Monday, May 22, 2006

John Klein - A Christmas Sound Spectacular

In a previous post, I mentioned that Christmas carillon music was beginning to become a subgenre in my Christmas collection. I also mentioned in the same post about the origins of this album:

"Last December, I've began searching my local Goodwill, Salvation Army, antique stores, vinyl resale shops, and garage sales for unique Christmas music that I can digitally transfer over.

"I found a RCA Victor "Living Stereo" album cover entitled 'A Christmas Sound Spectacular' by John Klein at a local Goodwill (no record enclosed unfortunately) that piqued my interest. Thankfully, I found a site that sells this very CD and ordered up a copy."

The site mentioned above is Schulmerich Bells of Sellersville, PA. Not only was this album recorded at their factory back in 1959, they used the 1,453-bell Carillon Americana, the largest carillon in the world at the time, for the recording with two manual keyboards on the carillon and a pedal clavier controlling all the bells (and at different pitches!).

John Klein was an organist, pianist, and musical director for radio dramas and documentary movies. His talents took him to Europe where he played many music festivals and the Brussels World Fair (where he played the carillon twice a day) in 1958. Klein owned a nearby antique store in Rahns, PA when he was asked to participate in this project.

In the previous album of Christmas carillon music I reviewed, it was simply a sound engineer standing in a garden, recording the carillonneur playing Christmas music.

This album is completely night and day from the other album. It adds an orchestra, chorus, and arrangements that keeps you guessing. Don't be surprised if you actually get this album and hear elements of Jackie Gleason, Henry Mancini, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Esquivel, and Billy May. All these elements greatly add to this album and can make for a definite change of pace.

Two standout tracks are "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" and "Frosty The Snowman" thanks in large part to their fun, fast arrangements. The other standout track, "Winter Wonderland", benefits from its big band feel and the carillons themselves which add a snowy touch to the song. If there was an instrument more perfectly suited for "Winter Wonderland", it's the carillon... I checked the window several times to see if snow was falling!

I'm glad I found the cover back in the Goodwill months ago... you can't go wrong with this album!

On to the next new Christmas CD in my collection...



Ernie said...

Does the CD version of "A Christmas Sound Spectacular" reproduce the original insert? I found a vintage copy the other day that had a single sheet insert, folded into three sections each about LP size, that talked about the carillon. I'd never seen it before.

CaptainOT said...

I would love to see your artwork to compare with mine...
Cut and paste this link to see the inside of this CD booklet:

Now cut and paste this link to see the back of the CD booklet:

Hope this helps...


Ernie said...

I'm going to try and get a copy of it up on the blog come Christmas time. It's going to be a real bear to scan because it's so big. The woodcut inside your sleeve is from (or very similar to) the insert in mine.

Thanks for the info.


Anonymous said...

I also have the original LP with the woodcut entitled "The Story of the Bells". I have been looking for a way to get a digital recording of this LP as mine is so well used and worn out.
I just returned from a Renaissance Fest in Apache Junction, AZ and was enthralled at a Carillon show by "Cast in Bronze". It's a traveling Carillon and is from the same area of the country that the Carillon Americana of the LP was manufactured,m Sellersville, PA. Check it out.

CaptainOT said...

Anon - Looks mighty interesting!

Be sure to check out the recordings section, folks! There's a Christmas CD for sale with MP3 samples to listen to!

Thanks for the comment!


James Cimarusti said...

This is a great album! I was lucky to find an excellent stereo copy with the insert. John Klein also had another Christmas album recorded for RCA at the 1964/65 World's Fair Coca Cola Pavillion. The title escapes me, but it has an apropriate Christmas picture on the cover and a line drawing of the Coca Cola pavillion on the back. It's just as good but harder to track down. (I wish RCA would reissue these on a 2-fer). There is also his Christmas album for Columbia "Caroling on the Carillion" which is straight carillion (no orchestra) like the World's Fair album.

James Cimarusti said...

I just located information on the album mentioned in my previous post. It's called: "Let's Ring The Bells-All Around The Christmas Tree" and does have an orchestra and chorus arranged and conducted by Henri Rene.

A mono version can be downloaded at www.ernie(notbert)

CaptainOT said...

James - When all else fails, check Ernie's blog for long lost Christmas music. He's the man!


Ted The Fiddler said...

I knew John Klein. He was a friend of my Dad's and came in my Dad's bar all the time when I was little. I called him Uncle Jack. Later when I became a Musician, he came to hear me play a few times and gave me good advice. Some one said the CD is avalible through the Carillon company in Sellersviile, Pa. I found two Reel to Reel copies and made a CD from those for myself. I'm holding the Reel box right now in my hand.

Anonymous said...

The "Christmas Sound Spectacular" album was given to my Dad brand new in 1959.(I was 6) Every Christmas since it remains my favorite and brings back so many wonderful memories. The quality of sound was outstanding on the record. I also found the CD but as CD's go, cannot produce the depth of the music as a vinyl record and a tube amplifier can.