Sooner or later every pop or jazz artist feels required to record an album of holiday favorites. These seldom seem to be labors of love and are more likely to be popularity payoffs. But a few good ones do slip through, and Lena Horne’s Merry from Lena is surely one of the best. Horne was in her best voice at the time it was recorded (1965, released in 1966). Most of the tunes are standard secular fare – “Jingle All the Way,” “The Christmas Song,” “White Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Let It Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!” But we also find “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Silent Night,” the latter givne a unique and effective performance that plumbs the glory of the tune, rather than celebrating it’s intimacy.
Merry from Lena was originally on the United Artists label.The CD re-releases of the album, on the Capitol, Razor & Tie, and DRG labels all add a bonus track, a very playful rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” complete with the oft omitted introduction. The album was produced by Ray Ellis. Arrangements were by Jack Parnell, who also conducted. There’s lots of punchy brass on the upbeat numbers and sweet, not saccharine strings on many of the slower ones. You can find the Razor & Tie CD at Amazon for a very attractive price. Also the original LP. This warm, witty, and wonderful album should be in every holiday music collection.