Monday, August 14, 2006

John Davidson - My Christmas Favorites

Just when you think you've seen it all, a record like this one comes along, and you're stunned, speechless, thrown for a loop.

I've pushed this particular album several times down the stack of albums I downloaded over at Ernie's blog late last year. I sat down to review another album from said stack and John was staring at me in the face. I was trapped. I HAD to review it now.

You probably remember John Davidson from his successful run as the host of "The Hollywood Squares" back in the 1980s. If you have a longer memory than that, you may remember him as a co-host of "That's Incredible" along side of Fran Tarkenton and the delectable Cathy Lee Crosby!

If you have a longer memory than THAT (or are a fount of useless trivia and information like me), you'll remember John Davidson as the star of several Disney movies in late 1960s-early 1970s, having his own television talk show, and filling in for Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show" over 80 times.

To me, however, whenever I think of John Davidson I think of that haircut... oh yes... never a bad hair day on this man. It's size and shape has changed over the years but whenever set, it stays in place like a helmet.

If you think I'm exaggerating, head over to the official John Davidson web site and look at the photo gallery. Short, long, dark brown, or powder grey, it never loses its shape and always perfectly coiffed. (WARNING: If you go to the photo gallery, you will hear John's rendition of "Cat's In The Cradle"... You've been warned!)

Where was I? Oh yes, the Christmas album. This album was released some time during the Nixon administration (1969-1974 - anyone know the real year because the Goldmine Christmas Price Guide doesn't list this one) and contains eleven Christmas tunes - each one an experience.

Side one contains six songs - five standard Christmas carols and one Christmas song. Each carol is given the full treatment - lush strings, a fancy electric harpsichord throughout, and John singing his heart out to the BIG finish!

The lone Christmas song is "Mary's Little Boy Child" and Davidson does his best Tom Jones impersonation (spoken interlude before the BIG finish) that won't make you forget Harry Belafonte any time soon!

Side two is the "funky" side - five Christmas songs from the 20th century and it's here where John sounds rather well. The first song is "The Christmas Song" and might be the best song on the whole album.

Song number two is "Winter Wonderland" and it's given the full treatment - bouncy horns, lush strings, the unmistakable 1970s bassline and drums. You can hear John let his hair... down? Up? I don't think it's possible! "White Christmas" is a little overdone and "Silver Bells" actually sounds a lot like Tony Orlando & Dawn in their prime thanks to the duo of female backup singers.

This leads us to the final song on the album - what a way to go out! "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" is so 1970s that you can feel the polyester leisure suits John wears on the cover come through the speakers.

This is the song you would see John perform on the variety shows of the day: "The Flip Wilson Show" or "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour". It's such a testament to the times. This is the song you'll use on your Christmas compilation.

Davidson continues to perform across the country, active doing musicals with regional theaters and appearing in Branson, Missouri frequently ending each show with that BIG finish!

I knew I had to end this yuleblog entry with a BIG finish. While searching the Internet for a release date on this album, I came across an interesting tidbit. It seems back in 1974, John Davidson guest starred on "The Streets Of San Francisco" and played a professional female impersonator whose alter ego takes over and begins to murder.

How's that for a BIG finish?

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



Ernie said...

That's the sort of big finish I think I can live without, thank you very much!

I'm thinking of doing a Christmas collections along the lines of Golden Throats, all celebrities, all atrotrious. Any ideas beyond Mr. Davidson here?

CaptainOT said...

Bonanza's "Christmas On The Ponderosa" and Tiny Tim's "Christmas Album" immediately come to mind.

Looking back on some past & present reviews here, Tony Orlando & Dawn's Christmas album is another potential winner and I just reviewed a CD here that had a disasterous version of "Santa Baby" by Sally Kellerman!

Any other suggestions?


Anonymous said...

I found a copy of this at my local Goodwill thrift store - still in shrink wrap, still sealed for .99 (my wife said I got swindled at that price, but she likes John's hair).
Any idea as to the year it was released?

Daisy Dee said...

I grew up listening to this album at Christmastime. My mom tried to copy it to tape, but it was so worn there were plenty of skips in the recording. We had listened to it that much. Then, in the late 90s I found a copy on CD at a used music store. Score!!! I can't imagine my holidays without it. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea, but for me it is pure nostalgia of happy Christmas memories. Simply hearing any of the tracks puts me in the spirit, and the mood for baking or trimming the tree! :o) ~Dee

boojidad said...

I think the album's a little older than 1969, or at least in part, since his version of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" was on the Goodyear Christmas album that year (Great Songs of Christmas Album 7"). Yes, I remember the hair, and remember his stint on 'Streets of San Francisco'. WAY out of character for him, and deserving of kudos for bravery, if nothing else.

john said...

I'd love to hear this....

CMW4766 said...

According to 'Goldmine Standard Catalog of American Records 1948-1991' By Martin Popoff ISBN 1440216215, 9781440216213 Publisher Krause Publications, 2010, John Davidson's My Christmas Favorites Columbia CS 9864 was released in the Fall of 1969.