Mel Torme holds a special place in the hearts of Gen Xers because of his re-occurring appearance on Night Court and his classic guest stint on Seinfeld. In fact, Torme put in quite a bit of time on TV and in films despite the fact that his main gig was as a singer and composer. Torme was old Hollywood.
What people often don't realize, however, is that Torme co-wrote what is widely considered the most beloved Christmas song of all time. Nat King Cole's version of Torme's "A Christmas Song" is an all time classic and one of the most well recognized tunes ever, Christmas or otherwise.
Back in 1992, when those aforementioned Gen Xers were in college, in the throes of grunge music, Torme released what would be one of his last studio recordings, a holiday album simply called Christmas Songs. The 16-song heavily orchestrated throwback featured classic holiday tunes including his most famous composition.
This gem, sadly, has never rated very high on most Christmas must listen lists. It doesn't even show up all that often on radio playlists during the holidays, which is unfortunate given the quality of the recording and the old school orchestral approach that gave it the feel of something out of the 40s rather than the 90s. Nelson Riddle would've been proud.
Of course, it gets corny at times. What Christmas record doesn't? We don't believe in irony when it comes to Christmas anyway. When the Velvet Fog gently croons the Charlie Brown Christmas song "Christmastime is Here" or rollicks through his version of "Sleigh Ride," the only thing we feel is the desire to "pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie."
But, if you're hell bent on finding something ironic about Christmas besides that hideous reindeer sweater you trot out every year because you think it's funny, try this on: Torme was Jewish.
His silky baritone was not nearly as appreciated as it could have been, but the legacy Torme left with "The Christmas Song" should suffice. And, if you like holiday tunes, Christmas Songs is one to stuff in your stocking this year.