Our next two Christmas comps landed here at the yuleblog last December from the land of the Crimson Tide.
Jeffrey Cox of Guntersville, Alabama sent a rather stark looking pair of CD-Rs with the following letter:
"I enjoy your blog and wanted to send you a couple of the Christmas collections I sent out a few years ago to friends. It would be great if you wanted to review one or both of them.
"The cover art to both were lost in a disk crash a few years ago, but I wrote up a little description.
"I guess it is like listening to old time radio - you can envision the covers from the words:
"COVER ART - 2000 - A picture of my ex-fiancee in front of a Christmas tree holding a cat. Nice and homey.
"COVER ART - 2001 - I wish I had this. Since September 11 had just happened, the cover had a stark white background with a string of five Christmas lights along the bottom.
"There were five bulbs - two red, two white, and one blue to symbolize 2001. The two white ones were broken for the Twin Towers. I don't think anyone got the symbolism, though."
Using my rudimentary skills with PhotoShop, I have tried to recreate Jeff's different covers. The 2001 cover is about as stark as I can get.
The 2000 cover atop was found after an exhaustive Google image search under "Christmas Tree". I realize the unknown woman is holding a dog instead of a cat but I wasn't ready to spend another hour searching the Internet for the right picture.
I sent Jeff the set of standard questions I've asked everyone who sent in a comp and here are his answers:
1.) When did you begin creating your Christmas compilations?
These are the only two I have done so far. The 2002 comp got sidelined when I could not find a copy of Regis and Kathy Lee's "Silver Bells." (Being a Virgo, I am a perfectionist). I came close to doing one this year, but will almost certainly do one for 2007 after hearing the inspired collections and albums from this year's blogs.
2.) Explain the process on creating your Christmas comp.
A lot of the music comes from my music collection, but there are a few downloads here and there. I've been a heavy record collector since I was twelve. In that amount of time, it is natural to branch out and that lead to my having a lot of things I wanted to share.
I aimed to first have a good mix of styles, then have a good flow that takes the listener up, take them to a sentimental place, and then back up again. It was important to have some unexpected surprises, too. I was particularly proud to find the Britney version of "Silent Night" on Napster (that's going back) which is, in its own way, is unintentionally as tone-deaf as Roseanne's version of the National Anthem all those years ago.
3.) Who do you share these compilations with? How many do you send out?
These mainly went to past and present co-workers and friends. Each one had a run of around 30 copies. Most of my co-workers and friends think outsider music is an album cut off Michael Jackson's "Thriller," so it was nice to make these to expose them to a few things they might never hear. Art is supposed to make you think, even if it is in an obtuse way.
4.) What is it about Christmas music that appeals to you?
It brings back a lot of good memories, and not necessarily of Christmas. I remember I made my nephew a mix tape of songs, including a few from these Christmas comps, which almost drove his mother crazy because he played it over and over and over. Dr. Demento used to play one or two of the songs on his show, which I rabidly listened to back when I could get it in the early 80s.
There's also a lot of optimism in the lyrics almost all of the songs. Who isn't for good will toward others? Finally, the music is also creative in some cases. People try to come up with a song that will be the next standard, or to do an old chestnut in a new way.
5.) What kind of feedback do you get from the comp?
I think the best feedback was being invited to a former manager's home for her Christmas party. The person who went with me said it meant a lot to get an invite, because the party is pretty in demand. That is because she and her husband put up a tree in each room of the house, and these are full-blown, massive project trees.
One even had a model train wrapped around it. Another friend said his kids enjoyed them, and that means a lot. I took care to make sure they were kid-friendly (which is why Root Boy Slim's "Christmas at K-Mart" didn't make the cut for the second one).
6.) What other projects/websites do you work on other than Christmas?
I have a small business website that has some videos I made back in my college days on it, as well as current documents I've written (still under construction but should be ready for prime time soon, including the videos). I also have a blog dedicated to a record store that meant the world to me. It is a way to keep its memory alive.
I'm also very active in Toastmasters. This year, I'm an area governor and coaching a new club to get it going. I did a speech on my record collection at one meeting a year or so ago. A fellow Toastmaster still mentions the Slim Goodbody album I brought for my speech on record collecting.
7.) Anything you would like to share with people reading this review?
I'm very appreciative of all the Christmas music and other out-of-print music that people share. In particular, the number of mash-ups I've heard this year show a lot of creativity and talent. It is like having brand new songs to enjoy and make part of future traditions.
AUDIO CHRISTMAS CARD 2000 - TRACK REVIEWS:
1.) Spread out... Christmas mayhem from Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe! Larry sounds like he'd rather be at the ball game! Apparently available on CD at the Three Stooges official website.
2.) First heard this at a family Christmas party in 1974 - spent the next several days barking "Jingle Bells".
3.) Jimmy Durante was the perfect choice to record this one. Puts all the others to shame.
4.) Marsha (Maureen McCormick) starts this one nicely and Greg (voice challenged Barry Williams) breaks his vase... err, voice and ends it!
5.) WHOA! Where did this come from? Alice Cooper presents almost 4 minutes of hard facts disproving the existence and myths of Santa.
6.) Willie's unmistakable voice hasn't changed in eons. A very tranquil rendition of "Jingle Bells".
7.) One of four holiday songs Sting has recorded... about time for some new ones, no?
8.) This is the album version of this song by the lovable drunk Charley Weaver - about 1 minute longer than the single version!
9.) Jett's version of "Little Drummer Boy" is tame today but in 1981, it was revolutionary. Two singles (7" and 12") were released in '81 (credited to Jett only), and once in 1983 and 1984 (both 12" and with the Blackhearts credited).
10.) BEATLES HO! I thought I would have heard more Beatles Christmas messages by now... this is the first one on any comp! Individual messages recorded separately by John, Paul, George (and Tiny Tim), and Ringo were mixed and edited by Kenny Everett, famed British DJ. Longest of the seven fan-club messages (7:52).
11.) Introduced by Eddie Murphy (first and only current cast member to HOST), this song has made the rounds of every file-sharing program under the sun. Quality ranges from good to excruciating.
12.) I yust go nuts when I hear Yogi Yorgesson... next!
13.) More Three Stooges... had a chance to purchase a sealed copy of their 1986 Rhino album for $8 several years ago... I passed on it... Numbskull!
14.) Before 2004's duet of "Lonely This Christmas" by Joss Stone and Sir Mick, this 1978 cover of Chuck Berry's classic tune was the only Christmas song by any of the Stones.
15.) Okay, I'm officially not a fan of this song. I can handle the Three Stooges with this one but if I hear little Gayla one more time...
16.) Singing dogs and singing cats on the same comp? Ouch...
17.) I never liked Jan & Dean... maybe it's because I could never tell their stuff from The Beach Boys. Skipping ahead merrily...
18.) Like the Beatles, R.E.M. has faithfully sent out fan-club Christmas singles. This is the B-side from the 1991 single - maybe the best Christmas song they're recorded to date!
19.) Whoa... this awful track came from this Christmas album. What's more sad is that this sounds better than anything Tony recorded for his more recent 2005 "Christmas Reunion" with Dawn.
20.) Grandpa Jones was a great storyteller and this song proves it! Sa-loo! You can find this song on this Christmas budget release.
21.) For the first two minutes, this song is very new-age (complete with Enya like singers). Then Michael W. Smith joins in and rocks it out for the next three minutes. Overdone, overlong, and thankfully over...
22.) The famous duet from Bing's last Christmas special. Want more info? Read this excellent Washington Post article on how it almost never happened.
23.) Chuckling... nothing like the scratchy voice of Charley Weaver to go out on!
AUDIO CHRISTMAS CARD 2001 - TRACK REVIEWS:
1.) It's Christmas time... and I mean that! Sammy leads off our next disc... oww chaka chaka oww!
2.) "On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a Japanese transistor radio - GONG!" When you listen to this, notice how the laughs from the audience are almost non-existent towards the end of the song.
3.) ARGH!!! Debbie Gibson's voice hasn't been heard in this house since we moved here in 2000. Cut it off in time!
4.) This version of Wild Man Fischer (and Dr. Demento) is the one I'm familiar with... Otis Fodder gave us the original solo version!
5.) GREAT JUMPIN' ICEBERGS!!! Long before Tony Orlando teamed up with Dawn, he led the studio band named Wind and gave us this amazing bubblegum pop soundalike song that's fantastically good! Where did this one come from?
6.) Not Crosby... but Danny Kaye! "A Merry Christmas At Grandmothers" with Kaye and the Andrews Sisters can be found here. Nice selection Jeff!
7.) A wonderful cut from Captain Kangaroo's Christmas album. What memories...
8.) Fun, twangy, country Christmas fan-club single from R.E.M. (1993 A-side). Hey, they are from Georgia...
9.) Speaking of country... Red Simpson pretty much fused the myth of country music and trucks together. This one came off his 1973 album called (not surprisingly) "Truckers Christmas".
10.) Canned Heat wanted to release a Christmas single for 1968. So their record label (Liberty Records) paired them with their other big act on the label... Alvin, Simon, & Theodore! The great thing is that the duet hasn't gotten old or stale!
11.) Remember the cute kid they brought in on "The Partridge Family"? Bet you didn't. Ricky Segall's shining moment on record.
12.) Nice track! From the "Santa / Frosty" soundtrack! Not sure if this Joan Gardner or Robie Lester singing this one...
13.) When I awoke on Christmas morning last year and found out James Brown died, I was torn between this great song and Brown's earlier "Merry Christmas, I Love You". I went with the latter.
14.) WOW! You left the Tom Lehrer introduction tacked on - SWEET! Like Stan Freberg's "Green Chri$tma$", this one has gotten stronger with age - sad but true!
15.) Bentframe is the credited artist on this one but that maybe a file-sharing error... funny track though!
16.) Didn't even listen... skipped right over it.
17.) Dino's version was bastardized this year by Visa card commercial. I still love this song but it will be a while before I lose that image of a smiling house eating Christmas party goers.
18.) What a change of pace! Very nice version by Bobbie Gentry! Available only as a bonus track on this 2-for-1 album!
19.) GREAT JUMPIN' ICEBERGS!!! The REAL e.e. cummings reading his classic poem about a Christmas tree! We've found the standout track on this one folks!
20.) The PERFECT follow-up! Excellent job Jeff!
21.) Recorded in late November, 1984 and released a month later, this is the single version. The flipside was "Feed The World" which featured Christmas greetings from all the artists. The 12" version of this combined both!
22.) The Sinatra kids (Nancy, Frank Jr., Tina) give their loving dad a plethora of gifts for Christmas. Ol' Blue Eyes comes in at the very end to finish the song ("Oy!"). Off the "Sinatra Family Christmas" album.
23.) Depressing but fun day-after Christmas song courtesy of Monsieur Jerry Lewis. If you can find the "Capitol Collectors Series" CD, this track comes with extra studio chatter at the beginning.
24.) George Harrison's only solo holiday track. I put this song on my annual 2001 Christmas comp and offered my "get well" wishes. Sent all of the comps out and three days later, we lost George. I hear this now, I get a little sad.
25.) A bootleg that's made the rounds of file-sharing programs... Bono leads the audience of a chorus of "White Christmas" - anyone know the date/place of this one?
26.) Jeff gave me two bonus tracks - the first is Carson Robison's "The Old Gray Mare is Back Where She Used to Be". What's more shocking is this song is on my hard drive already! =CUE OMINOUS MUSIC=
27.) Second bonus track is Andy Griffith singing the vocal to his theme song entitled "The Fishing Hole". This wasn't on my hard drive... but now it is! Thanks Jeff!
Jeff, there are some great tracks on both of these comps... and some real stinkeroos as well! Standouts were there as well as some I'll never listen to unless under the clinical supervision of a doctor:
You're assembling a new comp for 2007 and I look forward to hearing it. It will be interesting to hear what new music you'll select than many of the old standards you chose here. Mix it up, shock me on occasion, and you'll do just fine!
UP NEXT: The Christmas Cheese: Chesler's 2006 Holiday Compilation