Touching collection of Christmas songs by C&W cowboy crooner
hyperbolium | Earth, USA | 12/04/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Wakely didn't gain a reputation as the Bing Crosby of Country-and-Western for nothing. His baritone not only resembles Crosby's in tone, but he croons in a similar style. But where Crosby grew his style from a background in early jazz, Wakely was grounded in the Western stylings of the Sons of the Pioneers and Gene Autry. The differences are subtle, especially when one considers Wakely's pop sides, often exposed in vocals that swing less like jazz and percolate more like a trail ride.The bulk of this collection is drawn from Wakely's 1958 LP "Merry Christmas From Jimmy Wakely," originally released on his own Shasta Records label. Two additional tracks from his 1975 LP "An Old Fashioned Christmas" and informative liner notes from Jon Guyot Smith (including background on the songs themselves, in addition to Wakely's career and the actual recordings) round out the package. All 15 tracks are making their CD debut.By '58, Wakely's career as a singing movie cowboy had come and gone, and he'd moved on to stardom with a number of pop crossover hits (including a Margaret Whiting duet of "Silver Bells" for Capitol that's not included here) and his own early-50s TV show. His Shasta label was releasing latter-day sides from fellow film stars Tex Ritter and Eddie Dean, and steel guitarist Noel Boggs.Wakely released several of his own records, including the collection of standards and two originals ("Swingin' Jingle Bells" and "That's Santa Claus") that form the heart of this disc - reproduced here from beautifully mastered stereo recordings. The mood is joyful, yet reverent, playful and lightly swinging without ever being raucous (even the electric guitar solo on "Swingin' Jingle Bells" is fairly polite). It's the same pleasant feeling you get from the holiday collections of Bing Crosby, Gene Autry and perhaps Dean Martin.Anyone looking to fill a slot in the Christmas CD changer for family gatherings would find this a welcome addition."