Friday, December 30, 2016
That Christmas Feeling - Glen Campbell
Capitol ST 2978
I bought this a couple of years ago when I became interested in Campbell after seeing him perform at the Hollywood Bowl. It turned out to be a dud. Campbell sings fine but the arrangements by Al de Lory are sappy and uninspired. There is a mix of Christmas classics and newer songs including two brand new ones by the redoubtable team of Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen. Unfortunately they are among the worst tracks on the album. "Christmas is for Children" is tediously slow and a bit inane in its description of adults becoming kids again on Christmas day. "It Must Be Getting Close to Christmas" is a little better although I hate the heavy-handed strings and the choir. The song is about how children behave better as Christmas draws near. The melody is more lively and memorable although the song is never going to compete with the classic Christmas carols. My least favorite track is Howlett Smith's "Little Altar Boy" which was a minor hit for Vic Dana in 1961. It is a maudlin song about a guy asking an altar boy for help in finding redemption from God. The song suggests that altar boys are pure and holy, which as a former altar boy myself, I think is a dubious assertion. The song is not really a Christmas song and I loathe it although Campbell sings it with a lot of feeling which is the only thing that makes it bearable for me. "There's No Place Like Home" isn't a Christmas song either, but Sammy Cahn wrote some new lyrics to make it one. I hate the schmaltzy arrangement but I can't deny that Campbell sings it beautifully. The standards are better but still underwhelming. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is probably the best of them. The arrangement is pedestrian but the song suits Campbell pretty well. His performances of "Blue Christmas" and "The Christmas Song" are surprisingly lackluster and pale in comparison to the classic recordings by Elvis and Nat King Cole. I believe Campbell's version of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" is even slower than Bing Crosby's version and sounds lifeless in comparison. I'm unfamiliar with "Christmas Day" by Jimmy Holiday and L. White which has a 1963 copyright. It is a nice song although I'd like it a whole lot better if Campbell sang it at a faster tempo. Predictably the two best tracks are the country songs where Campbell seems most comfortable. Roger Miller's "Old Toy Trains" is easily my favorite track on the album. It is by far the most dynamic and lively performance that Campbell gives on the album. Willie Nelson's "Pretty Paper" is a great song although I prefer Nelson's own versions, especially the one he cut in 1979. Are three good cuts enough to make an album worthwhile? Probably not, especially when there is also a stinker like "Little Altar Boy" on it. I'm not sorry I have it, but I'm not going to suggest you look for it unless you are a big Campbell fan. Recommended for people who don't have many Christmas albums.