Rosemary Clooney – White Christmas (review)

Rosemary Clooney – Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (Real Gone) review

With the addition of newly-discovered archival footage, this becomes a bona fide Christmas classic

It seems completely ridiculous that the biggest movie of 1954, White Christmas, never had a proper soundtrack (even though it remains a perennial holiday favorite on TV) .  The problem was that the stars of the film (Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney) all recorded for different record labels.  Bing & Danny released their version on Decca, while Rosemary had her version come out on Columbia.  Irving Berlin’s White Christmas originally came out as an 8-song set issued on a 10-inch vinyl LP.  Not surprising, it was never issued on CD.  However, credit goes to the folks at Real Gone Music, who, in addition to the original tracks, have unearthed seven bonus cuts.  No longer tied to the label restrictions, these feature Rosie with Bing on many of the songs.  The result is a holiday classic, sixty years in the making!

The disc opens with Clooney’s rendition of “White Christmas,” where she imparts a lilting quality that adds to the song’s longing in the lyrics.  “Snow” has to be one of the most ridiculous songs ever written about the white stuff, even if it was composed by Berlin.  With the lyrics: “I want to wash my hands / my face and hair / with snow” – um…I’m not sure anyone has actually thought that was a good idea.

This was meant as a soundtrack, not a holiday album, so some of the songs aren’t Christmas-related, which actually makes it more listenable.  A key standout is the gorgeous “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me,” where she totally nails one of her finest vocal performances on record.  Clooney reunites with her onetime singing partner and sister, Betty, on the cute “Sisters.”

The bonus material is where things really heat up.  Bing & Rosie team for “Silver Bells,” outdoing the Crosby/Carol Richards’ version by far on the strength of Clooney’s superior singing.  “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” is jazzy good fun, while “Happy Christmas, Little Friend,” a Rodgers & Hammerstein song, is an excellent addition to the holiday oeuvre.

Pulling material from various sources, Real Gone Music has compiled a fantastic holiday album that belongs right next to the classics in your collection.  —Tony Peters