The great Andy Williams died a year ago, but he lives on now, in a most timely manner, on Andy Williams—The Complete Christmas Recordings (Real Gone Music), a new two-disc compilation that includes the chart-topping The Andy Williams Christmas Album (1963) and Merry Christmas (1965), along with his 1974 album Christmas Present.
Besides the holiday hit singles “White Christmas” and “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and Williams’ definitive versions of "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" and "The Bells Of St. Mary's," the set also includes his Columbia single “Ave Maria,” unreleased Spanish and Italian-language versions of “White Christmas,” and the 1955 single of “Christmas Is A Feeling in Your Heart/The Wind, The Sand And The Star”--the first two songs that he recorded for Cadence Records, in 1955.
All in all, the 42 tracks cover all the Christmas bases, with Williams showing his signature vocal precision and comforting sincerity on “Away In A Manger,” for instance, and bringing understated power to the spiritual-like “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” a lively jazz touch to “Sleigh Ride,” and simple beauty to “My Favorite Things.”
“Every generation has its artists,” says the reissue’s liner note writer John Alexander. “For my parents it was Perry Como and Bing Crosby, but for me, as a little boy, it was Andy Williams: I’d watch him on TV and knew all his Christmas songs, which is why this project was so meaningful to me.”
As senior music editor and producer for the now defunct Reader’s Digest music division, Alexander regularly included Williams in the label’s pop music compilations, and produced a comprehensive three-CD set of Williams’ Christmas and inspirational songs just before it shut down.
“His voice really distinguished him,” says Alexander, “that and his enthusiasm. And he really embodied Christmas: When he sang ‘It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,’ you bought it. That was one of his greatest attributes.”
Even though “everyone has done them,” Alexander says of Williams’ Christmas repertoire, “his versions don’t leave you.”
“He was able to make every song his own,” adds Alexander. “That’s why his Christmas singles charted: People tapped into his exuberance. His voice was just amazing, and he always seemed eternally young. One of the last of the iconic singers of his generation.”
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