Nat King Cole – Christmas Classics
Nat King Cole
|1||Adeste Fidelis (O Come All Ye Faithful)|
|2||Deck the Halls|
|4||I Saw Three Ships|
|5||O Little Town of Bethlehem|
|6||O Holy Night|
|7||Hark the Herald Angels Sing|
|8||Away in a Manger|
|9||A Cradle in Bethlehem|
|11||Joy to the World|
|12||God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman|
|14||The First Noel|
|15||The Christmas Song|
|16||When I Fall In Love|
|17||Happy New Year|
|19||When Sunny Gets Blue|
|20||There Is No Greater Love|
One of the numbers Lena Horne sang in her triumphant 1981 one-woman show “Lena Horne – The Lady And Her Music” was an obscure Rodgers and Hart song, the wittily risqué “A Lady Must Live”. As a dedicated fan of all things Rodgers & Hart, I wondered at first, how in heaven’s name did Lena Horne find this rare gem.
I should have known better. There may well be a charming bit of business behind her discovery of the song; the means of her introduction to it, however, are far less important than the realisation that Lena Horne knows a good song when she hears one. Whether a song is brought to her attention for her consideration or encountered by her by chance, it is inescapable that she will recognise a song of merit, and if her vocal personality is up to it, she will have a new song to add to her already rich repertoire. And of course the chief beneficiaries are those who are unfamiliar with a forgotten or neglected gem.
So it’s little wonder that, in this album, Lena Horne has chosen her songs with care and in the process has uncovered rarely heard treasures from the pop song masters of the past.
Two of them have music by Harold Arlen, who wrote the melodies – with lyrics by E Y Harburg – Lena sang in “Jamaica”, her Broadway musical first presented in 1957. One is “The Eagle & Me” also with the lyrics by Harburg from the 1944 Broadway hit, “Bloomer Girl”. The song, reflecting a social consciousness of Arlen & Harburg is a joyous paean to freedom. “Sing From My Heart”, with a lyric by Ted Koehler is a swinging come-what-may ballad first sung by Irene Dunne in a 1939 RKO film, “Love Affair”.
Cole Porter, represented on the album by two songs could be the source of many Lena Horne numbers that she could delight her fans with, but for this album she offers his rarely performed “Ours”, in which exotic locales are viewed as retreat for lovers. It’s from the 1936 musical “Red Hot & Blue” the other Porter song is his wonderfully ardent standby “Every Time We Say Goodbye”.
Vernon Duke and Ogden Nash were infrequently paired as songwriters, but when they were, the songwriting craft was in captivating hands. Such is the case for “Roundabout”, lifted from 1946’s short lived “Sweet Bye And Bye”, and inserted into the 1952 Bette Davis musical, “Two’s Company”.
Lena Horne, to be sure, does not disappoint those who welcome choice renditions of songs from the standard repertoire. The likes of the aforementioned “Every Time We Say Goodbye”, “A Fine Romance”,“Look To The Rainbow” and “When I Fall In Love”, fill the bill with unquestioned brilliance
This album also reflects Lena Horne’s willingness to find worthy newcomers, two of which – the lovely ballads “I Wish I’d Met You” and “I Won’t Leave You” featured in her warm duets with Sally Davis and Joe Williams respectively. A third is “Joy”, a bluesy, yet optimistic song featuring a bit of cheerful byplay between Nina and her musicians.
If there is an underlying romantic philosophy in Lena Horne’s program it is one noted by Ettore Stratta, the album’s producer, “Lena”, he explains “wasn’t interested in songs of unrequited love, they reflect the sunnier view of life”.
Indeed, for the listener this album also mirrors Lena Horne’s basic philosophy of performance: the best songs of the past and present, in renditions that make them her own.
More recently, Lena’s “A Fine Romance” was featured in the Australian international smach hit film “Priscilla Queen Of The Desert”.
Unfortunately, Lena Horne passed away on the 9th of May 2010, but her music will stay with us forever.
IRV LICHTMAN, DEPUTY EDITOR, BILLBOARD MAGAZINE
- I Wish I’d Met You
- Every Time We Say Goodbye
- A Fine Romance
- September Song
- Close Enough For Love
- I Won’t Leave You Again
- The Eagle And Me
- When I Fall In Love
- Look To The Rainbow
- It Could Happen To You
- Sing My Heart