Monday, December 7, 2015

25 Holiday Records: 19: Elvis' Christmas Album

We're counting down to Christmas Day with a list of 25 records we have in the shop at Royal Cat Records! Why? Because vinyl rules!

Our next record is an iconic smash hit from the golden age of Rock 'n' Roll!


Elvis' Christmas Album
by Elvis Presley

When you think about it, this was Elvis’ first “theme” record. A whole LP devoted to Christmas music! What a concept for 1957 rock ’n roll fans!

 This has got to be one of the best-selling records ever. It was Elvis’ 6th gold record and just keeps selling. As Elvis records go, it leaves a lot to be desired. There are only 4 real rockers on the disc, which is filled out with a handful of traditional gospel tunes (boring!) and some straight renditions of the more religious Xmas songs. “Slow Elvis” is not our favourite Elvis at Royal Cat Records, to say the least. We suppose if you feel compelled to listen to a pop version of religious music during the holidays, Elvis is better than some other choices you could make.

There are better Xmas records by Elvis, including “Blue Christmas” (same cover, some of the same songs), and a couple larger, posthumous compilations. But this is the first one.

The record was not a hit with Canadian tastemakers and self-appointed moral guardians of Christmas. According to blogger Alan Hanson:

 It was from radio stations north of the border, however, that “Elvis’ Christmas Album” received the most criticism and banishment from the airwaves. This was despite Presley having played to huge crowds earlier in the year during concerts in Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver. In the latter city, all six of the town’s radio stations agreed to a proposed ban on Elvis’s holiday recordings. 

Radio station CKXL in Calgary also banned Elvis’s album. “Presley’s latest release has, we feel, no place on our station,” said a CKXL spokesman. “We have the album for audition—it speaks for itself. Presley sings the Christmas songs exactly as we expected he would. It is one of the most degrading things we have heard in some time.” He described Presley as “panting” through the hymns “Silent Night” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Another Calgary station, CFCN, denied an official ban, but stated Elvis’s album “would not be played because it happens to be in lousy taste.” 

 In Toronto, station CFRB banned the album, declaring, “there are better interpretations of Xmas hymns.” Gordon Sinclair, columnist for the Toronto Star, condemned Presley’s rock ’n’ roll treatment of Christmas carols. “Only Mahalia Jackson could jazz the hymns,” he said. Sinclair added that he disliked censorship, but found Elvis’s treatment of Christmas songs to be “wildly inappropriate.” 

[Canadian Press…] surveyed disk jockeys across Canada and found, while many refused to spin any cut on Elvis’s album, other stations planned to play the non-religious songs, like “Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me,” while shying away from the Christmas standards like “Silent Night.” Other stations stated they were waiting for their listeners' views before making a decision on whether or not to play the album. 

 [CBC…] took a progressive stand on “Elvis’ Christmas Album.” A spokesman stated, “We have no objection if listeners want to hear the Presley albums and CBC disk jockeys want to play the numbers.” 

 Of course, back in the U.S. “Elvis’ Christmas Album” racked up big sales. On October 7, Billboard reported that advance orders for the LP far exceeded RCA’s planned production of 200,000 copies. An RCA exec called it, “the greatest advance album order in the history of the company.”

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