Monday, October 27, 2008

Look what you've done to the place!

This past weekend, I spent most of my time in front of my computer working on two different projects.

The first was the final stages of my annual Christmas CD - as October draws to a close, we enter the assembly phase of this yearly undertaking. All of the artwork is nearly ready to cut, stick, and be arranged on each of the copies I'll be sending to family and friends.

Needless to say, this meant my workspace around the computer (located in our library room at our home) was littered with CD covers and labels that were spit out by my trusty HP printer at a steady rate. It was a mess in here for a time.

The second project was done while waiting for everything to be printed. I updated the layout and added tags to the yuleblog for the first time in its existence. Most of yesterday was spent trying to figure out how to post a tag cloud to the template but that left me confused and frustrated (not the first time that's happened).

After a weekend of adding tags like Track Reviews, Christmas Organ, and Videos (with more tags to add), handling more paper than accountants do around tax time, and looking at the calendar to see our family has a short week (due to P-T conferences, the kids get a 4 1/2 day Halloween weekend), I'm pressed for time right now.

I'll be working offline much of this week until we throw all the kids in the car for a weekend trip somewhere. Have fun exploring the tags - new posts to arrive next week.


Capt

Friday, October 24, 2008

Vintage Christmas Ads Pt. 7 - Tums, 1950

In addition to collecting Christmas music, I have collected nearly 1000 vintage Christmas ads over the years. Many of these include celebrities, radio, television, cigarettes, liquor, modern appliances, and the like.

Last Friday and every Friday from here until I run out, I will feature an ad from my collection.

I invite you to add a fun comment, witticism, clever remark, or observation in the comments section provided. Any comments deemed worthy of repeating will be included into this entry where all the world will see it.

Back in 1990, Spy Magazine did a scientific study on Santa's annual trip around the world. To quote:

There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn't (appear) to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total - 378 million according to the Population Reference Reference Bureau. At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there's at least one good child in each.

That's an awful lot of milk and cookies for the Big Guy to eat after leaving presents.

Putting aside the possibilities that Santa is a binge eater, lactose intolerant, or has a lavatory equipped sleigh, what happens when (not IF, when) he gets an upset stomach or indigestion along the way?

Tum ta-tum-tummmmmm (apologizes to Jack Webb):



(Click on image to enlarge)


Rest assured, good people. Santa proclaims it himself at the top of this half-page ad. At first glance, it looks like Santa's moved up from milk and cookies to whole pies. But look more carefully at what's behind him!

Hey kids! It's okay to buy an antacid for Christmas!

Let your eye peruse down to around the big "S" - a gloriously wrapped carton of Tums as a Christmas present. Imagine the looks you'd get on Christmas morning if you follow their advice - "thoughtful gift for mother or dad". Then observe the words written above "Tums" on the open roll next to the gift carton. Sweet!

What do you think?

Stubbyfears says: The older I get, the more in tune with the idea I am. Especially since "Tums are antacid--not a laxative."

Any other opinions?


Capt

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

L'il Wally & The Harmony Boys - A Polka Christmas (UPDATE)


Yesterday morning, I met with my best friend Joel who's constantly on the lookout for anything Christmas that I don't already own in my collection. He actually found this album on eBay and called my wife to scan through my collection to see if I already had it. She looked at my CDs and not the albums - Joel bid and won.

When I opened this and stared at the cover, I was floored. Joel immediately screamed for and cried tears of joy, thinking he had found something I didn't own.

"Ummm, Joel?"

With those two words, his bubble was burst. However, when I explained that I didn't own the artwork, then he perked up. Thanks Joel for trying to find something new and succeeding (sorta). I'm confident you'll come up with something like you did when you introduced me to Jana.

What does this me for you? It means if you visit the original L'il Wally & The Harmony Boys post, you'll find a new link for full high-resolution scans of this album you may or may not already own, period. Happy viewing...


Capt

Helen O'Connell - Christmas With


This was downloaded at the Members Share forum of FaLaLaLaLa on November 30, 2006 at 12:07 AM. Veteran FLLLL'er Inkydog posted this unique album there for all to share. Last Christmas, he posted this very same album at his own blog Cheerful Earful - go download and hurry back!

Some of you are asking yourself "Who's Helen O'Connell?" She was born in Lima, Ohio on May 23, 1920 and her family eventually moved to the metropolis known as Toledo to settle in. It was here that Helen began singing and was noticed by bandleader Jimmy Richards.

She went on the road with Richard's nine-piece orchestra and toured the country for 1 1/2 years. This exposure led to a radio show in St. Louis for a brief time until Larry Funk and his Band of A Thousand Melodies persuaded O'Connell to go with them to New York City in 1938.

While in New York, popular bandleader Jimmy Dorsey heard Helen sing in a nightclub and wanted her in his band. O'Connell said goodbye to Funk and signed on with Dorsey. This led to a string of successful hits for the Dorsey band including "All Of Me", "Embraceable You", and this little ditty:



In December, 1940, Dorsey decided to pair up ballad singer Bob Eberly with O'Connell and the combination clicked immediately. Their records took off, got huge jukebox airplay, and had hits such as "Amapola", "Tangerine", and "Green Eyes" which became their most popular song.

O'Connell won the 1940 Metronome magazine poll for best female vocalist and was selected by Down Beat readers as best female singer in 1940 and 1941. She went with Dorsey to Hollywood where they made several more records and motion pictures. Helen was featured in three movies ("The Fleet's In", "I Dood It", and "Sing, Helen, Sing") all between 1942 and 1943.

At the height of her popularity, Helen decided to get married in 1943 and retired from show business to settle down and have children. She rose three children but her marriage failed and she was divorced in 1951.

She soon jumped back into show business as a solo and began appearing in nightclubs, sang on the Capitol label between 1950-1955, and even appearing on the new medium of television. She made appearances on "The Colgate Comedy Hour" and was a featured performer on Russ Morgan's TV show of 1956.

Helen even awoke early for several years as the host of NBC's "The Today Show" from 1956 to 1958. In the middle of that run, she was given her own 15 minute summer show on NBC. Airing from May 29th to September 6th, 1957, the show was aired twice a week - Wednesdays and Fridays - in a time slot that followed the NBC network news program.

Around this time, Helen married novelist Tom T. Chamales and continued with her career appearing on TV anthology series like "The Bell Telephone Hour" but her marriage was on the rocks. She filed for divorce from Chamales in 1960 but the case never went to court. Chamales was the victim of an apartment fire and died in the blaze.

Throughout the 1960s, O'Connell toured with the reconstituted Jimmy Dorsey band, continued her appearances on television, and even made albums like the one you see here.

This album was on the Singcord label - a musical subsidiary of Zondervan Publishing House. Zondervan used to run the Singspiration label along with their own Zondervan label in the 1960s. However, many Internet sites claim that the Singcord label was run only in the 1970s.

So this album could very well be from that decade. Judging by the pictures of O'Connell and The Nashville Sounds Children's Choir on the back cover, it's likely it was from the 1970s. However, with no dates listed (and no complete O'Connell discography online for reference), there's no guarantee.

TRACK REVIEWS:

1.) Sleep Holy Child
Pretty version of a Singspiration published song. O'Connell's in fine voice.

2.) Silent Night
This version by Helen and the Nashville Sounds Children's Choir is unique thanks to its different arrangement of "Silent Night" and another song.

3.) Rock-A-Bye
A lullaby to baby Jesus... Not a Christmas song in the traditional sense but I can see why it's here...

4.) Away In A Manger
Another different arrangement (see #2 above). This one sound Elizabethian thanks to the harpsicord intro.

5.) The Little Drummer Boy
Straight forward version - very 1970s sounding. Not bad.

6.) No Room
A song about Joseph and Mary's hotel problems in Bethlehem. O'Connell sounds a lot like Vikki Carr and the song has a then-and-now James Bond feel to it - this is surprisingly good!

7.) What Child Is This?
Lovely version with a taste of Medieval thrown in for flair.

8.) Gentle Shepherd
Not really Christmas but the madigral flavor lingers...

9.) O Little Town Of Bethlehem
Touching version of this carol - an unknown adult choir adds its two cents - and Helen sings perfectly.

10.) Virgin Mary Had A Baby Boy
Take this venerable West Indian carol and add harpsicord, flutes, and guitars (sounds like King Arthur's court). It's puzzling but fun to listen to.


Overall, this is a good Christmas album - slightly heavy on the spiritual side, but it's worth a listen to. One can only imagine what Helen would have done with a full Christmas album (with carols and standards like "White Christmas") back in her heyday.

O'Connell remained very much in the public eye in the 1970s - she was the co-host of the "Miss Universe" pageant with Bob Barker from 1972 to 1980 and even toured with a revue entitled "Four Girls Four" with Rosemary Clooney, Kay Starr, and Rose Marie for a time.

She married Frank DeVol (yes, Happy Kyne from "Fernwood 2-Night") in 1989 and was actively performing until her death from liver cancer brought on by hepatitis C in 1993.

Thanks Inkydog for sharing this with us!


Capt

Friday, October 17, 2008

Vintage Christmas Ads Pt. 6 - Colt Guns, 1939

In addition to collecting Christmas music, I have collected nearly 1000 vintage Christmas ads over the years. Many of these include celebrities, radio, television, cigarettes, liquor, modern appliances, and the like.

Last Friday and every Friday from here until I run out, I will feature an ad from my collection.

I invite you to add a fun comment, witticism, clever remark, or observation in the comments section provided. Any comments deemed worthy of repeating will be included into this entry where all the world will see it.

Everyone wants a really good Christmas present. Every December 25th, there amongst your individual piles of swag you got from Santa and your family are gifts that you really love, like, dislike, or really dislike.

Many people shop for themselves at Christmas - and why not? You yourself know what you want for Christmas. Placing ones faith in Santa only goes so far. It's okay to splurge on yourself for that fine, FINE present you've always dreamed of.

This was the attitude of the Colt Gun Company back in 1939 when they came up with a doozy (and I mean doooooozy) of a Christmas ad:


(Click on image to enlarge)


Here you go - put this beauty under the tree and watch the kids go for it on Christmas morning! It's perfectly fine - paramedics work on Christmas Day too. By the placement of the note next to the gun, we could be looking at a crime scene.

What do you think?

Stubbyfears says: As Santa once said in a great cinematic moment: "You'll shoot yer eye out, kid!"

Ernie says: Eventually you'll end up with that Santa from Futurama who's always going around killing people and what-not. Nobody wants that.

Inkydog says: Sounds like they want you to put a bullet in your head for the holidays! Special delivery courtesy of Colt. Ho-Ho-Ho-Bang!


Any other opinions?


Capt

Burning the midnight modem oil...

Looking at the calendar, we are nearly two months away from Christmas. This past week, I've been reloading, re-uploading, relinking, and rewinding to stay one step ahead with my workload before the holiday madness descends on us all.

So here are my shares from 2005 - 2007 - up and active and waiting for you. Please post a comment after you've clicked on an album you've been waiting to get - a simple "thanks" is sufficient!


1983 Air Force Public Service Spots - Disc V

The Alcoa Singers - An Olde-Fashioned Christmas

Around The Christmas Tree - A Special Christmas Day Program

Pat Boone - White Christmas

Bowen & Csehy - Christmas Steepletime

Owen Bradley & His Quintet - Joyous Bells Of Christmas

Al Caiola & Riz Ortolani - The Sound Of Christmas

Capitol Production Music

Christmas 1971 Veteran's Administration Hospital Program

CLM Industries - Christmas 1961 - SINGLE

A Country Christmas

Jimmy Dean - Jimmy Dean's Christmas Card

Fogwell Flax & The Ankle Biters From From Freehold Junior School - Christmas 45 - SINGLE

Pete Fountain - Candy Clarinet: Merry Christmas From (STEREO)

DeWayne Fulton - Christmas Greetings From

Funky Christmas (Cotillion Records)

Will Glahe & His Orchestra - Christmas On The Rhine

Earl Grant - Winter Wonderland

Ken Griffin - Christmas Organ

Alex Houston & Elmer - Here Comes Peter CottonClaus

Jim & Tammy - Christmas With Love

KFUO Presents Christmas Hymns And Carols

Carmen Le Nard - Jolly Snowman - SINGLE

Liberace - 1954 Christmas Greetings (w brother George) - FLEXI

L'il Wally & The Harmony Boys - A Polka Christmas

Sy Mann & The Malvin Carolers - Let's All Sing Christmas Carols

The Manhattans - Christmas 45 - SINGLE

The Bob Mantzke Choralaires - Christmas Songs

The Mom & Dads - Merry Christmas With

The Murk Family - Christmas With

Pat O'Brien - A Quiet Christmas

O Tannenbaum - Christmas On The Rhine

The Pac-Man Christmas Album

The Piano Rolls & Voices - All Time Christmas Hits

A Pink Panther Christmas

Bob Ralston - Christmas Hymns & Carols

Mickey Rooney - Merry Merry Micklemas

Del Roper & The Mason Swiss Bell Ringers - I Heard The Bells

Orion Samuelson - Christmas 45 - SINGLE

Shirley & Squirrely - Christmas With

Ethel Smith - Silent Night-Holy Night

The Soulful Strings - The Magic Of Christmas

Bobby Vinton - Christmas Promo EP

Justin Wilson - A Cajun Christmas With

Woody The Woodchuck - Christmas Sing Song (STEREO)



If there are broken links, let me know via the re-link request post. I'll try my best to get up older stuff first before moving onto the newer stuff. And don't forget to leave a comment on the album you chose to listen to!


Capt

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Jose Melis - Christmas With Melis


Yesterday I was scrounging around in a Goodwill store and found this album - which freaked me out because I was due to write about it today - talk about coincidence!

This was yet another album brought to us by our pal Ernie (downloaded at his blog on November 29th, 2006 at 11:57 PM). Ernie was going through a Latin phase at the time - the other Christmas albums he shared around this time were from Menudo and Charo!

If you're still wondering "who is Jose Melis?", then take a trip with me to a time when there were only five channels on your B&W television.

Jose Melis was born in Havana, Cuba on February 27, 1920. He aspired to be a classical pianist and this took him to the Havana Conservatory of Music. When he was 16, he arrived in the United States and attended the Longy School of Music at first, then the Juilliard School of Music in New York. While he attended Juilliard, Melis began appearing in clubs around New York as a lounge pianist.

World War II broke out and the draft claimed Jose in 1943. His musical abilities were put to good use as the musical director for the USO's New York City branch. This gave Melis his first taste of show business and he played for many of the major stars who volunteered at the Stage Door Canteen.

It was at this club where Melis met a young comic fresh out of the Special Services named Jack Paar. The two hit it off well and they remained in touch over the next several years. When Paar got a shot on radio, he asked Melis to be the musical director. It wouldn't be the last time Paar asked Melis that question.

Paar was the host of two TV game shows - Up With Paar (1952) and Bank On The Stars (1953) and Melis was along for the ride. Their TV career looked bleak when CBS called and asked if they would be interested in a "Today" type of show in the morning. Entitled "The Morning Show", it went on the air in 1954 - their newsreader was Walter Cronkite!

After a failed radio show for ABC in 1956, Paar and Melis were ready to call it quits. They had been together for ten years and weren't getting any big breaks either in radio or TV. That changed when Paar appeared on several episodes of Jack Benny's TV show and made an impression on NBC.

NBC offered Paar "The Tonight Show" in 1957 - which had been floundering since Steve Allen's departure as host. Paar again asked Melis to be the musical director. They grabbed a desk, a few chairs, and set up a format that has been copied on nearly every talk show since.

The show became a phenomenon - the first water-cooler show in TV history. People were staying up late to watch and Paar made sure Melis played a vital part. Paar put Melis' orchestra on the stage - rather than in the pit - and he included Jose in the on-camera patter that became one of the trademarks of the show.

This new exposure brought Jose a recording contract through Seeco Records, a label devoted to Latin music. Melis recorded several albums for Seeco ("The Many Moods of Jose Melis", "Tonight - Jose Melis", "The Jack Paar Show - And Other TV Themes"), including the album you are looking at.


Throughout his career, many people mistook Melis for that other famous Latin musical genius / wizard Esquivel. Whereas Esquivel's music was gigantic, bold, and overwhelming, Melis' music was more sedate, structured, and soothing.

This album is just that - there are accents and flourishes but nothing that goes overboard. Melis plays it cool and calm on such songs as "Winter Wonderland", "Silent Night", and "Adeste Fideles" but doesn't forget to have fun on songs like "Sleigh Ride" (titled "Sleigh Bells"), "Jingle Bells", and "Toy Piano" - yes, a real toy piano was used!

However, the most endearing songs are the two on which Jose talk-sings. "The Story Of Christmas" was first performed on "The Morning Show" four years prior to this recording. Every Christmas since, Melis got mailbags full of requests to repeat the song - this being in the days when everything went out live (no reruns, no TiVo).

The other song is "Merry Christmas Music" - written with his guitar player especially for this album. Melis reminds us that Christmas would be nothing without the music. Amen.

Each one of these are touching - Melis' accent adds to the charm and he holds you spellbound with its simple melody. These will find a home down the road on my annual Christmas CDs.

Several years after the release of this album, Melis switched to Mercury Records and released several other albums while moonlighting as Paar's musical director. It was around this time that the emotional Paar was feuding with Walter Winchell and famously walked off his program over the term "water-closet".

Melis stayed with Paar until the end of their tenure on "The Tonight Show" in 1962. Melis went out on his own, appearing in nightclubs and concert halls alike. He eventually went on tour with Mel Torme, then Frank Sinatra on several occasions. His popularity began to wane and Melis settled into retirement.

In the mid-1970s, he suffered a serious vision loss followed by his hearing a decade later. In 2003, he moved from Bronxville, New York - the very same house he'd lived in since the "Tonight Show" days - to Sun City, Arizona where his son Michael cared for him. On April 7, 2005, Melis died from a respiratory infection.

Melis was the original Paul Shaffer - thanks for sharing this with us Ernie!


Capt

Friday, October 10, 2008

Vintage Christmas Ads Pt. 5 - Radio Shack, 1982

In addition to collecting Christmas music, I have collected nearly 1000 vintage Christmas ads over the years. Many of these include celebrities, radio, television, cigarettes, liquor, modern appliances, and the like.

Last Friday and every Friday from here until I run out, I will feature an ad from my collection.

I invite you to add a fun comment, witticism, clever remark, or observation in the comments section provided. Any comments deemed worthy of repeating will be included into this entry where all the world will see it.

Today we look at state of the art technology from 1982. The compact disc wasn't introduced to the public yet. Cell phones didn't exist. Forget about MP3 players - we had Sony cassette Walkmen (for the retail price of $189).

At Christmas, 1982, the home computer was beginning to make an impact on the public. You had plenty of choices - Atari, Commodore, IBM, Apple, Xerox, and Radio Shack all had products available for you to put under the Christmas tree.

Radio Shack's first computer was the TRS-80, which sold nearly 10,000 machines in its first month alone. With its 13" black and white monitor, its audio cassette data drive, and floppy disks that barely held half a megabyte, it was a huge splash in the marketplace. Never mind that it put out some much RF interference that it zonked out surrounding electronics!

By 1982, the TRS-80 Models II and III were introduced and they were priced to sell:



(Click on image to enlarge)


Check out that keyboard console - it looks like an old electric Smith-Corona without the carriage. And if it was me, I'd go for the color TRS-80 with extended BASIC with that super huge 32K memory and that spacious 256x192 screen resolution.

What do you think?

Jeff says: My family had one... The wonderful screeching of the audio cassette "drive"...

Ernie says: I learned all about computers on the Trash-80 model III and IV back in junior high. We had a lab full of 'em. The model IV's came with not one but two floppy drives! I never remember doing much work on them, but I sure played a lot of Zork.

Jeff says: Defender for me. And stunning graphics, pixels the size of your thumbnail... And Floppy drives? Whoa, whoa, whoa... way to advanced for me!

Any other opinions?


Capt

Warner Brothers Stars - We Wish You A Merry Christmas

(Click on image to enlarge)


If you take a blood sample from our friend Ernie (Not Bert), you'll find 80% red blood cells, 10% white blood cells, and 10% vinyl. This was downloaded on November 29, 2006 at 1:54 PM from his blog and nearly two years later, I'm getting around to reviewing it - sheesh!

Back in the late 1940s, MGM - the movie studio with the roaring lion - created their own record label. For a time, they were the only movie studio with its own record label. By the mid-1950s, television had so badly eroded the box office that other movie studios needed new streams of revenue.

In 1957, Paramount began its record label and Warner Bros. were undecided as to start its own label. That changed when Dot Records signed then-WB star Tab Hunter to its label. Even though Hunter had an iron-clad exclusive movie contract with WB, without a record label, Tab was free to sign with Dot.

Sure enough, plans for Warner Bros. Records went into high gear and in March, 1958 - the first record on the new label came out. WB had reclaimed Tab hunter and his new single "Jealous Heart" (ironic, huh?) was released - the only charting record for the entire year!

Another mistake from the get go was ignoring rock n' roll. WB decided to go with pop, jazz, classical, spoken word, folk and gospel (see Clint Walker below).

Christmas releases for Warner Bros. in 1959 included George Greeley's "22 Best Loved Christmas Piano Concertos", the Guitar's Inc. "Guitars At Christmas", Ira Ironstring's "Ira Ironstrings Orchestra Plays Santa Claus", and the album you're looking at now.

To quote Ernie:

"This LP came out in 1959, and features the stars from then-current TV shows produced by Warner Brothers. The Warner Bros. record label was brand new at the time, and they were putting out all sorts of interesting stuff. (After you've downloaded it, look closely at the back label. They had so little product out at the time, they were recommending other companies records on their jackets!)"


BIO LINKS / TRACK REVIEWS:

1.) Efrem Zimbalist Jr. - Adeste Fideles
Zimbalist's voice is astoundingly good (that led to other non-Christmas recordings). Majestic.

2.) Warner Bros. Stars - Deck The Halls
All the assembled stars on the cover merge as one to sing a few choruses.

3.) Connie Stevens - Away In A Manger
Breathy rendition from cutie Connie. She and Edd Byrnes had a HUGE hit the same year with "Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb"!

4.) Edward Byrnes - Yulesville
This song still has enough charm to give me a smile. That charm is almost used up. Next...

5.) Peter Brown - Winter Wonderland
Great voice and a snappy version of this song! He later starred with Pam Grier in "Foxy Brown"!

6.) Ray Danton - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
This guy could give Thurl Ravenscroft a run for his money. Another majestic song!

7.) Poncie Ponce - Mele Kalikimaka
Kazuo Kim sings again! Poncie got his start on "77 Sunset Strip", then moved over to "Hawaiian Eye".

8.) Eddie Cole - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
The older brother of Nat (listen and feel the similarities), this was recorded near the end of Eddie's career - it swings, baby!

9.) Bob Conrad - White Christmas
I dare you to knock the battery off his shoulder... Robert Conrad sings marvelously - too bad we didn't get to hear more of that in "Wild Wild West" or "Baa Baa Black Sheep"!

10.) Dorothy Provine - Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!
From 1958 to 1968, Dorothy starred in many films and a great singing voice to match - then she got married and retired. This is a gem - she sounds a little like Dusty Towne from "SCTV"!

11.) Clint Walker - Silver Bells
A bonafide member of "The Dirty Dozen" singing a Bob Hope Christmas song! Remarkable! This was after Clint's walkout from Warner Bros. (see Ty Harden below) and his first album for WB - a gospel album entitled "Inspiration".

12.) Roger Moore - Once In Royal David's City
With his lordly British voice, Sir Roger narrates this song to great effect. The name is Templar... Simon Templar.

13.) Warner Bros. Male Chorus - Star Carol
I'm not sure if Clint, Roger, Bob Conrad, or Edd Byrnes sung on this - but whoever did does a nice job.

14.) Ty Hardin - It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
This guy's Wiki entry is a trip - as for his singing... you gotta read this guy's Wiki entry. It's a trip!

15.) Warner Bros. Stars - We Wish You A Merry Christmas
Several choruses of this ol' favorite from everyone on the cover and presto! End of album!



Ernie said in his initial review "If you don't find something in here to love, you may as well quit looking." I agree. I especially liked hearing 007 recite his story, Dorothy Provine, and Eddie Cole.

Most of the artists on this album sing well and the arrangements don't subtract or detract from their singing. And then there's Ty Hardin...

It's hard to imagine from these beginnings came the colossus known as Warner Music Group. As for MGM and Paramount record labels, they're long gone but the WB survived.


Capt

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

GM Chorus Flexi & Dodge Lawrence Welk Flexi (TWO REVIEWS)



In a previous post, I talked about the great website that is FaLaLaLaLa.com and mentioned several of the people I've met there. In today's post, we get to look at not ah-one, but ah-two Christmas cardboard flexis that were submitted by two longtime FLLLL members.

The first flexi was posted by Shemp at the Members Share forum of FLLLL. This was downloaded by me on November 28, 2006 at 3:25 PM.

Recorded especially for GM employees by GM employees, The General Motors Chorus was established in 1933 as one of the earliest employee activities within General Motors. I'm assuming this flexi was given to file and rank employees as a Christmas bonus.

Or perhaps they were played in the background throughout GM lunchrooms and UAW halls at Christmas time. In any case, you get a medley of standard Christmas carols on each side - all accompanied by a lone organ. The voices blend terrifically, the organ isn't too intrusive, and the end result is pleasing to the ear.

It's also a testament to its time. Back in the day, General Motors proudly sponsored this chorus - sending them to GM functions across the country. That ended back in 1978 when the GM Chorus became fully self sustained.

Today, there are approximately 80 members in the chorus, and less than one-half of the members are employed by, retired from, or spouses of GM employees. Membership is now open to anyone who loves to sing (and who preferably lives in the metro Detroit area).

If interested, check out the GM Chorus' website!

The same evening I downloaded the GM flexi, our friend PDMan, a longtime member of FLLLL, was inspired by Shemp to post his Christmas flexi - which I snagged at 9:12 PM.

I first learned of this Lawrence Welk Christmas flexi years earlier while visiting the Internet Museum of Flexi / Cardboard / Oddity Records curated by the wonderful folks at WFMU-FM. If you dig deep enough, you'll find this very flexi and you can hear a snippet of this one-sided flexi.

Back in 1958, Lawrence Welk was hosting not one but TWO television shows for ABC - both sponsored by the Dodge Motor Company. So when Dodge needed help to push their new line of 1958 cars, they asked Welk if he'd be willing to lend a hand.

The idea was if you test drove a brand new 1958 Dodge, you would walk away with this flexi as a thank you. In some cases, people drove home with the flexi in their new Dodge!

With the assistance of "the luvly little Lennon Sisters", Welk opens the record by greeting us on behalf of "your nearby Dodge dealer." The Lennon Sisters sing "Merry Christmas From Our House To Your House" with wunnerful assistance from The Champagne Music Makers.

Welk thanks the Lennon Sisters, wishes you a very Merry Christmas, and utters a true Welkism as his closing line: "We'll be looking at you on television!".


Back cover of the Welk flexi


Shortly after Shemp and PDMan posted their flexis, I got into the spirit. On November 29, 2006, I posted an entry for the only Christmas flexi in my collection at that time - a 1954 Christmas Greetings Flexi from the one and only Liberace!

Earlier this year, an antiques store here in Fort Wayne had a physical copy of the Welk flexi which I picked up in ah-one and ah... I already used that joke earlier - no fair repeating. So that now makes two Christmas flexis in my collection!

I would love to find other Christmas flexis - I do recall that some time last year, a copy of the High Society flexi in the holiday section of the Internet Museum of Flexi / Cardboard / Oddity Records sold for $80 or $90 on eBay.

And I would walk on through the wind, even walk on through the rain for a chance for to purchase this flexi.


Capt

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The 2008 Chicago Cubs: In Memoriam

The picture says it all.


The 2008 Chicago Cubs died a simple death on Saturday, October 4, 2008. Cause: no offense, shaky defense, and the weight of a century of losing.

My kids have tried to console me: "We'll get 'em next year, Dad". They don't know... Why did I ever subject them to this? I should be locked in jail for making them Cub fans.

Another cold winter to deal with but there's always the promise of a warm spring. Next February, when pitchers and catchers report, the whole process will begin again. And so it goes...

Click here to see whose bandwagon I've jumped on for the remainder of the season.


Capt

Friday, October 03, 2008

Vintage Christmas Ads Pt. 4 - Mojud Stockings, 1951

In addition to collecting Christmas music, I have collected nearly 1000 vintage Christmas ads over the years. Many of these include celebrities, radio, television, cigarettes, liquor, modern appliances, and the like.

Last Friday and every Friday from here until I run out, I will feature an ad from my collection.

I invite you to add a fun comment, witticism, clever remark, or observation in the comments section provided. Any comments deemed worthy of repeating will be included into this entry where all the world will see it.

We've covered some taboos here with these Christmas ads (i.e. suicide, smoking, liquor). That leaves sex - a delicate subject when it comes to Christmas. Every ad that showed a Christmas morning had Mom tightly snuggled in her bathrobe without a hint of nightgown showing.

Most of the vintage Christmas advertising that's of a risque nature fell into the lingerie & evening wear category. But even then, how can you sell a product using sex appeal that's not overt? If you're the folks at Mojud Stockings, that's a dilemma that you faced at Christmas time.

They chose in 1951 to lay it on the line. To let it all air out (sorta speak):



(Click on image to enlarge)


That's right - "Make It Merry!" I'm guessing they didn't have names for those heels in 1951 like we do in 2008. Come on, "Make It Merry!" Hey look - Santa Claus is there to ease the sexual tension... but how hard is Santa trying not to peek while handing up presents to the snagged lass? Oh yeah... "Make It Merry"!

For those with the discernible Christmas music eye, if this ad looks familiar, it was used as clip art for the booklet of the original "Christmas Cocktails":


(Click on image to enlarge)


Two for the price of one! What do you think?

Ernie says: Now that's the kind of Christmas stocking I can really get behind!

Any other opinions?


Capt

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 FaLaLaLaLa.com - 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.


TRACK REVIEWS:

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!


Capt

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Holiday Disco & Christmas Disco Party (TWO REVIEWS)



It seems on November 26, 2006 at 1:11 AM and again on November 26, 2006 at 1:13 AM, our good friend Ernie was in a Christmas disco kind of mood. Which is fine by me because on several occasions here, I've openly admitted that I have a guilty pleasure for all forms of Christmas disco.

Shortly after I began this blog in January, 2006, I reviewed my first Christmas disco album - The Salsoul Orchestra's "Christmas Jollies II". Several months later, I did another review for The Mistletoe Disco Band's "Christmas Disco" with a bonus - this was the very FIRST album I ever shared here at the yuleblog (does that tell you how I feel about this genre?).

With the addition of these two beauties (thank you Ernie), I now own nine Christmas disco albums. Not counting the disco album I intend to share at Christmas (more on that later). Turning on the disco ball...

This is what Ernie wrote about the first album:

"Today you get some disco Christmas! First up is Holiday People-Holiday Disco (Universal Spectaculars USL 101, 1979), from the height of the disco exploitation era. There is very little about this LP that's redeeming. It's because of cheap knock-off albums like this that the whole disco backlash began.

"Everybody may like a little Saturday Night Fever or Disco Inferno, but when they started to crack out nameless tune after nameless tune using nameless bands and beats that came stock with your Casio keyboard, it all went south.

"Not that I remember any of that, I was too young to know what was going on at the time. But as I got older, I figured it all out. Or at least I thought I did. Anyhow, enjoy these nameless musicians performing these public domain Christmas songs as best you can."

Despite my love for Christmas disco (good and bad), this one is riding the fence. Any song is an adventure. It could start off with disco strings, then the wha-wha guitars will take over and ride it for a while. Add some disco singers singing partial lyrics - "You'll go down in hissssss - tooorrrrrrrr - rreeeeeeeeeeee".

WHOAA... as I'm typing these words, the album is playing the background and son-of-a-gun! Can it be? Is it really? I wouldn't put it past it... Checking...

After much comparison, I've just discovered that "We Wish You A Merry Christmas", "White Christmas", "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus", and "Auld Lang Syne" are completely original Christmas disco songs on this album by Holiday People.

The remaining tracks are recycled instrumentals that were also used on Mirror Image's Disco Noel and The Mistletoe Disco Band's Christmas Disco:


So this is the THIRD Christmas disco album in my collection using the same tracks... groovy. The Mistletoe Disco Band has another album entitled "More Christmas Disco" that I don't own (yet) and it probably uses these other tracks from the Holiday People album. But who knows?

Okay, I'm more bummed than finding out that the roller boogie night at my local rink were cancelled.

I need some good Christmas disco (that's the very definition of an oxymoron, no?). I'm talking Salsoul Orchestra style disco, not Charo style. Can the second album featured here be what I am looking for? I've got a bad case of "Saturday Night Fever" and it needs to be quenched!

Ernie, can you help? From his original notes on "Christmas Disco Party":

"Did I hear you say you wanted more Christmas disco, only better this time? Well, how's about some original tunes, and some semblance of originality? Sound good? Here's a group with no name performing Christmas Disco Party (Classic Christmas CCR 1941, 1979).

"I stuck the name Max Fagen on these tracks, since he seems to show up the most in the credits, but there really is no group name listed anywhere on the LP. I don't know why I like this album better than the other. Something just strikes me as a lot better. At least they tried to write some original music. Some of the titles are familiar, but they aren't really the songs they pretend to be."



TRACK REVIEWS:

1.) Santa Claus Is Disco'n To Town
How can you argue with a song with such wisdom like "He's got the moves that will loosen your blues"?

2.) All I Want For Christmas Is A Disco Beat
Doesn't everyone want a disco beat for Christmas? Anyone? "Gotta have a little drums!"

3.) Jingle Bell Disco Rock
Is it "Jingle Bells" or "Jingle Bell Rock"? About fifteen seconds in, you'll hear a great disco version of "Jingle Bells". Man, this is fantastic!

4.) Dancin' In A Winter Wonderland
Expecting a disco version of "Winter Wonderland". Instead, you get a smooth, contemporary original Christmas song - WOW!

5.) What I Want For Christmas (Is Just To Have You Here)
This is the song they would play at the rink, lower the lights, and announce "couples only". Another great original!

6.) Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Nope. Nothing like the version heard on the trio of albums above. About to break into Travolta-like dance steps!

7.) The Beat Moves On
Not Christmas, but it's a good disco instrumental.

8.) Rock Around The Christmas Tree (With Me)
Another Christmas title - but you get another original Christmas disco song!

9.) (Gonna Have A) Disco Christmas Party
This one's my favorite - you can expect this one to be played at my next Christmas gathering!


I'll put Christmas Disco Party up against anything the Salsoul Orchestra ever did. This is one great Christmas disco album - oxymoron's be damned! I would love to see this album get re-released with more on Max Fagen, the song composers, etc. This album has a lot going for it.

But because it's Christmas disco, no one's gonna re-release it. Which is a shame. So thanks Ernie for rescuing this one. You are hereby awarded the B.G.E's Award for the prolongation and preservation of Christmas disco.

And if you think Holiday Disco is bad, just wait until Christmas. For I have obtained what could be the WORST Christmas disco album of all time and I intend to unleash it to the world.

You've been warned...


Capt