Christmas Eve with Burl Ives
Decca, DL 8391, mono LP, released 1957.
One very endearing album of the many Burl Ives (1909-1995) left in his discography was this astutely balanced program of 11 Xmas titles, familiar and not so familiar. The six familiars – Silent Night, There Were Three Ships, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, What Child is This?, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear and – what else!- The Twelve Days of Christmas – are the Yuletide cornerstones.
The other five rarely heard songs – Friendly Beasts, Jesous Ahatonia, Seven Joys of Mary, Down in Yon Forest and King Herod – have special qualities of their own, regardless of any rarely heard status.
In addition to himself on this mid-’50s session, Ives brought along colleagues that included guitarist Tony Mottola, singer/arranger Jimmy Carroll, and the other well-known, but never as famous Ray Charles with His Singers. And, the main reason for its desirability, the arrangements are vibrantly alive, not the cliched, boring once over lightlys that still often infest the seasonal music experiences.
An unattributed quote on the back of the cover summed up the man who was Burl Ives: “He’s a big guy and has a punch like a mule kicking. His smile fills a room and his laugh shakes the chandeliers. But he’s quiet, too, and he can listen. He listened to his mother and his father, who were both singers. He listened to people singing all over the country. And his song-bag is full. He can sing all night and never sing the same song twice. And every song is better than the last one.”
One of the best qualities of G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) was his gift at writing a few sentences and leaving readers, such as myself, wanting more. A quote from his 1922 essay, What I Saw in America: “Americans make fun of their own institutions; and their own journalism is full of such fanciful conjectures. The tall building is itself artistically akin to the tall story. The very word sky-scraper is an admirable example of an American lie.”
P.S.: Two unintended, but, for me, very intriguing coincidences between Chesterton and the above Burl Ives that I discovered while writing this column today, November 21, 2018.
Chesterton and Ives shared a very similar height and girth.
Ives was born on June 14, 1909; Chesterton died on June 14, 1936. Of course, neither here nor there!