Without doing the appropriate research I am going to assume this was the first “rock and roll” Christmas album. There had been Christmas albums ever since the invention of the format but, until Elvis, they were more the purview of Bing Crosby than rock and roll performers.
I’m torn about this:
- Though I have nostalgia for some of these Christmas songs like anyone raised in a vaguely Christian family, I also do not find myself ever desiring to listen to Christmas music (unless there’s a dose of comedy). There’s something about Christmas music – the over-the-top sentiment, the easy familiarity, the safe pseudo-universalism of the messages – that usually puts me off.
- Also, it’s a Christmas album from October, for marketing and sales reasons (i.e. they wanted you to have more than two months to purchase this record for your loved one) which feels crass.
- And it’s pretty short.
- And a couple of other things: It’s pretty tame rock and roll and “gospel” and it features those terrible super white backing vocals that infected so much rock and roll, rhythm and blues and “gospel” made for white people back then.
- Many of these performances are pretty damn iconic, some of them definitive.
- And when they’re not necessarily definitive performances of Christmas standards, they’re at least idiosyncratic. I might criticize Elvis for softening his sound to broaden his appeal, but I can’t criticize him for his individual interpretations of these songs which are original and very, very much “Elvis.”
As Christmas albums go, you could do a lot worse.
- “Santa Claus Is Back in Town” by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
- “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin
- “Here Comes Santa Claus” by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman
- “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Kim Gannon, Walter Kent and Buck Ram
- “Blue Christmas” by Billy Hayes and Jay Johnson
- “Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me)” by Aaron Schroeder and Claude Demetrius
- “O Little Town of Bethlehem” by Phillips Brooks and Lewis Redner (Arranged by Elvis Presley)
- “Silent Night” Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber (Arranged by Elvis Presley)
- “(There’ll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me)” by Thomas A. Dorsey
- 4. “I Believe” by Ervin Drake, Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl and Al Stillman
- “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” by Thomas A. Dorsey
- “It Is No Secret (What God Can Do)” by Stuart Hamblen