Friday, January 20, 2006
Here's another lost Christmas album that I found at FaLaLaLaLa.com posted by FLLLL member Shemp - thank you, good sir!
Lorne Greene came to America from Canada in the 1950s and hit paydirt when he became Ben Cartwright on the long running TV western "Bonanza" (start humming the theme song now).
In 1962, RCA-Victor decided to cash in on "Bonanza's" popularity and sent Lorne and the other cast members into the recording studio. The first Bonanza album was so popular that Greene was allowed to record his first album "Young At Heart" in 1963 (which didn't sell).
At the end of that same year, the "Bonanza" cast recorded their infamous Christmas album "Christmas At The Ponderosa" that features Dan (Hoss) Blocker singing "Deck The Halls"! Again, it was a popular hit!
RCA-Victor knew a successful formula when it saw it. So in 1964 Lorne was allowed to record another solo album entitled "Welcome To The Ponderosa" (clever title, no?). The standout song was "Ringo", a country & western story song that Greene spoke instead of sung. It went to #1 on the Billboard charts and the album sold a respectable amount of copies.
Overcapitalizing on this fluke, RCA recorded and released FOUR Lorne Greene albums in 1965! They were Palaver And The Man, The Man, American West, and the album you see before you!
This album only has seven tracks and the spoken not sung formula is in full evidence on Side 1 (subtitled "The Stories Of Christmas"). Greene recites "Twas The Night Before Christmas" and "The Gift Of The Magi" using his fabulous voice to keep you spellbound or in stitches.
Side 2 starts out with four songs (subtitled "The Songs Of Christmas"). "Home For The Holidays" is a full singing track, "Jingle Bells" is a sung / spoken track (quite hilarious actually!), and "Christmas Is A-Coming" & "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" (both sung).
The last track is a thirteen minute extravaganza subtitled "The Holy Night (A Christmas Cantata) that features selected stories of Christmas alternating with songs such as "O Little Town Of Bethlehem" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing". One moment, Lorne is solemn and riveting with his narration... then the chorus swells and Lorne starts to sing - a full blown Cecil B. DeMille movie on vinyl! It's amazing...
Overall, I liked the album... it's campy, it's reverent, and it's all Christmas.
This album didn't sell very well and RCA-Victor squeezed one more album the following year of 1966. Up against the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and the Byrds, it died a quick death and Lorne Greene's recording career was over. Or was it?
Last year, a long lost syndicated Christmas radio show with Lorne Greene was uncovered and posted on the Internet. Featuring 30 tracks (one for each day in December), it was broadcast in Canada for several years in the early 1980s. The good folks at CheezePleeze.com still have it posted! Happy downloading...
On to the next new Christmas CD in my collection...