The Christmas Song

Nat King Cole

Capitol, 1962

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


I will admit it; I dislike most modern Christmas music. There seems to be very little Christmas-related substantial content in them; Mariah Carey’s lyrics, say, are fluffy and insubstantial. Same with “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” “Last Christmas”—they’re not really about the holiday, they’re about people doing things.

Despite (or perhaps because of) my faith, I want my Christmas music to have substance. I like carols in Latin, sung by boys’ choirs; I want brass ensembles and classic vocals.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Then there’s the matter of memory…

We had three Christmas albums in heavy rotation growing up, each of which we had multiple versions of over the years. There was Glen Campbell, Jimmy Dean, and the one I’m focusing on today, Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song.

Music, to a limited extent, allows time travel. When I listen to The Christmas Song, I’m not a 55-year-old man who is currently defeated by a new artificial Christmas tree. Instead, I’m 12, or 9, or 6—my grandmother is still alive making rum balls, my great-grandmother is making the killer cheese spread whose secret died with her, and my mother is—well, my mother is sane, which didn’t happen very often but did, sometimes, around her birthday, Christmas Eve. Cole’s music lets me remember the good about her, instead of the—the other stuff.

It doesn’t hurt that this album is absolutely killer. Cole was at his best; on songs like “Deck The Halls,” “Adeste Fideles,” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” his voice is bright and melodic, fitting in well with the brass-heavy arrangements behind him.

He has softer moments as well. “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” and “O Holy Night” are heartbreakingly beautiful. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is drenched in pizzicato strings. And “A Cradle In Bethlehem” is simply the most beautiful Yuletide song ever recorded.

Let Wham! and Brenda Lee go by the wayside for a while. Get yourself a drink, sit by the fire (or a recorded version thereof), and let Cole’s golden voice take you to another place, when Black Friday was just a memory and there would be snow on Christmas—accompanied by rum balls and cheese spread.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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