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For many Perry Como is such a vital constituent of the Christmas celebrations that taking away his music would be akin to leaving the tree boxed up in the attic along with fairy lights and tinsel. Pretty much unthinkable then that one of the great Christmas voices doesn’t make at least one appearance over the 12 days each year. Como was a crooner in the mould of Bing Crosby and cast his Christmas legend over 3 Christmas albums, 2 of which were studio recordings and one which was a recording of a live concert he did late into his career.
Perry Como’s debut Christmas, ‘Season’s Greetings from Perry Como’, was released in 1959 and is the archetypal Como record. Opening with one of this signature Christmas songs ‘(There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays’ this was in fact the second time Como had recorded the Al Stillman/Robert Allen composition as it had previously been released as a single in 1954. ‘(There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays’ is a pretty individualistic tune as it skitters between a range of momentums while Como offers the fireside vocals. And much of the traditional favourites on ‘Season’ Greetings’ are marked by Como’s idiosyncratic delivery. So within a few words of, say, ‘Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer’ you know it is Perry at the controls. The orchestral backing while certainly impressive is held in check for the most part, offering short but expertly tailored nuances that give Como’s renditions their own verve. There are plenty of highlights with ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ perhaps the album’s highpoint as the lush brass opening is matched by Como’s devotion and the Ray Charles Singers atmospheric background vocals. The album closes with a 10 minute medley with Como’s spoken words telling the story of the birth of Jesus while at the same time linking half a dozen carefully chosen carols. It’s Christmas like we all remember with ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’, ‘The First Noel’, ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ and ‘Silent Night’ amongst the standards that wholesomely completes Perry’s story of the nativity.
It would be almost a decade before Perry Como’s second Christmas album made an appearance. 1968’s ‘The Perry Como Christmas Album’ again featured the Ray Charles Singers on backing vocals and this time there was a reliance of lesser known Christmas songs such as ‘Christmas Eve’, ‘Christ is Born’ and ‘Toyland’ which had originally appeared on a 1961 Disney movie named ‘Babes In Toyland’. Como showed his dedication when after hearing the album decided it was not good enough and had the whole thing re-recorded. The results left us with probably the quintessential Perry Como festive release with the crooner's stamp all over classics such as ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’, ‘Silver Bells’ and an updated version of his ‘There Is No Christmas Like a Home Christmas’ which Como had originally released almost 2 decades earlier as a single. Sounding all the world like a country Jim Reeves ‘There Is No Christmas Like a Home Christmas’ has a unique olde world charm and is perhaps the song that most people associate with Como over the holidays.
1994’s ‘Perry Como's Christmas Concert’ (recorded in December 1993) was not only Perry’s final Christmas album it was also the last album of his career. Como, by then 81 years old, had been unwell in the lead up to the live recording which took place in Dublin and there were signs of his ill-health throughout the performance. But with a hugely appreciative audience cheering him on and Como’s famed application to the cause the album turned out pretty well. As you’d expect given the location there was plenty of blarney on show like ‘If You're Irish Come Into The Parlour’ and ‘A Little Bit of Ireland’ but this was a celebration of Perry Como’s contribution to Christmas. So all his festive favourites were given an airing including audience favourite ‘Ave Maria’, which was one of the closing songs in the set. ‘Perry Como's Christmas Concert’ was the final stop on what had been a long standing series of TV Christmas shows over the years that had begun way back in 1963 when Como had been given permission to record several Christmas carols in the Vatican (the first time the inner sanctum of the institution had been filmed). Over the years he had recorded his Christmas show in locations such as diverse as Mexico, the U.S., France, Canada and Israel.
Oh! There's no place like home for the holidays, 'Cause no matter how far away you roam, When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze, For the holidays you can't beat home sweet home!