There are many arguments to be made about music, but one that I doubt anyone could actually win is the one that goes, "There was someone in music at some point cooler than Frank Sinatra." Trying to make that argument is like trying to say Kobe was better than Michael. Sure, you can say it, but that won't make it true.
When it comes to Sinatra -- even the older, Vegas model -- virtually everything he did just reeked of awesome and A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra was no exception. Seriously, who else could sing the words, "Oh, by gosh by golly, it's time for mistletoe and holly" and not sound like a complete dork? Frank, that's who.
Jolly was Sinatra's first Christmas record released in 1953 during his vaunted years on Capitol Records. It features the Ralph Brewster Singers and some of the finest ensemble arrangements you'll find on any vocal standards record ever made. The bonus tracks that came with the CD release of Jolly included arrangements from the legendary Nelson Riddle.
For a time, the record was re-packaged with a Christmas tree ornament on the cover and simply titled The Sinatra Christmas Album but the full cover was eventually restored and, in 2010, a vinyl pressing was released.
The thing about Sinatra is that his deep, powerful baritone gives a certain gravitas to everything he sings. This is evident on the more traditional carols on the record including "Silent Night," "Adeste Fideles" and his stirring rendition of "O Holy Night." But, for all the seriousness, he still knows how to swing and his classic arrangement of "Jingle Bells" is a perfect example as is the one almost giddy original on the album "Mistletoe and Holly."
I still think his versions of "White Christmas" and "A Christmas Song" are easily comparable to Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, respectively, and his version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is my all time favorite and arguable the best ever.
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This is, at times, a pretty weighty record. It doesn't shy away from carols, which is something many albums do to avoid the more solemn, church-y vibe that comes with them. On this album, however, they just take on a rich, reverent tone that isn't heavy or boring and the wartime material is appropriately mournful without being overwrought. Any artist who wants to make a great Christmas album should set the bar here and hope to come close to it. This was clearly a carefully crafted record -- not just some throwaway bunch of Christmas ditties -- and, on it, Sinatra is as good as ever... and just as cool.
Check out previous classic Christmas album recaps: