Monday, February 27, 2006

Petty Booka - Christmas Everywhere

Earlier this month (February 3rd to be precise), I ordered four Christmas CDs from Amazon and I promised full reviews of each when they arrived.

The final CD I ordered arrived last week in the midst of my week-long review of homemade Christmas compilations. It was definitely worth the wait.

In the early 1990s, an all-girl punk band named Flamenco A Go Go formed in Japan - Petty was the singer in the band, Booka the guitarist. After moderate success, Flamenco disbanded.

However, their manager committed them to record "Karma Chameleon" for a 1980s cover compilation. Petty and Booka banded together, recorded an acoustic version, and brought in The Toconuts, a Japanese Hawaiian band for the background.

Seizing on a great opportunity, they recorded their first full album of Hawaiian music entitled "Toconut's Hawaii". While on tour, Petty and Booka performed live onstage in hula skirts, playing ukelele, and, in a nod to their punk days, wearing combat boots.

Their tour was a huge success and this led to their second album with a country flavor: "Fujiyama Mama". Featuring songs like "My Baby Don't Dance To Nothing But Ernest Tubb" and a bluegrass cover of Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild", the album and stage performances (in full Patsy Cline country garb) continued to add to their charm and popularity.

Their third album was this one - recorded and released in Japan in 1996 (released in the US by Weed Records seven years later). This CD captures the band at a delicate turning point in their career. They were fully Japanese, not yet Hawaiian, quickly becoming country & bluegrass, and their punk beginnings wouldn't totally go away. What results is a wonderful blend of all these styles fused into Christmas music.

Their first song is an accapella version of "Christmas Is Coming" which slides right into a Hawaiian version of "Christmas Island". A quick shift of the gears gives us their 3rd song - a cover of John Prine's "Christmas In Prison". I've never been a big fan of this song but Petty Booka's version is so sincere and innocent that I was transfixed to the speakers.

A country version of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" is next only to be followed by "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" (utilizing the famous Nat King Cole arrangement). What next? Another change in gears? More like thrown in reverse: "Colorado Christmas". Written by Steve Goodman ("City Of New Orleans") and originally recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, this song is so well done that all the previous silliness disappears and you're amazed by the beautiful singing voices of Petty and Booka.

Somewhere, Steve Goodman (a Chicagoan, a songwriter extraordinaire, a personal hero of mine, a lifelong Cub fan, and a victim of leukemia back in 1984) is smiling (maybe even chuckling) at the beauty of the concept of this band.

The next three songs are a very mambo flavored "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer" (think Billy May's classic version), a very Hawaiian flavored "Mele Kalikimaka", and a very countrified-Chet Atkins instrumental version of "Jingle Bells". How to top these three songs? Very simple - two Japanese versions of "Rudolph" and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

Their fourth album, "Hawaiian Pure Heart" (1997), features covers of Blondie's "The Tide Is High", Brian Hyland's "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini", and Culture Club's "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?" all in a Hawaiian flavor! Their fifth album, "Sweetheart Of The Radio" (1997), features covers of CCR's "Proud Mary", Johnny Preston's "Running Bear", and Madonna's "Material Girl" all in a country / bluegrass flavor!

Around this time, Petty decided to leave the group and was replaced by a new "Petty". The duo wanted an authentic Hawaiian flavor for their sixth album "Blue Lagoon". They travelled to Hawaii, recorded more tunes with a Hawaiian / country flavor, and even got the only living Hawaiian lounge legend - Martin Denny - to play piano on their cover of Seals & Croft's "Summer Breeze"!

Their 1998 album "Dancing With Petty Booka" features "the latest in dance hall music from Tokyo" and was JUST released in the US (either on February 14th or March 1, 2006 depending on what source you believe)!

By 2002, the group was beginning to make inroads into America. They launched their first concert tour, was featured on NPR and various radio shows, and Weed Records began releasing their music. Just as they arrived, Booka left the group to become a mother and a new "Booka" was quickly signed up. They continue to record and perform on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

Most of the information you've read above came from their official website. Head over there to hear additional MP3s, see pictures of their various US shows, and videos of them in concert.

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


Capt

Friday, February 24, 2006

Melton Mistletoe Mix 2005

This is the last of six different Christmas comps that I'm reviewing this week. These comps were either sent to me by other Christmas collectors / enthusiasts or download available comps that were created by Christmas collectors / enthusiasts.

In a previous review, I mentioned that I welcomed hearing other people's Christmas CD compilations - to hear the different styles of music, types of humor presented, and to make new friends in the process.

No other disc that I received this year illustrates this more clearly than this CD I'm about to review.

Jonathan Melton hails from the great state of Alabama. When he's not collecting Christmas music or taking care of his family (all of whom make appearances on the CD), he has been a Police Communications Officer for the Alabama Department of Public Safety for the past 26 years.

Late last year, Jonathan left two messages at FaLaLaLaLa.com: 1.) he just finished producing his very own Christmas compilation for family and friends 2.) this message that really, REALLY caught my attention:

"Now I've got to get a turntable so that I can be a contributing editor here in the group! I found a US Air Force Transcription Christmas LP featuring Dorothy Coats & Boris Karloff and a US Treasury Dept Transcription Christmas LP featuring Jack Webb at flea market a couple of weeks ago. Each one was from 1967 and was from an old radio station collection. I'm sure y'all are familiar with government/military transcription recordings."

If it's Christmas related and it's Jack Webb... I tend to go nuts. I own several albums and MP3s that feature Webb doing PSAs for Toys For Tots and the US Navy - even featured a Jack Webb US Postal Service PSA on my annual Christmas compilation last year!

I wrote to Jonathan, introduced myself, offered to swap Christmas compilations, and inquire about the Jack Webb album. He wrote back, was very gracious, accepted the swap of the comps, and was taking the time to learn the fine art of transferring albums to digital files on his computer.

TRACK REVIEWS:

1.) Gene Autry - Round Round The Christmas Tree
A great tune to start the compilation off with!

2.) RadioJonD - Welcome
Jonathan welcomes you to this year's version of the 2005 Melton Mistletoe Mix.

3.) They Might Be Giants - Santa Claus
One of my favorite bands... at this point, I can tell this comp's going to be different!

4.) Michael Franks - I Bought You A Plastic Star For Your Aluminum Tree
HEY! Great title! A smoooth jazz tune as well... from They Might Be Giants to this... me likes!

5.) A Finishing School For Santa's - Part 1
Taken from a 1982 UK flexi that featured ABBA, The Police, Erasure, etc. Read more here.

6.) Emmylou Harris - Christmas Time's A-Comin'
One of the best covers of the late great bluegrass giant Bill Graham.

7.) RadioJonD - Set Break
Jonathan tells you what you heard, the source and year it's from, and what label it's on.... thorough!

8.) Darius Rucker - Sad At Christmas Time This Year
I never knew this song existed until I heard it here first! Nice song...

9.) Byron G. Harlan - Come And Spend Christmas With Me
A classic tearjerker song from the olden golden days of Edison cylinders and 78s.

10.) DJ Gary Owens reads a commercial
GREAT JUMPING ICEBERGS! This well-circulated Internet snippet had made the rounds... but Jonathan plays the ENTIRE commercial that goes on another 20 sec or so... Gary just dies... OUTSTANDING STUFF!

11.) Arlo Guthrie - The Pause Of Mr. Claus
I thought this song was an urban legend... but here it is! Seems Mr. Claus likes the OTHER pause that refreshes!

12.) Donnie Burns - Cool Yule
Any Christmas song that starts with the Peter Gunn riff is okay in my book! A killer tune!

13.) RadioJonD - Set Break
Scribbling down info as fast as I can...

14.) Etta James - Winter Wonderland
A fantastic version from a very underrated Christmas album.

15.) A Finishing School For Santa's - Part 2
See number five above. "Would you like a teddy bear, little girl? I'd prefer black Levi's"

16.) Little Isadore & The Inquisitors - Christmas Of Love
A fun little tune that really deserves more exposure than "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" and more radio airplay at Christmas!

17.) Jimmy Buffett - Jingle Bells
Believe it or not, I'm not a big Buffett fan... so I really enjoyed Jonathan's son's intro to this song (and the Little Richard "tutti-frutti" Christmas greeting)!

18.) RadioJonD - Set Break
"Got your shopping done yet? Tree up? Halls decked?" Jonathan's just asking...

19.) The Kids Of Widney High - Santa's In A Wheelchair
This is not as obnoxious as "Ding - Fries Are Done!"... from the Kevin & Bean crew in Los Angeles!

20.) Lost Dogs - The Chipmunk Song
A bizarre cover of the famous song... by a Christian band nonetheless! Look for this song on my annual comp later this year!

21.) A Finishing School For Santa's - Part 3
Does anyone remember the furor over black Levi's back in the 1980s?

22.) Angela Strehli - Sweet Little Baby Boy
Here's another wonderful find that Jonathan brings to the table! A great jazz tune...

23.) RadioJonD & Shaunmeister - Set Break
Not your typical set break. Jonathan's son Shaun raids the studio to play the next two songs...

24.) The Blue Hawaiians - Mele Kalikimaka
I owe around 10 Hawaiian Christmas CDs (including this one). For me, this hits home! Great choice Shaun!

25.) Bing Crosby - White Christmas
My all-time favorite version of this song... and quite possibly, my favorite Christmas song period.

26.) The Flashcats - December 25
WOW! Another version of Perez Prado's "Mambo #5" - recorded before Lou Bega got ahold of it and went to town!

27.) RadioJonD - Set Break and Closeout
Jonathan says his goodbyes as "The Inexcelsis Polka" by the Continentals plays underneath!

28.) Allen Toussaint - Silent Night
Like me, Jonathan closes his CD out with "Silent Night"... and a nice version at that!

29.) Hidden bonus track
"Shaunmeister? I gotta do Shaunmeister?" laments Shaun... R.E.M.'s "Christmas Griping" puts the exclamation point on this CD!


I'm not sure how many years Jonathan's been doing the Mistletoe Mix... but he has the polish of a seasoned veteran, a great Southern accent (y'all), and a great ear for unbelievably good Christmas music. I know there's about six or seven tracks of of this CD alone that I will probably pluck at some point for my own Christmas compilation...

That sounds like stealing... maybe it is... but that's the beauty of trading Christmas compilations. You hear other's tastes in music, you get songs that you may or may not already own. But what better way to share the Christmas spirit? If one of Jonathan's songs made me sit up and say "That's a great song" or made me laugh (as you can tell from this review), why not spread that feeling with others at Christmas?

If you'd like to share your opinion on this or add a comment, please feel free to do so.

Jonathan, thanks for the fantastic Christmas compilation and I really can't wait to see what other surprises your wonderful family and yourself wi'll have this Christmas. Now about that Jack Webb...

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


Capt

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Al's Christmas Ale 2005

This is the fifth of six different Christmas comps that I'm reviewing this week. These comps were either sent to me by other Christmas collectors / enthusiasts or download available comps that were created by Christmas collectors / enthusiasts.

In a previous review, I explained how FaLaLaLaLa.com brought together Christmas music lovers from all over the world to one spot on the Internet.

Many of these people created their very own year-end Christmas compilations and shared them with their family and friends. It was a shock to realize I wasn't the only person creating annual Christmas CDs - but did that make me normal?

Al Aitchison was a fellow collector from New York City who posted this message at FaLaLaLaLa.com on December 21, 2004:

"Hey, does anyone out there make annual Christmas CD's? I'm always looking to trade with other collectors. I have extra copies of my latest collection. It's unlikely the CD will arrive by Christmas but who cares? It's never too late! Anyone interested in swapping collections can contact me via Falalalala.com."

Who can resist an invitation like that? I quickly contacted Al and we swapped copies of Christmas compilations. As the holiday season ended, my attention turned to burning new Christmas albums and CDs, filing the music into my master Christmas spreadsheet, and searching the Internet for new sources of Christmas music. However, I never thanked or replied to Al for his fantastic compilation.

Please forgive me Al for my gross oversight. Maybe that's the reason my hard drive crashed and burned shortly after we swapped copies. That'll teach me...

Al's Christmas Ale 2004 was unlike any Christmas compilation I had ever received. It contained twenty-five astounding original Christmas songs sung by some pretty good artists - all of which I had never heard before:

1.) Gus Thomas - Snowball And Mistletoe
2.) The Automatics - Merry Christmas
3.) Universal Honey - Best Christmas Ever
4.) Electric Jungle - Funky Funky Christmas
5.) The Okie Dokies - Chase Away My Christmas Blues
6.) Tina & The Shabblers - Santa Won't Be Blue This Christmas
7.) Three Hour Tour - Peace On You
8.) Holly Golightly & The Greenhornes - Little Star
9.) Young And Sexy - Santa Claus Likes Rich Kids Better
10.) Eddie Howard & His Orchestra - Uncle Mistletoe
11.) The Swingtips - Santa Swings
12.) Adam McIntyre - Every Day Is Christmas
13.) Big Ass Truck - Holly Jolly Christmas
14.) Drugstore - Xmas At The Drugstore
15.) Benny Grunch & The Bunch - Santa, I Been Bad All Year
16.) King Obstinate - How Will Santa Get Here
17.) Ray Wilkins (featuring Petra Fierlbeck) - Candles And Cakes
18.) Buckskin Bill - Jingle Bell Jane
19.) Little Roger & The Goosebumps - Xmas In The Hot Tub
20.) Austin Church - Another White Trash Christmas
21.) The Jingle Janglers - What I Love About Christmas
22.) Universal Groove - I Wanna Be A Reindeer
23.) The D's 3 - Poppa Santa Claus
24.) Cowboy & Spingirl - Christmas
25.) Joe Rogier - Come Christmas Morning

Many of these songs are so obscure it begs me to ask question I should have asked two years ago: Where did you find these songs Al? Are these long lost records that you found in Goodwill stores? Do you have a HUGE Christmas CD collection? Did you ever work for a radio station back in the day and collect all these gems?

Any info is gladly welcome...

Earlier this year I contacted Al again to see if he'd like to swap compilations again. Not only did he happily agree but he even had my name and address on file - you put me to shame Al!

TRACK REVIEWS:

1.) Valerie Masters - Christmas Calling
Sounds very much like Petula Clark - great style / arrangement! Another original obscure record?

2.) Blues Disciples - (Havin' A) Christmas Party
This is a rockin' tune... recorded live too... everyone's having a great time!

3.) Zombina & The Skeletones - Transylvanian Christmas
Combining Halloween and Christmas seldom works for me... this one makes me do the Monster Mash! Great!

4.) Frickin' A - Merry Merry Merry Frickin' Christmas
An angry and hysterical rant on relatives and Christmas in general! I might pinch this one for my CD!

5.) Her - Psychedelic Christmas
A girl band and their take on a trippy Christmas... not bad at all!

6.) The Crosstones - Jingle Bell Baby
There's good reproduced doo-wop and there's bad... this one falls into the latter I'm afraid.

7.) Second Nature - Christmas (The Best Time Of The Year)
A definite 1970s feel to this one... think Kool And The Gang by way of John Davidson!

8.) The Bonnie Sisters - I Saw Mommy Cha Cha Cha With You Know Who
OH YEAH! Another long lost song I've been searching for gone! What a great cha cha tune!

9.) Badabing Badaboom - A Hip Little Christmas
Cross the McGuire Sisters, a Louis Armstrong trumpet, and a Stephane Grappelli violin... OUTSTANDING!

10.) Tom Greed & The Snowflakes - Christmas Love
The ghost of Eddie Cochrane lives in this song! Grabs you by the collar and drags you along!

11.) Trinity - Video Christmas
Not your average reggae Christmas song... listen for the "Donde Este Santa Claus" lyrics!

12.) Kathy Dunn - Santaville
Another song scratched off my search list... Al, where do you get this stuff, man?

13.) Bo Schronce - Call Me Claus
This guy can wail! You've been warned... You better call him Claus!

14.) The Wacky Redneck Hillbillies - Hangin' 'Round The Mistletoe
This is not bad... it starts to sound the same around the 1:45 mark so... it's not good either!

15.) Vernon Garrett (with Sir Stan & The Counts) - Merry Christmas Baby
This record exceeds the limit of wah-wah guitars prescribed by law... It's an interesting cover!

16.) The Velva-Tones - Jack The Snowshoe Rabbit
This tune's is worthy of Andy Cirzan... definitely recorded in a church basement!

17.) Joann Auborn & The Rays - Sentimental Christmas
Al, you keep outdoing yourself... This is a lovely tune (out of tune piano notwithstanding)!

18.) Freddy Cole - Elvin Elf
Is this Nat King Cole's brother? This sounds just like Nat... Al... AL?

19.) DC Drive - Santa Bring My Baby To Me
What a band from the 1980s sounded like at the annual Christmas party. You can feel the mullets...

20.) Sammy Marshall - Jingle Mint Twist (Song-Poem)
WOW! A song-poem that didn't make it onto the American Song-Poem Christmas CD!

21.) Tralala - Everybody Christmas Time
Add girl band, add metal, add Christmas... an interesting mix!

22.) Butch Ryan & Groovy Cool - It's Christmas Time
A Christmas song that goes nowhere... too bad... it had promise!

23.) Housewives On Prozac - I Broke My Arm Christmas Shopping At The Mall
They formed a band at the 20th HS reunion (kidding)! A funny, FUNNY tune... Check their website!

24.) Trailer Trash - Real Live Doll
"I want a beer chugging, mud blocking, trash talking real live doll..." Next song, please.

25.) The Ruffians - Together At Christmas
Sounds like a very young R.E.M. doing a Christmas tune. A catchy tune as well...

26.) Lord Nelson - Merry Christmas One And All
Scratch another song off my search list... A fantastic song and the perfect way to end this CD!


Chicago may have Andy Cirzan as its "King Of Obscure Christmas" but my vote for the New York City "King Of Obscure Christmas" goes to Al Aitchson.

The fact that both Andy and Al both had the SAME song in the SAME year (Sammy Marshall - Jingle Mint Twist) only proves this point. Like Andy's CD, you can listen to this CD eight or twelve times in a row and it still sounds great! And what diversity in sounds!

Al, I hope this makes up for not thanking you for last year's Christmas CD. I am very grateful you chose to swap copies with me last year and this year. I cannot wait to hear your CD come Christmas 2006!

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


Capt

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Andy Cirzan's Off In The Christmas Cosmos Vol XVII 2005

This is the fourth of six different Christmas comps that I'm reviewing this week. These comps were either sent to me by other Christmas collectors / enthusiasts or download available comps that were created by Christmas collectors / enthusiasts.

As a Christmas collector, one of the greatest things to ever happen to me was when FaLaLaLaLa.com opened its doors for business back in the fall of 2004.

Another one of the greatest things to ever happen to me was when someone brought to everyone's attention at FaLaLaLaLa.com the name of Andy Cirzan.

By day, Andy Cirzan is a mild-mannered vice-president working for a great metropolitan concert promoter. By night, he becomes DJ Lo-Fi - a Christmas music collector extraordinaire; spinning incredible Christmas records he found using his Vinyl-Vision all over the world.

For the past seventeen years, Cirzan has been issuing his own homemade compilations - 100% all-vinyl - no fillers! In an interview he conducted last year, Andy states:

"I have very specific guidelines for what constitutes the right kind of song. I definitely do not consider this stuff to be novelty. If I think someone is trying to be intentionally cute, 99 times out of 100, I pass on it unless it is disturbingly so. I'm not into the Dr. Demento school/Holiday Music for Dummies or the Chipmunks, way too cheesy. Songs get added to the CD because they speak to me in some way."

On average, Andy sends out over 450 Christmas CDs a year and even posts it online (for a brief time) at the website of Sound Opinions, a radio talk show on Chicago Public Radio.

Since there is only two tracks, here is a song by song review:

TRACK 1 -

1A.) Fidelia B. Carghill, the Christmas Lady
Ms. Carghill discusses the Pagan tradition of yuletide... and...uh...a great slaughtering of horses... and...

1B.) Bonnie Lou - Christmas Is Gettin' Mighty Close
Sounds like Rosemary Clooney... "Is the air getting nippy? Is your heart feeling flippy?" Talk about close!

1C.) Don Cornell - Dingle Ling, Dingle Ling
This is a great tune! Not a bad cover - this song was first recorded by Liza Minnelli from the 1965 TV special "The Dangerous Christmas Of Red Riding Hood"!

1D.) Jody Daniels - Peppermint Stick
Possibly the only Christmas song devoted to peppermint candy... A fun bizarre tune!

1E.) Sylvia Reid - Christmas Rock N Roll
A bouncy song with uncredited backing vocals from a David Seville-less Chipmunks!

1F.) Frank Cosmo - Merry Christmas
A sweet little number... although at times it sounds like Frank's blending into the background... Belt Frank, BELT!

1G.) Bobbie Boyle (with The Singers) - Santa Claus Goes Modern
Another classic song-poem... Can you imagine what that outfit would sound like today?

1H.) ... and sometimes it snows...
A cool kiddie clip then a FANTASTIC piano/organ instrumental... anyone know the artist or title?

1I.) Miles Davis (with Bob Donough & Wayne Shorter) - Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)
A song that deserves more Christmas radio airplay and exposure! Not only a great Christmas tune, but a outstanding jazz tune as well!

1J.) Jimmy Jones & The Versatiles - Christmas Is A Drag
What a great song! Reminds me of "Laugh Laugh" by the Beau Brummels...

1K.) Anita Kerr Singers - Hurry Home For Christmas
That does it... I'm going to this site and buy both Anita Kerr Christmas CDs... So smooth and classy!

1L.) Unknown - It's Christmas Time
This delightful tune was rescued from obscurity by Andy Cirzan... do you accept rescue donations?

1M.) Susan Lynn - Christmas Angel
Uh oh... a cutesy wutesy kiddie Christmas song! Must... skip... ahead...


TRACK 2 -

2A.) Christmas Message From Space...
A yuletide request that wants Santa to go into orbit... if that wasn't far out enough, a great Moog clip of "Jingle Bells" is tacked on!

2B.) New York Percussion Trio - Sleigh Ride
Would love to hear a FULL album from these guys... a wonderful arrangement of a classic!

2C.) The Paul Bley Trio - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
A great jazz trio version of this song... Checking Google to see if they released a Christmas album!

2D.) ...Santa's coming... we should be asleep...
A quick clip that still haunts me for some reason... Andy, where in heaven's name did this come from?

2E.) Swingin' Sammy Marshall - Jingle Mint Twist
WOW! A song-poem that didn't make it onto the American Song-Poem Christmas CD!

2F.) The Sisterhood - Ole Year Christmas
From the same song-poem people who brought you Rockin' Disco Santa Claus (see link above)!

2G.) The Free Design - Close Your Mouth (It's Christmas)
Gets my vote for "FUNNIEST SONG TITLE" of this CD! You can't get more 1970s than this!

2H.) Lord Beginner - Christmas Morning The Rum Had Me Yawning
What an incredible vintage tune! If you want to here more like this, click here!

2I.) ...a Christmas session with Lutz Dietzmeyer...
I have no clue who this is... but why do I want to say it's Dick Smothers?

2J.) Linda Lawrence - Have A Happy Ho Ho Ho
Who forced the kid to sing this cutesy wutesy tune? Can we get them for child endangerment?

2K.) Jimmy McCracklin - Christmas Time Pt. 1
I love this tune... I'm still searching for part 2... Andy, do you take requests?

2L.) Dino Perone - Twinkletoes
"Rudolph and Vixen had a son last New Year's Eve..." WHO KNEW??? Dino tries so hard to sell this song... my sides still ache from laughing so hard!

2M.) Lalo Guerrero - Pancho Claus
I officially declare "Donde Esta Santa Claus?" by Augie Rios the SECOND best Mexican flavored Christmas song of the 1950s. This one wins by a landslide!

2N.) Antiqua BWI Steel Band - Jingle Bells
From note one on the steel drums, this song sweeps you away! Great stuff!

2O.) ...Santa Claus... that's the signal !!!!
We enjoyed Santa's surprise party as much as we enjoyed the hidden Moog clip of "Good King Wenceslas"!


I've listening to this CD about 20 times... I've also listened to Andy's compilations from 2001-2004 many times in the past year since downloading them from FaLaLaLaLa.com. Every track is gold - a rescued relic from the vinyl bins of anonymity.

In my mind, Andy Cirzan is the "King Of Obscure Christmas" and "King Of The Self-Produced Christmas Compilations". One man, two titles. I'm pretty sure Andy's going to keep both titles for a long, long time. I look forward to what Andy will turn up next year... and the next, and the next...

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


Capt

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

FaLaLaLaLa.com's 2005 ADVENTure In Carols

This is the third of six different Christmas comps that I'm reviewing this week. These comps were either sent to me by other Christmas collectors / enthusiasts or download available comps that were created by Christmas collectors / enthusiasts.

Two year ago, Brad Ross-MacLeod began a website entitled FaLaLaLaLa.com whose mission statement was "Preserving Memories Of Christmas Past".

He opened forums where other Christmas music collectors could share their knowledge and MP3s to others, to post links to other Christmas download sites, and answering questions about long lost Christmas music.

Brad also dipped into his own vinyl library and offered several classic Christmas albums to download on a weekly basis. He also offered a MP3 a day leading up to Christmas Eve, giving you a custom Christmas CD from the website.

The sense of community that was generated from that first year was quite unprecedented. Hundreds of Christmas music collectors, bloggers, internet radio show hosts, and people who wanted to find long lost Christmas music (and usually found it at the site), all gathered at the site. People who listened to, collected, or appreciated Christmas music year round had found their Valhalla.

More and more people began discovering the site after the site was revamped and reintroduced in July, 2005 - Christmas in July! New people began adding to the forums, offering more album downloads, Christmas music and links, and the sense of community not only survived but continued to flourish right through the Christmas season!

Leading the way was Brad who continued to offer the weekly album downloads and the daily MP3 - his ADVENTure in Carols.

TRACK REVIEWS:

1.) The Glad Singers - Deck The Halls
A snappy way to begin this year's CD... Look for a FULL review of this album here soon.

2.) Pete Fountain - Christmas Is A-Comin'
A bubbly, jazzy classic track from the King of Clarinet!

3.) Herman Apple - La Bonhomme De Neige
One of the most hip versions of "Frosty The Snowman" on the planet.

4.) Billy Beau - Santa's Coffee
A cutesy-wutesy kid song... The tyke wants to leave Santa some Sanka... that's a bad thing?

5.) The Gunter Kallmann Choir - We Wish You A Merry Christmas / Jingle Bells / Where Did My Snowman Go?
The choir's pretty straightforward... the music rises above it and stands out!

6.) The Living Trio (with chimes & bells) - O Christmas Tree / Deck The Halls / We Wish You A Merry Christmas / We Need A Little Christmas
Some people may say this is Muzak... for me, this is Sears at Christmas time circa 1974!

7.) Hal Bradley Orchestra (with Patty Marie Jay) - Space Age Santa Claus
What if Santa joined NASA? A fun, frollicking song that doesn't sound dated at all.

8.) The Mike Sammes Singers - The Twelve Days Of Christmas
The singers sing the gifts: "Eight maids a-milkin'..." The organ does the rest... a great tune!

9.) The Singer Orchestra - Good King Wenceslas
Bet you didn't know the sewing machine had its own orchestra! Not a bad one at that!

10.) The Peter Wood Singers & Orchestra - A Ride On Santa's Sleigh
Not the best song off the album... Look for a FULL review of this album here soon.

11.) "Scrooge" Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Christmas Children
I DEMAND this soundtrack be released on CD! One of the best unreleased Christmas scores ever.

12.) Mindy Carson (with Charles Hale & His Orchestra) - I Want A Television Christmas
The title says it all... bet this song didn't get a lot of radio airplay for obvious reasons.

13.) The NORAD Commanders - Here Comes Santa Claus
They play hip Christmas music and can scramble jet fighters... that's NORAD! Brad - Do you own a copy of the classic 1964 NORAD Tracks Santa album? If so, can we talk?

14.) Lawrence Welk & His Champagne Music Makers - Ho Ho Ho
The deep voice of Larry Hooper... the great Welk arrangement... this must be heaven, man!

15.) The Big Ben Banjo Band - Medley: The Twelve Days Of Christmas / Once In Royal David's City / The Holly & The Ivy / O Come All Ye Faithful
It's got a "Beverly Hillbillies" feel to it at first... but they keep their foot on the gas and go, go, go!

16.) George Melachrino & His Orchestra - Fairy On The Christmas Tree
You've heard this one before... you just never knew the title... This is a great tune!

17.) The Fireside Singers - Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
By the end of this song, you're shaking your head in disbelief... and you want to hear it again! Bad = Good!

18.) The Caroleers - Who's That Up On The Roof?
A trip down memory lane for many people... I don't get it... Next!

19.) Sy Mann - Tijuana Christmas
Taken from the classic "Hooked On Santa" Moog album of the 1960s. As fresh as the day it was recorded!

20.) The Rhodes Kids - Santa Loves Rock 'N' Roll Music
That was until he heard THIS! Look for a FULL review of this album here soon.

21.) The Golden Orchestra - Little Stowaway On Santa's Sleigh
Here's a cutesy-wutesy kid song that I LOVE! And could that be Thurl Ravenscroft as Santa?

22.) The Peppermint Kandy Kids - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Here's a cutesy-wutesy kid song that I HATE! I just can't get into kiddie Christmas...

23.) Frank De Vol & The Rainbow Strings - Ring Christmas Bells / The First Noel / Jolly St. Nicholas
What Muzak sounded like before Muzak existed.

24.) The Ambassador Chorale & Players - Christmas Rush
This is how everyone feels with about three days until Christmas. A clever song...

25.) Captain Kangaroo (with Mr. Green Jeans) - Crackerjack Christmas
Okay... I can get into this kiddie Christmas! This is an infectious tune with the good ol' Capt along for the ride!


This CD is uniquely special. As you listen to it, you remember the daily (sometimes hourly) visits to the magical website known as FaLaLaLaLa.com to see what new surprises awaited you. It's also special because of the unbelievably fantastic music compiled from over 25 different sources that's contained here in one neat, clean package.

The best special part of this CD is that one person took the time and energy to compile this music in addition to presiding over a kingdom where Christmas music reigns supreme. His vision many years ago manifested itself into something that probably went beyond his wildest dreams and will continue to do so.

All hail the King of Jingaling - Brad Ross-MacLeod!

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


Capt

Monday, February 20, 2006

Queer Music Heritage - Dec 19th & Dec 26th 2005 shows

This is the second of six different Christmas comps that I'm reviewing this week. These comps were either sent to me by other Christmas collectors / enthusiasts or download available comps that were created by Christmas collectors / enthusiasts.

This review contains a HUGE surprise... read on!

In my last review, I recounted how I discovered Jeffco Productions by doing a Google / internet search in 2001 for some Weird Al Yankovic Christmas greetings.

In the spring of 2003, I had downloaded some Christmas tracks from the Therapy Sisters and wanted to finish off the album. This led me to yet another Google / deep internet search that dropped me off at the front doorstep of Queer Music Heritage.

At first, I was excited to find a site that even knew about the Therapy Sisters. But then I started to look at the other song titles... "Dyke The Halls"? "Jerry Falwell's Coming To Town"? "Rhonda The Lesbo Reindeer"?

I knew I was in uncharted waters... Thankfully, my guide was JD Doyle, the founder, producer, and host of the monthly radio show "Queer Music Heritage". After an introductory e-mail explaining my Christmas passion, he wrote back explaining his passion was gay themed Christmas music. We immediately set up some trades for Christmas music and became good friends in the process.

I explored the other aspects of JD's website - his archived radio show that has aired on KPFT 90.1 FM in Houston, Texas since 2000, the staggering amount of images that complement the music, and the interviews he conducts with gay & lesbian artists. I literally spent two hours going through the easy to navigate sections.

Doyle's work has not gone unrecognized; the website has been featured in Out Magazine and his radio show recently won an award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters for "Best Local Music / Entertainment Program or Special".

Still wondering about that HUGE surprise? Read on...

However, it's the Christmas radio shows that excite Doyle the most. In the early days of his radio career (2000 - 2002), he did only one Christmas show but that changed in 2003. He created TWO regular radio shows and an Internet only radio show so he could play the songs he always wanted to and not get in trouble with the FCC! I'm happy to say I helped with both shows that year with a few contributions (Gloria - "You're not your gay, bubbly Christmasy self Daddy." Archie Bunker - "I'M GAY! I'M GAY! I'm gay as much as anybody here!").

In the following year of 2004, JD produced THREE full radio shows (and even sent me a preview CDs!). These radio shows are chock full of campy songs such as "Sleigh Ride In Leather", "RuPaul The Red-Nosed Drag Queen", and "Feliz Navidad" sung by drag queen extraordinaire Jimmy James in the voice of Bette Davis! It's definitely one of the funniest Christmas songs ever, double exclamation point!!

Last year, JD produced two Christmas shows (and sent me preview CDs again):

December 19th, 2005:

JD starts off with a medley entitled "Christmas Fairies" from a group called 4 Poofs And A Piano. We then hear Christmas songs from Bob Downe, DC Anderson, Jeremy Goff. "Let's Put The X Back In Christmas" by Candye Kane & Country Dick Montana is next (a song I found via Napster and contributed to JD - I'm still looking for the FULL Christmas album by Kane!) followed by several selections from a NYC drag queen named Hedda Lettuce (you can't make this stuff up!).

Up next is an interview with Daniel Cartier featuring three of Cartier's Christmas songs (nicely done I might add). Then we get to hear a clip from the "Sonny & Cher Christmas Special" from 1976 featuring seven year old Chastity Bono singing "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" - JD, where did you find this? After a station break, JD plays an obscure 1995 song by Christian Left entitled "Queer Christmas Wishes" that starts off wickedly funny, moves to disturbing, and ends up deeply moving. A real gem.

We get two more interviews /songs from Mary Gauthier and Jay Spears next. In rapid succession, we get three amazingly funny songs from Julian Clary, Fiely Matias, and Dame Edna Everage that sets you up for the knockout punch - JD plays four new songs from the Kinsey Sicks: "God Bless Ye Femmy Lesbians", "Jingle Bells, Don't Ask, Don't Tell", "Harried Little Christmas", and their "Christmas Medley". These four songs will make you wince and laugh hysterically simultaneously. A touching version of "Auld Lang Syne" by Daniel Cartier ends the radio show.

December 26th, 2005:

Picking up where he left off, JD begins with the Kinsey Sicks: "Tis The Season To Drink Stoli" and "I Had A Little Facial" (to the tune of "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel"). We then get twin-spins back-to-back-to-back from El-Vez, Dave Hall, and Cam Clarke. Up next is "Jingle Bells" by a group named Betty - an amazing acapella medley that lasts 1:30! JD then uncovers one of the few Christmas songs recorded by Dusty Springfield: "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" recorded by the Springfields from 1961!

VonTanner then sings "Santa Claus, You're Fat", a song warning Santa to check his cholestrol! Mike Rickard sings "Home For The Holidays", then another gem: Dora Bryan singing "If I Were A Fairy" from 1963. After a station break, we hear a snippet from Paul Lynde as Santa ("Why do I gotta climb down the chimney? Why can't I walk through the door like anyone else? It's discrimination!). "A Christmas Song" is next by No You Turn, a very 80s techno-pop group.

Gerald Joling gives us the doo-wop flavored heartbreak song "Lonely This Christmas". An excellent cover of Joni Mitchell's "The River" is presented by The Indigo Girls next. Lisa Koch's "You'll Never Melt My Heart" follows taken from her album "You Make My Pants Pound". JD then interviews Shawn Thomas, plays songs from Leah Ziccari, Ann Reed, and Tom Grounds. The radio show ends with two classic songs: "The Bette Davis Chorus" (sung to Handel's "Halleujah Chorus") that leads to Jimmy James' version of "Feliz Navidad".


Every year, I look forward to hearing what new stuff JD brings to the table - there's room for everybody! Thanks to his show, I have purchased several of the Christmas albums of the artists he has presented (Jimmy James, El-Vez, The Therapy Sisters, Broadway Cares, The Vandals). I'm very glad that I found Queer Music Heritage and have tried to introduce it to a broader audience.

JD, your Christmas CDs that you send are some of my most prized possessions. I'm thankful you continue to send them and I'm grateful we've become great friends in the process. I hope this review has done you justice.

Now for the HUGE surprise I promised...

Every Christmas show that JD Doyle has done is AVAILABLE to listen to at his website:

2000 Christmas
2001 Christmas
2002 Christmas (Two shows available)
2003 Christmas (Three shows available)
2004 Christmas (Three shows available)
2005 Christmas (Two shows available)

Click on the links above, listen to the shows (look for the link in the corners of the page), follow along with the script of each show (also available at the site), and examine the photos that go along with the songs. It's a treasure trove of Christmas delight in three flavors - straight, gay, and lesbian. Happy listening...

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


Capt

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Jeffco Productions' 2005 Christmas Podcasts

Starting this week, I will reviewing six different Christmas comps that were either sent to me by other Christmas collectors / enthusiasts or download available comps that were created by Christmas collectors / enthusiasts.

To start it off, I present to you Canada's very own Jeffco Productions and my very good friend Jeff Fox.

One day in the summer of 2001, I was doing some deep searching on Napster and Google for Weird Al Yankovic Christmas greetings (WEIRD AL CHRISTMAS GREETINGS!). This search led me to the website of Jeffco Productions.

Upon first look, I discovered a group of people who've known each other for a long time and did fun things together. They held the Jeffco Giveaway every year, they occasionally did ice sculpting, and every Christmas since 1992, they issued Christmas compilations.

I immedately e-mailed "To Whom It May Concern", introduced myself, sharing my passion for Christmas music, and, like any other self-respecting Christmas collector, starting begging to get copies of those Christmas collections.

Several days later, Jeff Fox replied to my e-mail and offered to begin trading with me. The cover you see above was a special CD I created to introduce myself to the Jeffco family - a "best-of" collection of all of my previous annual Christmas compilations.

We kept up the correspondence throughout 2001, learned that both Jeff and I shared the same tastes in Christmas music, and we quickly became friends. This was cemented at Christmas, 2001 when we exchanged our first annual Christmas packages. Not knowing the other person was doing the same thing, we both loaded up a box full of Christmas CDs, videos, and surprise gifts and sent them to each other.

I cannot remember what I sent to Jeff that year but I sure remember what he sent me - copies of EVERY Jeffco Christmas compilation to date - Christmas Wishes 1 - 10 (1992 - 2001) and Christmas Turkeys 1 - 5 (1997 - 2001). As I listened and learned from all Jeff sent me, he wasn't satisfied with just the traditional Christmas comps that he usually issued (Christmas Wishes). So he began featuring the "not so great" side of Christmas music (Christmas Turkeys).

What scared me even more was we both used the same music on different compilations - once in the very SAME year! Musically, we were about even - artistically, Jeff was light years ahead of me. His website features some of his CD covers and labels that he's created for himself and others. He even did the artwork for my 20th annual Christmas compilation in 2004. Jeff's one of the most talented graphic designers out there.

Unbeknownst to me, Jeff was going to retire the Turkey comps in 2001 and stick with the Wishes comps. That was before we began trading Christmas music and our friendship blossomed. Before the 2002 holiday season began, Jeff paid me one of the highest compliments of my lifetime. He thanked me for my friendship and my passion of Christmas music; a passion that rubbed off on him and convinced him to continue with the Christmas Turkeys comps.

I repaid him the compliment several years later on my 20th annual Christmas compilation - I went on record by stating that if I should die, my entire Christmas music collection goes to Jeffco Productions.

Last year, Jeff informed me there wasn't going to be a CD this year BUT podcasts available at his website. Unfortunately, I don't own an iPod or the slightest idea how to access the podcasts from my computer. I'm still trying to figure out to back up data on my computer since the great hard drive crash of 2005. I've yet to learn how to use the whole iPod / podcast technology or figure out bit torrent, etc.. Thankfully, Jeff sent me a CD with all the podcasts in MP3 form.

PODCAST #1 - Christmas Mixed Bag - Pt. 1:
The title says all. Any set of music that starts off with a Christian boy band doing a Christmas tune, then leads into a version of Jingle Bells with tuba, washboard, and banjo is pretty good in my book. Add in some Rob Thomas ("New York Christmas"), Amy Grant, Band Aid 20 (what were they thinking?), and Jars of Clay's "Christmas For Cowboys" (timely now thanks to "Brokeback Mountain") and this is a solid start to anything.

PODCAST #2 - Christmas Mixed Bag - Pt. 2:
We begin with a Canadian artist named Allison Crowe doing "In The Bleak Midwinter". One of the best things about Jeff's compilations is he features many Canadian artists. The podcast continues with Windham Hill, that Christian boy band again (eek!), The Ventures (rock on!), Quartette (another Canadian band), The Blind Boys of Alabama (w Me'Shell Ndegeocello), and a player piano doing a Christmas tune (I sent him that one!).

PODCAST #3 - Christmas Mixed Bag - Pt. 3:
Not your average podcast! This one features the best of traditional Christmas music done by artists like The Choir Of King's College, The Cape Breton Chorale, various chamber choirs, several organs blasting, and some symphonies playing. This was such a 180 degree turn from the previous two podcasts but I didn't mind at all. This is perfect music to play at Christmas dinners softly in the background or when you tour European castles (like Jeff did a few years back).

PODCAST #4 - Christmas Turkeys Best Stuff - Pt. 1:
Imagine a Shakespearian actor doing a dramatic recitation of "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer" to start off with. Johnny Cash's Christmas message reminding you "it's not cool to kill at Christmas". MST3K's immortal rendition of "Let's Have A Patrick Swayze Christmas". South Park, Blink 182, Slim Sphincter farting "O Come All Ye Faithful", and Meco asking that Christmas question "What Do You Get A Wookie For Christmas?".

PODCAST #5 - Christmas Turkeys Best Stuff - Pt. 2:
You've probably heard The Singing Dogs do "Jingle Bells". Probably the cats. Maybe the cows. But turkeys? "Butch The Gay Santa Claus" from Cherry Poppin Daddies follows. "Ding! Fries Are Done" - might be the worst song here. Wait... the cast of "The West Wing" doing McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime"... can I change my vote? Cats meowing "Silent Night", Joe Pesci wondering how "fat-ass" Santa will get around if "It Doesn't Snow On Christmas", RuPaul (OMG!), and South Park again. That's entertainment!

PODCAST #6 - Christmas Turkeys Best Stuff - Pt. 3:
I've always admired Jeff's bravery. He always uses groups I never dare consider (RuPaul, South Park). He begins with Insane Clown Posse's "Santa Claus Is A Fat Bitch", Hoobastank, and The Vandals' "My First Christmas As A Woman." Jeff slows things down with Jim Reeves, Mel Blanc, and Cyndi Lauper... you think you're in the clear... with Jeff? He hits ya with Ricky Martin's "Ay Ay Ay It's Christmas" (kidney punch), Boyzvoice's "Let Me Be Your Father Christmas" (below the belt), and Big Tad's grunting or clearing of sinus passages version of "Jingle Bells" (knockout punch).

PODCAST #7 - Christmas Turkeys IX: One More 'Til 10 - Pt. 1:
Randy Bachman doing "Taking Care Of Christmas" starts this off, followed by The Sisterhood's "Rocking Disco Santa Claus" from The American Song-Poem Christmas CD (another donation from me!). An old school rap version of "O Little Town Of Bethlehem" is next, then the one and only Wing doing "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" (the smelling salts please!). Two more songs from the American Song-Poem CD, Beck's "The Little Drum Machine Boy", and a song I forgot I gave to Jeff - Billy May's "Do You Believe In Santa Claus?"

PODCAST #8 - Christmas Turkeys IX: One More 'Til 10 - Pt. 2:
The Three Tendons squeeze their palms together for their version of "Deck The Halls/Santa Claus Is Coming To Town". Jan Barlow's rant "Jerry Falwell Is Coming To Town" is next - a song designed to offend anyone! Lewis Black follows, then Sarah Silverman's "Give The Jew Girl Toys" - the funniest Christmas song of 2005. The Del Rubio Triplets' version of "The Chipmunk Song, Little Richard wishing you "plenty of Tutti-Frutti fruitcake for Christmas", Rod Stewart & Dolly Parton doing "Baby It's Cold Outside" (I'm still in therapy), and more American Song-Poem songs. Are you weary yet? I'm not!

PODCAST #9 - Christmas Turkeys IX: One More 'Til 10 - Pt. 3:
Holly Cole's great version of "Sleigh Ride" starts us off... we might be leveling off. William Hung's Christmas Message / The Little Drummer Boy is the next song... CRASH DIVE! Pudie Tadow's hip-hop, rap version of "Get Your Driedel On follows... pulls out of the dive! Spinal Tap's "Christmas With The Devil" levels us off again, two different versions of "Mr. Grinch - one metal, one jazz/metal - turbulence!. The final song needs explanation. Culturcide is a Houston, TX based band that has produced some wicked, wicked song parodies - some with homosexual themes. "Santa Claus Was My Lover" is sung to the tune of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" (you can hear Michael underneath their lyrics!) and describes a romantic encounter with St. Nick himself.

More on Culturcide and its origins follow in the next review...

Put all these podcasts together and you get a three hour and forty-five minute cornucopia of Christmas music - something for everyone to smile, laugh, think, cry, even offend. My friend Jeff keeps coming up with stuff even I've never heard and that's quite a big statement.

These podcasts were available at Jeffco's website during the entire month of December, 2005. Even though the podcasts are long gone, you owe it to yourself to check out his amazing website and his ENTIRE online Christmas collection - you can see what albums and songs he owns, even download the album covers! Be sure to leave him a message over at his blog - maybe if you ask real, REAL nice like I did back in 2001, he might do something for you.

Jeff, this is the longest review I've posted on my blog to date... You deserve it not only for your love of Christmas music but for being a great friend since that first e-mail way back when. Take a bow, my good man...

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


Capt

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Eyes and Compilations!

It is currently 8:45 AM here at my home in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In about three hours, I will be going to the Indiana Lasik Center where I will be strapped down to a table like James Bond and have corrective eye surgery.

My Coke bottle glasses are history! By tomorrow, I should be seeing 20/20 again... and I'm not talking about the TV show either! In any event, I will be gone for a few days while my eyes recover. Hope the 3-D vision won't screw anything up!

During the week of February 19th - February 25th, I will be reviewing six Christmas compilations sent or downloaded to me from other Christmas enthusiasts like myself!

The titles will include:
  • FaLaLaLaLa.com's 2005 ADVENTure In Carols
  • Andy Cirzan's Off In The Christmas Cosmos Vol. XVII - 2005
  • Jeffco Productions' 2005 Christmas Podcasts
  • Melton Mistletoe Mix 2005
  • Al's Christmas Ale 2005
  • Queer Music Heritage - December 19th & December 26th, 2005 radio shows

Should be an exciting week because I get to listen to these kick-ass CDs once again as I review them!

My laser awaits...


Capt

Ann-Margret's Christmas Carol Collection

Let me go on record and state this: Ann-Margret is the ONLY woman on the planet that I would leave my wife and kids for. She has more sex appeal in one eyelash than any of the current sex symbols in Hollywood, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

In January 2005, I discovered she released a Christmas album for the 2004 season that I completely missed. Upon learning this, I immediately went into a coma that lasted several weeks.

FINALLY - to spend Christmas with Ann-Margret!

It took a long time to gather my strength back after the initial shock. Actually order the CD was a bit of an ordeal. I would visit Amazon.com and start placing the order until I caught site of the cover you see above. The room would always get blurry, I would sink to my knees like a sugar diabetic that desperately needs a chocolate bar, and eventually pass out.

This went on for several months. I tried to gather my strength; I watched "Viva Las Vegas" and "Kitten With A Whip" almost daily - listened to my copy of "Let Me Entertain You" and the Japanese import copy of the "Tommy" film soundtrack that I've owned since the early 1990s. It took me almost a year after this album was released but I finally was ready.

This album arrived early this week... and I almost spontaeously combusted. I thought the front cover was delicious - the back cover was orgasmic! Three vintage Christmas pictures of Ann! What greets you when you open the CD booklet? FIVE more vintage pictures! I was going to post scans of these pix... however if you want to see them, do yourself a favor and purchase this album yourself.

As for the music... the voice is still fresh, breathy (be still my heart), and delicious as ever. Her arrangements can be a little hokey but Ann rises above it all and delivers. On several tracks, she hooks up with the Jordannaires - the same Jordannaires who backed up a pre-Army Elvis! Their presence is an extra blast of air on an album that is already bursting at the seams.

How good is this album? This good:

Shortly after our wedding in 1997, my wife and I were expecting our first child. We were excited heading into the holidays that year until a fateful night in December. We rushed to the hospital where we lost our first child. That year, I dedicated Martin Denny's version of "What Child Is This?" on my Christmas tape to our child. Since then, I haven't been able to listen to that song without thinking about that horrible experience in my life.

By the time I reached "What Child Is This?" on this album, I didn't mind at all. For the first time in nearly a decade, I listened to that song and smiled. For that and the rest of your album, thank you Ann-Margret.

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


Capt

5 Chinese Brothers - A Window Shopper's Christmas

Back on February 3rd, I ordered several Christmas CDs from Amazon.com and even though I already own a copy of this album (acquired through a trade with a fellow collector), I wanted the full artwork for this CD and upgraded to this copy.

I first saw this album over at Mistletunes.com and was intrigued by the review at that site:

"This one's been bubbling under my radar for a couple of years and I finally latched onto a copy of this 1997 Christmas classic.

"There's nothing Chinese about these guys, although there are five of them; try rockabilly / folk / country fusion on for size, then consider they wrote all but one of the tunes on this album, and you've got the ingredients for a jumpin' Christmastime.
"

A fellow collector agreed to a trade and when I saw he had this album, I wanted to hear what all the ruckus was about. The sound is exactly described above and the lyrics are sharp and witty. With such songs like "Rockin' In The Manger" (what if the three wise men took a '57 Chevy and rockabilly beat to the manger), "Missing Miss December" ("Where other girls wore clothes, she wore just Christmas bows..."), and "The Fruitcake Song" (think Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love?" and the evils of fruitcake!), this album's a definite keeper.

My favorite song on the album is "Dept. Store Santa Claus Strike", a folk ditty based on the great Santa Claus strike and their attempts to union organize all the Santas across the country. Not one thing is missing from this song... injunctions, mediators, even harmonica!

I consider these guys the country equilvilent of They Might Be Giants - if you close your eyes, you'll swear it's the Giants... a pretty good comparison in my book!

According to the Internet, these guys are still together, still doing gigs in Europe, and according to Amazon.com, this album was their last release back in 1997. I sure hope they consider doing another Christmas album!

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


Capt

Monday, February 13, 2006

It's Finally Christmas


On February 3rd,
I placed an order through Amazon.com for four Christmas CDs and promised reviews of each of them. This was the first CD to arrive - one that I already had in my collection that I wanted to upgrade.

This Christmas compilation was released in 1994 by Tim/Kerr Records of Portland, Oregon - not too far down the road from Seattle whose grunge music was the flavor of choice on the radio at that time. This album is chock full of grunge, pop, metal, and psychedelic bands with names like Flaps Down, Caveman Shoestore, Hitting Birth, and Smegma.

TRACK REVIEWS:

1.) Swoon 23 - Merry Christmas To Me
Sounds like someone listened to the Velvet Underground a wee bit too much...

2.) Pond - Gloria In Excelsis Deo
A straightforward rendition of "Angels We Have Heard On High" that could have done without the bizarre guitar breaks and the 45 second final feedback filled note.

3.) Dandy Warhols - Little Drummer Boy
Before they were even known... One of the better rock versions of this song out there.

4.) Dead Moon - Christmas Rush
Recorded in someone's basement obviously... The song's not bad but the homemade quality gets in the way.

5.) Meg Hentges - Christmas Time Is Here
The classic Vince Guaraldi - Charlie Brown tune... Done very nicely with a minimum of distractions.

6.) Poison Idea - Santa Claus Is Back In Town
A straightforward rendition that's real... and it's fun... but it's not real fun.

7.) Oblivion Seekers - Christmas In The City
Imagine if Tom Waits was sober and could sing... Might sound like this! One of the best songs on the CD.

8.) Caveman Shoestore - The Grinch
They try so hard with the whistles, the toy sounds, and weird music that the distractions choke and kill this song.

9.) Hitting Birth - The Little Drummer Boy
One part Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2", one part Christmas, one part industrial, one part metal. By the third and fourth minutes, you're pleading for a gunshot to the head. It finally ends 5:29 seconds later... Anyone left alive gets their money back.

10.) Ray & Clover - I'm Mad At The Fatman
I wasn't sure if the Pacific Northwest knew what the blues sounded like... This is my standout favorite of the disc! A nice bayou rendition!

11.) Iceburg Slim - Christmas Dressed In Blue
I can hear him sing 'Christmas" now and then... but what is this song about? Not sure if I care...

12.) Flaps Down - Hey Santa
A grunge ode? A grunge ballad? This salute to the Big Guy is all over the place... Pass this one up Santa no matter how loud they play and scream!

13.) Svelt - I Wonder As I Wander
I wonder if this wander was used as filler... Got all the grunge sound... ho hum.

14.) Calamity Jane - Hannakah Song
A instrumental grunge version of a Jewish song... Light the menorah and have some Manischewitz!

15.) Sugarboom - Ave Maria
If Schubert composed this song with a electric rock girl trio, it might have sounded like this...

16.) Smegma - Happy Holiday
If you want to know why this compilation's not that great, listen (if you dare) to this one...

17.) The Violets - Rebel Jesus
We sound like Heart... we drone on and on... we're happy to have this gig at all... Ouch!

18.) New Bad Things - Shoplifting You Something For Christmas
Sounds like a junior high garage band singing at the karaoke music studio at Six Flags... Sad because It has flashes of brilliance.

19.) Whirlees - The Grinch
This song is foolproof - you can't possibly screw it up. However, these guys did and it's a sad way to end a CD.


Overall, I can see why many of these bands never hit the big time. But the hits outweigh the misses. This is by far the best 75 cent Christmas compilation I've ever purchased. If you go without lunch one day, you can probably pick up this album at Amazon.com for the price of a Big Mac combo meal. Try it... you might like it!

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


Capt

A Merry Monster Christmas

Back in my high school days, a friend of mine stood in front of the history class to read a paper he wrote entitled "JFK Blown Away - What More Do I Have To Say?" - an obvious swipe from Billy Joel.

His argument was since November 22, 1963, the cultural and moral status of the United States has declined and will continue to decline.

I was too busy trying to make points with the cheerleader sitting next to me to pay attention until he brought up how TV shortly after the assassination went down hill - citing "The Munsters", "The Addams Family", and "Bewitched" - all dealing with monsters, witchcraft, and the occult.

That was the only point I agreed with. There was a definite fascination with horror in the 1960s... which leads us to this album.

Released in 1964, this album was the brainchild of Len Maxwell, a talented writer and voice actor. Maxwell was best known as the voice of Karate and the Chief of Police on the old "Batfink" cartoon show in the 1960s. He was most recently heard as the voice of Nick Diamond on MTV's "Celebrity Deathmatch".

Maxwell and his album co-writer Mickey Rose worked on throwing in every monster joke, cliche, and pun you could think of for the album sketches. The songs are cute to a point and once in a while, you find yourself laughing out loud. It's definitely something I won't play at Christmas time repeatedly, but once in a great while, I'll pull this CD out and take a listen.

This is another album that many people remember having and playing at Christmas time when they were kids. I've yet to see a copy on eBay sell for less than $100.

Thankfully, this album didn't cost me that much. This was posted by Trowfaz, a member of the FaLaLaLaLa.com community last year. Thank you Trow!

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


Capt

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Cabbage Patch Christmas

Every Christmas, there's one hot toy or game that is all the rage: XBox 360, Tickle Me Elmo, Nintendo, Teddy Ruxpin.
People camp out for days ahead, trample over people to get their hands on their item, and pay top dollar to give someone a Merry Christmas.

This entire phenomenon can be traced directly back to the Cabbage Patch Dolls. First created in 1976 by an art student named Xavier Roberts, the handmade dolls started off slowly and sold quite well. Roberts came up with the cutesy-wutesy idea of "adoption papers" and "official birth certificates" and people went "Awwww" to the tune of $60 million in the first year.

By 1980, the demand had begin to build and dolls were reselling for 100 times over the original price. Toy companies were clamoring for the chance to mass reproduce the toys and Roberts eventually went with Coleco in 1982. The world was about to be flooded with Cabbage Patch dolls.

Everyone remembers what happened next: the lines of people waiting, the huge amount of accessories for the dolls, the lotteries to get a chance at a doll, the fistfights, the scuffles, the news coverage, the mass hysteria. By 1985, sales of the Cabbage Patch Dolls stood at a staggering $600 million.

This Christmas album was released in 1984. It's a mix of kiddie, bluegrass, and country music that features Colonel Casey as a narrator and introduces us to "Christmas in the Cabbage Patch". Cue the banjo, the kiddie chorus, and the cutesy-wutesy songs and stories. By track three, I went into epilectic sugar shock. There is good kiddie Christmas music, bad Christmas music, and jaw-droppingly disgusting kiddie Christmas music. This falls below that by a great margin.

The Cabbage Patch whirlwind began to die down and by 1986, only $250 million of the dolls were sold. Coleco tried in vain to revive the doll but the fad had passed and in 1989, Coleco went bankrupt. Hasbro picked up the dolls from 1989 to 1994, couldn't do anything with them, and sold the rights to Mattel. Mattel continues to produce the dolls to this day. It's been estimated that nearly 80 million dolls were sold since the inception of the Cabbage Patch Dolls.

This album was posted by Pastor McPurvis at Vinyl Orphanage and is still available to download!

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


Capt

Friday, February 03, 2006

Am I On? No... Amazon!

The school where my son Alex attends has a wonderful scrip program. You purchase gift certificates from local & national stores and a certain percentage of each scrip goes towards tuition for next year. This is great considering my oldest daughter Maggie will begin kindergarten this fall. This past week, the school held it's annual, one-week only 100% scrip drive - meaning all the dollars spent go directly into our tuition bank.

As my wife and I looked over the order form earlier this week, she asked me if I wanted anything from Amazon.com! Suddenly it was Christmas in February! I asked for one $50 gift certificate and she put it down on the order form. I'm betting I could have gotten more since this was a great deal for our kids but I didn't want to get too greedy and take advantage of my wife's generosity.

The certificate arrived earlier today... Accessing my wish list, this is what I ordered:


Ann-Margret... my dream girl... What a Christmas this is going to be... Petty Booka is a Japanese band who has recorded a number of albums using an eclectic mix of Hawaiian, bluegrass, country, reggae, and punk music. I look forward to hearing what they're going to do with Christmas music! Expect to see reviews for both these CDs as soon as they arrive!

I already own the 5 Chinese Brothers and It's Finally Christmas albums in my collection. These were acquired through trades with other Christmas music collectors and both don't have complete artwork. Although these are upgrades and not new additions, I will post reviews when they arrive.

The Spike Jones CD is not Christmas related but it's been out of print for ages and it was $5.00 - a bargain I couldn't pass up!

This reduces my wish list down to about 9 items. At one point, it stood at 140 items!

I better start posting albums... the backlog has already begun!


Capt