Classic Christmas: Nat King Cole's The Christmas Song
Over the holidays, we're looking back at some classic Christmas albums taking some track by track and just digging on others.
Originally titled The Magic of Christmas, when it was released in 1963, this collection of Christmas songs was basically cobbled together in support of what many -- myself included -- consider the greatest version of the greatest holiday composition ever recorded, "The Christmas Song."
Cole had recorded the song -- sometimes referred to by it's first line, "Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire" -- three times prior to this one with tremendous success, with this being quintessential version and the first to be recorded in stereo. This is the one you hear on the radio and streaming from the speakers at the mall. It is a transcendant performance that even Mel Torme, who penned the tune, considers the best ever of his song.
But, this album has some other very good versions of holiday classics, mostly carols like "Silent Night," "O Holy Night" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." In fact, the only songs on the record that are not traditional carols are "The Christmas Song," which replaced "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" on the first release of the record (it was added back to the album on the 2009 digitally re-mastered version) and "Caroling Caroling," probably the one other song you'll immediately recognize when you hear the lyric, "Ding, dong, ding, dong, Christmas bells are ringing."
The gentle smoothness of Cole's voice is evident on every song, but none so much as "The Christmas Song," and he knew it. Outside of "Unforgettable," which got a restart when the original tracks were edited to include his daughter Natalie Cole's voice as a duet in 1991, how many Cole classics can you name off the top of your head?
While he may have been a soulful R&B singer, he will always be best known as the guy that sung "The Christmas Song," and we're pretty sure that is just fine.
Check out previous classic Christmas album recaps:
Elvis Presley - Elvis' Christmas Album
Perry Como - The Perry Como Christmas Album
Bing Crosby - White Christmas
Charles Brown - Merry Christmas Baby
Johnny Mathis - Merry Christmas
Andy Williams - The Andy Williams Christmas Album
Phil Spector - A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records
Frank Sinatra - A Jolly Christmas fro Frank Sinatra
The Carpenters - Christmas Portrait
Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Charlie Brown Christmas
George Winston - December
Various Artists - A Very Special Christmas
Mel Torme - Christmas Songs