Album: Elvis Presley

Christmas Peace, RCA
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The Independent Culture

Though never quite the festive institution, for British listeners, that Cliff has become through his adept seasonal manoeuvres, it has to be admitted that the opening track of this compilation knocks into the proverbial cocked hat anything that pop's first Peter Pan has ever sung on the yuletide theme. It's his definitive performance of "Blue Christmas", with The Jordanaires' harmonies at their spookiest, and Elvis' voice managing to retain a vestige of sincerity, despite his mannered delivery of lines like "You'll be doing all right with your Christmas of white/ But I'll have a blue, blue Christmas". It was recorded in 1957 for Elvis' Christmas Album, the first of two such anthologies released in Presley's lifetime - the other being 1971's Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas. Effectively yoking together the two albums on one CD, this compilation displays the typical vicissitudes of his career, from unctuous schlock like "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and a Dino-style rendition of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" featuring the weirdest pronunciation of "mistletoe" on record, through the rocked-up "Winter Wonderland" to an engaging twelve-bar blues version of "Santa Claus Is Back in Town". Best of all is his reading of the Charles Brown blues classic "Merry Christmas Baby", marked by lovely piano trills and some neat stitches of lead guitar from six-string maestro James Burton.