december 2009

Tony Bennett
RPM Records/Columbia/Legacy

This most engaging affair, much of it recorded in London in 1968 locates the interpretive supreme in small combo settings backed by orchestra and also with full choir and orchestra (conducted and arranged by the respected Robert Farnon), allowing him to display his stentorian singing style as well as the more subtle, sensitive approach he employs on his finest pop albums. The title song is a first-rate evocation of the Yule ambiance, with Bennett's gentle voice rising over a swirling wash of woodwinds and strings, establishing a comfortable mise-en-scene for the forthcoming traditional carols and holiday fare. A Christmas medley comprised of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas/Silent Night/O Come, All Ye Faithful/Jingle Bells/Where Is Love" is a marvel of contrasting moods—reverent, celebratory, even melancholy (the lush, crying strings on "Where Is Love" underscore the singer's search for something he lost and now desperately needs to find)—and spirited ensemble singing, with Bennett sometimes harmonizing with the choir, at other times soaring majestically above their smooth crooning, thus adding an unusual degree of emotional edge to the performance. Enduring standards such as "White Christmas" and "Winter Wonderland" are, respectively, introspective and muted, and swinging and festive, beautiful renditions coming from entirely different perspectives. New to this reissue is a toe-tappin', finger-snappin' small combo workout with the Ralph Sharon Trio on "I'll Be Home For Christmas," from Bennett's appearance on Jon Stewart's MTV talk show. Further sweetening this repackage is a bonus DVD featuring five stellar performances from the artist's warm-hearted 1992 TV special, Tony Bennett: A Family Christmas. Even before this new edition appeared, Snowfall was a Yuletide classic worthy of Bennett's high standing in the 20th Century pop balladeer pantheon. Suffice it to say, nothing's changed in that regard. — David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
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Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024