A familiar winner takes all the candy in Elvis Trivialities #12

Congratulations to Thomas (elvistoday), who unscrambled his way to victory in Elvis Trivialities #12.

He receives a Christmas gift box full of bragging rights and yet another spot in The Mystery Train’s Night Riders.

And the answer is…

Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas (1971)

1.) “The Wonderful World Of Christmas”
2.) “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day”
3.) “O Come All Ye Faithful”
4.) “It Won’t Seem Like Christmas”
5.) “The First Noel”
6.) “Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees”
7.) “Merry Christmas Baby”
8.) “If I Get Home On Christmas Day”
9.) “Silver Bells”
10.) “On A Snowy Christmas Night”
11.) “Winter Wonderland”

are the Elvis songs represented by the following scrambled letters:


* * *

Have a Merry Christmas!

The Mystery Train’s Night Riders

  • December 23, 2012: Thomas (0:36)
  • October 9, 2012: David (14:38) | Honorable Mention: John (22:06)
  • February 4, 2012: Thomas (13:52)
  • February 3, 2012: Thomas (2:18)
  • December 21, 2011: Wellsy (2:37)
  • October 31, 2011: Thomas (17:32)
  • October 1, 2011: Jimmy Cool (1:01)
  • September 9, 2011: Steve Brogdon (0:17) <— Record time
  • August 6, 2011: Thomas (2:26)
  • July 9, 2011: Thomas (5:26)
  • June 23, 2011: Fred Wolfe (0:18)
  • June 22, 2011: Ty stumps the train (no winner)

REVIEW: Elvis – The Complete Masters Collection (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of an ongoing series reviewing Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection. Read Part 1.

We haven’t finished the summer yet, folks, but why not take a break from the heatwave to enjoy a Christmas-themed review?

CD Vol. 4: Christmas With Elvis

Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection - Volume 4This volume of The Franklin Mint‘s 36-disc Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection (mastered by Vic Anesini) presents nearly all of the Christmas songs that Elvis released during his lifetime (a live version of “Blue Christmas” appears on a later disc).

Christmas With Elvis contains each of the Christmas songs featured on Elvis’ Christmas Album (1957), his 1966 Christmas single, and Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas (1971).

01. Blue Christmas: I think of “Blue Christmas” as the “Hound Dog” of Elvis Christmas songs. It’s the one the general public most associates with him. It is an okay recording and certainly appropriate to kick off this CD. I wish it had less or no backing vocals, though. I much prefer his live versions from 1968. (Recorded: 1957)

02. White Christmas: “Blue Christmas” does not transition very well into “White Christmas,” but the compiler has once again taken the easy way out and confined the song sequencing of this disc to recording order. I’m actually not a huge fan of “White Christmas” by Elvis. For this one, my go-to versions tend to be those by The Drifters (whose 1954 recording inspired the Elvis one) or Burl Ives (1965). Incidentally, this track differs from the one released during Elvis’ lifetime in that a finger-snap near the beginning of the song has been omitted (5). I must admit, I would never have noticed such a small detail on my own. That’s the wonder of the For Elvis CD Collectors Forum. (1957)

03. Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane): You’ll be happy to know that no finger-snapping has been omitted from this terrific version of “Here Comes Santa Claus.” I love how Elvis swings some of the lyrics. (1957)

04. Silent Night: I probably would have saved “Silent Night” for the closer, but what a beautiful recording. For the gentle voice of a 22-year-old to convey this kind of passion and conviction speaks volumes about the faith of Elvis Presley. (1957)

05. O Little Town Of Bethlehem: On the other hand, Elvis’ version of “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” tends to wear on me a bit. Like “White Christmas,” it is an okay performance, but nothing special. Nat King Cole’s 1960 recording tends to be my go-to version of this one. (1957)

06. Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me): It’s more finger-snapping fun on “Santa Bring My Baby Back.” What’s not to love? (1957)

07. Santa Claus Is Back In Town: Here it is, not only Elvis’ best Christmas song, but also one of his best blues numbers – right up there with 1960’s “Reconsider Baby.” When it comes to Elvis performances, they do not get much better than “Santa Claus Is Back In Town.” Incredible. (1957)

08. I’ll Be Home For Christmas: Elvis delivers yet another stunning performance on his classic version of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” This also would have worked as a great album closer. Sound quality is noticeably cleaner here than it was on 1994’s If Every Day Was Like Christmas CD, my previous source. (1957)

09. If Every Day Was Like Christmas: Recorded just a couple of weeks after the session that produced the How Great Thou Art album, the unique “If Every Day Was Like Christmas” makes me wish Elvis had recorded a few more Christmas tunes at this time. This one seems to have slightly more reverb than my previous source on the same 1994 CD. As I’ve not seen any experts make note of this, I assume this reflects the original release. (1966)

10. It Won’t Seem Like Christmas: Flash forward five years now to May 1971 and the sessions that produced Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas, my favorite of his Christmas albums. I used to write off “It Won’t Seem Like Christmas” as too depressing for a Christmas song, but it has definitely grown on me over the years. (1971)

11. If I Get Home On Christmas Day: Though it covers much the same theme as “It Won’t Seem Like Christmas,” “If I Get Home On Christmas Day” sounds much more hopeful. A very enjoyable performance. (1971)

12. Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees: Written by Elvis’ longtime friend Red West, “Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees” takes its place among the best of Elvis’ Christmas recordings. (1971)

13. Merry Christmas Baby [Album Master]: While it does not quite meet the stature of “Santa Claus Is Back In Town,” “Merry Christmas Baby” is another solid blues take on the holiday season by Elvis. This studio jam ran for well over eight minutes, about 5:45 of which appeared on the Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas album. The single version, edited to 3:15, does not appear in The Complete Masters Collection. (1971)

14. Silver Bells: Elvis delivers a fine rendition of “Silver Bells,” a Christmas classic. (1971)

15. I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day: Written by Michael Jarrett (“I’m Leavin'”), “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day” is a perfect Christmas song for Elvis. I put this one just below “Santa Claus Is Back In Town” as his best Christmas recording ever. Really, one of his best-ever songs, period. It is always a highlight of any album on which it appears. (1971)

16. On A Snowy Christmas Night: Though it does not often get mentioned, I love “On A Snowy Christmas Night,” especially the reminder to “Give thanks for all that you’ve been blessed with and hold your loved ones tight.” (1971)

17. Winter Wonderland: For some reason, many Elvis fans criticize this performance of “Winter Wonderland.” Even Thomas over at Elvis Today Blog, with whom I almost always agree, called it “spiritless.” I don’t hear it that way at all. Perhaps some feel this song should remain in the territory of a performer like Johnny Mathis, whose 1958 version is horrible. For me, Elvis owns “Winter Wonderland” – particularly by adding on his signature ending style. This sounds exactly like “Winter Wonderland” as interpreted by Elvis should: Perfect. (1971)

18. O Come All Ye Faithful: “O Come All Ye Faithful” is the “Silent Night” of the second Christmas album and is just as effective. This is a great arrangement, too. I love the percussion leading into “Sing choirs of angels…” (1971)

19. The First Noel: While I would not call it “spiritless,” Elvis does begin to sound a bit tired on “The First Noel.” To continue the comparison, “The First Noel” is the “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” of the 1971 album. Good, but not great. (1971)

20. The Wonderful World Of Christmas: It is strange that “The Wonderful World Of Christmas,” the weakest song of the 1971 Christmas album session, became the title track. It also does not serve very well as the closing track here. (1971)

As I stated last time, since The Franklin Mint has chosen to theme their CDs anyway, I would have preferred the compiler put more thought into the sequencing. It is much easier to intermingle Elvis’ Christmas music from different decades than many of his other recordings (also true of his gospel music), so this is a missed opportunity on this CD.

However, Christmas With Elvis at least gathers his Christmas masters in one place. It’s really hard to go wrong with an Elvis Christmas CD and this one is no exception. With upgraded audio, I’m all set for the Christmas season in a few months.

* * *

In Part 1 of this review, I mentioned that I was planning to frame the reproduction of the 1954 SUN 45 “That’s All Right” b/w “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” that came with this set. Here are the results, and it looks beautiful.

SUN 209 Reproduction - Framed

I’ve just obtained an RCA vintage-1977 edition of “Way Down” b/w “Pledging My Love” to hang beneath it. Just waiting for the frame to arrive.

Well, that’s four CDs down and … wow … thirty-two to go. Continue to look for future installments here on The Mystery Train Blog. I hope to finish within the next eight or nine years.


(5) “Re: Complete Masters compared/contrasted with Franklin Mint” by Claus, For Elvis CD Collectors Forum, 2010.

Read Part 3.

Good music on my radio

Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas album coverHowdy folks, I hope the holiday season is treating you well. I’ve been listening to the new FTD version of Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas for the last couple of days. The 2-CD set arrived here Wednesday night, just in time for Christmas. Promised Land also arrived, but I’m saving that one until after Christmas. Something to cure those post-Christmas blues.

Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas is proving to be one of my all-time favorite FTD releases. For one thing, I love “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day,” written by Michael Jarrett – who also wrote “I’m Leavin’.” In fact, you could almost subtitle this release “The Making Of ‘I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day'” because it contains a plethora of takes of both versions of the song. I prefer the blusey “remake” version that unfortunately was not issued until after Elvis’ death. It should have been a single back then.

This album gives that real “behind-the-scenes with Elvis in the studio” feel that I enjoy. Alternate takes of “Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees” are also highlights.

The previously unreleased take 2 of “O Come All Ye Faithful” is incredible, nice to hear without all of the overdubs. The ending of that take was spliced with the master take 1 for 1982’s Memories Of Christmas. Unfortunately, that spliced version is not included here, though there is plenty of space for it. It would have been nice to have that in upgraded sound.

The original album master tracks sound pristine. It is great to finally upgrade from the circa-1994 versions I have been playing all these years. Though recorded 40 years ago, close your eyes and it is not too hard to imagine Elvis is in the room with you, the sound of his vocals is so clear.

Alas, what’s Christmas without a couple of disappointments? The unedited version of “Merry Christmas Baby” fades between the undubbed and dubbed versions of the song, making for a very poor listening experience on the track I was expecting to be the highlight of this release. Elvis talking and rehearsing just before the jam begins almost makes up for it, though.

Also notably absent is the single version of “Merry Christmas Baby.” Why not include it when there is space available?

Finally, was it really necessary to close out the Christmas album with a track where Elvis drops an F-bomb? I’m not suggesting FTD should have edited the outtake of “Winter Wonderland” or even left it off. To use it as the last track of the album, though? Really?

Despite a couple of disappointments, the expanded Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas is a fabulous re-release of what is probably my favorite Christmas album. It will make Christmas 2011 one to remember!

Would the world of Christmas be as wonderful in January?

In addition to Promised Land, Follow That Dream is also releasing 1971’s Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas as part of its Classic Album series in December. That’s right, two of his best albums are being released as deluxe editions in the same month.

The 2-CD release will contain the original album, which made its debut 40 years ago this month, as well as a ton of merry outtakes, alternates, and studio banter. The only problem for those of us in the United States is that it usually takes two to three weeks after the release date for FTD’s CDs to arrive here, since they ship from Denmark.

If Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas is released in early December, Americans should have a decent chance of getting it before Christmas. If not, well . . . I, for one, plan to enjoy the wonderful world of Christmas in January, if necessary.

Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas album cover

Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas album cover

Also coming in December from FTD is The Elvis Is Back! Sessions on vinyl and a photo book covering 1956.