Because I am a total hipster, I love these Ultra Lounge collections. Actually, I don’t think we were called hipsters when these collections first started coming out, but I have loved all of them. And I especially love these Christmas ones. Indeed, this may be my favorite Christmas album of all.
I’d say in part it’s because I great up listening to big band and I can totally imagine my parents being into this back in the day.
BILLY MAY-“Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer” opens with a crazy yelling of all of the reindeer names. Then a funny, almost drunken, sounding horn version of the song with weirdly shouted phrases throughout. It really sets the mood. PEGGY LEE-“Winter Wonderland” is a more familiar and traditional version of the song—it’s delightful although it’s hard to reconcile with that earlier piece. RAY ANTHONY-“Christmas Trumpets / We Wish You A Very Merry Christmas” is a wonderful sorta cheesey version of “Jingle Bells” and other songs on trumpets. LOU RAWLS-“Christmas Is” Rawls’ voice, which I don’t love in general works well for this song. I like the big horns in the middle. JIMMY McGRIFF-“Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town / White Christmas” this is some fun, easy listening Hammond organ instrumental. It is 6 minutes of ice rink spectacular.
JULIE LONDON-“I’d Like You For Christmas” The backing vocalists singing the tune of “Jingle Bells” (but slowly) and then Julie sings a slow romantic song that I’m unfamiliar with. Not my fave—too slow and I don’t care for the backing responders. AL CAIOLA- “Holiday On Skis” but this is a zippy and fun instrumental on guitar. KAY STARR-“(Everybody’s Waitin’ For) The Man With The Bag” is a fun silly song and I like this version. HOLLYRIDGE STRINGS- “Jingle Bells / Jingle Bell Rock” I love this swinging string version that is fun and a little off with the musical runs. I would like more by the Hollyridge Strings who are known for their easy listening renditions of classic songs.
DEAN MARTN-“I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” I love this classic version. EDDIE DUNSTEDTER-“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus/Jingle Bells Bossa Nova” a wonderful ice rink version with a bossanova flair–the best way to hear the first of these two songs (instrumentally). RAY ANTHONY AND HIS BOOKENDS “Christmas Kisses” wonderfully cheesey and fun song about kisses for Christmas. I didn’t know this song before this version. JACKIE GLEASON-“I’ll Be Home For Christmas / Baby, It’s Cold Outside” The first bit is a somber, pretty instrumental version of the song, it is strangely mingled with a wild whistling version of the second song. Gleason is wonderfully campy. NANCY WILSON-“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” Sweet version. I think I like Nancy Wilson a lot more than I realized. CAPITOL STUDIO ORCHESTRA-“Cha-Cha All The Way” The best Christmas song ever.
NAT KING COLE-“The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)” I love this song very much and Nat’s version is the best. I’m not exactly sure it belongs on this compilation, but I never don’t want to hear it. LES BROWN AND HIS BAND OF RENOWN-“The Nutcracker Suite” I love this whole version of various Nutcracker pieces (it’s clear that Brian Setzer used this as the basis for his swinging version). I love the Nutcracker in general but this is so much fun. FRED WARING-“Ring Those Christmas Bells” This opens with various songs thrown together by a jolly group of carolers. Then a jolly version of “Ring those Christmas Bells” another song I don’t know but which I like a lot. THE CONTINENTAL-“Violets For Your Furs” This is a strange “bonus” track in which over soap opera music an accented Lothario comes on to a woman with violets for her furs. Weird. PEGGY LEE/NAT KING COLE./NANCY WILSON-“Toys For Tots” weird “toys for tots” refrain, but nice vocals from the trio asking for help with the program (who knew it was that old?). The final track is JOHNNY MERCER-“Jingle Bells” which is a fun Christmas Card from Capitol Records–I wonder who received this?
[READ: December 26, 2014] “Christmas Story”
This is the story of Ricky, a chef whom the narrator learned from. Ricky was a lifer in the business, having worked first in the army and then as a line cook and for the past two decades as head chef for a club.
Ricky had a sixth sense–he could look at a crowd and determine what they were going to order before they even knew it. He would be able to determine that they needed more shrimp or if the crowd was just a simple pigs in blankets bunch just by the way they walked in.
Ricky liked the narrator and so gave him Christmas off this one year–a rarity in any chef job. The narrator was psyched until his wife said that they should cook and serve Christmas dinner, real traditional-like, to their families. The narrator said he could do a room of 200 easily but a dinner for 12 freaked him out.
So he asked Ricky’s advice.
And the bulk of the end of the story is Ricky’s suggestion for what to cook (it’s like a huge long recipe). I appreciated the idea that putting stuffing in a turkey is like a breeding ground for bacteria. But I really liked his idea that you should cook two turkeys, a big one and small one. The small one is the stunt turkey. When it is cooked, you bring out the stunt turkey to the table but you have already carved the larger turkey so that moments later you bring in the bird all carved up and everyone oohs. But more importantly, with two turkeys you know you will always have enough food.
It worked for the narrator, and would probably work for you, too.
Interestingly the story doesn’t have a happy ending but in the best “who gives a shit” attitude of the chef, the narrator doesn’t seem to mind that much.
The rest of the issue was also really good. MARK IBOLD is in Italy, and there’s a look at the holidays in various other countries (Afghanistan, India (with half a dozen recipes), Java, Beijing (they don’t do Christmas right) and Haiti (a fascinating and somewhat scary look at Vodou culture). But for me, the real highlight was PETER MEEHAN’s Christmas menu. Not that I would make it all myself, but the Fergus Salad sounds amazing; I love that he loves Potato bread and puts his lobster rolls on them. I also love his quote that he’s “allergic to not eating hamburgers when I can be.” He mentions the canned Cougar Gold cheese which sounds delicious (but too expensive) and the amazing sounding recipe for AK Cookies.
I loved the Gingerbread house section (with architectural designs and everything!). There’s also some great recipes from DORIE GREENSPAN (from her new book Baking Chez Moi (Gingerbread Buche de Noel and Olive Oil and Wine Cookies!). And I absolutely cannot wait to try Turkey Joints (available only from Nora’s Candy Shop) in Rome, New York.
This was a great issue, I only wish I’d read it before the holidays!