Pity the late Lou Rawls: an admired vocal stylist, he released about 80 albums, not one of which troubled the UK charts. Rawls was the male equivalent of Dinah Washington, a bridge between the jazzy cabaret R&B of the Fifties and the soul of the Sixties, although his elegant hipster style always seemed a touch too upscale alongside earthier exponents such as Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and James Brown; one got the distinct impression that, unlike them, he never perspired. Such is the mood throughout Merry Christmas, Baby, on which he attempts to jazz up the old seasonal standards with self-consciously "swingy" arrangements and "hip" vocal extemporisations - fine when it's Charles Brown's classic, smoky title-track blues, but a mismatch of style and content on a bright pop tune like "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". As for "Little Drummer Boy", no one has managed to make the phrase "pa-rup-a-pum-pum" sound cool. Elsewhere, "Silent Night" fares rather better for its solemnity, while "Jingle Bells" takes on a distinctly New Orleans flavour.
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