Christmas Music Playlists with Harry Belafonte Songs
It's The Best Day-O The Year
Anyone who has had a career as long as Harry Belafonte is likely to have moved with the times and styles within an industry that is known for not standing still. So Harry Belafonte’s range has extended from Calypso to Pop and Gospel and along the way he is known to have been quite partial to Holiday music too. And at aged 31 Belafonte gave Christmas fans what they were waiting for in 1958’s 'To Wish You a Merry Christmas'. What is most striking about this album is the choice of tracks which are for the large part not that well known. Each of the 12 numbers is religiously themed but Belafonte's inviting vocals ensure that it never comes across as preachy. Johnny Cash’s wife sister Anita Carter wrote several of the tracks with Cash’s own ‘I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day’ also appearing. With Belafonte vocals at the helm ‘To Wish You a Merry Christmas’ is a quiet and studied affair and has that classic old timey Christmas record feel about it. Chords are softly plucked, backing vocals are tenderly dispatched and on many occasions Belafonte’s works sounds like the folksiest festive release of the 50’s. ‘Mary, Mary’ is especially this way inclined, creating a haunting presence throughout.
‘To Wish You a Merry Christmas’ has moments of levity thankfully with Belafonte sounding effortlessly chipper on his rendition of children’s favourite ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. ‘Christmas Is Coming’ also has a spring in its step but for the most part it is the sacred tunes like ‘The Gifts They Gave’ that pervade. 'To Wish You A Merry Christmas' has been reissued on several occasions, most memorably in 1962 when Belafonte’s classic take on 'Mary's Boy Child' was added. The album appeared again in 1976 with different artwork, a new title in 'Belafonte's Christmas' and with Side A (this was in an era of vinyl releases where albums had two sides) switched with Side B and vice versa.
In 1987, almost 30 years after its initial release, 'To Wish You a Merry Christmas' was reissued again but this time it came fully fitted with a stereo sound to replace the original mono sound. In 2001 'Belafonte's Christmas' appeared again, this time with each of its tracks remastered and the addition of 5 new tracks (‘Goin' Down Jordan’, ‘Amen’, ‘Glory Manger’, ‘The Baby Boy’ and ‘Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair)’) which were not all festive related but carried a religious message all the same.Author: Kevin