Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews

The Edie Adams Christmas Album – with Ernie Kovacs – Omnivore Records

Nostalgia lovers have a precious gem from the early 1950s in the form of the Edie Adams Christmas Album, especially as a momento of her work with Ernie Kovacs.

Published on December 9, 2012

The Edie Adams Christmas Album = Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town; It’s Christmas Time; Household Holiday Blues; Silver Bells; Blue Christmas; Let It Snow!; I Wonder as I Wander; It’s a Marshmallow World; White Christmas; I’ll Be Home for Christmas; Christmas in Killarney; Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas; Winter Wonderland; What Are You Doin’ New Years’ Eve? – Edie Adams/ Ernie Kovacs; CBS Studio Players – Omnivore Records OVCD-42, 55:00 ****:

This disc brings back a host of memories, not the least for the writer of the liner notes, Edie Adams’s son, Josh Mills, by Edie’s second husband, Marty Mills. And I well recall The Ernie Kovacs Show from the early 1960s, after he had gravitated to ABC and challenged the hegemony of Ed Sullivan on TV. Staple routines had The Nairobi Trio bopping the piano player’s head (a la Moe, Larry, and Curly); and those wacky Muriel Cigar commercials utilizing the Haydn Serenade had would-be execution-squad members getting high on the cigar smoke and forgetting to shoot their intended victim.

These 1952 inscriptions with the Juilliard-trained Edie Adams (nee Edith Elizabeth Enke, 1927-2008) and Ernie Kovacs (d. 1962) capture a special romance that TV brought into our otherwise hectic or prosaic lives. These tracks originate from the Kovacs Unlimited TV show from Philadelphia in 1952. Edie’s crystal-clear intonation and mellifluous voice has the Kovacs fingernails-on-blackboard vocal accompaniment, but the result is pure magic. The three duets, “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” “Household Blues,” and “Silver Bells,” inject that off-kilter spontaneity that defined the Kovacs experience. During “It’s a Marshmallow World,” Edie sticks a marshmallow in her mouth, and the garbled result is pretty obvious. We can hear the winter wind blow for “White Christmas.” More often than not, Adams hits a high note or holds a top note that indicate how well her operatic training might have served her on another sort of stage. But some may have seen and heard her performance in L’il Abner on Broadway. While she, Ernie and the cast members dance for the Killarney selection, they openly admit, “With no rehearsal.” The undiminished sense of Christmas cheer and domestic joie de vivre more than manage to move us despite some scratchy sound originals: as Josh Mills unabashedly notes, “. . .even my dad knew that Ernie was the love of her life.”

I would add that one Kovacs show in particular, his setting of Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra as a kind of T.S. Eliot commentary on the bleakness of modern existence, had to rank as the most “progressive” and experimental moment of television I had ever seen, and maybe still is. And by the way, that Edie Adams can sure belt out a tune!

—Gary Lemco




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