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Area Resident’s Stylus Counsel | The Island of Misfit Elvis Christmas Records

Track 151 | O come, all ye faithful.

I just realized I have three Elvis Presley Christmas records — two are essentially the same album, but they’re all slightly different, with entirely different artwork.

When I went to figure out the deal with the King’s Xmas albums — how many he actually made, versus the represses, knockoffs and repackaged ones — I was horrified to discover there are actually 142 versions of his primary one. And that’s just the vinyl versions. There are 233 total when you add in the CDs, tapes and 8 tracks.

When I say “his primary one,” I’m talking about the 1957 record called Elvis’ Christmas Album. This was actually just his third studio album. The original artwork is probably quite familiar to most — a red background featuring nine, shiny wrapped gifts and a photo of Elvis’ head. The album title is printed across the top in all-caps gothic font.

Japan, the U.K., South Africa, Australia and New Zealand ones featured different artwork. The U.K. one had just a huge smiling headshot of Elvis, set against a blue background. The Japanese one just had Xmas balls hanging on a tree limb, set against a red background. The New Zealand one was the weirdest — Presley’s smiling face taking the place of a full moon on a snowy night in a small village. The South African artwork was the same as Presley’s second studio album, Elvis — except with the title covered with a white patch and the words The Elvis Presley Xmas Album in script. The Australian version features a pouty-faced Elvis in a velour top, superimposed over an alpine scene and a blue background. This is the same artwork as one of my three copies — but mine is a 1964 Canadian pressing.

I do have a copy with the same artwork as the first-pressing, but mine is a different album — one called Blue Christmas, and it’s another Canadian pressing from 1976. So, what, then, is Blue Christmas? Well, it’s a knockoff named after the most popular song on the original Elvis’ Christmas Album. My copy is actually a first-pressing of Blue Christmas. There were 13 different vinyl presses of it — most of them were Canadian, with four from Sweden, two from Australia and one from New Zealand.

My third copy is a 1970 Canadian mono pressing. While it shares the same title as the original, Elvis’ Christmas Album, it has different artwork again. This time, the image — featuring a smiling, cross-armed Elvis in a striped athletic jacket — is one taken from the movie Speedway. It isn’t even winter. This same image of Elvis was superimposed over a winter church scene for a European pressing called Christmas With Elvis. He looks underdressed for the weather — even his name has snow piled up on top of it.

OK. They look different and have different names — but are the songs the same? Yes and no.

The original 1957 Elvis’ Christmas Album has these tracks, in this order:

Side 1
Santa Claus Is Back In Town
White Christmas
Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)
I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Blue Christmas
Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me

Side 2
Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem
Silent Night
(There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me)
I Believe
Take My Hand, Precious Lord
It Is No Secret (What God Can Do)

My 1964 Canadian version (same title but with the pouty alpine scene cover artwork) has the exact same running order. However, my 1970 copy of Elvis’ Christmas Album (Same title, but with the Speedway artwork) has an entirely different running order and even two different songs. It goes like this:

Side 1
Blue Christmas
Silent Night
Santa Claus Is Back In Town
I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Side 2
If Every Day Was Like Christmas
Here Comes Santa Claus (Down Santa Claus Lane)
Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem
Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me)
Mama Liked The Roses

So, you get two songs added — If Every Day Was Like Christmas and Mama Liked The Roses, and White Christmas. But, you lose four — (There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me), I Believe, Take My Hand, Precious Lord, and It Is No Secret (What God Can Do).

Just to make things even more confusing, my 1976 copy of Blue Christmas (different title) also has yet ANOTHER running order, even though it has the same artwork as the original. This time you get seven songs which weren’t on the 1957 original — O Come, All Ye Faithful, On A Snowy Christmas Night, It Won’t Seem Like Christmas (Without You), Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees, I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day, Winter Wonderland and Silver Bells. This album cuts original tracks I’ll Be Home For Christmas, Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem, (There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me), I Believe, Take My Hand, Precious Lord, and It Is No Secret (What God Can Do). It goes like this:

Side 1
Blue Christmas
O Come, All Ye Faithful
On A Snowy Christmas Night
It Won’t Seem Like Christmas (Without You)
Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees
Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me)
I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day

Side 2
Santa Claus Is Back In Town
Silent Night
Here Comes Santa Claus (Down Santa Claus Lane)
Winter Wonderland
White Christmas
Silver Bells
Mama Liked The Roses

So I guess it’s worth keeping all three. I was really hoping to sell one.

Like me, you’re probably wondering where these songs came from which weren’t on the 1957 original — were they leftovers? Singles? Nope — they come off yet another Elvis Christmas album, this one an official studio release from 1971 called Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas. All but one of these songs were recorded over the course of two days in mid-May, 1971 in RCA Studio B, Nashville. It’s fun to remember this when you listen to them.

This album features an illustrated cover — 12 Christmas icons in a grid… an ornament, a tree, holly, a stocking, a reindeer, Santa, a skate, etc. Here’s the running order:

Side 1
O Come, All Ye Faithful
The First Noel
On A Snowy Christmas Night
Winter Wonderland
The Wonderful World of Christmas
It Won’t Seem Like Christmas (Without You)

Side 2
I’ll Be Home on Christmas Day
If I Get Home On Christmas Day
Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees
Merry Christmas Baby
Silver Bells

So, I guess the best thing to do is to make you a master playlist of all of these songs, right? Right.

 

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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.

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