If you enjoy tight, three-part harmony, Season’s Greetings From the McGuire Sisters is a breath of fresh air for your holiday music listening. Originally released in 1958, Real Gone Music has rescued this seasonal obscurity, making it available digitally for the very first time.
The McGuire Sisters – Phyllis, Dottie and Christine, were one of the biggest vocal groups of the 1950’s. They hailed from Miamisburg, Ohio, and originally got their start like a lot of sibling groups – singing in church. After getting a lucky break on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts Show, the trio were signed to Decca Records and began charting hit singles like “Sincerely” and “Sugartime” (both #1’s). They were frequent stars on both radio and television.
The McGuires took what similar combos like the Andrews Sisters did and improved upon it, adding flair and personality to the super tight harmonies – giving them an infectious quality that was all their own. Also overlooked were the girls’ versatility, tackling current pop, but easily at home with hymns, ballads and turn-of-the-century classic fare as well.
All of this is on full display on Seasons Greetings – from the McGuires’ bouncy treatment of “Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town,” things quickly move to the luscious, harmony-laden ballad “Give Me Your Heart For Christmas.” What sets this album apart from typical holiday fare is the fact that most of these songs are unfamiliar – from the spiritual-based “He” to the heartfelt “The Littlest Angel,” and the playful “I’d Like to Trim a Tree With You.” This is not the tired stuff you’ve been hearing on the radio since Thanksgiving.
“Christmas Alphabet” was a single that came out back in 1954, and it still holds up pretty well. Things get goofy for “The Cactus Christmas Tree,” which features the sisters doing various farm animal noises – it’s a real hoot. Thankfully, that’s followed by the gorgeous, string-laden “If You Believe.” The girls show off their gospel roots with “He’s Got Time” before ending on a positive note with the charming “Happy New Year.”
In addition to the original, 12-song LP, they’ve included three additional tracks – the fun “Be a Santa,” the warm “Peace” and a three-part treatment of “Ave Maria.”
Tom Pickles does a great job of summarizing the McGuires’ history, before, during and after the release of this record in his extensive liner notes.
There’s an undeniable, wide-eyed innocence to these recordings. And, isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
Gorgeous harmonies in a variety of styles – Season’s Greetings From the McGuire Sisters is as inviting as a plate of holiday cookies, fresh from the oven. —Tony Peters