Album Of The Week - Andy Williams - The Andy Williams Christmas Album
For our final festive album column this year, it only felt right to roll back the years once again to one of the hallmarks of Christmas, Andy Williams and The Andy Williams Christmas Album.
Much like Dean Martin from a couple of weeks back, Andy Williams is a mainstay during this holiday season, and we're all the more welcome for it. This album really is a showcase of one of music's all-time greats and there's no finer example of it than this record.
White Christmas gets us off the mark in a relaxed and classic manner, letting Williams' smooth vocal drive the song with minimal effort behind him. It harks back to a time when you didn't need such erratic vocals or a production masterworks to make something amazing; all you needed was a silky-smooth vocalist and a little bit of backing magic. Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season is one of Andy Williams' signature Christmas songs and one that's guaranteed to make you smile at this time of year. Once again, it's a rather rhythmic number, which at just over two-and-a-half minutes, captures the true spirit of Christmas with a joyful set of bells only helping the song along.
The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) is yet another Christmas staple that Williams really makes his own. It's a fantastic song anyways, and Williams' crooning vocal leaves his seal of approval upon every note. Despite the short length once again, it's one of the album's standouts, especially with the power that Williams' vocal carries. It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year is a signature Christmas song, and it's not one that I'll ever get bored of hearing. It's perhaps Andy Williams' most recognisable Christmas songs, being featured on all eight Christmas albums he'd go on to release. With its mentions of "scary ghost stories" , you'd think something would seem amiss from his songwriters. However, telling ghost stories was popular during Victorian England and to many, it wasn't Christmas until they'd been frightened on Christmas Eve. Nonetheless, it's one of my favourite Christmas songs bar none and it's easy to see why - Williams' vocal carries the song to new heights, whilst its lyrical content is guaranteed to be as relatable as it gets at this time of year. It's just irresistible.
A Song And A Christmas Tree (The Twelve Days Of Christmas) is an altered version of the classic Twelve Days Of Christmas, and utilises typical decorations instead of partridges, geese and gold rings. It's a nice, relaxed version of one of Christmas' more communal songs and the harmonisation on this particular rendition really is something to be proud of. Kay Thompson's Jingle Bells speeds things up a fair bit and puts a different spin on another Christmas classic. It's a fair bit different in sound, and is rather swinging and groovy, it must be said, but does work rather well as a good inclusion on this album.
The First Noel gets us started on the latter half of this sterling record, returning to a more traditional selection of Christmas songs. Backed by a choir and strings, it's what we might associate with the festivities of old, and there's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes we need little bits of tradition to stop us going completely insane. O Holy Night continues in the same vein, this time with less of a backing that allows Williams' vocal to flourish beautifully. There's just something about this particular combination of song and singer that make it a truly magical number.
Away In A Manger makes use of another traditional Christmas carol, using a choir throughout the song to bring out the true essence of the song beautifully. It really brings out the best in Williams' voice, demonstrating a more delicate touch than previous songs, which could be argued is something you don't see in many artists these days. Sweet Little Jesus Boy brings out a more much emotional Williams, with a delicate lullaby adding something a little different to this fantastic album. It showcases the sheer power behind Williams' voice in parts, as well as his levels of composure and finesse in front of a microphone.
The Little Drummer Boy acts as one of two fantastic closers to this album full of Christmas classics. With a child's choir behind him, Williams does this Christmas staple justice, allowing the combination of vocals and light drums to drive this song brilliantly. You've got to hand it to the compilers of this album that they've picked some fantastic songs. Rounding off the album in a rather beautiful way is Andy Williams' ethereal cover of Silent Night, Holy Night that, much like Dean Martin a couple of weeks ago, lets their vocal do the talking. It's one of the album's best songs, with a little twinkling xylophone in the background adding that little bit of Christmas magic that we also desperately need at this time of year.
There's no doubt that Andy Williams will go down in history as one of music's all-time greats. With a voice as smooth as melted chocolate, this really is one of Christmas' greatest collections of music, and one that ought to be treasured for as long as time will allow.
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More musical magnificence to come next week!