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Christmas Treats From Bing Crosby

Christmas Treats From Bing Crosby

No performer of the 20th century was more
associated with Christmas than Bing Crosby and, while he’s been gone for
decades, his voice still rings out on radios and Muzak systems whenever the
holidays roll around. (He’s not alone in this: go to any mall and you’ll hear
the voices of Gene Autry, Perry Como, and Andy Williams warbling their enduring
Christmas anthems.) If you have SiriusXM Radio you can listen to Crosby round
the clock for the next week on Channel 111, as Regis Philbin hosts a collection
of vintage radio specials, from 1942 to 1962 with Bing and such guests as Bob
Hope, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Orson
Welles, Peggy Lee, The Andrews Sisters, and Edgar Bergen with his young
daughter Candice. Regis also chats with Bing’s widow Kathryn Crosby and his son

Meanwhile, the Crosby recording of “White Christmas” remains
the biggest-selling song of all time (over 100 million and counting)—as a
single, on albums, and on downloads. Robert S. Bader of Bing Crosby
Enterprises tells me it’s also the most bootlegged song of all time.

Just in time for Christmas, Bing Crosby Enterprises has released
two new CD collections, meticulously produced by Bader. Bing Sings the Johnny Mercer Songbook features 22 tracks; some are
original Decca recordings, others are excerpts from the Crosby radio show, and
all are wonderful. 

Crosby and Mercer had an obvious musical simpatico, and
you’ll hear them together on “Mister Meadowlark.” Mercer was a prodigiously
gifted lyricist, evidenced by a wide range of songs, from his first hit “I’m
an Old Cowhand” (introduced by Bing in the movie Rhythm on the Range) to the wistful French-inspired “When the World
Was Young (Ah, the Apple Trees).” Other Mercer songs include “You Must Have
Been a Beautiful Baby,” “Jeepers Creepers,” “Skylark,” “Blues in the Night,”
“In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening,” “Autumn Leaves,” and “Too Marvelous
for Words.” Louis Armstrong makes a guest appearance performing a duet with
Bing on “Lazy Bones,” a song that evokes Mercer’s Southern upbringing. Informative
liner notes are provided by Howard E. Green.

The other new release is an expansion of the crooner’s first
original long-playing album from 1953, Le
I’ll quote the official Crosby website for details: “It’s fair to say
that Bing Crosby had a lifelong love affair with France. As Martin McQuade
recounts in his new liner notes for Le
Crosby was affected by the experience of entertaining there with the
USO, and memorably shot the dramatic film Little Boy Lost in the European
country. Crosby wrote in his 1953 autobiography that ‘with the exception of my
own, France is my favorite country – principally for its people and their
individualism.’  It was in France that
Crosby discovered his wife Dixie had cancer, and it was in France that he spent
some time during a family vacation after her passing. While in Paris on that
trip, Crosby recorded what would become his first-ever original long-playing

“Le Bing included
songs by such renowned French songwriters and artists including Edith Piaf,
Jacqueline Francois and Charles Trenet, 
but going above and beyond in his quest for authenticity, the
quintessentially American Crosby decided to sing the songs in their native
tongue. Composer-conductor Paul Durand, who had recorded with Piaf and
Francois, was chosen to collaborate with Crosby, and Crosby’s usual musical
director John Scott Trotter was also in attendance. The resulting album wasn’t
only a milestone as Crosby’s first LP, but holds up as one of his most
unique.  Among the Trenet songs included
is ‘La Mer,’ which Bobby Darin later made famous in the U.S. as ‘Beyond the
Sea.’  Piaf’s immortal ‘La Vie en Rose’
also gets a stylish Crosby treatment.

“The deluxe Le Bing
adds 15 tracks (12 previously unreleased) to the original eight-song LP, almost
tripling its length. Outtakes and alternate takes have been appended, as well
as radio broadcast performances of other Gallic favorites and the English
versions of selected tracks which Bing recorded for release on Decca.  Among the radio tracks is a take on Cole
Porter’s Can-Can showtune ‘I Love
Paris’ and a duet with Jane Morgan on ‘C’est Si Bon.’ All songs have been
remastered for this reissue by Gene Hobson.”

If you haven’t browsed the official Bing Crosby website, I
encourage you to visit—but only when you have time to get lost in its
cornucopia of audio and video treats. I never get tired of hearing Bing’s
voice, and it’s reassuring to know that there are still rare recordings and TV
shows being unearthed and made available to his countless fans.

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