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PlattersThe heyday of the The Platters - the single most popular vocal group of the pre-Beatles era - was nearly over when they cut Christmas With The Platters in 1963. It shows. The group was without stellar lead singer Tony Williams - the man who lent gravitas to doo wop hits like "The Great Pretender," "Only You," and "Twilight Time." In fact, the Platters' long string of hits on Mercury Records wound to an ignominious close shortly after Williams departed in 1961, though the group (with new lead voice Sonny Turner) would return with a few minor hits on the Musicor label from 1966-1967. Without Williams' trademark grace, the heavy hand of longtime producer and pop svengali Buck Ram made Christmas With The Platters sound forced and false. Whereas holiday-tinged spins on "My Prayer" or "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes " would have been sweet, what we get instead are string-laden standards mixed with incongruously noisy rockers. Altogether, the album isn't a horrible disappointment - for Platters fans, at least - but it's no masterpiece, either.

The opening track, "Jingle Bells Jingle," is one of the best - and noisiest - songs on Christmas With The Platters, though perhaps the most interesting thing about it is that songwriter Clay Hicks (whoever that is) managed to earn writer's credit for simply rearranging James Pierpont's hoary old "Jingle Bells." Hicks also shows up in the bylines for "Silent Night" and "Auld Lang Syne," so I suspect someone (Ram, perhaps?) was pulling a fast one... Anyway, "Jingle Bell Rock" is also fun, arranged in the same breakneck, drum-heavy fashion.

Buck Ram's ballad "Come Home for Christmas" is the only original song on the album, and it's worth a listen, with Sonny Turner doing his best Tony Williams impersonation (though he ends up sounding more like Brook Benton). The rest of the record is strictly by-the-numbers, though token female Sandra Dawn (who replaced Zola Taylor in 1962) takes a rare lead turn lisping her way through "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two front Teeth." And, bass singer Herb Reed takes the spotlight on "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town." Regardless, as critic Robert Christgau might say, Christmas With The Platters may impress once or twice, then it won't.

Consumer Notes. Christmas With The Platters has been reissued on CD at least twice, by Polygram in 1994, and more recently as 20th Century Masters: The Christmas Collection (2004). The original cover is shown above. However, be aware that latter-day line-ups of the Platters have cut a bunch holiday sides which have been reissued innumerable times in innumerable guises - e.g. Classic Christmas (2001) and, confusingly, Christmas With The Platters (2013). Unless you're an incurable doo wop fanatic, avoid them. [top of page]

Albums Albums


  • Come Home For Christmas
  • Jingle Bells Jingle
  • Jingle Bell Rock

Further ListeningFurther Listening

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