Thursday, December 9, 2010

christmas albums: to wish you a merry christmas - harry belafonte

Kids' minds work in mysterious ways and growing up hearing Harry Belafonte sing always reminded me of my grandfather Perry.  Now, I should explain that except for the occasional hymn when he was leading a Sunday service, I rarely heard my grandfather sing.  But in my mind at least Harry's elegant, understated and smooth singing was similar in tone and cadence to my softspoken grandfather.  So to me, there was always something extra-comforting about To Wish You a Merry Christmas.

The 1958 album mixed standards and introduced several new classics to the Christmas song book.  Notably it marked the first appearance of "Mary's Boy Child" and with all due respect to the deservedly well-loved Boney M version, I'd argue that Harry Belafonte's is the definitive recording.   And the closing track on the album is quite possibly my favourite recording of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.  

The spare instrumentation make this the perfect soundtrack for late Christmas Eve; perfect in combination with falling snow, candlelight and reflection.

In this playlist I've also included Goin' Down Jordan which was one of five new tracks added to the 2001 re-issue.  It's got quite a different sound from the original album but it's so joyful I had to share it - just try to keep from smiling around 1:30.

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