Merry Christmas (Bing Crosby album)
|Compilation album by Bing Crosby|
|Released||Original 78 album: 1945
Re-release 78 album: 1947
Original LP album: 1949
Re-designed LP album: 1955
|Recorded||1942, 1943, 1945, 1947, 1950, 1951|
|Bing Crosby chronology|
|Studio album by Bing Crosby|
|Released||Current reissue: 2014|
|Label||Geffen Records, Universal Music Enterprises|
Merry Christmas is a compilation album of phonograph records by Bing Crosby, released in 1945 on Decca Records, catalogue A-403. It has remained in print through the vinyl and compact disc eras, currently as the disc White Christmas on MCA Records, a part of the Universal Music Group, (reissued in June 1995) and currently on vinyl as Merry Christmas on Geffen Records (re-issued in September 2014). It includes Crosby's signature song "White Christmas", the best-selling single ever, with estimated sales of over 50 million copies worldwide. The album itself has sold over 15 million copies, and is the second best-selling Christmas album of all-time behind Elvis Presley's 1957 holiday album Elvis' Christmas Album, which has sold more than 19 million copies worldwide.
The original album consisted of ten songs on five 78 records, all of which had been previously released. Each one had a holiday theme with the exception of "Danny Boy," paired with "I'll Be Home for Christmas" on its original record. Prior to the long-playing album era, such assemblies were not common for popular music, Merry Christmas instigated by the enormous popularity of the "White Christmas" record. Decca issued a second edition in this format in 1947, catalogue Decca A-550, consisting of four 78s, omitting recordings of "Danny Boy" and "Let's Start the New Year Right" from the previous release, and including new recordings of "White Christmas" and "Silent Night" from March 19, 1947. This recording of "White Christmas," heard on every subsequent pressing, is actually a re-recording of the song as, in an unprecedented occurrence, the 1942 master had actually worn out and was no longer usable. Decca and Crosby undertook the remake with the same orchestra and chorus, in an attempt to re-create the original May 1942 recording as closely as possible. The original recording of "White Christmas" to this date, has never been stamped on LP records or 45 rpm singles.
The 1955 vinyl LP configuration is the one extant to date, consisting of the entirety of Decca A-550 plus four additional tracks. The Andrews Sisters, often Crosby's recording partners in the 1940s, are featured on the tracks "Jingle Bells," "Mele Kalikimaka," and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." It has been continually in-print longer than any other album in the history of the United States, after the original cast recording to Oklahoma!, also from Decca Records, released in 1943.
After the introduction of the LP by Columbia Records in 1948, its competitors in the music industry began switching over to the new format. Decca reissued the eight song Merry Christmas album in the form of a 10-inch LP in 1949, catalogue Decca DL-5019 with its standard brown label. The original 78 album cover (seen above) had a light blue background and showed a large black and white photograph of Crosby's head. This was the same cover design that had been used on all issues of the 78 rpm album. Copies released after 1951 featured a newly designed red and green cover.
Merry Christmas was also issued as a 45 rpm box set in 1950, catalogue Decca 9-65. It had the same basic cover with a new yellow background and the same four singles as the 78 rpm album A-550, and the individual records had the same catalog numbers, in this case preceded by the "9-" prefix. In 1952, the 45 box was discontinued, replaced by a 2-EP set, catalogue Decca ED 547. This had the same cover as the second version of the 10-inch LP; each 7-inch single had two songs per side, and the sides were numbered 91123 and 91124, respectively.
When Decca (and the rest of the industry) abandoned the 10-inch LP format in 1955, it created a 12-inch LP version of Merry Christmas, catalogue Decca DL-8128, with four additional songs and the now familiar cover with Crosby in his Santa Claus stocking cap as pictured above. The new songs were "Silver Bells" and "Mele Kalikimaka," both recorded in September 1950, and "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" and "Christmas in Killarney," both recorded on October 1, 1951. The album's track listing was also adjusted slightly, with "Faith of Our Fathers" now preceding "I'll Be Home for Christmas." This issue has remained unchanged to present; first pressings of the album were released on Decca's all-black label with the catalog number in the top left corner of the front cover. This album was exactly duplicated for the 2014 re-issue by Geffen Records.
In 1963 the album was made available in electronically re-channeled stereo (with Decca's moniker, "Enhanced for Stereo" added on the upper right corner of the cover), Decca DL-78128. Mono copies made after the introduction of stereo have "DL-8128" in the bottom left corner of the front cover. All copies from the 1960s feature the Decca rainbow label. The mono version was temporarily deleted in 1968. The re-channeled stereo mixes are considered by many to be inferior due to the addition of artificial reverb, giving the once intimate-sounding "dry" original masters a "concert-hall" sound. The reverb is particularly intrusive on tracks such as "Adeste Fideles", "White Christmas", and "Silver Bells."
In 1973, after MCA merged all their labels (Decca, Uni, Kapp) to one corporate name, MCA Records, the album received a new catalogue number, MCA 167. This version was only available for a short time. Eventually, MCA chose to create a new numbering series for its reissued Christmas albums, and Merry Christmas was assigned MCA 15024. This exists on the black with rainbow, tan, and blue with rainbow labels. While the initial MCA pressings were in re-channeled stereo (as on the post-1963 Decca issues), the original "dry" mono mixes were restored to several of the later MCA pressings- most notably on the blue with rainbow labels.
In 1986 Merry Christmas was transferred to compact disc, MCAD-31143 and included these same twelve songs in their original mono mixes. Universal Music Group (successor to MCA Records) changed the name of the album to White Christmas, keeping the contents and the catalogue number unchanged. A new mono re-master was made in 1992 and reissued in 1995. It was further reissued in 1998, now with catalogue number B0017220-02. This is the one available at present. Note that it still says MCAD 31143 on the disc.
Notes regarding European versions: In 1970, the re-channeled stereo version of Merry Christmas was released on vinyl as White Christmas on the Coral label with catalogue number COPS 1011. In 1987, this version was transferred to compact disc on the MCA label with catalogue number 255 199-2. In 1991, it was reissued (possibly remastered) with catalogue number MCD30195, and later on with catalogue number MCD 18226.
The entire album over time, minus the songs "Faith of Our Fathers" and "Danny Boy"(which was only on the 1945 original album) can be found on the 1998 double-disc Bing Crosby: The Voice of Christmas, a compendium of all of Crosby's Christmas recordings for Decca from 1935 to 1956.
On August 29, 2008, the "White Christmas" album was re-issued as a "Collector's Edition" by Madacy Special Products. This issue featured the original album's 12 tracks in a slightly different order and added two additional tracks ("Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Here Comes Santa Claus"). The album was packaged in a collectible tin along with the Special Edition DVD of the 1942 film "Holiday Inn." This version of the album, unfortunately, has noticeably inferior sound quality as opposed to the 12-track MCA CD release of the same name- possibly because Madacy used the rechanneled stereo mixes for many of the tracks instead of the more contained, and intimate sounding mono originals.
It's possible the original mono masters (acetates and glass masters from the 1940s and tapes from the 1950s) were destroyed in the fire on the Universal Studios lot in 2008.
On September 30, 2014, the album was reissued on a newly-remastered LP by Geffen Records and Universal Music Enterprises. This limited edition mono reissue faithfully reproduces the newly-designed 1955 LP, right down to the album jacket artwork (which restores the original "Merry Christmas" title) and the period-appropriate black Decca label on the vinyl record.
- “Silent Night” / “Adeste Fideles” (Decca 18510)
- “White Christmas” / “Let’s Start the New Year Right” (Decca 18429)
- “I'll Be Home for Christmas” / “Danny Boy” (Decca 18570)
- “Faith of Our Fathers” / “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (Decca 18511)
- “Jingle Bells” / “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” (Decca 23281)
- “Silent Night” (1947 remake) / “Adeste Fideles” (Decca 23777),
- “White Christmas” (1947 remake) / “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (23778)
- “I'll Be Home for Christmas” / “Faith of Our Fathers” (Decca 23779),
- “Jingle Bells” / “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” (Decca 23281).
The additional tracks were issued as 78 rpm and 45 rpm singles in 1950 and 1951 respectively:
- "Mele Kalikimaka" (Decca 27228) (Decca L-5830)
- "Silver Bells" (Decca 27229) (Decca L-5832)
- "Christmas in Killarney" / "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" (Decca 27831) (Decca L-6462 and L-6463)
- "Silent Night", recorded March 19, 1947 with John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers.
- "Adeste Fideles", recorded June 8, 1942 with John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra and Max Terr's Mixed Chorus.
- "White Christmas", recorded March 19, 1947 with John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers.
- "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", recorded June 8, 1942 with John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra and Max Terr's Mixed Chorus.
- "Faith of Our Fathers", recorded June 8, 1942 with John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra and Max Terr's Mixed Chorus.
- "I'll Be Home for Christmas", recorded October 1, 1943 with John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra.
- "Jingle Bells", recorded September 29, 1943 with the Andrews Sisters and Vic Schoen and His Orchestra.
- "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town", recorded September 29, 1943 with the Andrews Sisters and Vic Schoen and His Orchestra.
- "Silver Bells", recorded September 8, 1950 with Carole Richards and John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra.
- "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas", recorded October 1, 1951 with John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra and Jud Conlon's Rhythmaires.
- "Christmas in Killarney", recorded October 1, 1951 with John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra and Jud Conlon's Rhythmaires.
- "Mele Kalikimaka", recorded September 7, 1950 with the Andrews Sisters and Vic Schoen and His Orchestra.
Delta Music also released an album in 1992 on the LaserLight label titled White Christmas often confused with the newer Decca imprint.
- The Christmas Song
- Jingle Bells
- Silent Night, Holy Night
- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
- Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
- I'll Be Home For Christmas
- Adeste Fideles
- White Christmas
- Joy to the World
- The First Noel
- Good King Wenceslas
- Away In a Manger
- Deck the Halls
- O Little Town of Bethlehem
- Silver Bells