Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Alexander Goodrich - Christmas Organ And Chimes

Here is yet another Christmas organ music album for my collection. If you're keeping score at home, this is the FOURTEENTH album of the organ variety that I've added since last year.

Wurlitzers, Kimballs, and Lowerys... oh my!

If you've ever thumbed through a stack of Goodwill or Salvation Army albums in one of their stores, chances are you've seen this album. I have seen two different album covers for this one personally and wouldn't be surprised if there were others.

Released by Caroleer Records in 1964, this one features one Alexander Goodrich playing your favorite Christmas tunes.

I wish I could add more. Google searches lead nowhere on either Alexander Goodrich and Caroleer Records.

As for the music, this is about as straight as you can get without an ounce of soul or rhythm. Adding chimes only serve to awaken those who might fall asleep during the tracks. Every public domain song is captured here because chances are Caroleer Records couldn't afford the ASCAP licenses for other Christmas songs. You get a collection of Christmas music that your aunt Sophie could play better - even if she was schlossed with eggnog.

The cover is about the best thing for the entire album. When is the last time you saw a hunk of mistletoe that big hung anywhere? PhotoShop the words off and you've got a pretty fun looking Christmas couple.

This is still available to download over at BongoBells but do yourself a favor - get some of the other great albums he has to offer there. Bongo, you've taken a true vinyl bin staple and preserved it forever. I'm not sure if you ought to be congratulated or not but it's the effort that you put in that I salute. Keep up the great work!

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


Monday, October 30, 2006

Ontario Lottery Corporation - Christmas Is For Children

Several weeks ago, I reviewed a certain album from the Ontario Lottery Corporation that came to us from my good friend Jeff in Canada at his website.

Buried in my stack of CDs was the OTHER album by the Ontario Lottery Corporation! Released in 1982, these sixteen tracks were possibly if not probably used for radio & TV commercials for the Ontario Lottery.

The first album was very straight laced - harmonized singing, lush orchestra, well produced, occasionally some of the strangest lyrics you'll ever hear, and very homogenized. It's worth a listen and a chuckle.

This second album has these elements and a little bit more. The camp factor on this album is ten times higher than the first album - making this one of the best finds of the year in my book!

Here's a track by track review:

1.) Christmas Is For Children
There was a song on the first album with the exact title. Coincidence? This one isn't oversung though!

2.) Whenever It Snows
"Whenever it snows, I wiggle my toes, I can hardly wait to get out my skates..." Yep, she's Canadian!

3.) Santa's Gotta New Bag
They try SOOO hard to make this a James Brown tune and by 10 seconds in, you're laughing hysterically!

4.) A Change Of Heart
Christmas singers croon to a Scrooge-like character and guess what happens by the end of the song?

5.) Santa's Favourite Day
The number of "good/bad" lyrics in this one here are too many to type. My jaws are hurting from laffin...

6.) Brand New Brother
Opening lyric - "I want a brand new brother... I don't like the one I've got." It goes downhill from there. Some family issues to deal with here.

7.) Merry Christmas Bells
This is a lively tune - perfect commercial material for lottery tickets!

8.) A Letter To Santa
A kid "writes/recites" his letter to Santa for the first minute, then sings an emotional plea for world harmony & peace! Get me my vomit bucket, quick!

9.) Hymn For Christmas
A simple tune done very well. Possibly the most normal song on the whole album!

10.) Snow Ride
"Snowwww Rideeeeeee..." It starts out straight but ends up campy, complete with lyrics to snicker at!

11.) Reindeer Roundup
From note one, this country/cowboy flavored song is headshakingly strange... I LOVED IT!

12.) The Gift Of Christmas
WOW! This one's fantastic! Probably the best song off either lottery album! Great stuff!

13.) March Of The Toys
A Macy's Parade set to music... it's good, it's bad, it's campy, it's funny, it's causing my ears to bleed...

14.) Christmas In The City
Opening lyric - "Magical moment on a magical night, we're heading out to the big city lights." I prefer the country, thanks!

15.) Mr. Evergreen
A little girl sings to an evergreen tree her father planted... GREAT JUMPING ICEBERGS! This one must be heard to be believed... I'm wiping tears away...

16.) Christmas Is For Children (Reprise)
Just when you think you've reached the camp ceiling... LAFFIN SO HARD... can't... reach... the... STOP... button...

Whew... the Shatner mode wore off and the CD is over. I used to play "Tiny Tim's Christmas Album" to clear a room - this one might just do the same thing!

If you're brave enough, you can STILL download this album (as well as the first lottery album). Jeff, thanks for sharing these gems with us!

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


Friday, October 27, 2006

Guitars Inc. - Guitars At Christmas

From the back cover of this album:

"What happier way to celebrate Christmas? The Festive Sounds of Yuletide have never been captured with greater warmth or charm in this novel album. "Guitars At Christmas" combines the talents of five of America's most distinguished guitarists with the very special, tinsel-like sounds of Christmas: chimes, bells, celeste, music boxes, and many other memory stirring delights.

"The sixteen very popular melodies in this album are given soft but stirring interpretations by the many rich "voices" of guitarists Al Hendrickson, Howard Roberts, Bobby Gibbons, Tommy Tedesco, and Bill Pitman. The sound they develop is distinctive enough to stimulate even the most jaded of ears, adding zest and a bubbly newness to the most familiar of melodies.

"No small part of the liveli- and loveliness heard here can be attributed to the refreshing accents flowing from the "light as a Winter's night," clear as crystal, musical sounds of Christmas. These sounds, specially imported from Santa's wonderland, combine with the rich, distinctive tones of Guitars Inc. to provide a wonderful background for your Christmas, one that will make your Season's Greetings much the merrier. What happier way to celebrate Christmas?"


By clicking on the links above, you'll find out that these five men selected to play on this album weren't just your average, run-of-the-mill pickers. These were the best sidemen in the business at that time! Since there isn't a producer listed anywhere on the album sleeve, I tip my hat to the genius who came up with this concept at Warner Brothers back in 1959 when this album was cut.

The whole album is so well produced, so well orchestrated, and so well played by the guitarists that it's hard to imagine what this would sound like if you took one of those elements out of the equation. It's a perfect blend. Favorites include "Jingle Bells", "Deck The Halls", "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer", and "White Christmas".

The standout tracks, however, are "Winter Wonderland" and "Sleigh Ride". "Wonderland" is just so crafty because of its tempo changes and the excellent guitar licks. "Sleigh Ride's" arrangement is vintage Three Suns - almost sounds like their version too! The guitars provide all the excitement on this track... it's classic.

It would have been thrilling to hear this album in STEREO... oh, that would be too much!

If you think I'm overexaggerating any of this, then visit BongoBells and download it for yourself! Bongo, thank you for finding this excellent album and giving it new life!

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


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Paul Mickelson - Christmas Bells

In March of this year, I added my first Christmas carillon album. Two months later, I purchased my second Christmas carillon CD.

We now fast forward to today and here is the third Christmas carillon album for my collection! Recorded in 1955, this one features a gent by the name of Paul Mickelson.

Not much is known (or at least available online) about Mickelson's early life. We do know that he was a talented musician and a devout Christian by the time he was asked by Billy Graham to join his evangelical ministries as an organist in 1950.

In 1953, Billy Graham Ministries released a 78 RPM entitled "Wonderful Peace" that features Mickelson playing Christmas carols on side two. If any can locate a copy of that one, please let us know!

Two years later, Mickelson got a recording contract from RCA Victor. He released two albums in 1955; the first was Inspired by the lush sounds of Jackie Gleason, Mantovani, and the like, Mickelson gathered his orchestra and recorded his first LP "Sacred Songs With Singing Strings" (Christian elevator music? WOW!). The second album was this Christmas album you see before you.

This album gives us 25 (yep, twenty-five) tracks - most under 1:30 in length. And as the cover states "Paul Mickelson Playing Symphonic Carillon And Vibraharp". They ain't lying. Mickelson mixes it up, one track strictly a carillon rendition, the next strictly vibraharp, the next a combination of both. If you think he stops there, wait. Mickelson adds just strings in some tracks, others a full orchestra.

It's jumbled, it's simple, it's dynamic, it's blase, it's festive, it's vibrant, it's over?, it's never lacking for diversity, that's for sure!

My favorites included "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day" (strictly on the carillon), "Joy To The World" and "Away In A Manger" (carillon / vibraharp combos), "Deck The Halls" (strictly strings), and "O Little Town Of Bethlehem" (strictly vibraharp). The standout track is "Jesu Bambino" where Mickelson combines all these elements into one very nicely done song.

Mickelson had found his calling. He wanted to continue to record Christian music. In 1957, he said goodbye to the Billy Graham Ministries and focused on his last album for RCA: "The Music Of Paul Mickelson: Orchestra With Singing Strings". In 1958, he became vice-president and music director at Word Records, where he orchestrated albums for many Christian artists in addition to producing several instrumental albums of his own. Some time in 1959, he helped an artist named Ralph Boggs record a Christmas album entitled "Love Came Down At Christmas"

Mickelson then founded Supreme Records in Glendale, California in 1961. He helped more Christian artists to record albums (including Pat Boone) and still found time to release his own instrumental albums as well. Renaming his orchestra "The Supreme Strings", he released dozens of albums with the number 20 in the title ("20 Inspiration Favorites", "20 Symphonic Songs Of Inspiration", and one Christmas album entitled "20 Christmas Favorites").

Supreme Records was sold to Zondervan Books in 1973 and Mickelson presumably settled into retirement (not much out there online I'm afraid). Mickelson lived a good long life and died at the age on 73 on October 21, 2001.

This album was downloaded over at BongoBells - and whaddya know? It's STILL available to download over there! Thanks Bongo!

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


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Eaton's Presents Christmas Magic

You're looking at a typical 1960s Christmas compilation album that was branded and sold by a department store during the holiday season.

However, this store is probably one you've never heard of... unless you live north of the 49th parallel.

Back in 1869, a young man by the name of Timothy Eaton sold his interest in a dry-goods store and went into business for himself. Finding a store location in Toronto, he opened his first store - appropriately named Eaton's.

Eaton's soon became the largest department store chain in Canada. In many ways, it resembled Macy's - it soon had a Gimbel like competitor in the Simpson's department stores and billed itself as "Canada's Greatest Store".

In a nod to Sears, it began a mail order catalog which doubled Eaton's sales yearly. An old saying in Canada states that "only two books mattered in a typical Canadian home: the Bible and the Eaton's Catalog".

History was made on December 2nd, 1905 when Eaton's sponsored the Toronto Santa Claus Parade as a way to kick-off the holiday shopping season. For several years, Eaton's also held Santa Claus Parades in Winnipeg and Montreal and were hugely successful. It was this success that prompted Macy's to begin its own Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924 - the sincerest form of flattery.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Eaton's was North America's most successful and profitable retailer. Back in the 1960s, Canadian Magazine estimated that in Winnipeg alone "more than 50 cents of every shopping dollar (excluding groceries) was spent at Eaton's". It was further estimated that a typical busy shopping day, 10% of the local Winnipeg population would shop at Eaton's.

This album features the standard set of tunes you'd find on a Firestone album. Because most of the lineup of stars (Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Roger Wagner Chorale, The Letterman), this album was undoubtedly issued by Capitol Records Special Markets. Most of the music I already own in my collection. Nothing new.

Eaton's began to suffer financial losses by the early 1970s as poor decisions in real estate and opening new branches of stores didn't succeed. In 1976, Canadians were stunned when Eaton's announced that their Spring-Summer catalog would be its last - very much like when Sears decided to quit the catalog business.

In the early 1980s, an economic recession forced Eaton's to tighten its belt further. They quit sponsoring the Santa Claus Parade, began consolidating stores and operations across Canada, and saw its market share begin to dwindle for the first time, thanks to competitors like Hudson's Bay, Zellers, and Sears Canada.

The shrinking Canadian dollar (sounds like a bad sci-fi movie), a move eliminating all sales (including their famous Trans-Canada sale), and the emergence of Wal-Mart (cue the booing & hissing) began the death knell for Eaton's. In 1930, their market share stood at a dominant 60%. In 1997, when their market share stood at 10.6%, it declared bankruptcy and tried to stay afloat as long as it could.

Two years later, Eaton's were swallowed up by Sears Canada. Sears renamed many of the Eaton's stores to their own, sold other less profitable stores to Hudsons Bay, and tried for a time to keep the Eaton's name alive with a seven store experiment that lasted three years.

In 2002, Sears "retired" the Eaton's name forever, ending an era in Canada. Bummer, eh?

Going out on a high note: This album is STILL available to download from my good Canadian pal Jeff at his website. Thanks Jeff!

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


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mike Douglas - My Kind Of Christmas

Just as the dust was settling from Christmas In July over at Ernie (Not Bert)'s blog, a former World War II vet, band singer, and talk show host died. Ernie honored the man the best way he knew how - by posting this album.

Before Oprah, before Rosie, before Springer, before Donahue, before Dinah, and yes, even before Merv (by two years!), Mike Douglas created and defined the afternoon talk show from his homebase of Philadelphia, PA. At his peak, he was seen on 171 TV stations and an average audience of 6 millions viewers.

From 1963 to 1981, Mike hosted many diverse guests. Who can forget the appearance of the rock group KISS with legendary comedienne Totie Fields?

Or the appearance of a two year old Tiger Woods doing trick golf shots and impressing Bob Hope?

Mike also lent his co-hosting duties out now and then. Such was the case of the week of February 14, 1972 when Mike asked John Lennon & Yoko Ono to co-host the show. It was hugely risky and controversial but Douglas knew it would open the show up to a whole new audience.

He was smart - it garnered the largest rating in his show's history and still ranks as a milestone in television history.

Mike can claim one HUGE discovery: he learned of a young comedian rising through the ranks of Philly nightclubs and invited him to appear on his show. Any guesses?

Around 1966, Mike decided to revive his singing career and recorded a few albums. He even scored a Top 40 hit with "The Man In My Little Girl's Life". How many people can say they had a top 40 hit during a year in which "Pet Sounds" by the Beach Boys and "Revolver" by the Beatles was released?

This album was released at Christmas, 1967 and contains ten songs. All the favorites are covered ("The Christmas Song", "Silver Bells", "O Holy Night", "Silent Night") and Mike's voice is in fine form - at times, I'm reminded of Mel Torme's style and phrasing - BONUS! My favorites include Mike's narration of "(The Story Of) The First Christrmas Carol" and the very 60s folky "Touch Hands On Christmas Morning".

The standout track is Mike's version of Gounod's "Ave Maria". Gounod's version of "Ave Maria" is seldom sung and deserves to be heard often. Douglas treats it reverently and soulfully and gets my vote for all-time favorite version of this song.

Douglas' singing career never matched the popularity of his television career but that didn't keep him from singing. He sang daily on his show, running the gamet of songs. I can remember as a tyke watching his show and he was singing his version of "Stayin' Alive"... whoa!

Mike folded his TV show tent in 1981, wrote a very good autobiography in retirement, and made his one of his last television appearances on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show". Rosie always aspired to be like Mike and his show so he repaid the complement by singing "You Make Me Feel So Young" to her.

I close this yuleblog entry by sharing my all-time favorite Mike Douglas memory. One afternoon in the 1970s, I was spinning the dial looking for something I could watch on TV. Nothing but soap operas and "The Mike Douglas Show" were on so I chose Mike.

On that very day, his guests were Carol Channing, Robert Goulet, and a young comedian I didn't know. This young comedian dazzled Mike and Bob by doing an Elvis impersonation and bringing down the house with his rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" while beating out the rhythm on a drum cymbal.

As long as I live, I'll never forget the utter look of disbelief on Goulet's face as he watched Andy Kaufman hit the final high note like an alpine yodeler.

Up strode Mike, clapping and grinning ear to ear to congratulate the performer. "We'll be right back..."

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


p.s. give up? the young Philly comedian was Bill Cosby!

Monday, October 23, 2006

A Long Way To Say Goodbye To A Friend

I woke up this Monday morning severely jetlagged and with just a touch of sadness.

Last Wednesday, my wife flew to Phoenix, AZ to attend a medical conference (she's a board certified geriatrician specializing in internal medicine). This is nothing new; she attends medical conferences at least three times a year. On most of these occasions, my stay-at-home dad duties kick into high-gear for the usual three to four day absences she's gone.

However, last week's plan called for me to watch the kids just for two days, send them to my in-laws for the other two, and fly out to Phoenix to spend a short weekend with her. Sounds good in theory.

Last Friday, after posting two yuleblog entries, my overnight bag and I drove the short 15 minutes from our house to Fort Wayne International Airport, hopped onto an American Airlines flight to Chicago (35 min including a GREAT 45 seconds flying over Wrigley Field upon approach) and picked up the connecting flight to Phoenix (3:25).

I was then driven by airport shuttle to the JW Marriott Resort & Spa - Desert Ridge, approximately 20 miles north of downtown Phoenix. I noticed a huge outdoor mall across the street from the resort site - the Desert Ridge Marketplace - that contains a Barnes and Noble plus a Tower Records. The shuttle driver pointed out that there was another shuttle that left the Marriott on the hour and 1/2 hour to the mall. This looked promising.

I was greeted at the hotel entrance by my wife, who had just completed her business for the day. As I unpacked, she told me about all the amenities that the resort had to offer. She mentioned the mall across the street and I stopped what I was doing to hear about it.

"It's an okay mall. They've got a Barnes & Noble and a Tower Records that's closing..." she said matter-of-factly.

"WHAT???" I almost yelled.

She stated they had "GOING OUT OF BUSINESS" signs posted everywhere, 10% - 25% off all the prices. I began to think about this. This store location was pretty far removed from the main population and Barnes & Noble was just across the way. This Tower was probably underperforming and they decided to close it down.

We made plans to get some dinner and just relax for the rest of the day. The following day, Saturday, was when she and I would head over to the mall.

Saturday afternoon, we went to Barnes & Noble first to pick up some reading material for the return flight less than 24 hours away. We then went across to Tower Records. The neon glowing letters in all their signs confirmed it - "CLOSING FOREVER". The store was packed with customers trying to get bargains. I was busy trying to find their Christmas music section. After a walk up and down the aisles, I couldn't find it so I asked an employee.

"Excuse me, do you have a Christmas music section set up anywhere?"

"Sorry, we're not getting any Christmas music in this year." she said resignedly and began to walk away.

"One last question: I've never heard of a Tower Records closing before. Why this location?"

"All the stores are closing," she unloaded. You could have hit me with a Tic-Tac and I would have crumbled to the ground.

"A big time liquidator company bought out Tower and they chose to close them down." she finished.

(What happened? Click on this article link to read the whole story.)

As she walked away, I began really hearing the music the store was playing: "Never Can Say Goodbye" by the Jackson Five, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" by Elton John, "The End" by the Doors. The whole experience was numbing.

I began to think about my days living in Chicago and taking special midnight trips with friends up to the Tower Records store on North Clark Street. I always found something special and unique whenever I was there thanks to the deepest catalog of ANY record store on the planet.

This was the place I found my copy of Dread Zeppelin's "The First No-Elvis" when all other record stores told me it didn't exist. While looking through their bins in 1993, I found my copy of "Merry Christmas From The Sonics, The Wailers, and The Galaxies". On my last visit before I moved from Chicago in the summer of 1996, I walked away with a copy of "The Beau Hunks Play The Original Little Rascals Music".

Every visit was an experience, every CD an unearthed treasure. And thanks to a stroke of a pen, it's all going to end. I walked to the store counter with my two CDs in hand. In a loud voice so the other cashiers could hear me I said:

"Kudos to the person who came up with the playlist." All four cashier's turned to me and broke out in smiles.

"Someone finally got it!" "I'm going to make my own CD now. I'm inspired!" To the end, Tower employees always had fun at their jobs.

I paid my money, wished them all well, and as I left the store the song "Goodbye Stranger" by Supertramp started playing. Someone was playing a cruel (but funny) joke on me now.

I once wrote a paper in college about the album that changed your life. I chose "Breakfast In America" because it was the first album whose lyrics I understood and spoke to me on a different level. If you don't understand, you'd have to read all 230 pages of the paper I wrote.

"Goodbye stranger, it's been nice
"Hope you find your paradise.
"Tried to see your point of view,
"Hope your dreams will all come true."

For all the memories Tower... thanks... and goodbye.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Victorian Christmas (Village Square Records)

You never know what you're going to find in a second hand shop. During this past year, I've found a large amount of lost Christmas albums at my local Salvation Army, Amvets, and others.

(Disturbing note - all three of my local Goodwill stores have STOPPED carrying LPs. I don't know why but I hope this isn't a nationwide trend!)

Very seldomly do I find an actual Christmas CD. Several years ago, I came across a Neil Diamond Christmas disc in pretty good shape at a local shop. An old sticker from a garage sale stated $2. but the HUGE sign above the bin read "CDs - $1.00".

Guess which price the cashier insisted on ringing up the disc at? Mmhmm...

This CD was found at the Salvation Army, encased in a glass showcase along with the seven other CDs in the entire store and the assortment of "high-end" items they don't want to walk out the door via the five finger discount: the answering machine that's several years out of date, the boombox that probably was stolen from somewhere but still looks good, the strands of gold and bling-bling that you can get on the cheap.

You're looking at probably the cheapest CD I've purchased this year - exactly 25 cents.

Released in 2004 by Village Square Records, this all instrumental, all Victorian sounding album features 14 traditional carols played on dulcimer, flute, mandolin, and the like. Not bad sounding stuff. However, by track three it begins to sound the same and you get bored easily. This is the CD an antique store would be playing around Christmas time.

Click on the link above, select "Shop Catalog", and then select '"Christmas" from their categories. Village Square is still selling this ($14.95 - boy did I luck out!) and you can immediately hear samples from this album.

Be sure to check out the other Christmas titles at their site as well: Andy Williams, David Arkenstone, and several Christmas compilations that look quite interesting, especially their "Christmas Belles" CD.

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


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Midnight String Quartet - Christmas Rhapsodies For Young Lovers

If you haven't visited Bongobells recently, you're missing out on some very interesting finds (a Nelson Eddy Christmas album? Who knew?). Many of these finds will be reviewed here over the next several weeks. This is the first.

Released in 1968 on the Viva label, not much else is known about the Midnight String Quartet other than a one sentence line on the back cover:

"The Midnight String Quartet has now arrived at a position of great prominence among the successful instrumental groups of the world."


To understand all of this a bit further, let's take a closer look at the Viva label and the person behind it - a legendary record producer who got his nickname from chewing tobacco.

By the age of 15, Snuff Garrett was already working in the music industry as a producer's assistant. Two years later, he was a disk jockey in Lubbock, Texas, hosted an "American Bandstand" type TV show for a time, and moved west to Hollywood to begin work with Liberty Records.

One of Garrett's first job was to help the then shining stars of Liberty Records produce snappy songs while being able to hear the lyrics incredibly well. If your stars names were Alvin, Simon, and Theodore, it was especially true! It's hard to imagine but Ross Bagdasarian's Chipmunks kept Liberty solvent for a brief time.

By 1961, Garrett was head of A&R at Liberty. He hired a young producer named Phil Spector to produce songs in New York City while he helped produce major stars in Los Angeles such as Johnny Burdette and Bobby Vee. Several years later, Snuff hired a then unknown Leon Russell to help him with a new band whose first seven singles landed in the top ten. Can you believe it was Gary Lewis & The Playboys? Oh laaaadyyyy...

Around 1966, Garrett wanted to leave Liberty and begin his own label. Helping him was Jimmy Bowen, another legendary producer. They formed Viva Records and began to search for artists, songwriters, producers, ANYTHING that would help keep pace with the music world in the mid-1960s.

Hiring groups like The Midnight String Quartet didn't help.

This album is well-produced, well-arranged, and isn't annoying at all - a nice surprise. At first glance, I thought it would all begin to sound alike (and at times it creeps up to that point). But enter a well placed harpsichord, piano, jingle bells, and it doesn't sound bland at all.

There is one track that rises just a bit over all of them. The only original track on the album - "Christmas Rhapsody" is saved for last. Written by Snuff and Glen Hardin, it's a pleasant tune and quite lush. I couldn't help but wonder if there were words to this one and what would this have sounded like as a pop tune.

This is yet another album to play quietly in the background over Christmas dinner or a family get together. You can't do any worse.

Thanks to the lack of success on the charts, Viva met with little success and eventually Snuff sold the label to Warner Brothers in 1971. Garrett was working less and less in the music business by this time. His last big success was producing several hit Sonny & Cher albums in the mid-1970s when the world only thought of Sonny & Cher as TV variety show hosts.

Snuff Garrett is now retired and living in Arizona. We salute you Snuff!

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


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dennie Christian - Weihnachten mit

Ist hier ein Album für den Deutschen in allen uns!

Dieses kommt zu uns von den guten Völkern an den Jeffco Produktionen und Sie können dieses an ihrem Aufstellungsort NOCH downloaden!

Dennie Christian wuchs in Deutschland auf und hoffte, ein Musiker zu werden ein Tag. Daß Tag in 1975 kam, während seine notierende Karriere anfing zu blühen. Er beanspruchte schnell herauf einige Erfolg singles und Alben und wurde betitelt "dem deutschen Andy Gibb."

Ende der Dekade war seine Karriere emporgeragt. Er notierte dann das Album, das Sie vor Ihnen 1980 sehen. Die meisten Schienen sind direkt, keine Krausen, und - alle auf Deutsch ziemlich gut gesungen.

Ungeachtet es gibt eine grosse Überraschung - Christ singt eine Version "des weißen Weihnachten" auf englisch, das ziemlich ist gut, Teutonic des Akzents. Es ist ein netter Oasis mitten in dem Album. Er ist kein Hasselhoff, aber das ist ein definitives Plus für Dennie!

Um diese Zeit fing Christian, seine Karrierewahlen zu betrachten und fing ein erfolgreiches Pensum als Moderator (oder Scheibe Jockey) auf einigen deutschen und holländischen Radiostationen von 1981 bis 1992 an.

Er dann versuchte, seine Singenkarriere wieder zu beleben und notierte einige mehr Alben. Er notiert noch heute und Sie können seine amtliche Web site hier besichtigen.

Nr., lese ich nicht oder schreibe Deutschen - ich tue gut nicht mit Englisch! Fisch-Übersetzung Babel AltaVistas half mir mit dieser yuleblog Eintragung.

Sie können Schnitt und Paste diese Punkte in Babel Fische und die Übersetzung zu erhalten oder diese Verbindung einfach an zu klicken.

Auf zur folgenden neuen Weihnachten-CD in meiner Ansammlung...


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Julie Andrews & Andre Previn - A Christmas Treasure

Whenever I get the chance to visit Chicago (like I did this past weekend), I try to find some time to check out the used CD stores in the area.

I'm sorry to report that on this trip I discovered that one of my favorite used CD stores - the Compact Disc Trading Post of Merrillville, IN - has closed its shutters for good. Many used Christmas CDs were found in this place over the past six years.

To the girls who work at the Subway located next to the former location of the used CD store: Just because your former neighbors moved away doesn't justify my moaning in agony, tears flowing, and the kicking and screaming I displayed in booth #6. I apologize for my actions.

I then travelled to another used CD store that keeps a box of Christmas CDs under the "Religious / Easy Listening" bin. While many used CD stores choose NOT to buy or display Christmas CDs, this store does exactly the opposite (to that I say BRAVO!).

This CD you're looking at was buried deep within the box. A quick scan of the back cover tells me that this album was originally recorded in 1966, released at Christmas, 1967, and released onto CD in 1990. An ORIGINAL PRESSING! WOW! Price = $5.00.

A quick word on original pressings: Between the advent of the compact disc in 1983 to around 1995, many record companies issued past catalog recordings onto CD on a yearly basis. If the album sold, they would bring it back the following Christmas. If it didn't sell, it went out of print, never to return, and the Christmas CDs would rise in value dramatically.

Example? The original pressing of Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass' Christmas Album was always a hot item on eBay. If a copy sold under $50, you got a bargain. This all bottomed out last year when the remastered version of this same CD was released. What would Julie Andrews and Andre Previn fetch now? Only time will tell. It's a moot point since I'm never going to sell this one anytime soon!

This is an interesting album. Two big mainstream artists both sharing their talents to fuse together an unforgettable experience in music. Julie Andrews possesses one of the rarest voices known to man: a five-octave coloratura soprano talent (ranging from C3 to E7). Andre Previn is one of the most prolific artists in classical music and film scores.

It can't miss, right? Well...

Some of the arrangements on this album make it sound like "Dueling Banjos" - first Previn & orchestra plays for one minute, enter Julie to sing the first chorus, repeat. As they continue, both get louder and more screechy. Julie hits the high note, Previn & orchestra crescendo, and thankfully the song is over.

As I type these words, I'm relistening to the CD again, trying to find a song that doesn't utilize this arrangement. Two instrumentals on this album give temporary relief: "O Little Town Of Bethlehem" and "Greensleeves (What Child Is This?)" but the rest stick to the formula. Disappointing? Very. Now I can understand the rationale behind the record companies not releasing these on CD anymore.

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


Monday, October 16, 2006

Nick Holiday

This past weekend, my family and I travelled to Chicago to visit family and celebrate the birthdays of two of my nephews (one of which is my godson - my only chance to be Vito Corleone).

The whole family decided to find birthday presents together and went to a local Target store to hunt them down. We were browsing through their toy section which was located dangerously close to their music section.

While my wife and my two daughters were "oohing" and "aahing" down the Barbie aisle together, I took my son and quickly cruised through the music section, intent on purchasing nothing - ain't that always the case?

Like a moth drawn to a flame, I found their newly installed Christmas music section. While I thumbed through the CDs, my son thumbed through a section as well.

Suddenly, I heard him cry "SPONGEBOB! FAIRLY ODDPARENTS!" I immediately thought he was looking at the toy section across the aisle.

"DAD! LOOK! IT'S A NICK HOLIDAY!" This was screamed so loud that people as far away as Egypt were calling in and asking us to keep that kid quiet.

My son thrust the CD you see before you into my hands and immediately ran back across the aisle to tell his sisters and my wife who was sure to kill me. The feeling in my arm still hasn't returned where she slugged me after I laid the CD onto the cashier's belt.

When I was a kid, cable didn't exist. Some of you may be shocked at that statement. Those of us over 35 can remember when there were only four channels on our supersized 28" TV screen with the bunny ear antennas.

Thank goodness for PBS. They began broadcasting children's programming aimed towards us: Sesame Street, Zoom, and The Electric Company. What a way to grow up!

Today, we have cable and satellite TV services. Spin the dial and you'll find around 15 kid networks out there. Case in point: our satellite dish just started offering BabyFirst TV, the first 24/7 channel devoted to babies six months to three years old!

Nickelodeon (<-- we have that bookmarked on our computer!) began broadcasting in 1979 and made a name for itself in the mid-1980s by featuring programming for kids that often featured green slime being poured onto something or someone. Around 1986, they began their successful Nick At Nite programming, showcasing classic sitcoms and TV shows from the past. This proved so successful that a whole new channel was created for programming of this ilk and it was named... you guessed it... TVLand.

At the beginning of the 1990s, Nick forever changed cartoons when they began airing NickToons such as "Rugrats", and the immortal "Ren & Stimpy Show". Happy happy, joy joy, happy happy, joy joy... Adolescent scatological humor and double entendres finally found its way into cartoons. This led to many other kid appealing cartoons such as "Doug", "Hey Arnold", "Rocko's Modern Life", and "Blue's Clues".

Around the time my son was born in 1999, Nick began broadcasting a particularly unusual character hailing from the mythical town of Bikini Bottom. We watched and we were hooked on SpongeBob. Shortly thereafter, "The Fairly OddParents" became another favorite as well as "Dora The Explorer", "Go Diego Go", and the newest favorite in our household "The Backyardigans".

This CD released last year (how did I miss this one?) takes all the Christmas related songs sung on various Nick shows into one handy compilation. From the very first track - "The Very First Christmas" by the cast of "SpongeBob SquarePants", you're taken on a fun ride through the whole lineup of cartoons.

My personal favorite is "Christmas Everyday" by the cast of "The Fairly OddParents", a fun tune that debates a question I ask myself frequently.

As for the rest of the songs, I can't tell you much... my kids grabbed the disc out of my hands last night and I haven't gotten it back yet. I suspect I'll be hearing it around bed time as my kids drift off into dreamland.

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


Monday, October 09, 2006

Ontario Lottery Corporation - Santa Claus Is Canadian

Shocking, isn't it? Bet you didn't know that St. Nick's real name is St. Canuck. Turns out that Santa is a fan of Hockey Night in Canada. Santa even has Red Green on retainer as "advisor" to all the elves at his workshop.

Well, maybe.

My last yuleblog entry came to you from the Oregon State Lottery from last year. This charming album title comes to us from the Ontario Lottery Corporation circa 1981. Sense a pattern forming?

My good Canadian buddy Jeff at Jeffco Productions decided to offer this album at his website where you can STILL download this album for your own listening pleasure.

The Oregon lottery had five tracks to offer - "Santa Claus Is Canadian" is a full album with thirteen original tracks all quite lush and well produced - what you'd expect from a big lottery corporation.

Several of the tracks are instrumentals ("Fanfare For Christmas", "Country Christmas", "Christmas Samba") and hold up very nicely. I imagine these tracks were used in their lottery commercials while an announcer asks you to give the gift of gambling by buying someone special lottery tickets.

The vocal tracks are a bit overblown (sometimes evoking chuckles). My favorite track has to be "Christmas Pictures" begins with a man reminiscing about Christmas pasts. This leads us into a community sing with such lyrics as:

"After dinner, bellies full. Top buttons open wide. A magic moment touches every heart down deep inside."

Draw your own conclusions (I'm thinking I'll skip dinner).

As I'm typing these words, I'm listening to the album and I've reached the track called "Christmas Is For Children". A three minute track with a woman singer singing very nicely about how Christmas and kids go well. Suddenly around the two minute mark, she does her best to bring it home and begins her big finish - stand back and give her room!

Overall, the whole album gave me the feeling I was watching all the old Christmas variety specials of my youth - the images of winter sweater clad, blonde hair, blue eyed singers around the fire decking the tree and wrapping presents in the background while Bing and his family got center stage for the solos. Every move choreographed to perfection, every musical note sung to perfection.

Do yourself a favor. Download this album and take a musical trip down your own memory lane. It's quite fun!

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


Friday, October 06, 2006

Spirit Of Fruitcake Volume Four (Asche & Spencer)

After a five week layoff, it's back to the reviews. The stack beside my computer monitor isn't as large as this but it still has enough cool stuff to look over.

Figuring out which new Christmas CD in my collection would be the first to review was the main problem. However, when I discovered this little crumb a few days ago, I knew it'd be the perfect CD to begin with.

A little backstory though.

On March 16 of this year, I reviewed a homemade Christmas compilation sent to me. I did a track by track review and the very last track was:

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

Last week, while reviewing this blog for possible selections for my annual Christmas CD, I looked at this yuleblog entry once again and reclicked on the link explaining the story.

It seems that an advertising company named Borders Perrin Norrander were hired by the Oregon State Lottery to come up with a clever ad campaign for their seasonal scratch-off game "Fruitcake Cash". 

BPN decided with a spoof on late-night infomercials with a Ronco feel to them, asking you to buy an album of fruitcake related songs entitled "The Spirit Of Fruitcake Volume Four". Some of these titles included "The Holidays Ain't Nothing Without My Fruitcake" and that lost 80s hit "What's That Fruitcake Doing Under My Tree?"

BPN contracted Asche & Spencer, an up-and-coming commercial production company, for creating the actual music. They have done spots for MTV, Nissan, Toyota, Saturn, Dunkin Donuts, Iomega, and HBO. In addition, A & S have composed film scores for four major movies, including "Monster's Ball" which gave Halle Berry her Oscar for Best Actress.

While I was visiting this link to read the story, I noticed the words "FRUITCAKE CASH" highlighted. I clicked and was taken to a website where you can download all FIVE fruitcake songs!

Each one of these spots are quite hilarious and cleverly captures the spirit and feel of the music genres they're spoofing. My favorite still remains "Merry Christmas Fruitcake" although the lost 80s hit is gaining strength here. Happy downloading and listening!

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


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Yuleblog Comments Pt. 1

Before I begin reviewing new additions to my Christmas CD collection, I want to reach into the mailbag to answer some comments and/or questions left for me here during my five week absence from the yuleblog desk.


Back on September 18, 2006, a blogger named Merry left a comment for me at this yuleblog entry:

"Many (very many) years ago I brought the Surprises from . . . Ralph Hunter Christmas album to school for use in a dance recital music selection process (after Mom told me not to). Short story - it was taken from my locker and I have been in a very big doghouse ever since, as it was the family favorite. How can I get a copy (any format)?"

Merry, I'm sorry your album was pinched. That would definitely be an album to have (can you hear the eBay gods a-calling?). At least the thief in question had good taste in Christmas music. My friend Ernie originally offered the album at his blog almost a year ago. He's a very good fellow so you could ask him for a copy. If not, see the new PO Box info below.


Back on September 23, 2006, a blogger named Sean Carter left a comment for me here:

"Loved the sight of these antique pieces. Hardly get any of those nowadays. Good luck on your Annual CD! Check out some cool stuffs at this amazing Christmas Blog"

Sean, the words in bold contained a link that didn't work for me. However, I checked out your profile which shows three blogs under your supervision: Halloween For All, Thanksgiving For All, and Christmas For All. Here I am with just one holiday blog, you own and maintain THREE holiday blogs! One day, I'll stop by to borrow a cup of holiday spirit when my supply runs low. Thanks for sending me the link!


Back on September 29, 2006, a blogger named Lowlights left a comment over at this place:

"Poor Eileen Barton passed away in 2006 - she was about 81 years old. A CD of her recordings just came out, on the Jasmine label. I got to interview her a couple of times in 2005 for the liner notes; she was a real hoot, and a lovely gal/woman."

Lowlights, thanks for the update! Eileen had an amazing voice and it was well featured on the "Merry Christmas From (Coral)" album. Looks like I'll have to add that Jasmine CD to my wish list.


The 2006 Christmas season is fast approaching. Before you know it, dozens (if not hundreds) of Christmas CDs will be flying around not only from just me but from everywhere.

In addition to this, I will be reviewing selected new releases of Christmas CDs over at FaLaLaLaLa.com this upcoming season. If someone decides to send FLLLL.com a promo copy of their new Christmas CD (and any FREE promos that the major record company reps that are reading this decide to send our way), I'll gladly review any and all takers.

With that in mind, I decided to rent some space from the US Government over at my local post office.

Feel free to send me:

  • Christmas CDs released for the 2006 holiday season
  • Christmas CDs in general
  • Annual homemade Christmas compilations (I'll devote a month to reviewing them all)
  • Christmas cards
  • Any Christmas Seals album or 45
  • Rare Christmas ads or vintage artwork
  • Your favorite Christmas samples (Simpsons Christmas sound bites, old Christmas radio jingles)

Here is the address:


Any and all submissions will be handled with care. Special instructions will be followed to the letter.

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


Monday, October 02, 2006

October 2006 or "YIKES! We're behind schedule!"

Dear readers of the yuleblog,

As you can tell, one month wasn't long enough for me
to complete my annual Christmas CD.

I'm almost done.

Check back soon, k?