Louis Finally Gets His Christmas Album
what a wonderful world
Louis Armstrong, of all popular well-loved musicians of good cheer, never did release a Christmas album—until this one was recently cobbled together by some smart folks at Verve/UMe.
How smart? It's Top 10 across multiple November 26th Billboard charts. This is kind of wild but: it came in at No. 9 on the Top Holiday Albums chart and launches in the top 10 on Jazz Albums (No. 4), Traditional Jazz Albums (No. 4), Top Album Sales (No. 7), Top Current Album Sales (No. 6) and Vinyl Albums (No. 7). It debuted at No. 122 on the Billboard 200, becoming Armstrong’s highest charting album since Hello Dolly spent six weeks at No. 1 in 1964.
How crazy great is that? Too bad Louis missed this and legal weed. He was quite the toker. This compilation includes all of what was on a 1957 Brunswick EP titled Armstrong As Santa Claus— "White Christmas", "Christmas in New Orleans," "Winter Wonderland" and "Christmas Night in Harlem" and takes as its cover that EP's now looking wonderfully retro.
Also here are previously released songs "Cool Yule", "Winter Wonderland", "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" (featuring Ella Fitzgerald), "Zat You, Santa Claus?", "White Christmas", "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (featuring Velma Middleton), "Moments to Remember" and "What A Wonderful World". Here on record for the first time is Armstrong reading Samuel Clement Moore's poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas", otherwise known as "The Night Before Christmas".
According to the annotation, Armstrong, alone in his den on February 26th 1971 and not doing well (he passed away July 6th, 1971) read it twice into his tape recorder (he had, among others, a nice pair of Tandbergs). For this release pianist Sullivan Fortner composed and performed a newly recorded accompanying track. Armstrong's reading is so good, you'd think there was an audience.
One can't be sure what the producers expected when they released this record earlier this year on red vinyl, picture disc, etc. or whether or not they realized how politically incorrect "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is now considered (taken from a television show), though this version is as pure and innocent as can be, but the record has obviously struck the fancy of people starved for the joy for living Louis had and communicated (and communicates) through his music. The success of this record is a genuine Christmas miracle.
Before Louis's poem reading is sumptuous stereo version of "What A Wonderful World" you'll miss if you hit your "mono" button.