december 2011

Various Artists
Shout! Factory/Astrolux
Released: 2003

One of three Shout! Factory releases of Christmas fare as performed by giants from back in the day supplemented by a few contemporary artists, Under the Mistletoe is first and foremost a showcase for great vocalizing. Lou Rawls, Dinah Washington (with a torchy, beautiful take on "Ole Santa"), Carmen McRae, Rosemary Clooney (with a rarity, the evocative version of "White Christmas" she sang in the film Holiday Inn but which was not included on the movie's soundtrack album), Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee (checking in with a mesmerizing version of "The Christmas Spell" that conjures an hypnotic mood as Lee's feathery vocal hovers above a lush but airy string arrangement and vocal chorus), Bobby Darin, Aretha Franklin and Sarah Vaughan are some of the giants represented here.

Dinah Washington, ‘Ole Santa,’ from 1959, as featured on Under the Mistletoe

Of the young guard, cabaret stalwart Ann Hampton Calloway delivers an amiable reading of "Manhattan in December" that swings in a lilting, Nat King Cole way; John Pizzarelli fronts a big band on a high-spirited take of "Santa Claus Is Near"; Kevin Mahogany, backed solely by acoustic piano, issues a spare rendering of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" tinged throughout with melancholy, although his warm, deep voice invests the lyric with a seductive edge; and Steve Tyrell delightfully growls his way through a festive, Dr. John-like treatment of "Here Comes Santa Claus." Like its companion volumes, Under the Mistletoe is a first-cut-to-last delight, thanks to the caliber of the artists, the smart mix of the familiar and the new (in artists and in repertoire), and the refreshing interpretations of mostly familiar Yuletide fare. Its special magic and heartwarming mood evoke the spirit of the season as effectively as any other Christmas album out there. —David McGee

Under The Mistletoe: Reindeer & Romance is available at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024