Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Christmas Cornucopia Part III: Holiday for Swing! By Seth MacFarlane, Arranged and Orchestrated by Joel McNeely

Before you protest, rest assured that Your Correspondent already knows.  Yes, Seth MacFarlane (born 1973) is an extremely low comedian, a vulgarian, politically incorrect and all the rest.  Check.
But … MacFarlane is also having a romance with the Great American Songbook, which he calls, in a most felicitous phrase, “orchestral jazz.”  I actually prefer the MacFarlanism, and will start using it myself.
He has previously released two albums of standards, doing his best to replicate the sound of Frank Sinatra (1915-1998), down to using the same, now-vintage microphone the older artist used.  With sprightly, energized arrangements by Joel McNeely (born 1959), these albums are, in a word, terrific.  (The spirit of homage is evident even on the album cover, which features a painted portrait of MacFarlane in the manner of many early 1960s Christmas swing albums.)
So, it was with a great deal of pleasure that I received a (very thoughtful!) early Christmas gift of his new holiday album, Holiday for Swing!  If you like Orchestral Jazz even a little bit, then this album is for you.  If you like holiday tunes with a touch of swing, this album is for you.  If you like singers who are clearly having fun, then this album is for you.  In short … get it already.
MacFarlane opens with Let It Snow!  This is a tuneful recording, but MacFarlane really hits his stride with the second number, Christmas Dreaming.  This song was only recorded by Sinatra and Harry Connick (that I’ve heard), but MacFarlane is better than either.  I have been humming this infectious tune for weeks, and it is now in my personal pantheon of Christmas classics.
MacFarlane returns to the seldom-heard with Little Jack Frost Get Lost (which I have only previously heard recorded by Bing Crosby) and Marshmallow World, which is also seldom released.  But are excellent – with MacFarlane having so much fun with the latter that we are happy just to listen to him.
His Baby, It’s Cold Outside is, frankly, openly sexy, and his Mele Kalikimaka (also only known to me through Crosby) is delightful.
There are several other numbers included (among them Moonlight in Vermont and The Christmas Song), and all work wonderfully well.
If you had told us that the recording of the season for us here at The Jade Sphinx would be by Seth MacFarlane, we would’ve signed you up for an extended stay in Bedlam.  But … Christmas is known for miracles, so we should expect the unexpected.  This is a great album and a worthy addition to pop Christmas standards. 

A special Christmas message tomorrow!

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