Elvis' Christmas Album

Elvis Presley

RCA, 1957


REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Elvis’ Christmas Album was released in October of 1957 and spent four weeks as the number one album in the United States. As of a couple of years ago it remained the best-selling holiday album of all time. Even my grandfather liked this album, which was rare since he did not appreciate Elvis, Christmas, or any music released after 1949. And yet, he was one of the millions of people who purchased the LP. I dust it off every December as it remains one of my two or three favorite Christmas albums.

The release can be divided into three parts. The first side of the original LP contained six secular Christmas songs. Two traditional carols began side two and were followed by four gospel songs, which were taken from a previously released EP. The EP, or extra play single, was a 45 rpm size record that contained four to six songs. It also came in a cardboard jacket that was similar to an LP. This form never really caught on in the United States, although Elvis did reach the top ten with a number of these releases. This format was very popular in Great Britain and Europe as they cost less than a complete album.

This was a very controversial album at the time of its release. The thought of Elvis swiveling his hips to Christmas songs was more than many people could stand. Even Irvin Berlin requested that radio stations not play this album, and particularly his song “White Christmas.” my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

All of this uproar was unnecessary as Elvis was always respectful to gospel and religious music. These two types of music would eventually form an important part of the Elvis legacy. Even in the latter part of his life when he was just going through the motions many times, he would always mean it and be sincere when it came to his sacred music releases.

“Santa Claus Is Back In Town” was written especially for this album by the great songwriting team of Leiber and Stroller. It was just about a perfect song for Elvis, who takes it in a somewhat blues direction. The song remains a secular Christmas classic.

Elvis gave “White Christmas” a rhythm & blues treatment rather than a pop presentation, which Irving Berlin may have preferred. “Here Comes Santa Claus” was an old country song by Gene Autry that Elvis modernized in an up-tempo pop direction. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” was stripped down to its basics with just piano, bass, and drums. This was a song that proved just what a marvelous voice Elvis Presley possessed. He reached into his country roots again for the Ernest Tubb song, “Blue Christmas.” While this song has been covered hundreds of times, his version is definitive.

The two Christmas carols are presented in a traditional style. I prefer “Silent Night” over “O Little Town Of Bethlehem,” and while both are fine, they pale a little against the rest of the album.

 The gospel songs that conclude the original album are top notch. I have not heard many better gospel performances than “Peace In The Valley.” The vocal, the timing, and the overall presentation retain the song’s spiritual nature. “Take My Hand Precious Lord” is another song that fits Elvis’ vocal style. His rich vocal and sincerity shine through. Another country song, “It’s No Secret (What God Can Do),” originally recorded by Stuart Hamblen, is updated in a pop direction yet retained its original intent.

Elvis’ Christmas Album was a different direction for Elvis and ultimately a smart career choice. He attracted millions of new fans, with many being outside his normal teen base. It was also an excellent release that helped cement the Presley legacy, and remains listenable over fifty years later.

Rating: A

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