CSOTD 12/16/2015: Better the second time

Generally speaking, an artist’s first version of a song is the best.  In Christmas music, Merle Haggard’s first version of “If We Make It Through December” is best. I also prefer Greg Lake’s original single version of “I Believe in Father Christmas,” and I especially prefer Gene Autry’s original takes on “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and any other song he later re-recorded for budget labels.

But once in a while, an artist revisits an older song, and the later version is the one that stands out. Such is the case with my Christmas Song of the Day for December 16.

Perry Como’s 1946 album Perry Como Sings Merry Christmas Music, a collection of four 78 rpm singles bound in a booklet, holds the distinction as the first Christmas album by a pop artist to consist entirely of new recordings. He recorded another Christmas album called Around the Christmas Tree as a 10-inch LP in 1953. In between, he did several non-album Christmas singles. His 1950 single was a nice song called “There Is No Christmas Like a Home Christmas,” written by prolific lyricist Carl Sigman with music by Mickey Addy, but it wasn’t a hit. Indeed, it was re-used the following year as the B-side of “It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas,” which was the biggest hit version of that Christmas standard.

Fast forward to 1968. By then, Como hadn’t had a bona fide hit single in almost a decade, but his old Christmas albums remained steady sellers. Ten years after his last, and arguably best, holiday LP, Season’s Greetings from Perry Como, was released, he recorded a new one called simply The Perry Como Christmas Album. Unfortunately, it was a fad in the 1960s for male crooners to have their vocals doubled by a choir of female singers to the point where the lead singer’s vocal is almost lost, and Como’s 1968 album is marred by this production decision.

But there is one exception. Como decided to revisit “There Is No Christmas Like a Home Christmas” for this album, and he turned the song into the highlight of The Perry Como Christmas Album. For this one song, the overproduction works.  Perhaps it’s because this is the one I heard first, but the 1968 version is the one with the magic. It used to be a staple of Christmas radio, but it’s heard a lot less often these days. Here is the 1968 re-recording of “There Is No Christmas Like a Home Christmas.”

And for those who are curious, here’s the 1950 version, so you can compare for yourself.

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