Another installment in Collectables' The Ultimate Christmas Album series, volume four gathers a mix of well-known and offbeat holiday tunes, including Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas," the Platters' "Winter Wonderland," and Perry Como's "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas." Brook Benton's "You're All I Want for Christmas," Percy Faith's "Christmas Is," and Otis Redding's "Merry Christmas Baby" are some of the collection's soulful highlights, while Santo & Johnny's "Twistin' Bells" and Stan Freberg's "Christmas Dragnet" add some novelty to the festivities. Though it's a somewhat uneven collection, The Ultimate Christmas Album, Vol. 4: WCBS 101.1 has enough interesting and classic moments to make it worthwhile for anyone looking to go beyond the season's basic music.
Armed with just his "Feels So Good" quintet and occasionally a couple of brass players, Mangione's more grandiose ambitions are pretty much behind him on his final A&M release. The emphasis is almost entirely on spinning pretty tunes for his new mass audience without alienating or challenging it much. Not that this collection is completely soporific or lacking the jazz touch; "Pina Colada" revives things with some uptempo flights for Mangione's flugelhorn and Chris Vadala's tenor, and the title cut is an amiably jumping, if repetitive funk workout for the quintet. The major push, however, went to "Give It All You Got" – another upbeat, optimistic, good-times motivating tool, heard extensively at the 1980 Winter Olympics – and Chuck gives it to us again at a listless tempo with the title, "Give It All You Got, But Slowly." As things transpired, this would be his last halfway decent studio album for at least the next decade.
This import version of Chuck Mangione's A&M hits collection contains three more tracks than its domestic counterpart, as well as his volume in the Universal 20th Century Masters collection. The bottom line when it comes to Mangione's music: his biggest period was in the '70s for A&M, when he had his monster hit "Feels So Good." That one has to be here, but so are other noteworthy (and very successful) singles such as "Land of Make Believe," "Chase the Clouds Away," and the overture for "Children of Sanchez."