing the standards sung by old-school artists, and The Merriest Time of Year has some great ones.  It also has a few misses and snubbing “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Do You Hear What I Hear” is darn near unforgiveable, but if you’re looking for a compilation the whole family will be able to listen to peacefully, this is a good bet.

Track List:
Joy to the World—Nat King Cole
Happy Holiday—Peggy Lee
Baby, It’s Cold Outside—Dean Martin
White Christmas—Kenny Rogers
Frosty the Snowman—Bing Crosby
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing—Ella Fitzgerald
Jingle Bells—Johnny Mercer
Little Saint Nick (Single Version) (Mono)—The Beach Boys
O Holy Night—Celtic Woman
Merry Christmas, Baby—Lou Rawls
Carol of the Bells—Deana Carter
Jingle Bell Rock—Wayne Newton
(Everybody’s Waitin’ For) The Man with the Bag (Thunderball Mix)—Kay Starr
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas—Dave Koz
Silent Night—Sinead O’Connor


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