(Due to computer problems, this week's schedule has been pushed back one day. Sorry for the mess!)
Our next compilation comes from the sunny state of Florida (you know, where our friend Ernie (not Bert) hails from?).
John Wells of Clearwater, FL sent us an extra copy of his comp to the P.O. Box. Or was that Colleen who sent us the comp? Hard to say considering whoever sent it placed their address label on the front cover!
Reading the attached letter inside confirms that it was indeed John who sent the comp. To quote verbatim:
"Hello! I've enjoyed your blog for sometime now and thought I would send a copy of my first annual compilation WITH some notes of explanation.
"My wife and I have some very good friends that do a musical act called "When Buffett Meets Sinatra". Through them, we have met a group of people that we hang around with. Most of the copies of "Jingle Belles From The Wellses" went to friends in this group.
"One of the songs on the disc is Montgomery Gentry's "Merry Christmas From The Family". Last year, I gave that song to several of our friends... just that song, no other ones... and intend to keep that song as a "constant" in future releases!"
To expand on this info, here are the set of standard questions I will be asking everyone who sent a comp:
1.) When did you begin creating your Christmas compilations?
2006 was the first year for a comp. In 2005, I made some copies of the song, "Christmas With The Family" by Montgomery Gentry and gave it to several beach-bar friends. I kept the song on the 2006 comp and would like to keep it as an annual track.
2.) Explain the process on creating your Christmas comp.
Really no 'process'....but the Internet has so many great possibilities...I have to thank Lee Hartsfeld for the inspiration (and downloads) of several versions of "Jingle Bells" that became the theme of "Jingle Bellses from the Wellses". Must also mention, of course, eBay.
And other favorites: A Christmas Yuleblog (naturally), Rock Over Graceland, Ernie (not Bert), Bongo Bells, and FaLaLaLaLa.com. The amount of time and effort that all these fine people put into their sites is amazing to me. This past fall I finally got tired of seeing all the old vinyl sitting dormant and got a turntable that allows me to make digital copies of LP's.
3.) Who do you share these compilations with? How many do you send out?
My wife and I are friends with two gentlemen that do a musical act at some of the local beach bars called "When Buffett Meets Sinatra". We've met some great friends through them, and this disc was meant as a small Christmas gift to our fellow 'groupies'. Probably when all was said and done, I made about 50 copies.
4.) What is it about Christmas music that appeals to you?
(Mimicking Jack Benny): Now WHAT kind of QUESTION is THAT? I don't understand THAT at ALL! What is it about music itself that appeals to us??
5.) What kind of feedback do you get from the comp?
I was quite pleased to get several nice comments and compliments. One friend remarked that he didn't think someone as young as me (LOL) would know who Dennis Day was!!!
6.) What other projects/web sites do you work on other than Christmas?
I spend countless hours surfing the Internet for no apparent good reason what so ever.
7.) Anything you would like to share with people reading this review?
I'm already searching the Internet, thrift stores and flea markets for obscure titles to put on "ChestNuts from the WellsNuts" in November 2007. It's great fun putting together and sharing with friends. Music is such an important part of the Christmas season, and I like the idea of sharing some tunes that I know most people haven't heard in a hundred years....if ever!
1.) If you look closely, you'll see the letters "DM" before the title - the one and only Dean Martin!
2.) This is John Pizzarelli and his fun track "Santa Claus Is Near".
3.) The famous Crosby "Jingle Bells" outtake. Towards the end, Bing screws up and blurts out "Holy Jesus Christ" instead of "Jingle Bells"!
4.) Here's a Burl Ives song I'd wish they play more on the radio at Christmas instead of "Holly Jolly Christmas".
5.) Talk about easy listening! Ray Conniff would be envious of Westerfield. Where did this track come from?
6.) What a voice! What was the recording date on this one? Sounds much more modern than Clooney's early stuff.
7.) Same here. Rosemary's voice is so timeless that you don't mind the obvious 70s or 80s bass line!
8.) WHOA! Listen to them banjos and brass with just a touch of the Herb Alpert flavor! Very nice track!
9.) Your typical lush strings track courtesy of the first husband of Judy Garland.
10.) Another typical lush strings track courtesy of the man who reached #1 with "The Stripper"!
11.) Introduced by Jack "Santa" Benny as said on the cover of the album! Sing, Dennis!
12.) A young Sinatra's first stab at "Jingle Bells" - Columbia Records circa 1948.
13.) A swingin' Sinatra's second stab at "Jingle Bells" - Capitol Records circa 1957.
14.) Refreshing! Merv might have been a fawning talk show host but he was a heck of a singer! Has a 1920s feel to it - neat!
15.) How many licks does it take to reach the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop? How many versions of "The Little Drummer Boy" did the Harry Simeone Chorale record in their lifetime? The world may never know...
16.) From their "A Christmas Treasure" album - ping pong between Andrews and Previn & orchestra!
17.) I like Chesney but this is way too Jimmy Buffett for my tastes. I'm with Renee on this one...
18.) Mademoiselle Gisele's fun version of "Jingle Bells" that ends with "MUSH!"
19.) First recorded by the king of trailer park - Robert Earl Keen. Nice cover by Montgomery Gentry.
20.) WOW! Nice sounds from the Brothers Mills! Checking my CD collection, I am sorrowfully low on Mills Brothers Christmas!
21.) For some people, Johnny Mathis IS Christmas music! Recorded no later than 1985 judging by the quality of sounds.
22.) Fine instrumental version of this one. Lots of strings and synthesizer!
23.) Another good version of this song. If this is just two people making all this sound, I am impressed!
24.) This one's not bad! Where have I heard this one before? Is it a cover? If it's an original, WOW!
25.) I'm not a fan of Jimmy Buffett - but whoever is singing, you have him nailed! Think Vegas!
26.) You learn something new everyday! This is the ORIGINAL version of "Jingle Bells" by the Singing Dogs!
As first comps go, yours John was very surprising! They're were some very nice finds on the disc as well as some interesting selections I never would have chose. To each their own...
Constants are fine by me; I've had the same opening and closing to my Christmas comp for the past sixteen years. Themes are okay as well - try to keep the theme consistent throughout. Your "Jingle Bells" theme was a little stop and go but again, this was your first comp. You'll pick it up as you go.
Your artist selection was very good - consider mixing up the lineup so you don't have two songs by the same artist back to back. I think the flow of your comp would have been better if you did.
In closing, these are merely suggestions. You have a good ear for Christmas music and I encourage you to continue making Christmas comps. Your style and potential have yet to be realized John. Keep at it and remember to send me an extra copy this December. I would love to keep track of your progress!
UP NEXT: Baby Jesus - 2006 - Christmas Collection