The Sound of Christmas Classics

Christmas music can often be a sonic challenge. Endless reissues of popular tunes, Bobby Helms, “Jingle Bell Rock,” comes to mind, have produced endless tape copies that degrade sonically the further they get from the master—if one even still exists. I’m fairly sure a lot of Christmas music compilations—yes, I’m a fan—have tracks cut from CDs.

All of which makes, The Wonderful Sounds of Christmas, Acoustic Sounds fabulous new Christmas music double LP set—pressed on separate red and green 180 gram vinyl LPs—such a pleasure to listen to. I have never heard Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” sound better than it does as the opening track of this 22 track set. Even Bobby Helms essential chestnut sounds much improved here. Chad Kassem who assembled this collection got almost all the hits: Leroy Anderson’s version of his “Sleigh Ride,” Eartha, of course, singing “Santa Baby,” and Hey, what Christmas music collection would be worth it’s weight in tinsel and empty toddy glasses without Der Bingel’s “White Christmas.” There’s even a reputable version, in what’s become a very long and distinguished Christmas music tradition of duets on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (check out the new, digitally constructed versions between Dean Martin and both Scarlett Johansson and Martina McBride), between a typically low key Betty Carter and a unusually subdued Ray Charles.

“I am gonna do a series of “The Wonderful Sounds of.” Like The Wonderful Sounds of Female Vocals, The Blues, The Wonderful Sound of This, The Wonderful Sound of That. We licensed the Charlie Brown Christmas and we sell a lot of it and I started listening to some Christmas songs and they sounded fantastic. Like the Nat King Cole, the original of that sounds great. And “The Little Drummer Boy,” you’ve heard that your whole life but did you ever imagine it’s like an audiophile recording? I thought it would be really nice to have a Christmas compilation done with the highest sound quality possible, picking the best and most classic songs.”

There were a few big game targets that got away however including Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” and the Carpenters Christmas catalog. Two super essential classics he did rope in however are the pair of Christmas numbers recorded by the great Charles Brown, both of which are among his biggest hits: “Please Come Home For Christmas” and “Merry Christmas Baby.”

“Those Charles Brown’ tracks are so great,” Kassem says. “One of them had never been on hi rez before, so I had to get the label to give us the original tape.”

In typical Acoustic Sounds fashion, Kassem wasn’t satisfied with the sound on one of the original tracks and so a tweak ensued.

“The Brenda Lee track was a little louder than the rest so we re-cut and lowered it one dB.”