Classic Album Review-Ray Price “The Ray Price Christmas Album”
1969 the year; Christmas the holiday. Record buyers are flocking to the stores to buy the latest holiday sounds, which for many shoppers included the then new offering from the legendary Ray Price. “The Ray Price Christmas Album” hit the shelves in November. Though if failed to crack any of the national record charts, it remained a steady seller for well over thirty years.
Ray opens his collection of holiday sounds with a somewhat relaxed version of “Jingle Bells”. The tempo is there, but even at that Ray’s vocals are still relaxed. A pretty good rendition.
Easily the best song on the disc is “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day”. Ray Price does this song better than anyone. It’s a beautiful song, especially with the Johnny Marks melody, and it’s a perfect fit for Ray’s stylings. Outstanding is all I can say.
On the other hand, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” does not come off as well. Not that it’s terrible, it’s not, but it does seem that Ray’s vocals aren’t quite up to par on this track. Just an okay track, really.
Ray does a nice job on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, as the vocals are back to the level one expects from Ray Price.
“O Little Town Of Bethlehem”. This is the only version I’ve ever heard where the pronunciation of Bethlehem comes out Bethl-EE-hem. Despite this, overall, another nice track of very relaxing music.
“The Little Drummer Boy” doesn’t rank as high on my list of favorites as it does for many others, that being said, there are some good versions, out there, including the original Harry Simeon Choir, Bob Seger, Hank Williams Jr., and Ray Price’s. I like his version. Interesting arrangement, to begin with, that features mainly Ray, some background vocalists, a drum, and a mix of violins and cellos. Orchestration, but stripped down to it’s bare minimum, letting the vocalist shine.
Remember Sister Janet Mead’s rocking version of “The Lord’s Prayer”? Ray Price’s version is nothing like that. His rendition is more along the lines of the traditional way we usually expect to hear it. A good vocal performance on a track that usually has a feeling of dragging, to me, even though it usually times out around two and a half minutes, no matter who is singing.
Ray next tackles “O Come All Ye Faithful”. Not bad. It does have a bit of a blandness to it, though. It’s like that beautiful looking cake that you can’t wait to take a bite of, then when you do, the taste isn’t quite what you expected.
“It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” is a notch or two better than the previous track. I really like Ray’s version of this Christmas classic.
Nice is the word that most often comes to me while listening to this album. Most of the tracks are nice; not spectacular or groundbreaking, just nice. Again, that comes to me while listening to “Happy Birthday To You, Our Lord”. A nice track with, of course, some fine vocal work from Ray Price.
Ray wrapped this collection with “Silent Night”. A beautiful song no matter who does it, Ray’s version is as good as most that you’ll find.
This album has been issued on CD, though it does not appear to be available this year. I did find a few new copies online for a staggering sum of $45????? Not worth that. Find a used CD or vinyl copy and save some money.
Easily the Standout Track is “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day”. Ray’s version of “The Little Drummer Boy” gets my nod as the Hidden Gem. Weakest Track goes to “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, as it just sounds like the voice isn’t quite where it should be.
Overall, a (here’s that word, again) nice album. Certainly not one to play if you’re looking to liven up your day or a party; but if you’re needing some nice, relaxing Christmas sounds, than it’s certainly worth picking up a copy. I rate it a 3 out of 5.
MORE RAY PRICE