Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Christmas Carillon From Bok Tower Gardens

Here's a new subgenre of Christmas music that I've added to my collection - Christmas carillon music.

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

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

I then found this album over at Vinyl Orphanage last December when they shared a bunch of wonderful Christmas albums.

Down in Lake Wales, Florida is the Bok Tower Gardens (now Bok Sanctuary) - a sprawling area of bliss established by noted American author Edward Bok and designed by the famous landscape artist Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr.. After the last garden was planted and watered, Bok sensed something was missing. Looking at the sky, he envisioned a great tower with carillons that would ring gentle music through the whole area.

Since its completion in 1929, the Bok Tower has had only three carillonneurs - Anton Brees from 1929 to 1967, Milford Myhre from 1968 to 2004, and William De Turk from 2004 to the present.

Recorded in 1985, Milford Myhre plays a standard set of traditional Christmas music that features old standards like "Good King Wenceslas", "Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabella", and "Silent Night". My favorite track on the album is "Carol Of The Bells" for obvious reasons. There is a song on the album entitled "Whence Is That Goodly Fragrance?" that is dull and boring but gets a mention for "Best Song Title On The Album".

Overall, it's a nice change of pace that lasts for about 15 minutes. Any further prolonged listening will make you go insane, causing you to either reside in a bell tower or climbing one with a rifle looking to pick people off.

When I get the other Christmas carillon album that I ordered - "A Christmas Sound Spectacular" - expect a full review (lock the guns now).

THIS JUST IN: Pastor McPurvis informs me that since this album is still for sale at the Bok Tower Gardens gift shop, he removed the album from Vinyl Orphanage. Try e-mailing the gift shop to get the album.

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


Capt

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Christmas with SCTV


Okay... technically, this is NOT a Christmas CD... but I did receive it for Christmas and wanted to share some of the treasures that lie inside.

In the 1970s, the Second City Comedy troupe based in Chicago and Toronto was a breeding ground for the next wave of great comedians: John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, and Bill Murray. While these four went off to immortality at "Saturday Night Live", the other members of Second City banded together and created their own TV show in Canada.

"Second City TV" was seen throughout Canada (and in syndication in the USA) between 1976 and 1980. Joining this cast were John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, and Dave Thomas.

In 1981, NBC needed a summer replacement for its music program "The Midnight Special". They brought SCTV in, gave them a 90 minutes to fill, and "SCTV Network 90" was born. This ran from 1981 to 1983 - winning two Emmys and garnering 15 Emmy nominations in the process while dealing with constant interference from NBC about content, expense, and the like. In 1984, the show moved to Cinemax for its last year with four stars in tow (Flaherty / Martin / Levy / Short).

The two Christmas episodes on this DVD are from Season 4 and Season 5. If you click on these links, they will transport you to an excellent episode guide where each skit is outlined right down to the bumpers!

If you're a fan of Christmas, you owe it to yourselves to find this DVD and get a copy. There are more belly laughs in this CD than any of the Christmas movies of the past five years starring Tim Allen.

If anything, you need to see John Candy dressed as Divine (in FULL Divine drag) singing "Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me" while ice-skating with the Juul Haalmeyer Dancers! Now THAT's Christmas!

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


Capt

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Christmas With Mike 2005

During the week of February 19th and February 24th, I reviewed six different Christmas compilations that I acquired from various friends and other Christmas music aficionados. I had no other homemade compilations to review... or so I thought.

Mike Ung, a resident of Kansas City and yet another person who I met through FaLaLaLaLa.com happened to read my reviews. He e-mailed me to ask if I would be willing to trade copies of our annual comps.

"I've always liked weird/obscure music" Mike admits. He also admitted to reworking the Beatles' White Album down to 6 tracks... That was enough for me! I agreed to send him one and off they went through the mail.

His compilation arrived exactly one week ago. I didn't know what to expect - this was Mike's 5th Christmas comp. The artwork was pretty good - I did a quick scan of the playlist... when I discovered the title of a long lost Christmas song I've been searching for, I knew I was in for a treat.

TRACK REVIEWS:

1.) The Crafty Ladies - We Wish You A Merry Xmas
Was that a Dean Martin Christmas sound bite that you started with? As for the song, it's definitely different!

2.) No artist info - Jingle Bells
This is the famous Herb Alpert sound-a-like band The Border Brass. He finishes it off with a Jayne Mansfield Christmas Countdown sound clip .... sweet!

3.) Fat Daddy - Fat Daddy
A great song from the "John Waters Christmas" album! And a groovy Batman Christmas sound bite to end it!

4.) The Christmas Jug Band - S-A-N-T-A (Gloria)
A live cover of the classic Them! song - runs around 7 minutes... Another Christmas Countdown clip... this one's fab Tab Hunter!

5.) The Hentchman - Merry Christmas Baby
A 1960 garage band doing a raw cover of Charles Brown' "Merry Christmas Baby". Nice find!

6.) Avon 45 single - Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy
Released as a B side in 1968 by the "Avon calling" company. Look for this single over at Ernie Not Bert's blog!

7.) Barry Gordon - I Like Christmas, I Like It, I Like It
This was first offered at FaLaLaLaLa.com during its first year of existence. I downloaded it and lost it in the Great Spring Hard Drive Crash of 2005. I finally got a copy again!

8.) The Voices - Santa Claus Baby
A fantastic R&B Christmas lament song... You can hear it on Rhino's "Blue Yule" CD!

9.) Louis Armstrong & The Commanders - 'Zat You, Santa Claus?
This is the TENTH different CD that contains this song in my collection...

10.) Canadian Quartette - Santa, Please
The group's name is just Quartette... but they are from Canada! And this was one of the first CDs I requested from Jeffco Productions up in Canada.

11.) The Wailers - Christmas Time Is Finally Here
The actual name of this song is "She's Comin' Home"... and a dandy tune from a dandy album!

12.) Fred Lowery - Silent Night
The famous Blind Whistler strikes again... check his story out here!

13.) Max Bygreaves - C*H*R*I*S*T*M*A*S
I thought I owned this song... turns out I didn't! Thanks Mike for the great tune!

14.) Paddy Roberts - Merry Christmas You Suckers
GREAT JUMPING ICEBERGS!! THIS IS THE SONG! I've been looking for this one for a long time... it's a twisted, sarcastic, irreverent Christmas song about the overindulgence of the holidays recorded in 1962! Very much like Tom Lehrer but more honest! THANKS MIKE!

15.) Heather Noel - Santa Came On A Nuclear Missle
Boy, the American Song-Poem Christmas CD sure has been popular over the last year or two!

16.) Big Bad Voodoo Daddy - Last Night (I Went Out With Santa Claus)
A swinging tune from the Daddy!

17.) Senor Tonto - Hooray For Santa Claus
Another download offered at FaLaLaLaLa.com! Very similar to Petty Booka... Batman again at the end!

18.) Joey Ramone - Christmas
A cover of the Darlene Love song so the real title is "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)". Joey, Joey, Joey...

19.) Brenda Lee - I'm Gonna Lasso Santa Claus
Why do radio stations only play "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" and not this one by Brenda Lee?

20.) Roger Christian - Little Mary Christmas
Another gem from the "John Waters Christmas" CD... nothing like an orphaned disabled child at Christmas song!

21.) Run DMC - Christmas In Hollis
The penultimate Christmas rap song. I remember my friend Nate Lipscomb doing this one at a 1986 HS Christmas concert... tore it up!

22.) White Stripes - Candy Cane Children
They were really trying to sound like Led Zeppelin in this song... came awfully close!

23.) The Moog Machine - Carol Of The Bells
MOOOOOG! Sounds as fresh as the day it was recorded! Great stuff! Batman's making his rescue now!

24.) The Blind Boys Of Alabama - Go Tell It On The Mountain (featuring Tom Waits)
Not my favorite song off this album because I don't like Tom Waits... he's a caricature of his former great self.

25.) Funky Christmas - Funky Christmas (???)
Mike, this is track #5 on my CD. Artist / title = Corporal Blossom / White Christmas.

26.) Asche & Spencer - Merry Christmas Fruitcake
Read the full story on this song here ... ANYONE HAVE THE FULL CD ???


You did a fine job Mike in compiling a witty and fun Christmas comp to listen to. Keep searching out the weird and obscure and you can go a long way in impressing your friends and others.

One tip: keep developing the style of the CD as a whole. Don't be content to keep the format the same (song / sound bite at the end of the song) - shake it up, mix it up, and never be afraid to try something different. The more you do this, the more you'll find a format that's uniquely yours and ultimately comfortable for you.

Take a bow Mike... Your CD is exactly the 650th Christmas disc I now own!

650... I feel like Barry Bonds zeroing on Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron (minus the money, steroids, and attitude)!

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


Capt

Daniel – Holiday Time (Le Temps Des Fêtes)

Since last December, there has been a stack of Christmas CDs directly next to my computer monitor. At one point, the stack numbered around 60+ albums and stood around two foot high.

I have several things that I do whenever I get a new Christmas CD. I have an Excel spreadsheet that contains all the albums, songs, and artists in my collection.

I also scan the front & back covers of each of my albums for two reasons - 1.) possible trades with fellow collectors 2.) insurance purposes.

Lastly, if the album is available through Amazon.com, I generally post a scan over there - sort of a backup copy of things. Click on the link and you'll see about 85% of all the CDs I own.

I can happily report that after much documentation (the steps above and the reviews here at the blog), the stack stands now at merely two CDs. This is the first review of those two discs.

While shopping at my local Borders store, I was perusing their bargain sections and found this CD wedged in the other clearance CDs and leftover 2006 cat calendars.

Upon first look, the disc seemed to be French - with a title like "Holiday Time (Le Temps Des Fêtes)" and the playlist on the back with both the English and French titles of the songs, how could it not be French? Asking price: $1.00. SOLD!

Daniel Nault is a former resident of Canada and emigrated to America to pursue his career in the early 1980s. One night while singing lullabies to his children, he came across the idea of teaching children to speak French through music. This led to five successful albums (including this one) released between 1996 and 2000 - each one picking up a Parents Choice award in the process.

This CD is a nice change of pace. Daniel begins a standard Christmas song (good sound / arrangements) by singing the English version then slowly and craftfully works in the French version. It's a treat to hear him sing both versions of standards like "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town". The standout track is the bilingual version of "Driedl, Driedl, Driedl" - not a song you'd hear everyday in French!

If you want to teach your children French through music, check out Daniel's kiddie website. If you're looking to hear some adult music from Daniel, his latest release can be heard through this page on his website.

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


Capt

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

'Big' Tiny Little - Christmas With

My Christmas collection has many sub-genres - Hawaiian Christmas music, Christmas music on organs, banjo Christmas, new age Christmas, Broadway Christmas, kiddie Christmas, country Christmas, R&B Christmas, schlocky celebrity Christmas albums, even tone-deaf Christmas music (see last review).

One area that was missing was honky-tonk piano Christmas. This album fills that hole in my collection.

'Big" Tiny Little Jr. was born in Worthington, Minnesota on August 31, 1930. His father, Tiny Sr., was a big band leader who was popular throughout the Midwest.

At the age of 5, Little began piano lessons. By the age of 15, he went on the road to perform. A stint in the Armed Forces didn't slow Tiny down - while stationed in Japan, he played jazz with Japanese musicians on a nightly basis.

After his release from the service, Little got the break of his life - Lawrence Welk invited him to play on his television show in 1955. He became yet another star that Welk featured every week on his television show. For four years, Little wowed America with his honky-tonk piano playing. This led to numerous albums, concerts, and the like. Around 1959, Little decided to leave Welk and was replaced by an unknown piano player by the name of Joann Castle (whatever happened to her?).

This album was recorded in 1961 and captures Little at his best. It's hard to pick a standout track because each track is so well done you can't choose. There's so many elements in each song you can pick out thanks to the overdubbing and the beautiful Coral stereo. You will not believe your ears.

Little continued to record albums, appear on the television shows of Dean Martin, Dinah Shore, and Mike Douglas. He also found a second home in Nevada where he began playing casino lounges nightly. He has appeared in every state of the union except Maine - he jokes that being a native of Minnesota, he doesn't need any more cold weather. I only wish Little had a website, a discography, ANYTHING that covers his career. He definitely deserves it.

This gem of an album was picked up over at the blog of Ernie (not Bert). Ernie supplied all of us over at FaLaLaLaLa.com with MANY outstanding Christmas albums throughout last December - many of which I about to burn and review for your reading pleasure in the upcoming weeks and months. Thanks for the 8th trillionth time Ernie!

If you check out this entry on Ernie's blog, you just might be able to DOWNLOAD this album still. Get going!

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


Capt

Wendy Rose - Snowflake

Wendy Rose is an artist, singer, and songwriter living in Toronto, Canada. She has recorded three full length albums (including this Christmas album) available at a store "in the heart of the gay village".

During the past year, she has been doing a lot of home recording on her Mac and offers samples and pix of herself at her website.

As for the Christmas album, it definitely sounds like it was recorded at her home. The Casio synthesizer pounds out the drum beat and you can hear the overdubs of Wendy strumming her guitar. All the vocals, arrangements, mixing, and mastering on the album are done by her as well.

For all of this, I truly admire her - not many top stars in the music business can do that themselves.

But after listening to this album several times, I have to classify Wendy's singing in the same vein as Johnny "Bowtie" Barstow - the world's premier tone-deaf singer. Both Barstow's Christmas album and this one are a perfect complement to each other.

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


Capt

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Rhodes Kids - Rock 'N Rhodes Christmas

Once upon a time in the early 1970s, a musical genre emerged called bubblegum pop. Wikipedia defines bubblegum pop thusly:

"Some of the defining characteristics of bubblegum pop include catchy melodies, simple three-chord structures, and repetitive riffs or "hooks'. It is also characterized by its lightweight lyrics, often surrounding themes of romance and courtship."

The first big bubblegum pop song was "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies in 1969. The floodgates were open as other animated acts like Josie & The Pussycats, The Groovy Ghoulies, The Banana Splits, and Charlie Chan & The Chan Clan all began recording music.

Live acts soon picked up the bubblegum torch and ran with it. The Partridge Family (featuring teen heartthrob David Cassidy), The Brady Bunch, The Osmonds, The Jackson Five, and LIttle Tony DeFranco & The DeFranco Family were cranking out music and even hitting the Billboard charts.

Riding on the long bubblegum coattails were The Rhodes Kids. Beginning their musical career in 1970, the original lineup featured Paul, Patty, Gary, and Ron Rhodes playing mostly cover tunes and touring carnivals and lounges at Holiday Inns. They continued to tour and added family members Mark, Brett, and Marsha to the mix - seven Rhodes a-leaping!

In mid-1972, they caught the eye of Michael Thevis, owner of the General Recording Corporation in Atlanta, Georgia. Thevis didn't really care much for music - GRC was his legitimate front. In actuality, he was America's biggest pornographer - estimates state he owned 50% of the porn market in the USA. He ran a peep-show business that ran from Times Square to Pasadena and had friendly connections with the Gambino crime family.

According to the liner notes of this album, Thevis had just spent eight days in Los Angeles "looking at rough cuts of a movie" he produced (insert your own joke here) and caught the Rhodes Kids' act in a Houston hotel lounge. After he saw 10 year old Mark's imitation of Tom Jones, Thevis found his Donny Osmond and he knew he wanted to sign them to a recording contract.

What happened between then and 1974 when they released their first single entitled "Voo-doo Magic / I Need Your Lovin" (GRC 2033) is unknown. Spectulation leads us to believe that several of the Rhodes Kids had to finish grade school first before venturing on. This gave Thevis more time to deal smut and to come up with his grand idea of not one... not two... but FOUR holiday albums by the Rhodes Kids.

For their first album, they were taken under the wing of the legendary bubblegum pop songwriter / producer Bobby Hart (he of "Boyce & Hart" fame). Splitting their time between Atlanta and Hollywood, they recorded 10 Christmas songs (with Ron and Gary Rhodes arranging the vocals) and "Rock N Rhodes Christmas" was in the can.

If you're looking for a 70s flavored Christmas album, you can't go wrong with this one. You can hear flashes of The Cowsills, The Jackson Five, The Osmonds, and The Partridge Family in every song. Close your eyes and you're transported to 1974 - you can see the wood paneling and the wall to wall shag carpet at your aunt's house!

The standout track is an original song entitled "Santa Loves Rock N Roll Music". It's a textbook definition of bubblegum pop - catchy tune, simple structure, lightweight lyrics (sure, Santa loved rock n roll music... until he heard this!). This song was released as a double A-side single (GRC 2042) at Christmas 1974 along with this album (GRC 10011). It would be the only album the Rhodes Kids would ever release.

Throughout the first half of 1975, the Rhodes Kids released two more singles - a cover of Del Shannon's "Runaway" (GRC 2052) and "Take Good Care Of Her / Truckin' Into Houston" (GRC 2059). No other singles or albums could be found at GEMM or Musicstack after this date (Japanese and New Zealand versions of these singles can be found here though). It's unclear whether they left General Recording Corporation or were asked to leave - either way, the Rhodes Kids' musical recording career ended here.

By this time, the long arm of the law was catching up with Mike Thevis and his illegal porn activities. In 1976, Thevis was convicted for distribution of obscene material and ordering a competitor's business to be burnt down based on evidence from Thevis' right hand man Roger Dean Underhill.

Being the enterpreneurial type of guy Thevis was, he promptly asked his former mob buddies to issue a contract on Underhill for $5 million dollars. Not content with this, Thevis broke out of prison, travelled to Atlanta, found Underhill and coldly gunned him down (and an innocent bystander). He was immediately arrested and sent back to jail where he bragged about this and several other murders. Using this new info, Thevis was sentenced to life in a Minnesota prison where he still sits today.

As for the Rhodes Kids... not much else is known. According to an album review by Chris Deminsky of "Nutjob Music Reviews" (a defunct web site), the group eventually disbanded and estranged from one another. Mark Rhodes, the Richard Carpenter type musical genius of the group, spent the 1980s high on cocaine. As for Marsha, she converted to Catholicism in 1992 and was ostracized from the family.

Much of the info you're reading now was gathered from FaLaLaLaLa.com where this album was a "album of the week" selection. You can still DOWNLOAD this album from that site as well as finding the full album review from Chris Deminsky that was rescued by the King Of Jingaling.

UPDATE - One of the Rhodes Kids e-mailed the King at FLLLL and filled in many of the blanks left open by the Deminsky article, including an update on the entire Rhodes family. Click on the download link above to check that out!

For the info on Mike Thevis, I simply did a Google search and it was all there. I didn't expect a "Boogie Nights" type of scenario... I'll never listen to this album the same way again.

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


Capt

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Glad Singers - Swing Bells!


Here's another gem of an album rescued from the obscurity bins of the Salvation Army by the King of Jingaling at FaLaLaLaLa.com!

Not much is known about The Glad Singers... when the King posted this album on Christmas Eve last year, he stated:

"It's hard to do research on an artist when the first results Google gives you are your own posts..."

Fly over to the original post at FaLaLaLaLa to read the liner notes (and you can STILL DOWNLOAD this fantastic album)!

As for the music, it's all top notch! It's a cross of Ray Conniff Singers meets Ferrante & Teicher meets Lawrence Welk wrapped around Christmas music. Several tracks on this album swing including "Gloria (Angels We Have Heard)", "Three Kings", and "Fum Fum Fum".

However, the standout tracks are "Joy" and "Ox And Donkey". "Joy" begins as "Joy To The World" but along the way the Glad Singers just keep yell singing "JOY! JOY! JOY!". Add banjo and some bizarre vocal arrangements and you'll be looking at the Christmas punch bowl to see if it's spiked or not.

"Ox And Donkey" starts with an arrangement straight out of the Martin Denny songbook then continues with a nice bossa nova feel. This is one of the freshest Christmas songs I've heard in quite some time. This one's on my list of potential songs to be included on my 2006 Christmas compilation.

After you've listened to this album, remember this: there is a STEREO version of this album floating around somewhere (this is the mono version). Can you imagine the flashbacks that would cause? Could my speakers handle it? King, thanks again for sharing this with everyone!

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


Capt

Friday, March 03, 2006

Peter Wood Singers & Orchestra - Jolly Christmas Songs

Most every time I've sat down to review a new addition to my collection here at my blog, I've researched via Google and the Internet for background info on many aspects of the CD: the artist, the year it was produced, what it sounds like, and what has happened since they recorded the album in question.

Here's one of the first albums I'm totally in the dark about.

Rescued from obscurity by the King Of Jingaling, this was one of the featured albums at FaLaLaLaLa.com last Christmas season... and what an ALBUM!

One part bossa nova, one part rock, one part Ray Conniff, one part Muzak... but it's the way it's blended that makes it so wonderful to listen to.

The standout tracks are a bouncy "Silver Bells", a rockin' version of "The Little Drummer Boy", and a bouncy rockin' version of "Christmas Candy".

Don't take my word for it... this album is still available to DOWNLOAD over at FaLaLaLaLa.com! You better hitch a ride on Santa's sleigh and hightail it over there to get your copy!

Thanks King for saving this album for all of us to enjoy!

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


Capt