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Doo Wop ChristmasThere was no form of rock 'n' roll more pure than doo wop. Essentially a hopped-up version of a vocal group tradition extant in black culture for many years, doo wop was primarily sung a cappella by young amateurs (always on street corners, according to popular wisdom), and most doo wop records were simply studio recordings of those groups with instrumental backing added. It was performed - more than most rock music, at least - purely for the joy of it (and to impress girls, of course), and it's the closest thing rock n' roll has to sacrament. When doo wop entered the similarly pure world of Christmas music, good things were bound to happen. One of those things - "White Christmas" by Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters - is one of the best vocal performances in the history of rock (copied nearly note for note by Elvis Presley in 1958), to say nothing of its accepted status as one of the greatest Christmas vocal performances of all time (see my Top 100 Songs list).

Others doo wop Christmas records - such as the Penguins' "Jingle Jangle" - were unrestrained, happy mayhem. Some, such as the Orioles "Lonely Christmas," were typical of the sublime, strangely destitute sound that makes doo wop fans such a devoted bunch. True to form, Rhino Records collects more than a dozen such disparate gems (including all the above) on Doo Wop Christmas (1992).

Like too many Rhino compilations, though, this CD has a few stinkers - in this case, three synthesized, latter-day travesties by minor artists that doo wop maniacs seem to have a soft spot for. Someone (Rocky Rhino?) should be beaten mercilessly. Further, Frankie Lymon's appearance doesn't quite live up to its billing; though it's an impressive vocal performance, "It's Christmas Once Again" was recorded sans Teenagers and isn't, formally speaking, doo wop. But, that doesn't mitigate the brilliance of the rest of the album. Some of the songs here are among the best rock 'n' roll ever recorded, and most of the others are among of the best Christmas music ever. [top of page]

Albums Albums

SongsSongs

  • After New Year's Eve (Heartbeats, 1957)
  • Can This Be Christmas (Falcons, 1957)
  • (It's A) Happy Holiday (Shells, 1962)
  • It's Christmas Time (Five Keys, 1951)
  • It's Christmas Once Again (Frankie Lymon, 1957)
  • (It's Gonna Be A) Lonely Christmas (Orioles, 1948)
  • Jingle Jangle (Penguins, 1955)
  • Just A Lonely Christmas (Moonglows, 1953)
  • Merry Christmas Darling (Happy New Year, Too) (Uniques, 1962)
  • Merry Twist-mas (Marcels, 1961)
  • Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (Cadillacs, 1956)
  • Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (Harmony Grits, 1959)
  • What are You Doing New Year's Eve (Orioles, 1949)
  • White Christmas (Drifters, 1954)
  • White Christmas (Statues, 1960)

Further ListeningFurther Listening

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