In 1964, Aretha found herself recording a few more Christmas songs. After two consecutive days of finishing up the bulk of recording her 1964 album Runnin’ Out Of Fools, Aretha returned to the studio for a third day. On that day, October 7, Aretha cut two Christmas sides. The two sides were released as a single months later, just in time for the Christmas holiday. They didn’t appear on any Aretha album until 2011. Instead, they floated around, making occasional appearances on Columbia-affiliated compilations.
The more oft-released of the two was “Winter Wonderland”. Opening strings and jingling bells give way to a swinging arrangement highlighted by church bells and piano flourishes, with strings that continue to do the heavy lifting. Aretha sounds perfectly at home over the jazzy, swinging arrangement. Vocally, she takes her liberties, from going up as she delivers the opening line, to letter the background parts focus on certain lines while she delivers some runs. Aretha embellishes the lyrics a bit, changing “dream by the fire” to “groove by the fire,” Arethaizing it as only she can. She may have even played piano on “Winter Wonderland” according to one rumor, though the credits for players on the entire Runnin’ Out Of Fools album are unavailable to verify.
Listen to Aretha stroll through a “Winter Wonderland”: