Thursday, October 02, 2008

Andre Kostelanetz & His Orchestra - Wonderland Of Christmas

That cover looks good enough to eat... it's morning and I haven't snacked yet... stay focused...

In yesterday's post, I reviewed two disco albums both downloaded on the same day just minutes apart from each other (1:11 AM and 1:13 AM). Upon looking at the spreadsheet, I discovered that this almost edible album was sandwiched inbetween the two disco records - November 28, 2006 at 1:12 AM.

This was a featured album at - the focal point for all things Christmas music on the web since 2004. This is where the King of Jingaling set up his kingdom and invited one and all to help preserve the memories of Christmas vinyl past.

It was at FLLLL where hundreds of Christmas music enthusiasts gathered (and continue to gather) to share their knowledge of Christmas music, quickly making FLLLL the best resource for Christmas music online. Dig deep into their Forums and you'll find treasures of all sorts.

It was here I met many fellow collectors with diverse backgrounds; a school teacher (the King), a former radio program director (PDMan), a documentary filmmaker (Bebop Santa), a stay-at-home dad like myself (Stephen), a Carolina guy with a wealth of knowledge that exceeds even me (Stubbyfears), and a photographer / collector who used to go by the name of Orb1234 (Ernie).

If there's a burning question about Christmas music, go ask these guys and hundreds others at FLLLL. Bet you'll have your answer in about 1 hour (or less).

Every now and then, the King chooses an album to feature at FLLLL. And over the years, he's come up with some gems: Wayne King, Eddie Dunstedter, The Glad Singers, Sy Mann's "Switched On Santa", The Golddiggers, The Rhodes Kids, The Swingalongs, Ferrante & Teicher's "Adventure In Carols", The Peter Wood Singers, The Gunter Kallmann Choir, and don't forget his annual ADVENTures in Carols comp!

But Andre Kostelanetz? The man who practically invented easy listening? What gives, King?

"This is probably one of the first records that I ripped from vinyl several years ago. So why has it been sitting on my stack, unreleased to the FaLaLaLaLa hordes? I don’t know. But it is one of the records for which I receive semi-regular requests. So here it is..."

Spage Age Pop describes Andre Kostelanetz thusly: Only Mantovani comes close in defining easy listening music. Percy Faith, Ray Conniff – even Liberace – are names one naturally associates with easy listening, but they were entertainers, creators, who liked to spice things up, to toss in a surprise now and again. But Kostelanetz's goal was a pristinely perfect and consistent product, with no rough edges, no striking sounds, nothing to deter from a seamlessly smooth musical experience.

The King continues:

"Well, I think something happened to Andre before making this record. Like maybe he spent too many hours locked in a room with the complete recorded works of Juan Garcia Esquivel. There's no way you can listen to this version of Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! and believe otherwise...

"Oh sure, some of the tunes are standard Percy Faith/Mantovani fare – White Christmas and the medley of sacred songs that ends side one – but many of the arrangements are brilliant pastiches of frenetic brass, string glissandi and feisty percussion. For some of the tunes you'll swear ol' Kostelanetz arranged the second page after having lost the first and then only later put them together.

"As I listened more closely to this record in preparing it for the site, I began to get a much stronger appreciation for its genius. It expertly melds Kostelanetz's trademark sweet and lush string sound with some of the adventurousness of someone like Esquivel. But it doesn't feel like he's ripping off Esquivel because the bits of madness fit so well with the rest of what he's doing. It all works."

If the King says it works, then it works.


1.) Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer /Jingle Bells
The Esquivel influence is there but Andre reins it in at the right times - man, this is gonna be fun!

2.) Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town / Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
"Santa Claus" has a Spike Jones-type of feel to it but "Have Yourself" is all Andre.

3.) The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)
Those opening strings were so high that it woke up my neighbor's dog! Lush, lush, lush!

4.) Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
Oh yeah... Andre wanted to be Esquivel... does a great job trying too! Smooooth!

5.) It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
For me, this song always has a drowsy feel to it. This version? Where's my pillow and blanket?

6.) The First Noel / It Came Upon The Midnight Clear / O Come All Ye Faithful
Pretty standard easy listening fare here. The end of side one. Next...

7.) Winter Wonderland / I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
"Winter Wonderland" can easily pass for Liberace... Odd pairing of songs but Kostelanetz pulls it off.

8.) White Christmas
At first I thought that wistful violin was a theremin (how COOL would that have been?). Nope, easy listening.

9.) Silver Bells / Shake Me I Rattle (Squeeze Me I Cry)
I recognize "Silver Bells" but that other song isn't on my radar. A definite hit & miss.

10.) Christmas Chopsticks
WOW! One part Liberace, one part Kostelanetz. Nicely done.

11.) Sleigh Ride
This version of Leroy Anderson's perennial favorite sounds like the horse is amped up on steroids. Whoa, boy, whoaaaa!

12.) Joy To The World / Silent Night, Holy Night / Deck The Halls With Boughs Of Holly
Pure easy listening - we've reached the end of side two.

This was a fun ride! There's plenty of amazing sounds wrapped around the safe, standard easy listening fare. That krazy Kostelanetz probably had tons of fun recording this album in his wonderland for sure. This album certainly ranks right up there with the best of Lawrence Welk and Ray Conniff.

I'm seriously surprised that it was never released on CD. But that's what the King is so adept at - finding albums that should be on CD but aren't.

And his work is paying off. Several years ago, the King featured The Mike Sammes Singers' "White Christmas", an amazing Christmas album long forgotten and destined for obscurity. The King went to bat for The Caroleers' classic Christmas albums "Sleigh Ride Jingle Bells" and "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town". All three albums are available for download at iTunes.

Finally, thanks to the King's effort to preserve it, the Hollyridge Strings' "Christmas Favorites" will be on the Christmas music shelves this upcoming December.

I damn near cried when the King announced this. Add this one to your wish lists!

Your majesty, on behalf of all the people who have assembled here,
I would merely like to mention, if i may...
That our unanimous attitude is one of lasting gratitude
For what you have done for us today...
And therefore I would simply like to say...

Thank you ve-ry ve-ry ve-ry much! ALL HAIL THE KING!



stubbysfears said...

"Shake Me, I Rattle" was actually a fairly big Country song by Marion Worth back in 1962 and 63.

As Christmas CDs have become so ubiquitous in recent years, you do see the occasional country artist these days--desperate for something fresh yet classic--taking a stab at it.

Ernie said...

orb1234 was the user name I came up with in a hurry one night when I sat down at the computer to play with some new piece of software I'd heard about that day. Something called Napster. It didn't last long or change the nature of the internet or anything.

ballardkringle said...

I couldn't find the Mike Sammes Singers White Christmas on itunes.

Tim said...

I have to agree - this album is probably one of the best instumental albums out there.

On a related note, I was one of the ones that pre-ordered the Hollyridge Strings re-issue...I've got a feeling this one is gonna be GREEAT!!

CaptainOT said...

Stubby - Thanks for the info on that song!

Ernie - Napster? Never heard of it!

Ballard - Stay tuned - it's gonna be there soon!

Tim - The Hollyridge Strings was moved to the #1 spot on my wish list.

I'm just wondering which one of my kids or cats will get this for me as a Christmas present!


The King of Jingaling said...


First, thanks of all for the kind words. You are, as ever, too kind and give me far too much credit for what is actually a communal endeavor.

Second, you sent my heart into palpitations by saying the Mike Sammes was on iTunes. I thought that it would be too good to be true to have Hollyridge AND Sammes see release the same year! I haven't seen or heard any further info from Inspire about the Sammes. I'll have to see what's happening on that front.

aka The King of Jingaling

Inkydog said...

I am grateful and humbled to be able to associate with all of you...

I think this is gonna be the best year yet!