LOC 1035 Black Label Dog On Top
Elvis' Christmas Album
Side 1. Santa Claus Is Back In Town / White Christmas / Here Comes Santa Claus (right down santa claus lane) / I'll Be Home For Christmas / Blue Christmas / Santa Bring My Baby Back (to me)
Side 2. O Little Town Of Bethlehem / Silent Night / (there'll be) Peace In The Valley (for me) / I Believe / Take My Hand, Precious Lord / It Is No Secret
This LP came in a beautiful gatefold cover, and contained a 10 page booklet, the back cover had an outstanding portrait and featured a gold sticker that read...To------- and From--------, and had the track listing.
This LP was number 1 when it was released on November 23rd 1957 on Billboard's Hot LP chart, it remained on this chart for seven weeks, four weeks at number 1.
It was also released in the UK by RCA in November 1957, RCA RD 27052, it would reach the number 2 slot on this chart.
Despite Elvis' affection for the festive season, he was less than enthusiastic at the prospect of recording a whole album of Christmas songs, not least because he was more occupied with Leiber and Stoller's Treat Me Nice, a number he had laboured long and hard over at the May 1957 sessions. Elvis' first task when he entered Radio Recorders on September 5th 1957 was to nail the song once and for all, but the bulk of the following 3 days was to be taken up with Christmas material, and to create the right atmosphere, Steve Sholes had a Christmas tree set up in the studio, complete with decorations and presents.
The first festive number to be laid down on the opening day was Blue Christmas, a number 2 hit for Ernest Tubb on the Country charts several years earlier, Elvis delivered a great version in his own style, Millie Kirkham's beautiful soprano, is wonderful, if just a little offset, all in all a great number. With only two numbers recorded over the course of several hours, and just one of them a Christmas song, Steve Sholes was keen for Elvis and the band to get down to business the following day. Unlike the previous day, Elvis was able to record three album tracks, and before the days end a further Leiber and Stoller song Don't. The first of the three songs was probably the most famous Christmas song ever recorded, Irving Berlin's White Christmas, which Bing Crosby had mad his own the previous decade, rather than follow Crosby's slow, soft dreamy approach, Elvis took a version by The Drifters as his inspiration, the result was more stop start, and was certainly completely different from Bing Crosby's take on it.
Next up was Here Comes Santa Claus (right down santa clause lane), co written by Gene Autry, there was no controversy here, just a great Christmas song done well, and this was followed up with another festive favourite Silent Night, sung with sincerity by Elvis, and this would round of the festive recordings for the day.
The third and final day of recording, September 7th 1957, started with a version of the traditional carol O Little Town Of Bethlehem, the tone established by the reedy organ introduction, Elvis' vocal is tremendous and respectful, and the overall treatment of the track is quite and understated. Next up was the up-tempo and bouncy Santa Bring My Baby Back (to me), Elvis' delivery is snappy and pleasant enough, with some nice doo-wop touches from The Jordanaires, sensing that Elvis wasn't keen to work his way through a whole album of predictable Christmas songs, Leiber and Stoller came to the rescue, quickly penning a track on the spot, that positively oozed erotic implications, Santa Claus Is Back In Town (and riding in a long black limousine no less), was played with real grit, with a raunchy swing to it, and a superb vocal from Elvis.
They rounded f the session with the slow and heartfelt I'll Be Home For Christmas, another track that has Elvis in great voice. To make up the final album RCA decided to track the eight Christmas tracks and combine them with the four gospel tracks from the EP Peace In The Valley, Elvis had recorded three of the four tracks on January 12th and 13th of that year, beginning with the wonderful and heartfelt I Believe, originally recorded by Roy Hamilton, one of Elvis' earliest vocal heroes, Elvis was still perfecting his ballad technique but there is no doubting the sincerity in his voice. The following day, January 13th) squeezed between recordings for the Loving You soundtrack and single release, Elvis cut (there'll be) Peace In The Valley (for me) in nine takes, delivering a marvellous vocal backed with the rich tones from The Jordanaires, whose Gordon Stoker provided piano accompaniment. The song had been written by the man regarded as the father of modern black gospel - Reverend Thomas A. Dorsey, the day finished with another Dorsey number, the slow Take My Hand, Precious Lord, a favourite of Martin Luther King Jr, which was sung at his funeral by Mahalia Jackson.
Introduced by an organ, it immediately conjures up the church feel and the spiritual nature of the song once more inspires an impassioned lead vocal from Elvis, he works his way from a slow, low register murmur at the start of each verse to a strident cry at it's conclusion, once more The Jordanaires' harmonies provide a cushion for Elvis' vocal.
The final track to be recorded for the EP and the closing track on the Elvis' Christmas Album was, It Is No Secret (what god can do), recorded on January 19th 1957, alongside more material for Loving You, this hymn was another tender reading of the standard, set to minimal accompaniment of piano, drums and backing vocals.
Unlikely as it may seem today, the very thought of a rock'n'roll star such as Elvis recording tracks like O Little Town Of Bethlehem was scandalous to some back in 1957, a DJ called Al Priddy at KEX in Portland was fired for playing a track from the LP, the album was also banned by many Canadian radio stations, but this didn't hurt sales that much, released in November 1957 the LP shifted 200,000 copies over its first festive season and topped the Billboard charts for four weeks. Regularly repackaged and reissued since, it has continued to sell, racking up sales of around nine million copies in the US alone.
Santa Claus Is Back In Town - Recorded September 7th 1957, Radio Recorders, Hollywood
White Christmas - Recorded September 6th 1957, Radio Recorders, Hollywood
Here Comes Santa Claus (right down santa claus lane) - Recorded September 6th 1957, Radio Recorders, Hollywood
I'll Be Home For Christmas - Recorded September 7th 1957, Radio Recorders, Hollywood
Blue Christmas- Recorded September 5th 1957, Radio Recorders, Hollywood
Santa Bring My Baby Back (to me) - Recorded September 6th 1957, Radio Recorders, Hollywood
O Little Town Of Bethlehem - Recorded September 7th 1957, Radio Recorders, Hollywood
Silent Night - Recorded September 6th 1957, Radio Recorders, Hollywood
(there'll be) Peace In The Valley (for me) - January 13th 1957, Radio Recorders, Hollywood
I Believe - January 12th 1957, Radio Recorders, Hollywood
Take My Hand, Precious Lord - January 13th 1957, Radio Recorders, Hollywood
It Is No Secret (what god can do) - January 19th 1957, Radio Recorders, Hollywood
Radio Recorders, Hollywood
Elvis Presley - Vocals
Scotty Moore - Guitar
Bill Black - Bass
D.J. Fontana – Drums
Hoyt Hawkins, Gordon Stoker - Piano
The Jordanaires - Vocals
US - 1
UK - 2
US - November 1957
UK - November 1957