|Les Brown and a young Doris Day|
Some of the tracks included are the expected holiday evergreens, such as "White Christmas" (by Harry James, with a fine vocal by Marion Morgan), "Jingle Bells" (a 1962 recording by the Ellington band arranged by his son Mercer Ellington, one of the absolute highlights of the collection), and "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (in a Sammy Kaye version that is the perfect synthesis of sweetness and corn). Kay Kyser shows both sides of the sound of his very popular outfit here: first, the band has fun with the catchy "Hello, Mr. Kringle," complete with a contribution from the inimitable Ish Kabibble; then, Harry Babbitt shows off his crooning wares on the beautiful "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" Woody Herman gives us an excitingly swinging "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" and Harry James takes us on a Latin American trip on the rare "Brazilian Sleigh Bells." It soon becomes clear that not all the songs actually refer to Christmas, but the compilation also features its share of winter songs, such as Benny Goodman's "Winter Weather" (Art Lund and Peggy Lee provide the vocals), Eddy Duchin's "When Winter Comes," and Les Brown's lovely "Sleigh Ride in July" (with Gordon Drake handling the vocal chorus). Brown's Band of Renown also offers "When You Trim Your Christmas Tree," a lesser-known gem featuring vocalist Jack Haskell, and puts the spotlight on Doris Day on a magnificent reading of Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song." This is undoubtedly the place to start for anyone who would like to infuse some solid swing into the holiday season.