Kurt Elling’s Love Letter to Albert Finney’s 1970 Scrooge
My love for Leslie Bricusse's 1970 musical “Scrooge,” starring Albert Finney, runs deep.
I read Dickens' original “A Christmas Carol” every year. It is not only one of my favorite Christmas books, it is one of my favorite books period. The story of Scrooge's redemption is inspirational to me, pointing that none of us are beyond the ability to reflect on our lives and truly change for the better.
People seem to either love or hate the 1970 musical film adaptation by composer/director Leslie Bricusse. I am, obviously, in the former camp. To me, it really retains the spirit of Dickens' story. The smoky, lamplit look of Old London and its inhabitants of all classes makes me feel that I am there with Scrooge through it all. And I love the songs. The songs on the soundtrack (woefully still unavailable in any digital format) so perfectly complement the story and characters. And they're catchy as all get out. Even those who barely know (or like) the movie are likely able to sing the rousing Academy Award winning “Thank You Very Much.”
I have often thought that many of the songs from Scrooge, if written perhaps a decade earlier, could have gone on to become Christmas staples. Songs like “Christmas Children,” “December the 25th,” and “Sing A Christmas Carol” all have the perfect Christmas spirit and work well outside of Dickens' story. I easily imagine somebody like Andy Williams or Johnny Mathis fitting one of those songs on one of their Christmas albums, fitting nicely with modern Christmas standards. But, alas, the songs came out as we headed into the 1970s when the times were different and crooners were out of favor.
The Beautiful Day
So I will thank jazz vocalist Kurt Elling for reviving three great songs from Scrooge on his new Christmas album, The Beautiful Day. The title of the album indeed is the name of one of the songs and two of the songs bookend the entire project. It seems obvious that Elling has a fondness for these songs and sees them holding their weight in the midst of an album of Christmas music.
That being said, the album is no fluffy Johnny Mathis sleigh ride (though I'm all for that as well). This is a jazz album of musical and lyrical depth. There are quite a few lesser known songs and carols represented on The Beautiful Day. So don't go into it expecting a cool and fun Ultra-Lounge Christmas Cocktails feel. I like the album as a whole, but my purpose here is to acknowledge Elling's resurrecting what are, to me, some beautiful and uplifting Christmas songs.
Outside of a few other versions out there (including a horribly overproduced version of “Christmas Children” from pop country act SHeDaisy), the songs from Scrooge haven't really entered the Christmas music cannon. I certainly hope that Elling's prominent inclusion of them on The Beautiful Day will begin to correct that situation.
And to that I say, “Thank You Very Much!”