Following previous holiday-themed compilations, Bear Family Records have released an album of swing and R&B themed festive tunes.
This year’s collection is packed full of big names and a delightful mixture of Christmas standards and more novel numbers. Having said that, there is less novelty here than some of Bear Family’s other Christmas albums, such as Yulesville, which we reviewed last year.
There is much about Headin’ for the Christmas Ball to like. With many up-tempo swing numbers, it is evocative of holidays gone by. Bringing to mind favourite seasonal movies from generations past, by track number 8 we definitely know what we are in for. Big bands and crooners abound, with names such as The Andrews Sisters, Benny Goodman, and Louis Prima.
A nice touch is including Cary Grant’s Christmas Lullaby, inspired by his young daughter, which illustrates a cozy mood of old-time entertainment. When we are looking for accompaniments to aid the festive mood, we tend towards content from yesteryear to bring that tradition that is synonymous with this time of year. That performance is so tender, around the middle of the track listing, it heartens the listener and makes the following numbers feel all the more Christmassy.
Much here is light yet rich, a blend that offers a balanced feel. Some tracks outstay their welcome slightly. Though there is enough variety to keep the listening experience from getting monotonous. However, overall it feels cohesive, perhaps because there isn’t too much novelty and most of the songs all feel as if they come from a similar mould. I find the first half of the album is perhaps more in the swing mode, then after track 17, we lean a little further towards R&B and other genres’ flavours. On the whole, though, everything works well together.
Most tracks have a very warm and velvety sound, with excellent clarity. It sounds as if these recordings have been taken from quality sources. The lush sounding reproduction adds to the Christmas mood created by this collection of material.
A Little Something Extra…
As is usually the case with Bear Family Records releases, this compilation is accompanied by an extensive booklet containing biographical information on each artist and/or track. The quality of the information and images included is as high-quality as we have come to expect from Bear Family. This is a nice companion to the listening experience.
- Georgie Auld & His Orchestra feat. Bill Darnel – Christmas Ball.
- Louis Prima & His Orchestra – Shake Hands With Santa Claus
- Bill Bronson’s Overtones w/. Tommy Ferguson’s Trio – Christmas Is On Its Way
- Roy Milton & His Solid Senders – Christmas Time Blues
- Jo Stafford – Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
- Knuckles O’Toole & The Brigadiers – Jingle Bells
- The Andrews Sisters – Jing-A-Ling, Jing-A-Ling
- Benny Goodman & His Orchestra feat. Peggy Lee – Winter Weather
- George Auld & His Orchestra feat. Bill Darnel – It Ain’t Snowin’ Outside
- Leroy Anderson & His “Pops” Concert Orchestra – Sleigh Ride
- Art Mooney & His Orchestra – The Christmas Choo Choo Train
- Lawrence Welk’s Little Band Feat. Janet, Brian, Cubby & The Lennon Sisters.
- Barry Gordon – Zoomah, The Santa Claus From Mars
- Fred Waring & The Pennsylvanians with The Glee Club – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
- Dorothy Collins – Mister Santa (Christmas Version of ‘Mister Sandman’)
- Cary Grant – Christmas Lullaby
- Mickey Rooney – Susie The Snow Girl
- Kay Martin & Her Body Guards – Come On Santa, Let’s Have A Ball
- Kay Martin & Her Body Guards – Santa’s Doing The Horizontal Twist
- Dinah Washington – Ole! Santa
- Ramsey Lewis Trio – Christmas Blues
- Dave King & The Keynotes & Roland Shaw Orchestra – Hotta Chocolata
- Tina Robin – Winter Wonderland Cha Cha
- The Enchanters – Mambo, Santa, Mambo
- The Surfers – Here Comes Santa Claus In A Red Canoe
- Louis Armstrong – Christmas In New Orleans
- Noel Chiboust El Son Orchestre feat. Django Reinhardt – Noel Blues
- Jerry Lewis – I’ve Had A Very Merry Christmas
- Johnny Otis & His Orchestra feat. Big Jay McNeely – Happy New Year Baby
- Ramsey Lewis Trio – What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve
- Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians – Auld Lang Syne.
The overall swing vibe of this compilation gives it a lovely old-fashioned Christmas feeling. It creates a very welcome festive mood. Much like another Bear Family Records seasonal release, Christmas on the Range, Headin’ for the Christmas Ball is a worthwhile addition to your holiday experience.