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We Wish You a Merry Christmas

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Album Review

Ray Conniff was only a step or two above Lawrence Welk, where edginess is concerned, on the easy listening scale, and it is true that his albums could often have a sort of bland, soulless quality in their weakest moments. Nevertheless, there is something undeniably lovely about the orchestral and vocal arrangements on many of his albums, and that is never more so the case than on We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Even if you ignore the album's holiday aim, it is possibly Conniff's single finest recorded moment, with an incomparably strong choral vocal performance from his Singers. You cannot really segregate the music from its purpose, however, and to do so would be to gloss over the album's single greatest attribute: its timeless, sparkling mood. It remains as fresh, in its way, 30 years later as it was on the day that it was recorded. Moreover, it can rightly be called a Christmas classic. While most of Conniff's music has drastically dated, some of it quaintly and some of it rather embarrassingly, few albums have come along in the subsequent years that have better captured the sort of sprightly holiday joie de vivre present on the album, nor its wonderfully exuberant, almost guileless charm. There is a nostalgic cast to the music, even if you aren't exactly certain what you are being nostalgic about. It instantly invokes the kind of old-time Christmases that existed in the pre-urban sprawl past (sleigh rides, ice skating on rural rivers, carolers moving from house to house), even if you never actually experienced them yourself and even if they no longer exist in quite that same way anymore, or were rosy fictions in the first place aside from on tree ornaments and in Andy Williams television specials. On strictly musical terms, the backing is mostly unobtrusive, a pleasant but rather conventional orchestral backdrop. Still, the music is delicately played and always pretty. That prettiness is simply overshadowed by wonderful arrangements, particularly the vocal arrangements. In addition to a wonderful take on "Ring Christmas Bells" and one of the few recorded "Twelve Days of Christmas" that doesn't ultimately grow irksome, Conniff spliced together four expert medleys for the album. But the superior singing is what makes the album so special. The Singers effortlessly pull off intricate rounds ("Ring Christmas Bells") and glorious harmonies throughout that seem tailor made for tunes such as "The Little Drummer Boy" and "O Holy Night." In places, they even almost manage to swing along with the orchestra. Hip or not, though (and it is not far often than it is), We Wish You a Merry Christmas is a gorgeous little gift package ringing with the season's jubilant spirit.

Customer Reviews

Close your eyes and smell the Christmas cookies baking

Back when ARCO service stations were Atlantic on the east coast and Richfield in the west, my father bought a Goodyear Christmas album every year, featuring recordings by Columbia Records' brightest lights. He'd stack six of them on the pull-out BSR record changer in our Curtis Mathes hi-fi stereo home entertainment center (with its 25-inch black and white TV) and we'd enjoy non-stop Christmas tunes until the last gift was opened. The Goodyear album that stuck in my memory the longest is the one featuring snippets from the final medley in this album. From the first time I heard it, I was enthralled by Ray Conniff's arrangement of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." How often do you get to hear Mendelssohn with a Calypso beat and the spine-tingling harmonies of the Ray Conniff Singers? In the middle of summer, I'd sneak the album out of the record rack and play it on the Heathkit stereo I had built. I just couldn't wait until Christmas to hear it. A few years ago, I managed to download the track from the early days of that N word, and was even more delighted to find the complete album on iTunes. Sony Music deserves a standing ovation for lavishing a lot of love onto its transfer to digital. The sound is even more lush than I remember. The only thing missing are the pops, clicks and snaps from that long-lost LP. What can you say about Christmas music performed by the Ray Conniff Singers? Probably the best comparison is one's first taste of real butter and maple syrup on a stack of pancakes or real whipped cream on a strawberry-smothered Belgian waffle. It's something new and at the same time, something so right that it's GOT to be the real thing. There's none of the hard-edged male chorus and rigid phrasing and those gawd-awful accordions of Mitch Miller nor the syrupy sweetness that all too easily oozes from most of the Sixties' harmony ensembles. Too good to be elevator music but not quite high art, Ray Conniff's music enfolds the ear like a familiar sweater caresses one's shoulders. It brings back memories of Christmases past as easily as it creates new memories in each generation hearing it for the first time.

Buy this album!!!

This is the most cheerful, musical, and downright fun Christmas album around. Perfect for background music at Christmas parties as well as driving through holiday weather. I've waited years since getting rid of my record player to get it back. I've listened to other x-mas albums over the years and this by far has the best arrangement of songs and instruments.

Great music...but where is the album cover?

This album, and Sing Along With Mitch, were a vital part of my Christmas experience growing up in Cleveland in the early 1960's. I downloaded this without hesitation once I heard "Count Our Blessings." I honestly do not remember this album being so many medleys, but I think that is the charm of it. I can vividly remember listening to this while watching the color wheel illuminate our silver Christmas tree. Yes, we really had those back then! I am only sorry they do not have the original album cover with the Conniff singers in their Christmas outfits. In fact, the album cover on this website doesn't even say Ray Conniff Singers, so wassup with that?


Born: November 6, 1916 in Attleboro, MA

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

The man who popularized wordless vocal choruses and light orchestral accompaniment on a mix of popular standards and contemporary hits of the 1960s, Ray Conniff was a trombone player for Bunny Berigan's Orchestra and Bob Crosby's Bobcats before being hired as an arranger by Mitch Miller for Columbia Records in 1954. After he wrote the charts for several sizeable Columbia hits during the mid-'50s, Conniff became a solo artist as well, applying his arranging techniques to instrumental easy listening...
Full Bio
We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Ray Conniff
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Customer Ratings