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Andy Williams is one of the big voices that are eternally associated with the season of goodwill and he has been dubbed 'Mr. Christmas' by his large army of fans. And for good reason as he recorded numerous Christmas songs and over half a dozen Christmas albums over a career that stretched across 6 decades. His first brush with the season came as he was starting out as a solo artist. 'Christmas Is A Feeling In Your Heart' and 'The Wind, The Sand and The Star' were both released in time for Christmas 1955. Both were endearing produced with Williams tell-tale warmth for the season. It would be a few years before Williams got his Christmas jumper back on again but it was worth the wait as 1963 saw the arrival of the seminal 'The Andy Williams Christmas Album'. Featuring his most famous Christmas song 'It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year' it would become the touchstone for Christmas albums through the ages. The album also spawned Williams' version of 'White Christmas' which earned him the Christmas number one spot during December 1963. As the album was released on vinyl the songs were neatly divided into secular on side one and religious on side two. Besides the obvious highlights there were also sterling renditions of ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘The Little Drummer Boy’.
Given the unbridled success of his first Christmas album it was somewhat inevitable that Andy Williams would record another holiday record and 'Merry Christmas' duly arrived in time for Christmas 1965. Williams switched tact a little to focus more on contemporary numbers rather than the traditional stable of Christmas songs. And he showed that was he was adept at riding the zeitgeist as he offered a rousing rendition of 'My Favourite Things' which had featured on the most popular movie of the time 'The Sound of Music'. 'Do You Hear What I Hear?' was the LP's main single, a slightly odd choice given its restrained nature but it was still a lovely ode to the origins of the season.
Prior to going it alone Andy Williams had performed and recorded with his brothers so it wasn't too much of a leap for the 4 siblings to put out a Christmas record together. 'Christmas with Andy Williams and The Williams Brothers' came out in 1970 and was distinguished by their genuinely warm vocal exchanges. ‘It’s The Holiday Season’ was a particular highlight with the foursome giddily harmonising throughout the classic standard. Also of note was the album’s final track, an epic medley which took in a whole host of Christmas favourites including 'The First Noel', 'Caroling, Caroling' and a euphoric presentation of 'Joy To The World' .
After the uplifting nature of the Williams' brother Christmas album Andy next turned his seasonal attention to an collection of mostly religious songs and carols. Apart from title track 'Christmas Present' this softly focused 1974 album was a laidback affair. Williams gave hymns and carols such as 'Angels We Have Heard On High', 'Ave Marie' and 'What Child Is This? the reverential treatment they deserved. There would be a gap of a decade and half before Andy Williams produced another Christmas LP. 1990's 'I Still Believe In Santa Claus' proved he had lost none of the Christmas spirit however as he moved away from the overtly religious theme of 'Christmas Present' to much more contemporary efforts including a rendition of John Lennon's 'Happy Xmas (War is Over). There were also 2 original songs written especially for the album, the exceedingly summer sounding 'My Christmas Vow' and the slightly anaemic 'Christmas Needs Love to Be Christmas'.
Andy continued throughout the 90’s as he had started out with 3 Christmas albums following in quick succession. 1994's 'The New Andy Williams Christmas Album' differed from his previous releases as it was a live recording of a Christmas show he put on at his own Moon River Theatre (so named after Williams signature song 'Moon River') in the shadow of the Ozark mountains, Missouri. The songs featured were beloved Christmas favourites from his back catalogue including his most famous Christmas number 'It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year'.
Christmas 1995 saw the release of another new Christmas album, but this time it was recorded from the comfortable surrounds of a studio. 'We Need A Little Christmas' (and boy did Andy know that) was a typical holiday release from Andy as he offered up new arrangements for some of his best love Christmas songs. He also recorded several tracks for the first time including the little known jazzy 'Jolly Old Saint Nicholas' with Williams impressively turning into a lounge lizard. Proving he had lost none of his appeal 'We Need A Little Christmas' went on to sell almost 1 million copies.
Although it is not really an album of Christmas music per se (it did include 'It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year') 1997's 'It's A Wonderful Christmas' does deserve a mention as it features Andy Williams reading of the short story that inspired the James Stewart classic Christmas move 'It's A Wonderful Life'. 'The Greatest Gift' is made all the more special with Andy Williams coaxing those precious lines from his golden voice. It would prove to be the last full length Christmas album that Andy Williams recorded but by then he had certainly earned his right to hang up his sleigh bells for good.
There'll be parties for hosting
Andy Williams, It's The Most Wonderful Time...
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There'll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories of
Christmases long, long ago