december 2008

Patti Page
C.A.F. Records
Released 2002

Fifty-four years after her first Top 20 single, Patti Page sounds positively revitalized on this Jon Vezner-produced Christmas album. Vezner, who was married to Kathy Mattea at this time and wrote his wife's landmark hit, "Where've You Been," doesn't need any studio gimmickry to mask a fading voice, because Page has still got it. She was one of the first vocalists to be multi-tracked on records, but she doesn't need that here. Her voice remains pillowy soft and has a husky, warm tone reminiscent of latter-day Rosemary Clooney, and her rhythmic phrasing is at times as beholden to a jazz singer's approach as it is to a pop singer's. So Vezner stays out of the way, supporting Page with acoustic guitars, acoustic piano, a sax on "White Christmas," a clarinet on "Skating With Willie," and assorted synth programs that are kept at a respectable distance so that the vocalist is never subsumed by the arrangements. In other words, it's almost an unplugged album, an approach designed to allow Page to flourish, and so she does. A gently swinging treatment of "Jingle Bells" features a Jimmy McGriff-style organ solo. A vintage tune from the turn of the 20th Century, the aforementioned "I Want To Go Skating with Willie," is a jaunty affair with a bright melody reminiscent of "And The Band Played On" in the midst of an arrangement that sounds timeless and fresh all at once. Page's masterful handling of "Silver Bells" at once evokes the anticipation of Christmas Day and the wonders of the season as piano, bass and a subtle wash of synthesizer offer subtle accompaniment behind her. And that lively combo knocking out "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" gives the old warhorse of a song an invigorating Vince Guaraldi treatment, as Page does her part with a delightful, sassy vocal. Sweet Sounds of Christmas is everything its title suggests, as well as being an impressive showcase of Patti Page's distinctive style at its heartfelt best.—David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
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