Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Diana Krall - Christmas Songs

This past weekend, I travelled to Chicago again and found this album at a used CD store... not a bad pickup for $10!

Back in 1997, I was first introduced to Diana Krall thanks to an annual meeting of store managers of Suncoast Motion Picture Company, Musicland, and Sam Goody. On the last night of meetings, we received a HUGE box of freebie videos, pens, beverage warmers, and music CDs from the various studios and record companies we sold product for.

Nestled inbetween two videos was Diana's first album "Love Songs". On the ride home, I listened to the incredible CD and was hooked for life. I recommended the CD to anyone I came in contact with and waited for her next album to come out.

One year later (1998), I attended my last annual meeting with Suncoast and received yet another box of goodies. Plenty of videos, golf towels with the Playboy logo, desk accessories, and only three CDs.

One of the CDs was Diana's first Christmas offering: "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas EP". But this wasn't any ordinary EP. This was a promotional only EP with a 1999 desk calendar featuring a great picture of Diana with that Mona Lisa smile of hers! From that moment on, I thanked the Christmas gods for that wonderful gift and prayed that one day, Diana would release a FULL Christmas album. It took six years but it was worth the wait!

Joining up with the Clayton / Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (whose arrangements & instrumentation give us a vintage jazz feel a la Lena Horne & Ella Fitzgerald), Diana gives us twelve songs on her album; not one clunker in the whole lot! My favorite track is Diana's sultry rendition of the Vince Guaraldi track "Christmas Time Is Here".

My only regret is that I waited this long to get this album... I just glanced over on my desk and ask Diana to forgive me!

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


Capt

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Larry Ferrari - I Wish You The Merriest

Outside of the Philadelphia area, many people probably haven't heard of Larry Ferrari. This talented chap played the organ at several differnt Philly churches and on many local Philly television shows.

"The Larry Ferrari Show" began on Sunday nights in 1954, with Larry looking directly into the camera, playing pop favorites on the organ, and ending each show with a religious selection. His final broadcast was in 1997 - a remarkable 43 year run for a guy and his organ!

This album was created in the early 1960s and features Larry playing his favorite Christmas songs on the Rodgers Theatre Organ. If you ever roller skated to Christmas organ music at any point in your life, this is what it sounded like!

Each song has that wonderful Wurlitzer sound to it and Larry plays a mean organ! This is especially true in the several medleys performed on the album. He zips through "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", "Jingle Bells", and "Frosty The Snowman" so vividly I expected to look outside and see snow, Christmas decorations, and reindeer in my lawn (actually I do... my neighbor's still haven't taken down their Christmas gear yet!).

This was an especially good year for Christmas organ albums for me. I've collected in the past six months:


The good folks over at the Department Of Records blog were kind enough to post this album over at FaLaLaLaLa.com last December. If you hurry over to the DOR blog, you might catch a Christmas MP3 leftover or two. Thanks DOR!

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


Capt

Paul & Paula - Holiday For Teens

Of all the things I've learned about Christmas music, the one major constant is this: people never forget the Christmas music they listened to as a child.

In many cases, people will search for those old Firestone albums to bring back memories from Christmases gone by. Some look for that specific kiddie Christmas album put out by Peter Pan Records to share with their own brothers & sisters as a Christmas memory jogging gift.

Some people pay top dollar for these memories. Our case in point: the album you see before you.

Paul & Paula were in fact Ray Hildebrand and Jill Jackson, two college students in Texas when they recorded "Hey Paula" as a way to help the American Cancer Society raise funds. Someone at Mercury Records was listening and signed them to a recording deal in 1963.

Their song went to number #1 on the Billboard charts, placed in the top ten on the R&B charts, and caused a wave of male/female pairings at other record companies (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell at Motown, Jerry Butler & Betty Everett at VeeJay, etc.). Some people think the term "one-hit wonder" began with this duo...

They released this album for the holidays in 1963 and it's chock full of good wholesome safe teen pop. I almost went into sugar shock when I first heard it. After a while, all the tracks start sounding the same and it doesn't do a thing for me.

People consistently have paid top dollar for this album on eBay, one auction ending at $120! I can only assume that the winner of the auction had this album as a kid and wanted another crack at the Christmas memories they have locked away. I'm glad I didn't pay that much for this album - I downloaded it over at FaLaLaLaLa.com thanks to MisterMiller who posted it. Thanks MisterMiller!

Epilogue - Paul & Paula recorded two albums in 1964 and were virtually ignored thanks to The Beatles and the British Invasion. They slogged on and in the middle of a 1965 Dick Clark road show tour, Paul quit and headed back to college as Ray. Dick Clark stepped in and sang with Paula for the rest of the tour ("Heyyy Heyyy Paula ... Heyy Heyy Dick!")... oh to hear that audio!

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


Capt

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Rev. Horton Heat - We Three Kings: Christmas Favorites


A few months ago during the Christmas season of 2005, I purchased two new Christmas releases at my local Borders store with similar sounds but way, WAY different approaches. The first was Brian Setzer's "Dig That Crazy Christmas". The second album is the one you see above.

For those of you not versed in the ways of the good Rev. Heat, here's the backstory:

Formed in 1985 in Dallas, Texas, the original members were Jim "Reverend Horton" Heath on guitar, Bobby Baranowski on drums, and "Swingin'" Jack Barton on upright bass. This manic trio began touring with a wild stage show that set them apart from other rockabilly groups like the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Imbibing plenty of Jagermeisters during performances (let's see Setzer do that onstage!), the band's antics - mixed with their incredibly hilarious lyrics and the sound of country, rockabilly, big band, and psychobilly - made them underground favorites.

Shortly before they secured their recording contract at SubPop (the granddaddy of alternative record labels), Barton and Baranowski left the group. They were replaced by current band member Jimbo Wallace on upright bass and Patrick "Taz" Bentley on drums.

Between 1991 and 1994, the band released two studio albums for SubPop: "Smoke Em If You Got Them" and "Full Custom Gospel Sounds Of". Shortly before signing with Interscope Records in 1994, the band lost another drummer when Bentley left and Scott "Chernobyl" Churilla arrived.

Their next album was a SubPop/Interscope co-production entitled "Liquor In The Front", a radical departure from the standard format. Dark and edgy, it was a turning point for the band. This was followed by "It's Martini Time" in 1996 and "Space Heater" in 1998, each album just a wee bit more darker.

Each album sold moderately well but not enough for the pencil pushers at Interscope. After their ceremonial "best of" album "Holy Roller" was released in 1998, the band signed a one album deal with indie label Time Bomb Recordings for their 2000 album "Spend The Night In The Box". After one album with Artemis Records - 2002's "Lucky 7", the right Rev. and company signed with Yep Roc in 2004 and released "Revival".

That brings us up to date and I think I've used up my link quota for the year...

If you're thinking "this CD is just like the Setzer album - minus the big band feel", you're wrong. Setzer wouldn't get this raw and unpolished even if he had a bunch of Stray Cats around. This is pure Texas country & western twang mixed liberally with psychobilly all wrapped around Christmas music! It's a bronkin' bareback ride definitely worth taking!

My favorites include "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" (complete with a 1960s TV "Batman" intro!), "Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy", and their stripped down version of Roy Orbison's "Pretty Paper" is plain haunting.

However, their instrumental of the title track "We Three Kings" wins the standout track of the CD. Evoking memories of the Doors and Link Wray, this track with its driving beat, changing tempos, and fantastic solos just sweeps you up and doesn't let you go until it's over - brilliant music.

Rev. Horton Heat continues to tour, record, and fly under the radar of mainstream success. Their loyal fans (including me) keep awaiting for their next release or gig at a local club. You can visit their official website to check out where they're playing next, purchase an official Rev. Horton Heat T-shirt, and even purchase their CDs - yes, including this one for an amazingly low $10! (Stop me before I link again!!)

Thanks Reverend for a great Christmas CD... can I get an amen?

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


Capt

Friday, January 20, 2006

Lorne Greene - Have A Happy Holiday


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...


Capt

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Brian Setzer Orchestra - Dig That Crazy Christmas


Okay... when I went to my local record store last Christmas, this WASN'T the Brian Setzer Christmas CD I was looking for. But there it was and after some well deserved swearing under my breath, I did indeed pick it up. This is Setzer's follow-up to his 2002 CD "Boogie Woogie Christmas" and Brian did something very annoying (at least to my collector's sensibilities) with that album.

Setzer is widely popular in Japan and has released CDs strictly in Japan (just like Alyssa Milano). When he released his first Christmas CD there in 2002, he added on a bonus track - an instrumental version of "Jingle Bells". I added it to my long list of CDs marked "Track down for one song".

Then in 2003, the CD was reissued here in the U.S. for Christmas FIVE different ways:

  • a regular version at most record stores
  • an exclusive version to Wal-Mart (bonus track = "What Are You Doin' New Year's Eve?")
  • an exclusive version to Best Buy (bonus track = "Cactus Christmas")
  • an exclusive version to Target (bonus track = "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow")
  • an exclusive version to K-Mart (bonus track = "Run Rudolph Run")
This was getting confusing (and potentially expensive). How was I going to track down all those bonus tracks? I found the answer online. A Japanese import single from Setzer called "Luck Be A Lady" existed. This EP contains all the bonus tracks from these "exclusives" here in the U.S.. Am I smart or what? With one purchase, then I'd be all caught up.

Not so fast.

For Christmas, 2004 (are you kiddin' me?), Setzer reissued another version "Boogie Woogie Christmas" exclusively at Target. This second Target version contained two bonus tracks - "Santa Drives A Hot Rod" and "Christmas Island"!

I was furious. I was short seven bonus tracks in total and here Setzer is, releasing a whole new Christmas album! A quick scan of "Dig That Crazy Christmas" tells me that the bonus track list is cut down to four: "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow", "Santa Drives A Hot Rod", and "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" are on the CD. That leaves "Jingle Bells (Instrumental)", "Cactus Christmas", and "Run Rudolph Run" missing in action.

Confused? Join the club.

If you liked the first album, Brian and his orchestra won't disappoint with this new CD. It's brassy, rockabilly, and a lot of fun. My favorite track is the old Louis Armstrong song "Cool Yule". Nothing against Satchmo, but there aren't too many other versions of this song out there. It's refreshing to hear some new life into a great song that deserves to be heard more often at Christmas.

I expect in a matter of years Setzer will release an anthology for Christmas that gathers all of these tracks together for one big release (including the long lost bonus tracks). The cynical part of me is saying "yeah, then he'll reissue it the following year with new "exclusive" bonus tracks".

Lay off the marketing for a while, Brian!

On to the next new Christmas CD in my collection (sans bonus tracks)...


Capt

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Novelty Christmas

Two weeks ago, I purchased this CD from eBay and promised a review when it arrived at my home.

When I first saw this on eBay, I thought this might have been a homemade compilation someone put together and was selling on the side.

But with songs such as "Santa Got A Sunburn" and "All I Want From Santa Is A Girl From Atlanta", it looked very promising.

The CD arrived yesterday and I discovered this wasn't printed off someone's computer.

TRACK REVIEWS:

Track 1 - "White Christmas (3 O'Clock Weather Report)" by the Sicknicks. Not only was the group mislabeled (it was actually Senator Bobby who had a Top 40 hit with "Wild Thing" earlier that year), the sound quality was not great - an obvious 45 rpm to MP3 transfer.

Tracks 2 & 3 - Things improved with the break-in record "Santa Under Analysis (Pts 1 & 2)" by Chris Clay. Break-in records were popularized by Dickie Goodman and Clay does a fun job doing his best trying to analyze Santa using 1950s and 1960s pop records ("Welcome to analysis Santa... INSERT the Big Bopper singing "Hellooooo baby!").

Track 4 - "It's Another Joyful Elvis Presley Christmas" by the Serious Brothers tells the story of a family who can't get through Christmas without their Elvis blenders, velvet paintings, you get the idea.

Track 5 - The Stompers "Stomping Around The Christmas Tree" was a disappointment due to its bad sound quality (the right speaker kept going quiet).

Track 6 - "Stick 'Em Up Santa" by Bobby Salvatore. Here's the classic "cute kid" singing (more like threatening) track. Seems Bobby has all his cowboy gear on and won't let Santa in the house unless he gets everything on his list! A pretty funny track!

Track 7 - "I Should Have Left The Lights On For Santa" is credited to Mona Savant. At least they got the first name right. This is Mona Abboud - the same person who gave you the Christmas classic "The Pretty Little Dolly" off the Dr. Demento album "Holidays In Dementia".

Track 8 - "Santa Got A Sunburn" by The Barefoot Man. "Brought his gifts across the ocean... but forgot his suntan lotion!" This track scorched me (no pun intended).

Track 9 - Amos & Andy had their own radio show from 1928 to 1960 and their annual Christmas episode featured Amos explaining to his daughter Arabella "The Lord's Prayer". This was taken from a Amos & Andy TV show DVD.

Track 10 - "Ya Dis Ist Ein Christmas Tree" by Mel Blanc deserves better than what is offered here. The musical intro is edited and the sound plain sucks. Better versions of this song are easily found on other compilations

Track 11 - Dora Bryan - the British Carol Channing - sings "All I Want For Christmas Is A Beatle". This was released in the UK at Christmastime of 1963. The sound quality suffers here too.

Track 12 - "The White House Christmas Party" by Nick Nack & Patty Wack is quite a unique break-in record (see track 1). This records uses nothing but Christmas songs for their break-ins ("The First Lady is singing to each arriving guest... INSERT Karen Carpenter singing "Merry Christmas Darling"). By the third minute however... Next!

Track 13 - The Ravens' "Silent Night" is a long lost R&B record, not novelty, and it's featured here... A very nice change of pace!

Track 14 - "White Christmas" by the Four Lovers. I can't classify this tune... It's either electric bluegrass, rockabilly R&B, or 1950s garage rock / doo-wop. It's got a distinct style and fun to listen to!

Track 15 - Sherwin Linton's "Santa's Got A D.W.I." is a fun song but if you want a better sounding version, check out Rhino Records "Bummed Out Christmas".

Track 16 - "All I Want From Santa Is A Girl From Atlanta" by Skin Tight. This song has a definite mid-1980s sound. The song reminds me of Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." with some Huey Lewis & The News mixed in. I'm betting this one never got past the Georgia border.

Track 17 - Mad Milo's "Elvis For Christmas". Yet another 1950s break-in record. This one has Mad Milo asking people on the street why they want ELVISSSSS for Christmas (any time Milo says Elvis' name, he cranks the reverb!). The non-Elvis songs used for the break-ins are obscure (just like this track itself) and it gets pretty messy and bizarre!

Track 18 - "Santa Looks Just Like My Daddy" is another Christmas gem from Little Barry Gordon. From the same kid who brought you "Nuttin' For Christmas", "Zoomah the Santa Claus From Mars", and "I Like Christmas, I Like It I Like It".

Track 19 - Jimmy Allen & Tony Bartella - "When Santa Comes Over The Brooklyn Bridge". This is a wonderful song with the early 1960s pop sound but my only complaint is there's no Brooklyn accents to be found here! Sounds like two Midwest guys singing about a New York landmark!

Track 20 - "Santa Jaws" by the Homemade Theatre was released for Christmas 1975 (the same year "Jaws" was released). They mix "Twas The Night Before Christmas" with an encounter on the beach... Truly inexplicable.

Track 21 - Bill & Shaken's "Woodolf The Petrified Red-Nosed Reindeer" is very much sung in the same vein as Homer & Jethro but after about 30 seconds, it gets real dull and unfunny.

Track 22 - "Zoot Zoot Zoot, Here Comes Santa In His New Space Suit" by Tiny Tim. I have been searching for this song for nearly four years and this was the main reason why I purchased the CD. What I didn't know was this was a DISCO tune... Expect to hear this one on my annual Christmas compilation at the end of the year!

Track 23 - The Geezinslaws sing "Lighten Up For Christmas". A very appropriate song around Christmas and taken from their Christmas single... I'm still looking for the B-side ("Santa Claus Is Coming To Town").

Track 24 - "I Want A Baby Brother For Christmas" is by Carolyn Bnikley and is another cutesy kiddie Christmas single (with lisps included). The title says all...

Track 25 - The Quackers - "Jolly Old Saint Nick". Cross the story telling style of Walter Brennan and his Christmas songs with Donald Duck... you get the idea!

Track 26 - "Surfin' Santa" by The Ramblers is an appropriate entry from the surf guitar / Beach Boys / era. With its Frankie & Annette type intro, this tune hangs ten!

Track 27 - Gary Segar's "The Christmas Equalization Act" is from December, 1983. He sounds like a long-winded Congressman introducing a bill on the House floor. I'm guessing this one's played at Christmas parties all over Washington, D.C. and everyone gets a great laugh. Anyone else who listens will scratch their head!

Track 28 - "Baby Sittin' Santa" - Barry Richards. Clearly inspired by "The Purple People Eater", this one features a baby cooing and gurgling as the story of Santa as baby-sitter is told. Sound quality is fair.

Track 29 - Diana Williams sings "Goodbye Bing, Elvis & Guy"... one of the most bizarre country tribute songs I've ever come across. Released at Christmastime of 1977, Diana write a letter to Santa, laments about being older, and the losses of Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, and Guy Lombardo... what a way to end this CD!


Overall, this was a fantastic buy! Copies are out there on eBay and GEMM if you look hard enough!

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


Capt

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Monterey Brass - Christmas Brass


In November of 1968, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass released their Christmas Album before Christmas which reached almost legendary status when it hit the record stores and radio airwaves. In the wake of its release, many smaller record companies wanted to quickly cash in and released soundalike versions of this album.

According to this Herb Alpert clone site, these are some of the titles that were released:
The album you see above certainly fits in with this category. The first few tracks actually had more of a Ventures sound with the occasional Tijuana Brass horn licks to qualify. The rest of the album gets more into the Alpert sound and it's not altogether bad. It's not the Border Brass and it definitely isn't Herb and the boys... but it's a nice album nonetheless.

BTW... Herb Alpert re-released their digitally remastered Christmas Album last Christmas but the older CD version still demands lots of cash on the used market!

I found this album over at FaLaLaLaLa.com last Christmas posted by Lynda V.E. Thanks Lynda!

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


Capt

Monday, January 16, 2006

Kooky Christmas

Every music collector has come across this situation: you're looking at hundreds of titles in a section of your local music store. You come across the compilation section, begin looking at the repackaged collections (some you're seeing for the umpteenth time), and find that ONE song you've been seeking.

This is very true with Christmas music. How many of you have purchased a Christmas comp knowing three, four, maybe 1/2 of the songs on the CD you already own?

This was the case for me with this particular CD. Of the ten songs on this album, only THREE songs I didn't own. So the big question becomes "Do I spend x amount of dollars for three songs?"

Unfortunately, if you're a Christmas music collector, the answer is yes. You're not going to be able to download these songs anywhere, legally or illegally. Also, most of the more obscure Christmas music - the stuff that makes collector's minds go batty - is available for three months out of the year (October - December), both online and off.

Thankfully, I didn't spend an arm or leg for this CD - just $5 at a used CD store. So in some cases, it all balances itself out.

TRACK REVIEWS:

1.) Patti Page - Boogie Woogie Santa Claus
One of the three songs I didn't own... a great cover of the Mabel Scott classic. BTW, her 1995 Christmas CD (Mercury) always sells big on eBay!

2.) Spike Jones & His City Slickers - All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth
Is this the penultimate version of this song? I like Nat King Cole's version just as much. What do you think?

3.) Leo Watson - Jingle Bells
A poor man's Fats Waller does a swingin' version! Great tune...

4.) The Andrews Sisters - The Merry Christmas Polka
Backed by Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians, who wouldn't dance this one?

5.) Yogi Yorgesson - I Yust Go Nuts At Christmas
I yust go nuts when I hear this song... Play something else by Yogi around Christmas than this one!

6.) Mae Questel (The Betty Boop Girl) - I Want You For Christmas
Second of three songs that I didn't own... Mae could belt it out... pick me, pick me, PICK ME!

7.) The Korn Kobblers - Don't Give Me No Goose For Christmas
Third of three songs I didn't own... A poor man's Spike Jones band doing a Christmas tune with animal sounds - a precursor of the Jingle Dogs maybe?

8.) Yogi Yorgesson - Yingle Bells
Yingle this song around Christmas. It would be a welcome relief!

9.) Ella Fitzgerald - Santa Claus Got Stuck In My Chimney
The double entendres kept this one out of circulation for years. Paging Dr. Freud!

10.) Spike Jones & His City Slickers - Happy New Year
Recorded on December 23, 1947 - sat on the shelf for a year - and released for the 1948 season! A fun track!


This CD was released in 2001 by Direct Source Special Products and made in Canada - in case you were wondering!

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


Capt

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Mighty Blue Kings - The Christmas Album

According to the WorldCat online search engine for libraries, only a handful of libraries around the globe carry this album you see before you on their shelves.

I have been made to jump through hoops of fire to try to get library workers on both ends to agree to an interlibrary loan so I could just listen to the CD. Five months and several dozen attempts later, I finally decided to purchase the CD over at Amazon.com.

Shortly before I moved from Chicago to Toledo in 1996, the lounge music craze was forming slowly. The Squirrel Nut Zippers and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy were just picking up steam when several talented Chicago musicians decided to join into the fray.

Naming themselves the Mighty Blue Kings, they began playing in clubs before landing the house band gig at the legandary Green Mill Cocktail Lounge in Chicago. After several successful tours of the Midwest and the West Coast, they formed their own record label - R-Jay Records.

Their first release was 1997's "Meet Me In Uptown" followed by "Come One, Come All", released by Sony's Work Records the same year. In 1998, they produced their "Live In Chicago" album which captured their live act and people around the country were beginning to take notice of the Mighty Blue Kings. Between 1998 and 1999, lead singer Ross Bon & MBK appeared on several movie soundtracks, including "Kissing A Fool" and "Three To Tango".

This album was released at Christmas, 2000 (just around the time the lounge music scene was about dead in popularity). It focuses more on the blues than the lounge. What you get is a respectable Christmas CD that's very good to listen to.

My favorite tracks on this album include "Christmas Time", "Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday", and "All I Ask For Christmas". However, the standout track is their version of "White Christmas". Irving Berlin never liked rock bands to perform his signature song (just ask Elvis). But if he heard this version (think a softer Otis Redding version), Berlin might have changed his mind.

Several line-up changes in the band soon followed after their Christmas release. Their new official name became Ross Bon & The Mighty Blue Kings and they continue to perform and record. You can visit their official website here.

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


Capt

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Santastic! Holiday Boots 4 Your Stockings

I first became aware of mash-ups when a Google search for The Beatles Christmas album led me to the website of Go Home Productions. I found "Beatles Bootles", a clever mix of Beatles songs with other songs to create a 15 minute extravaganza.

What caught my attention was "Christmas On The Block", a mash-up of Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" and Jennifer Lopez's "Jenny From The Block".

This led me into the world of Christmas mash-ups. Shortly before Christmas, 2004, I downloaded a full Christmash CD online entitled "Merry Christmash" from a now-defunct site from the UK. I also purchased a mash-up CD entitled "A Mutated Christmas".

This led me to GYBO, the holy grail web site for bootleg / mash-ups. You can probably spend around 40 hours here listening to amazing mixes of whatever musical genre you can think of. This led me to a name that I recognized from the earlier Christmas CDs. A Boston masher named DJ BC had gathered several well known mashers from around the world and put together the Christmas CD you see above.

This 18 track CD is by far the best Christmas mash-up album out there. There's something for everybody on this album. Wanna know something else? You can still download this album! You better do it now before it goes POOF:


Santastic! Holiday Boots 4 Your Stockings


Happy downloading and listening... On to the next new Christmas CD in my collection...


Capt

Friday, January 13, 2006

It's A Blackbean & Placenta Christmas



When "Christmas In July" took place over at FaLaLaLaLa.com, someone posted this rather obscure album. I quickly downloaded it onto the pile and didn't pay it too much attention.

I didn't know much about Blackbean & Placenta when I downloaded it nor did i know much about Ned Norland, the person who uploaded the album.

From the limited information I was able to gather from Google, Blackbean & Placenta was an indie label created by Mike Landucci out of his home. He created his own compliations, welcomed contributions from bands, started a Blackbean & Placenta Tape Club (closed now) and over time amassed a nice-sized catalogue of indie bands.

Mike, if you're out there... if I've left something out, please add a comment. I would love to know more of the whens, whys, hows, and history of your label. And if any of the bands on the album want to share their comments on this album, on the whole Blackbean & Placenta experience, I would love to know more!

As for Ned Norland, this one-man gang has been involved in free form radio for many years. He was with the Rutgers University station WRSU from 1999 to 2001 (archived shows from WRSU can be heard here) as well as having his own online radio show No Love For Ned since 2002 (archived shows can be heard here). Ned also has his own blog at MySpace where you can hear his catchy theme song!

Ned, if I've left out any vital info, please feel free to comment!

Ned was gracious to send me a pix of the album cover - ordinary Christmas wrapping paper and a handwritten label by Mike Landucci. As far as I know, this might be the only place online where you can get a good resolution pix of the cover.

As for the music, it's a grand mix of alternative rock, electronica, pop, ambient, and experimental sounds. Here's the playlist (click on the band name for more info):

1.) Flowchart - Lettin' It Snow
2.) The Cannanes - Six White Boomers
3.) Watoo Watoo - Les Visiteurs de Noel
4.) Celesteville - Away In A Manger
5.) Mandorris - Christmas Time Is Here
6.) Beanpole - Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow (no info out there that I can find)
7.) The Shermans - Last Christmas
8.) Steward - Do They Know It's Christmas Time?
9.) Holiday Flyer - Christmas Song
10.) Wio - Once Upon A Long Ago (no info out there that I can find)
11.) Metronome - Greensleeves

I'm very grateful to Ned for posting this album. I knew indie labels were out there plugging away, trying to bring new music to the public eye, and helping bands get valuable exposure. However, I had no idea Christmas music could be found there as well. It's a search I hope to continue to earth as the years go by.

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


Capt

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Coyote Run - Tend The Fire: Christmas With The Coyotes

This was the ONLY Christmas CD I actually received as a Christmas present for the entire 2005 holiday season. I don't get too many Christmas CDs as gifts anymore; my family and friends gave up long ago.

My friend Heather Jinmaku knew I wouldn't have this album and sent this CD to me. Heather is a great singer in her own right (check out her first CD here) and surprised me when I discovered she is one of the backup singers on this album.

To quote Brian Belge, the artistic director of the Maine Renaissance Faire:

"Coyote Run is a multi-talented, personable group of 5 musicians playing about a bazillion instruments. I think the only instrument they don't include is the kazoo, but it's probably a matter of time before they do. The music hails from lands (and times) far and near; from traditional Celtic to original American Folk to the Macarena by way of Yankee Doodle. As if that weren't eclectic enough, a bit of Whale Song and a Polka are thrown in for good measure."

This is their first Christmas album and it's all of what's described above and more. The songs are traditional one moment, wickedly funny the next (sometimes even in the same song!). Where can you hear an instrumental version of "The Christmas Song" with a tuba as its lead instrument? My favorite song on the album (non-Heather singing) is "The Twelve Days After Christmas" whose first lyrics are:

"The first day after Christmas my true love had a fight.
And so I cut the pear tree down and burned it just for spite"

The three other folk music Christmas CDs in my collection are Joan Baez's "Noel", Linda Russell's "A Colonial Folk Christmas" and Pete Seeger's "Traditional Christmas Carols". I very rarely play them since I'm not a huge folk fan. Now if they sounded like Coyote Run's album...

You can purchase this album and others by Coyote Run at their website.

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


Capt

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Jo Stafford - The Joyful Season: The Voice Of

After doing some Google searches on Jo Stafford, it's remarkable to see so many similarities in her career to Frank Sinatra's. Both were unknowns given their big breaks by Tommy Dorsey in the late 1930s - early 1940s.

Both left Dorsey around the same time; Jo signed with Capitol Records, Frank with Columbia Records. Around 1950, both flip-flopped to the opposite record labels, each had their own television shows, and their recording career both blossomed in the 50s.

Stafford had a successful career recording albums of American and Scottish folk airs, country blues, hymns, spirituals, show tunes, and jazz. She even won a Grammy award for Best Comedy Record for the duets she sang with her longtime husband Paul Weston as Jonathan & Darlene Edwards.

She recorded her first Christmas album in 1955 called Happy Holiday (an album I must add to my wish lists). In 1961, Stafford went back to Capitol Records (just as Sinatra was starting his own label Reprise) with a six album deal and semi-retired thereafter at the tender age of 50. Thankfully, one of those six albums was this one.

Happy Holiday was a collection of popular seasonal songs so Stafford wanted to focus on the traditional Christmas songs for this album. She does the vocals & harmonies (just like Patti Page did for several of her hits) and uses the multi-tracking sound of Les Paul & Mary Ford to create a fantastic album. This is the definition of smooth.

The standout track on the album is "Christmas In The Season", a song written by Weston and two aspiring songwriters named Alan & Marilyn Bergman (what ever happened to those two?). The song lasts 1:48 and its bouncy beat and vocals makes you think of "Sleigh Ride". As I type my reviews here, I listen to the album and I've listened to this song three times already!

Two unreleased bonus tracks on the CD feature Gordon MacRae, Stafford's most frequent vocal partner. Both Christmas medleys include choral backing, the accompanying organ, and MacRae belting it out like he did in the movie musical "Oklahoma!". It's a little jarring to hear after such lush sounds.

Which is why the last bonus track is so welcome: "Toys For Tots". This was recorded during her Capitol years for the annual US Marine Corp Reserve toy drive in the 1950s. This makes the third complete version of this song in my collection (first two being Nat King Cole and Peggy Lee).

On to the next new album in my collection...


Capt

Monday, January 09, 2006

Tony Orlando & Dawn - A Christmas Reunion

I'm sure you're sitting there stunned... I'm sorry!

Yes, I was one of the eight people who bought this CD last holiday season. When I first came across this in the racks, I rolled my eyes and thought "Oh my sweet Lord...".

A quick scan of the playlist showed that the trio has aged well, most of the standards are covered, and not one stitch of a yellow ribbon was in sight (thank heavens!). I quickly chuckled and placed it back into the rack...

All throughout the season, something kept drawing me back to this disc. It was showing up in every store that I shopped at, it was derided in several Christmas articles online and in print. It wouldn't go away.

People were asking me at Christmas parties if I had heard about this album and whether or not I already owned it. Amazon.com kept throwing this in my face every time I signed on. My favorite Fort Wayne Christmas radio station began playing Christmas music and "The Spirit Of Christmas" was a heavy airplay favorite. I couldn't escape... I was trapped by Tony Orlando & Dawn!

One night before Christmas, I had some last minute shopping to do and found myself at Borders. As I began to scan the Christmas section, I saw it - an entire pillar display of Tony Orlando & Dawn, overflowing with copies of this CD. An employee approached me and asked if I needed help and I politely declined.

"How's this album selling for you?" I inquired. "We set that pillar up three weeks ago and no one's touched a single copy." he stated matter of factly.

I grabbed a copy off the pillar and hid it in with some others; the same way I used to sneak my father's Playboy magazines past him when I visited his workshop. The clerk never noticed.

It's not a bad CD... it's not real good either. It's overproduced, overinstrumentated, and overharmonized. The one bright spot of the entire album is that Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent are out front way more than Tony Orlando. The ladies' voices are in fine form; Orlando's voice hasn't aged well... it's more tuba now than trumpet and when he belts it out, you visibly wince.

When I buy a Christmas album, I usually find at least one standout track; something I could consider putting on my annual Christmas compilations. Not on this album unfortunately. Next time I'll knock twice on the pipe.

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


Capt

Jimmy Smith - Christmas '64

Back in the late 1940s, Jimmy Smith was just another WWII vet, attending the Hamilton School of Music on the GI Bill. As he progressed into a fairly good R&B piano player, a fellow piano player named "Wild" Bill Davis introduced Smith to a new instrument: the Hammond B-3 organ.

Smith paid a local Hammond organ dealer $1 an hour to practice on the instrument. Working in jazz, gospel, and R&B to create "soul-jazz", Jimmy soon became a revolutionary figure in music and was crowned "King of The Hammond B-3 Organ".

After Jimmy's successful 10 year run on Blue Note Records ended, he went to work on the Verve label and as the title of this album states, indeed it was Christmas '64 when it was released.

As I type these words, I'm listening to the CD on my computer. I wish there were words to describe what I'm listening to! From the first drumbeats on the timpani and orchestra, you are drawn in. Jimmy then hooks you with incredible licks on the organ, locking you in place!

The whole album is so sweeping, jarring, and in-your-face! And it's great Christmas music as well! Where else can you find a rocking 5:22 version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"?

This CD was my steal of the season! Released shortly before Christmas last year, only one Fort Wayne store carried this CD at the low, low price of $22.99! Copies of this CD were selling on eBay in the $15 - $20 range. I found this at a used CD store near Chicago for $5.00! Watch for this one next Christmas; no Christmas collection should be without it!

On to the next new album in my collection...


Capt

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Four Seasons' Christmas Album

Before the Christmas season ended last year, my mother was hospitalized with congestive heart failure and other problems due to her diabetes. I'm happy to report that she's doing much better now (not out of the woods yet) and we're glad St. Nick and all the other saints smiled on my mom.

During my visit to see her at the hospital outside of Chicago, I broke away for an hour to check out some used CD stores that I used to shop at when I lived in the area.

With only three days before Christmas, my selections were limited. However, the one store that I visited yielded this absolute gem of an album!

I had known of this album and CD for many years but this was the first time I listened to what Frankie Valli and the others had to offer.

The first track "The Merry Christmas Medley" was a mix of strings, harpsicord, and lush arrangements. As tracks 2 thru 7 played, I thought to myself that the album was going to miss the target terribly. The only bright spot was the standout vocals of the group. To hear Frankie Valli hit those high notes on "The Excelsis Deo Medley" might have caused some welcome speaker damage! I was waiting for them to cut loose...

Track 8 was "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" and all the swagger and sound from earlier hits like "Sherry" and "Big Girls Don't Cry" was evident! What a tune! The following tracks alternated between the smooth sound of the first part of the album with some rocking versions of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" and a reworked version of "Jingle Bells called "Jungle Bells".

The best part of this whole experience was that as I was listening to this for the first time, my mom was listening from her home shortly after her release from the hospital. In her words, it was "some good medicine". I couldn't agree more and hope some of these songs get more radio airplay at Christmas time.

On to the next new album in my collection...


Capt

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Salsoul Orchestra - Christmas Jollies II

During the days before Napster began legal downloads, I searched for Christmas MP3s day and night. It was during one of these searches that I came across several tracks from the Salsoul Orchestra.

I had never heard of this orchestra so I downloaded the tracks, expecting to hear one guy on his Casio playing synthesized Christmas music. When I heard it, I was quite surprised. This was REAL, honest to goodness, glittery 1970s Christmas disco!

I quickly did some research on the Salsoul Orchestra and found out it formed in 1974 at the dawn of the disco era. After recording their "Christmas Jollies" album in 1976, they helped Charo create not one but two albums (including a Christmas cover single of "Donde Este Santa Claus" that my friend Ernie had at his blog last December), and disbanded shortly after recording "Christmas Jollies II" in 1981.

After getting a copy of the first "Christmas Jollies" several years ago, I searched to find "Christmas Jollies II" on CD. I recall seeing a seller at Half.com asking for $50 around Christmas, 2003. Whenever a CD came up on eBay, the prices generally reached over $40. For a CD that only has six tracks, that's an awful lot to pay! That's why when I saw a copy back in November of last year selling for under $20, I jumped into the bidding and prayed to the eBay gods luck would smile on me! They did... and after several delays on the seller's part, I finally received this album shortly before Christmas, 2005.

The first "Christmas Jollies" album is an opera compared to the six tracks on "Christmas Jollies II". They recorded every almost every Christmas song on the first album for a HUGE Christmas medley. They even threw in non-Christmas songs such as "I'm Looking Over A Four-Leaf Clover" and "God Bless America" (yes, a disco version of "God Bless America"!) for a New Year's Medley!

The six songs on "Christmas Jollies II" is standard disco, fun and annoying all at once. The standout tracks are the super funkified version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "You're All I Want For Christmas", one of the three original songs on the CD.

After adding this album to the pile, I now own FIVE complete Christmas disco albums. Someone stop me...

On to the next new album in my collection...


Capt

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Jimmy McGriff - Christmas With

Found this CD over at Amazon in their used section!

A few years ago, I used to moderate the "Strange Records Collecting" group over at Yahoo. If you happen to click on the link, you'll find this original album cover on its home page. For some strange reason, I wasn't able to pull it down after Christmas 2003 so it remained!

I first became aware of Jimmy McGriff on the 1996 Capitol Records release of "Christmas Cocktails" in which his renditions of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" and "White Christmas" were fused together as one track.

He then appeared on the 1997 followup "Christmas Cocktails II". This time, his version of "Jingle Bells" was paired up with Caiola & Ortolani's "Sleigh Ride" and made for a fun track.

So when a FULL copy of this album came around, I jumped at the chance to hear the whole album!

This album contains only eight tracks (just eight tracks? - disappointing at first) but you'll never hear the Hammond B-3 wail any better than McGriff plays it. His versions of "Winter Wonderland" and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" are epics - several listenings of these tracks are required. The other tunes are fantastic, especially "Hip Santa" and "Christmas McGriff" are fantastic jazz tunes with Christmas as a minor theme!

NOTE: McGriff's close friend and mentor was Jimmy Smith. His influence can be heard through this album and Smith's "Christmas '64" will be reviewed here soon too!

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


Capt

Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme - That Holiday Feeling!

I've lived in my current hometown of Fort Wayne since the summer of 2000. One of the best memories of that first Indiana Christmas was driving crosstown to do some Christmas shopping and listening to a then new trend in radio: 24 hour Christmas music!

Suddenly, a Christmas song that I had never heard came onto the radio. I turned up the radio and was treated to the title track of this album by Steve & Eydie - talk about SMOOOOTHHHH!!!

Note to self: add this album to your Christmas CD wish list.

The song ended and the disc jockey came onto the air:

"Isn't that a great song? That's Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme with "That Holiday Feeling", their title track from their 1964 Christmas album. It's a shame that's not on CD or tape..."

STAB ME IN THE HEART, WHY DON'T YA? Don't tempt me like that. Don't play something that I can't get at my local Best Buy or Sam Goody store. It didn't bother me. Not at all. Like hell it didn't bother me. I was angry! As I drove through downtown Fort Wayne, I made a vow, a solemn pledge, an oath. I would defy Mr. Disc Jockey Shorts and find a copy of this album, on vinyl, cassette tape, or compact disc if it was the last thing I ever did.

I don't have a life. Can you tell? It took five years but I finally found a used copy at Amazon.com!

Released for the 2004 Christmas season (not available in stores - only online!), this blast from the past contains all the tracks from their 1964 album including two bonus tracks. Eight duets on the album leave three solo songs each for Eydie and Steve. My favorite songs include "That Holiday Feeling" (the title track that I fell in love with back in 2000), "Sleigh Ride", and "Baby It's Cold Outside". It doesn't get much smoother than this.

(Now I could gloat at the disc jockey for finding this album. I won't though. He's no longer working as a DJ here in Fort Wayne - something about drinking and livestock but I won't go any further.)

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


Capt

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Twelve Girls Band - Twelve Girls Of Christmas

I first saw this CD at Barnes & Noble in early November when all the music stores start making shelf space for Christmas CDs both new and old.

I wasn't sure what to make of it: was this one of those specialty groups that PBS uses to fund raise? Was this Shonen Knife in classical Chinese music form?

Should I purchase it or not? I was set to purchase it when I spied a copy of the Rev. Horton Heat's We Three Kings CD and immediately swapped, settling the issue.

I saw this CD a few more times at different stores during Christmas, 2006 but never purchased it. Then I read a favorable review from Christmas Reviews on New Year's Day that changed my mind.

I ran back to Barnes & Noble (who kept their Christmas music on the shelves through New Year's Day - bravo to them!) and purchased this CD.

The Twelve Girls Band not only play traditional Chinese instruments but add in strings, piano, drums, and electric guitar for flavor (sorta like MSG). They mix Christmas classics (Silent Night), Chinese songs (Shiroi Koibito Tachi), and some recent Christmas songs (Last Christmas) that all add up to a very fun, interesting, and jaw dropping CD. If you're looking for Christmas music with a Chinese / rock flavor bordering on Muzak, this is the album for you.

I could also recommend (if you can find it) the Oriental Echo Ensemble's Chung King Christmas (RCA Victor, 1991) that is a basic package of straightforward Christmas music performed in the traditional Chinese style.


Capt

Regis Philbin - Christmas Album


Some of you are looking at this CD and asking yourself "Why?" Some of you are looking at this CD and thinking "Ooooo, not for a million bucks, final answer!". Some of you are looking at this CD and wondering "Why don't I have that in my collection?"

Whatever you may be thinking or feeling right now (nausea most likely), you have to applaud the one and only Regis Philbin. He is a unique personality who has held down more jobs than Dick Clark can even dream about and holds the Guinness Book World Record for "Most Hours On Camera" - approximately 15,600+ hours and still going!

This isn't Reege's first attempt at an album. Back in 1968, when Regis was the sidekick on "The Joey Bishop Snow", he recorded the immortal "It's Time For Regis!", an album that contains more Vegas cheesiness than allowed by law. I sadly don't own this CD or even the LP - although I do want to get the LP for one reason only. The back cover has a picture of Regis, Joey, and Sammy Davis Jr. all wearing Nehru jackets. Regis and Joey opted for the usual grey while Sammy went for the HOT PINK Nehru jacket. WOW!

Believe it or not, this isn't Regis' first Christmas album either! Back in 1988 (around the time he and Kathie Lee went syndicated), he self released an album entitled "Christmas Time" that was sold only through this special made for TV offer. If anyone has a copy of that, please let me know!

Other albums recorded and released include "Sentimental Journey" (Heartland Records, 1992), a CD called "Dreamship" (Warner Kids, 1996) which is full of lullabies sung by Regis designed to put your kids to sleep (call DCFS!), and "When You're Smiling" (Hollywood Records, 2004) - the CD that has Regis singing the classics!

As for this album, Regis sings his very heart out on every track. On several tracks, he's accompanied by his wife of 36 years and occasional fill-in sidekick Joy, whose voice matches up with Regis' very well. She also makes an appearance inside the album in a snapshot of the Philbin home at Christmas, 1973. To see Regis in a red turtleneck shirt with a full pompadour of his own hair in front of a fully decked Christmas tree is indeed a sight to behold.

However, it's Regis' other guest that's been getting all the attention. Close your eyes and imagine this. Regis is crooning "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer", everything sounds fine (no icebergs spotted), and then Regis sings "Then one foggy Christmas eve, the Trumpster came to say..." (ICEBERG DEAD AHEAD!)

We then hear a rather dreary Donald Trump (taking on water) recite a litany of bilge that he's famous for. Not to be outdone, Regis then shouts out "supporters" who'll cheer Rudolph on (women and children first). "There's Kelly! there's Gelman! There's the New York Yankees! There's A-Rod! There's Jeter! (S.O.S). It finally end with the Donald getting in the final word: "Rudolph, you're hired. Blitzen, you're fired." (Glug, glug, glug).

It's a truly horrible track. But the infectious Regis' spirit will either captivate you or decapitate you on this CD. I personally enjoyed the album - at least it's better than Kathie Lee's Christmas CD.

And how many versions of the Regis Philbin Christmas Album are out there? At least three that I know of. There's the one pictured above which includes twelve tracks. Then there's this version pictured below, only available at Wal-Mart stores:


This CD contains an exclusive bonus track entitled "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Forever" that can be heard if you visit Hollywood Records' site hawking Regis' albums. Thirteen tracks!

The third version of this album - let that sink in for a moment - is available through Philbin's beloved alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. The exclusive bonus track is "O LIttle Town Of Bethlehem / Silent Night" backed by the Notre Dame Glee Club. I can't bring myself to purchase the third version (two is enough!) although I'd really like to hear the track!

If there are other versions out there (for mercy's sake, make it STOP!), please let me know... I'm going to lie down now.

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


Capt

Welcome!

Hello everyone! If you're reading this, you either share my interest, my passion, or my obsession with Christmas music... maybe all three!

I've been an avid Christmas music collector since 1985. I began creating Christmas tapes using Christmas music taped off the radio and my family's Christmas LP collections. Having grown up in a house where any music released after the breakup of the Beatles was forbidden, my musical selections were limited. As time progressed, I began collecting more music off the radio from NPR, old time radio shows (lots of great samples from those), and other Christmas LPs.

My family (being five steps behind in every technological aspect of everyday life) purchased its first CD player in 1989 and everything changed. My first Christmas CD was "A Charlie Brown Christmas" by the Vince Guaraldi Trio; a CD that has been played in my boombox once every Christmas since.

My CD collecting took off slowly since I was attending Columbia College in Chicago; a film school where I kept busy balancing a college workload and working on / acting in / directing dozens of student films. My main focus wasn't Christmas around this time but I still created Christmas tapes and even shared a few with my college classmates. As my college career came to an abrupt end in 1992 (no money or student loans left), I turned to Christmas music again and wondered what the future would bring.

CD Exchange, a used CD store chain, decided to move into the Chicago market and open stores. I obtained a job as a store manager, was promoted to district manager shortly after, and oversaw three stores in the Chicago area. My collection of Christmas music went from around six to nearly 150 in two years. Being exposed to such diverse titles caused in time a shift in my Christmas musical tastes. I was happy to get a Peggy Lee or Frank Sinatra Christmas CD... but when Ren & Stimpy's Christmas CD came in or when I found a Shonen Knife import Christmas single, I was beside myself!

All these musical changes were reflected on my annual Christmas tapes. Around 1992, I began to plan out the playlist more carefully, adding new songs from newly acquired CDs, finding sound bytes from Christmas movies and TV shows as breaks, mixing them into one compilation cassette, and shared with family and friends. The responses ranged from "GREAT STUFF" to "I don't get it...". I had found my calling! Since then, I've sent out around 1500 Christmas tapes / now CDs total to family and friends. The responses still range the same!

In 1997, I began utilizing the Internet to find new sources to add to my Christmas CD collection: eBay, Napster (I legally download now), Amazon.com, Mistletunes, Christmas Reviews, Randy's Rodeo, Jeffco Productions, the Yahoo group Christmas Movies & Music, BasicHip, April Winchell, FaLaLaLaLa.com, and other online Christmas music collectors & traders.

As of this post, I own over 600 Christmas CDs with about 60 albums to add to my collection. With this first post, I hope to chronicle my additions to my collection, share my opinions on the music, and point the way to where I got my Christmas CDs.

I welcome your feedback and contributions.
Thanks for reading this far...


Capt