A Christmas Compilation From Analogue Productions Spreads Holiday Cheer

Chad Kassem's got a vinyl selling website, a reissue label, a pressing plant and well-oiled licensing deals so what's left to do but a self-produced double vinyl Christmas compilation pressed on red and green?

So that's what Mr. Kassem has done here. You could argue that doing one on vinyl really isn't necessary and that a digital stream is more than sufficient since more likely than not you'll be listening as background music to accompany your holiday festivities, but then you could also say the same thing about having a fire in your fireplace given that your home probably has a perfectly adequate heating system.

There's something comforting about a Christmas fireplace (though on the east coast it looks to be a ridiculously balmy and snow-free Christmas) and there's also something equally comforting about Christmas music played back on a turntable— regardless of your religion, though it would have been excellent had Kassem included Robert Smigel's brilliant "Christmastime For the Jews" sung by Ronnie Spector.

Speaking of which, there's also nothing here from Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift For You, but never mind, this is a swell set of well-chosen Christmas tunes smartly sequenced.

The set opens with Nat Cole's classic "The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)" ("Chestnuts roasting on an open fire"), co-written by Mel Torme, followed by Ray Charles and Betty Carter's frisky, more seasonal than Christmas-themed, "Baby It's Cold Outside", then "Christmas Time Is Here" by Vince Guaraldi Trio from the Charlie Brown Christmas special. The sequencing goes from cute to funky with Charles (not Charlie) Brown's "Please Come Home For Christmas", then Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and the first side ender, Ella Fitzgerald's take on "Sleigh Ride".

Now that's what I call smart sequencing! The other sides are equally well sequenced and packed with great selections you'd want to have collected in one place including Gene Autry's "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer", "The Little Drummer Boy", Aaron Neville's pleasingly warbly "Ave Maria", Leroy Anderson's classic "Sleigh Ride", Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad", Eartha Kitt's suggestive "Santa Baby", Kenny Burrell's foot tapping "Merry Christmas, Baby", Chet Atkins' version of Bobby Helms' classic "Jingle Bell Rock" (a Bill Porter engineered "Living Stereo" sonic gem), as well as Helms' original, and of course the double LP set ends with Bing Crosby's "White Christmas".

Would I have liked for the set to have included "Bing and Bowie's now classic "Little Drummer Boy" duet? Sure. And Adam Sandler's "Chanukah Song" for some balance and levity? Sure! And maybe "Here Comes Susie Snowflake"? Yes. But that's just because I actually once dated Susie Snowflake, who was song writer Sid Tepper's daughter, (who was hardly light as a snowflake). That is true.

The double LP gatefold package is festively presented with inside liner notes by Robert Hull that provide an excellent backgrounder on each of the tunes, written from a music lover's and a record collector's perspective.

Ryan K. Smith mastered the set at Sterling Sound from high resolution digital sources, which, given the nature of a compilation like this makes sense for reasons both financial and technical. Kassem made sure to get high resolution 192/24 or DSD transfers of all tracks except for the Kenny Burrell tune, which is CD resolution 16/44.1K, which is all that's available... and the sound is very good throughout.

Just for the hell of it, I've transferred 45 seconds of the opening tune from both this reissue and from an original Capitol "Rainbow" label copy (SW 1967) so you can compare for yourself, even though now both are digital versions. Of course I'm not saying which is which. You tell me. I think you'll find the answer very interesting!

File 1

File 2

Funny that the opener "The Christmas Song" and the closer "White Christmas" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" were all written by Jews! But I want to assure everyone that you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy this album (or Christmas for that matter---after all he was also Jewish!

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mraudioguru's picture

...cannot be found. File is missing?

mraudioguru's picture

...the files are there now!

Auric G's picture

lol, Adam Sandler? Can I assume that was a nuanced bit from your impeccable comedy routine?

bkelley3rd's picture

Cole 1 has more reverb in the vocals, while the violins are more upfront and tape hiss in the background, while Cole 2 the strings are buried behind the vocals and no tape hiss. Cole 1 is the '67 LP and Cole 2 the new LP.

Michael Fremer's picture
EdAInWestOC's picture

The original pressing is File 2

Michael Fremer's picture
Hosta3's picture

Both files didn't come close to my Capital:The Christmas Song vinyl, R104667, played on an inexpensive Dual 510. The orchestra on both of your files had had a veiled sound. File one was less so than File 2.

Perhaps it's due to my digital setup.

mrl1957's picture

The first one had to be sourced from SW 1967, originally released in 1963 (lots of reverb and spotty distortion). The second one sounds similar to the original stereo release from "The Nat King Cole Story" (1961), which sounded more close-up and much less distorted.

Michael Fremer's picture
I didn't think to check the version on The Nat King Cole story! But 1 is SW 1967
sharris55's picture

Hey Mikey! Looks like there is a choice between numbered edition red/green 180 gram vinyl and non-numbered black 200 gram vinyl. The holiday spirit and collector in me says get the red/green 180 set. The audiophile in me thinks colored vinyl equals noisy and 200 gram has to be better. Thoughts? Need to act fast to get this set in time for the holidays or it sits on the shelf for another year!

Michael Fremer's picture
The red/green is festive, and my sealed copy was dead quiet. Red, green, purple whatever vinyl simply means a different color was added to the PVC, which is transparent to begin with. There's no reason for the "colored" vinyl (it's all colored), to be noisy unless the transparent starting point was noisy!
Shoey's picture

Was wondering the same thing. Went with the 200 gram instead of commercial color. Disappointed about Mikey's sound rating, but was looking for a decent Christmas album. Will be delivered tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

Michael Fremer's picture
I just felt the sonics of the originals are variable so 8 is enough. You won't be disappointed.
Paul Boudreau's picture

What, no "Back Door Santa"? The '68 "A Soul Christmas" compilation LP is still one of my favorites.

timorous's picture

Just as I thought. File 1 is your original LP, which has more reverb on the vocal, and strings are harsh and upfront, possibly more compressed as well. File 2, which is obviously a different mix (though still a mostly fair comaparison), is much nicer, with a warm upfront vocal, and less distorted over all.

I haven't heard this other mix since I first heard the song on the radio many years ago. I have a CD with the reverbed version. There's a point about half-way through (..to see if reindeer really know how to fly..) where Nat gets too close to the mike, and the engineer has to back off the level.

Not sure when it was recorded, probably late fifties. This would be a 3-track recording, most likely. Stereo was still a bit of newfangled thing for popular recordings, it seems to me.

Plantboy's picture

I have noticed on many older recordings across the 60s and 70s from Nat King Cole to John Denver, that the string section seems to be up-front and too loud, even overpowering the vocals, such that at the regular listening volume, the strings become unbearable in what would otherwise be wonderful music. I've noticed this across several genres of music, and was starting to wonder if this is a signature of the sound of decades ago, and if so, what were they thinking?

On these two files, I heard and preferred the reverb of the first, altough I also heard what sounded like some type of distortion, and that took away from the reverb. On the second file, everything sounds more focused and clear and up-close, but you lose that nice reverb. However, you gain an up-close feeling. I prefer the second because of the clarity, and, it sounds intimate like you are actually sitting around the fireplace rather than in a huge concert hall with lots of reverb. So both are good for different reasons but I'd lean toward the second file.

Hats Domino's picture

The second file is the tame and limp Steve Hoffman mix. It has no power or weight. The original mix is distorted and harsh. The only other option for this song is the Bob Norberg remix that has been smothered in Noise Reduction and has the EQs set to stun!