Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mae West - Wild Christmas

Everyone remembers their first time.

My first time was with Mae West.

It's not as shocking as you think, dirty minded people.

Last year, this was the very first full Christmas album I recorded, transferred, and offered as sharity anywhere.
This is what my description of the album read as posted at FaLaLaLaLa:

In 1966, Mae West was on a roll! Her earlier album release that year was "Way Out West", a minor hit on college campuses that featured songs like "When A Man Loves A Woman", "Shakin' All Over", and two Beatle covers (everyone was covering the Beatles in '66).

For more info on that album, click here:

Mae West - Way Out West

Quick to act before the momentum ran out, Mae went into the recording studio again to record this album. They probably rushed the recordings in order to get it out on time for Christmas (maybe why there's only eight songs on the album) but she gives each tune the FULL Mae West treatment.

This features 7 Christmas songs and the obligatory Beatle cover (With Love From Me To You).

In later years, this album was re-released under the title "Mae In December" (does anyone know what label it was released on?) and you can find copies of both occasionally on eBay and at MusicStack.

This copy was found in VG to EX condition via eBay and was transferred / restored / encoded using SonicFoundry Sound Forge 4.0.

When I offered this last year (and the Ken Griffin record I referred to in today's earlier yuleblog entry), I actually enjoyed scouring websites via Google and trying to find out info on Christmas releases. It was these two records that planted the seed that inspired me to start up the yuleblog.

UPDATE:  This album is now available for purchase elsewhere as a 2-for-1 Canadian import CD.  Along with West's holiday offering comes "The Fabulous Mae West", a 1970 album that features Mae singing 11 tunes in her own unique way. 

Sadly, this means this album is no longer available to download here.


Ken Griffin - Christmas Organ

Last year at FaLaLaLaLa, I began my career in Christmas sharity. One of these shares was a 45 single of "Winter Wonderland" and "Up On The Housetop" by Ken Griffin that I had just acquired from my in-laws record collection.

If you look at the Rondo label of "Winter Wonderland", the credited songwriter is Irving Berlin! Fact checking wasn't a huge priority in the music industry back in the 1950s obviously.

When I typed out the description for that record, I didn't know who Ken Griffin was. I did some Google searches for background information and the like. At the time, I stated that Ken released two Christmas albums:

+ Christmas Organ And Chimes (Rondo-Lette A-40), 1950/1951
+ The Organ Plays At Christmas (Columbia CL-692), 1959

Some new research informs us that Griffin did indeed release a Christmas album entitled "Merry Christmas (Organ And Chimes)" (Rondo RLP-10) in 1951. It was a 10" LP that I haven't found... yet!

This Rondo website claims that Eric Silver was the actual credited artist on the "Christmas Organ And Chimes" (Rondo-Lette A-40) released in 1958. The album you are looking at in Rondo-Lette A-38 and was released in 1959 - the same year as the Columbia release listed above.

I don't understand it either.

Want more confusion? One half of the tracks on this album are simply Ken Griffin playing Christmas tunes on the organ, the other half is INDEED organ and chimes! I personally enjoy the solo organ tracks on this album - it places you at a 1940s skating rink at Christmas time when you listen. Considering Griffin got his start playing at roller rinks probably didn't hurt either!

Lace up your skates and take a lap:

Ken Griffin - Christmas Organ

Happy listening... skating... whatever!


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Liberace - 1954 Christmas Greetings Flexi (w brother George)

Yesterday, two Christmas flexis were offered by members of FaLaLaLaLa in their Forums section.

FLLLL member Shemp gave us the first paper record at 78 RPM. "General Motors Songs of Christmas" is a two tracked flexi that features the "General Motors Chorus" singing Christmas favorites. Do you think GM pulled some of these singers off the line to record this?

This prompted FLLLL member PDMan to comment that he had a Lawrence Welk Christmas flexi.

After some urging (and ah-share, and ah-share), he was gracious enough to post "Christmas Music For Your Holiday Pleasure", compliments of your local Dodge dealer.

Back in 1958, if you test drove a new Dodge, you were handed this flexi with Welk introducing the "luvely" Lennon Sisters singing "Merry Christmas From Our House To Your House."

All of this communal sharing touched me deeply (although some think I'm touched in the head already). So I dug deep into my stacks of 33s and 45s and found the one and only flexi in my entire record collection.

In the early 1950s while at the height of his popularity, Liberace recorded several of these Christmas flexis in different years and sent them to fan club members in good standing.

This flexi was one of the very first items I won on eBay many moons ago (paid around $20). Since then, I've only seen one other Liberace Christmas flexi on eBay - a 1952 version that sold for nearly $70 back in 2004.

The recording is short - it clocks in around 1:13. You'll hear Liberace personally thank you for buying his records, attending his concerts, and coercing his brother George to actually speak (a very rare occurrence). You'll either get the warm fuzzies or feel mild nausea; two feelings closely associated with Christmas.

Test out your emotional response here:

Liberace - 1954 Christmas Greetings Flexi (w brother George)

And if you can't get enough Liberace Christmas (and really, who can't?), here is an excerpt from his infamous 1954 Christmas Special:

Happy listening...


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Will Glahe & His Orchestra - Christmas Greetings From Germany

On October 18th, I posted a yuleblog entry that was written entirely in German because I had downloaded an album from my friend Jeff's website that was entirely in German!

I acquired this album from a relative of my wife who had an amazing assortment of Christmas music.

This album features a children's choir singing traditional carols in German backed by Will Glahe and His Orchestra. Glahe also gets his fair share of instrumentals as well.

Not much is known about Glahe. Google searches have pointed to a lot of his records across cyberspace as well as the usual sites that attach onto a musician's name and declare you can find "Will Glahe Ringtones" or "Will Glahe Lyrics".

How does one get lyrics off of instrumentals?

This album has tracks to accommodate anyone even if you're not feeling very Bavarian. Just to hear the kiddie chorus sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" in Deutsch is worth the price of admission alone... wait, there IS no admission!

This album was in excellent shape and was one of the more cleaner rips I had this year:

Will Glahe & His Orchestra - Christmas Greetings From Germany

Glückliches Hören... oops, I promised no German! Happy listening...


Monday, November 27, 2006

Bobby Vinton - Christmas Promo EP

On January 2, 2006, a FaLaLaLaLa member named Elaine Zap posted this in the Members Share section of the forums:

"In 1963, Bobby Vinton put out an EP called "The Four Songs of Christmas". Three of the four songs were repeated on other complilations, but "The Christmas Song... (the chestnuts roasting on an open fire song)" never seemed to show up anywhere else.

"I'd really love to have it if someone could post it for me (provided it's not still available somewhere). It wouldn't surprise me if it wasn't available, though, because I can barely find mention of it even when I Google it.

After searching in the usual places (eBay, GEMM, Musicstack), I concluded this was indeed a dead end.

One morning this past August, I clicked open my e-mail account and found this little gem on eBay (where else?)  I clicked, I paid, I won it!

I do own Bobby Vinton's "A Very Merry Christmas" which can usually be found on eBay selling for $50 where his version of "White Christmas" can be found. On Vinton's "Great Songs Of Christmas" CD, "Silver Bells" can be found. "Kissin' Christmas: The Bobby Vinton Christmas Album" contains none of the four songs listed here.

Elaine, I believe you are right... this promo 45 (and EP I'm still looking for) is the only place in the world where you can find Bobby Vinton singing "The Christmas Song"!

And through my searches, it also contains the only version of "O Holy Night" Vinton ever recorded!

I lucked out! What better way to share my good fortune than to share my good luck with you:

Bobby Vinton - Christmas Promo EP

Happy listening...


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Jimmy Dean - Jimmy Dean's Christmas Card

A lot of searches through endless stacks of Christmas vinyl turned up this little gem that was originally released at Christmas, 1965.

At first, I thought that this was another album marked for my "CD Available" pile. According to all my Google searches and checks, this album was released once on CD back in 1995, has been long out of print, and is much sought after by collectors throughout cyberspace.


Jimmy Dean was always a shrewd businessman. This was a man who once employed Roy Clark (of "Hee Haw" fame) and fired him for being constantly tardy!

Dean had a long recording career throughout the 1950s and 1960s - spawning his only #1 hit "Big Bad John in 1961 - and had not one but TWO TV variety shows named after him (the latter being the more successful one from 1963-1966).

This album was released at the very height of his popularity and it's a wonderful Christmas album. I never realized before what a melodious voice JD possessed - there are some tunes in here that are drop dead good! If you're looking for a change in pace, I would recommend this one.

That's my opinion. Let me know what you think:

Jimmy Dean - Jimmy Dean's Christmas Card

Happy listening...


Saturday, November 25, 2006

CLM Industries - Christmas 1961 - SINGLE

This little gem was found on eBay earlier this year. At first, I didn't know anything about it because the auction description was vague at best but the scan of the label is what caught my attention.

I placed a bid and did a Google on "CLM Industries". I scrolled down on the first page of results and it came back:

CLM Industries - Maker of Toronto and Chicago warning sirens during the Cold War. One was most famously featured in the 1980 film "The Blues Brothers" used as a vehicle mounted PA system.

So this record had that going for it.

The eBay auction ended without a whimper and several days later I received the record.

The flip side was "The Sounds of Christmas" - reprinted from their 1959 Christmas brochure. It sounded very familiar and I began wondering why it did.

Earlier this month, our neighbor Lee at his blog posted six Line Material 45s released through the years. And those record label scans he posted looked awfully familiar. That fact was confirmed when Brainwerk posted this tidbit at his blog - almost the same exact label!

C is for Canada. L is for Line. M is for Material. I never claimed to be the sharpest tool in the shed and this proves it folks!

So for all you Line Material completists out there, here is my (unknowing at first) contribution to a subgenre that keeps expanding:

CLM Industries - Christmas 1961 - SINGLE

Happy listening...


Friday, November 24, 2006

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

One of the very first letters that came to my PO box was from Denise of South Charleston, West Virginia. She writes:

"I noticed that your blog had a review and an option to download the album / music in July, 2006. I have been looking for this recording off and on for many years".

Yes and no. I did indeed review a copy of Pete Fountain's "'Candy Clarinet': Merry Christmas From" but never offered it as a download. That job had already been filled by my good friend Ernie when he offered this album at his blog last December.


Shortly after this review was posted, Ernie sent me a link to an eBay auction that was offering a STEREO copy of the Fountain album that he wanted as an upgrade.

Then it hit me - I already had a copy of the stereo version somewhere in the stacks of LPs I owned! After some shuffling, I did indeed find it! I offered to send it to Ernie so he could transfer it over and share it as an upgrade at his blog. Ernie - gracious as always - declined my offer, stating he had way to much stuff lined up already and encouraged me to transfer it over myself.

If I needed anymore convincing, yesterday afternoon we received a comment from John here at the yuleblog:

"I am looking for Pete Fountain's Christmas Album.
Cannot locate it,any help appreciated - Candy Clarinet"

I'm beginning to wonder if someone played this and found a backward masking - the whole Santa - Satan issue confirmed! Perhaps it will tell us the secret of life, where Jimmy Hoffa is buried, or who will win Super Bowl XLI next February.

So before anyone else asks, here is my first offering for the 2006 downloading season:

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

Happy listening...


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

My son Alex (L) played Myles Standish in his kindergarten school play
on November 22, 2005.

My oldest daughter Maggie (R) played Sarah Alden
for her kindergarten school play
on November 21, 2006.

Please forgive the parental pride.

To one and all -
Have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Just a mouse click away...

On Monday and Tuesday, I reviewed CDs in which I originally found the LP album first, then the CDs. I also mentioned in one of the yuleblog entries:

"I still could have gone ahead with my plans and shared this album out. But if it's available elsewhere on CD, I won't. It's not fair to the artists involved and my conscious remains clear. End of story."

With that in mind, I now present some albums in my collection that I was all set to transfer, clean up, and present as gifts for the 2006 downloading season but won't:

goodman, al - A

Al Goodman & His Orchestra - 1000 Strings At Christmas

This one comes to us from the good folks at Premier Albums (356 W 40th St, NY, NY). Premier also bought us the fabulous Woody The Woodchuck album that's been bandied about through cyberspace.

As you can see, the cover is festive, gay, and bright - in excellent shape. The record is a totally different story. A football team must have used this album to clean their cleats. The scratches were deep (some were canyonesque) and after spending two days to record one 45 second segment of track number one, I threw in the towel.

If anyone has a clean copy, let us know!


Tennessee Ernie Ford - The Star Carol

You've probably seen this one at your local Goodwill store many times over. This was released on CD back in 1990 and isn't available anymore, anywhere. So technically, it's a borderline call.

However, Bongo at BongoBells released this at his blog a few weeks ago. That solves that.


Dean Martin - Holiday Cheer

It seems like every year, there's a new Christmas album from Drunky. This year's entry is "Christmas With Dino".

This 1965 album was definitely a repackage job from Capitol - only six Christmas songs (all found on the CD linked above) rounded out by five non holiday songs. Not a real festive cover either (no offense Dean).

lennon sisters

The Lennon Sisters - Christmas With

I nearly cried when I found this one - I thought for sure this was a lock to share. Bought at a Goodwill store for 28 cents (gotta love those 50% off days!), the album is in fair condition (the back cover would have needed a long time in the photo shop).

One click of the mouse pointed me to the official store of the Lennon Sisters where you can purchase this very album on CD. Adding this one to my wish list!


Boots Randolph - Boots And Stockings

This came to me from one of my wife's relatives. She knew I was a Christmas album nut and she had a large stack of albums in her cellar she wanted gone. This one's in near mint condition also.

CDs were available for a time on but it seems they all vanished. Hmmmm... what to do, what to do...

ames brothers

The Ames Brothers - There'll Always Be A Christmas

There's a boatload of Ames Brothers Christmas music available everywhere. So when I found this sandwiched between Dean Martin and a German Christmas album (more on that later), I assumed this one was a few mouse clicks away.

Turns out I was right. And they even have the "Living Stereo" cover as well!


The Kingston Trio - The Last Month Of The Year

Seems I owe an older brother an apology for all the times I slugged him at Christmas when he gave me a wet willie. This album cover proves his theory that wet willies in the ear was (is) a holiday tradition.

I knew this one was available for purchase online the minute I saw it.


Lawrence Welk - Merry Christmas From

If I had a nickel every time this one was played in my childhood home during Christmas... my mother kept real good care of her records - the shrink wrap on this is the original. So is the S.S. Kresge sale sticker of $3.89!

If I had a nickel for every Lawrence Welk CD I've seen in the past several years... Anyone have an exact count of Christmas CDs Welk has released? Chances are you can find all of these songs on other compilations.

arnold, eddy - A

Eddy Arnold - Christmas With

Another one of my mother's albums. She didn't play this one too much but I wish she did. The constant exposure to Welk and company had a weird effect on my tastes in music - go figure!

Watch out for this one on eBay... prices tend to go a little high. Your best bet is to get a good used copy from Amazon.


Billy Vaughn & His Orchestra - Christmas Carols

I think this was offered at one time by someone over at FaLaLaLaLa. When I picked this up for 25 cents, it struck me as awfully familiar. My friend Jeff sent me a copy of this Canadian import so I thought this one was readily available.

But I can't seem to find a CD for purchase anywhere. Hmmm...

THIS JUST IN: a copy of "White Christmas" by the Mike Sammes Singers in near mint condition! Revisited my local Salvation Army and found it sitting in a vintage 1960s wire display rack. Total cost: $1.06.

This I already had thanks to the King Of Jingaling over at FaLaLaLaLa. It was one of his featured albums a year or two ago (and it's his all-time favorite Christmas album!).

So that's all the albums in my "CD Available" pile. Will I transfer these over one day? Maybe.

But I won't be offering them if they're just a mouse click away...


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Jeffco Productions Podcasts now available!

Earlier this year, I reviewed a bunch of podcasts that my good friend Jeff of Jeffco Productions posted at his web site late last year.

He is once again offering these brilliant gems for a limited time!
Point your cursor at this little link and zap 'em before they disappear!

Happy listening...


Bert Kaempfert & His Orchestra - Christmas Wonderland

Since the beginning of November, I've probably purchased around ten new Christmas CDs and received several others from interested parties at my PO Box.

Most of these CDs won't be reviewed until 2007 - between my contributions over at, my schedule of releases here at the yuleblog, and my family's accelerating appointment schedule during December and the holidays, I won't have the time necessary to devote to my reviews / history lessons!

So this is it - THE final addition to my Christmas music collection in this calendar year here at the yuleblog.

Are you ready for an interesting story?

In the spring of this year, I discovered a thrift store in the dodgy end of my hometown of Fort Wayne. On their second floor next to the slightly used typewriters and other electronics was a 10 foot long by 5 foot high rack of albums!

I thought I had died and went to heaven. It took me four different visits over a two week period to go through every single album and discovered the precious black gold vinyl that exist in the stacks. On one of the first visits, I found this gem:

kaempfert - mono

I was pretty stoked; a fair percentage of the Christmas albums I found were of the budget album / Firestone Presents variety. There were a few big name albums that I just left out in plain view so others could buy them... just checking to see if you were paying attention!

The mono cover was in good shape and the record had a few scratches but no gouges - I wasn't complaining for 25 cents. It was one of the catches of the day.

On the very last visit, I found this:

kaempfert - stereo

GREAT JUMPIN' ICEBERGS! First the mono, then the stereo copy! The covers and album were in extremely good condition as well. It was the perfect way to close out my visits to that store. As I drove home, I was still shaking my head in disbelief over my good fortune.

Then it hit me - someone's playing with me. Why would there be two ripe copies of this album found back to back in such short time? When I got home, the Internet confirmed it.

It was readily available for sale online. I stuffed these copies of the album in a pile marked "CD Available" and ordered the CD used as a birthday gift for myself in June.

Almost one month passed before I noticed that the order wasn't filled. A quick e-mail to the vendor selling the used copy told me it was "processing" the order. I bid my time. I waited. Another month passed.

At the beginning of August, I received another e-mail from the vendor stating "the order couldn't be filled" and I could cash it out and order another CD. By now, most people would cash in their chips and move on. Not me.

I knew that most Christmas CDs weren't available to stores and vendors until the record companies began releasing Christmas music around the beginning of October. Again I bid my time.

My patience paid off. In the middle of October, a shipping confirmation e-mail came my way. All this for Bert Kaempfert? You bet!

Kaempfert was a talented musician whose compositions include "Danke Schoen" (made famous by Wayne Newton), "Spanish Eyes" (a #1 hit for Al Martino), and "Strangers In The Night" (scooby dooby doo Frankie!). His many instrumental albums sold throughout from the 50s to the 70s and ranked right up there with Ray Conniff and Percy Faith.

Unlike many musicians of his era, Bert actually worked with members of the rock and roll set. He contributed several songs to the soundtrack of "G.I. Blues" for Elvis Presley no less and gave four guys from Liverpool a major push in their bid to become successful (even though he dubbed the Beatles "The Beat Brothers").

This album is pretty fresh, even by today's standards. The first track is "The Little Drummer Boy", a slightly uptempo version that is extremely pleasing on the ears. Perhaps this is why this was released as the only single from the album back in its original release year of 1963.

The rest of the album is very well suited for the finger snapping set - each tune is upbeat, bright, cheerful. The standards are covered ("Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", "Winter Wonderland", "Sleigh Ride", "White Christmas") but the songs you should skip to are the Kaempfert originals. These are the tracks that make the album.

It's not surprising to discover that several of these original tracks were released as B-sides for two Christmas singles ("Jingo Jango" and "Holiday For Bells". The title track "Christmas Wonderland" was even released as an A-side two years later in 1965! Each original track has a vibrancy not easily found in Christmas music. Kaempfert does so with ease and it's a treat to listen to.

This album also holds a dear spot in my childhood memories of Christmas. One of the first visits to my grandmother's Chicago apartment was at Christmas time. As I watched out her picture window at the falling snowflakes dusting the cars and buses that sped by on Montrose Avenue, this album played softly in the background amid burning brownies on the mantel and freshly baked scented candles in the oven.

Just checking to see if you we're paying attention again. Reverse that.

One more regular yuleblog entry to go...


Monday, November 20, 2006

Al Martino - A Merry Christmas

There are exactly two discs left in my stack of CDs waiting to be reviewed - this is the first of those two.

I've held off posting it here at the yuleblog until now because it segues rather nicely into the 2006 downloading season (more on that in a while).

A scene from the movie "The Godfather":

Kay Adams: Michael, you never told me your family knew Johnny Fontane!
Michael Corleone: Oh sure, you want to meet him?
Kay: Yeah!
Michael: You know, my father helped Johnny in his career.
Kay: Really? How?
Michael: ...Let's listen to this song.
Kay: (after listening to Johnny for a while) Please, Michael. Tell me.
Michael: ...Well when Johnny was first starting out, he was signed to this contract with a big-band leader. And as his career got better and better he wanted to get out of it. Now, Johnny is my father's godson. My father went to see the bandleader, with a contract for $10,000 to let Johnny go, but the bandleader said no. So the next day, my father went to see the bandleader again, only this time with Luca Brasi. Within an hour, the bandleader signed the release, with a certified check of $1000.
Kay: How did he do that?
Michael: My father made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

If you haven't guessed by now, Al Martino is best known for his portrayal as Johnny Fontane in that epic movie. However, Al's successful recording career deserves to be known and has had some definite peaks that even Frank Sinatra - the alleged inspiration for Johnny Fontane - never had in his storied career.

Born Alfred Cini in Philadelphia in 1927, he grew up in a middle class family that owned its own construction business. By day, Al would work at construction sites and then sing in clubs and saloons by night.

A friend of the family who originally drove a truck for a living was just beginning to make a name for himself as a singer. He encouraged Martino to quit construction (like he did) and give singing a full time shot. Not bad advice from Mario Lanza!

Al made his television debut on Arthur Godfrey's "Talent Scout Show" in 1950. His winning performance on that show landed Martino a recording contract with Capitol Records. A few years later, Lanza would appear again in Al's life - unknowingly giving Al the break of a lifetime.

Lanza was scheduled to record a song but thanks to his difficult schedule, he couldn't make the date. Capitol then turned to Martino who gladly stepped in and recorded it. The song was "Here In My Heart" and it became an international smash for Martino in 1952.

How big was this song? It reached number one in America and it became the very first number one EVER on the UK Singles Chart - winning a place in the Guinness Book Of World Records subsequently (top that, ol' Blue Eyes)!

Throughout the rest of the 1950s, Martino continued to record and sold a moderate amount of albums in the United States - there was a more famous Italian singer who was dominating the charts at this time (three guesses). In the UK, he had a consecutive string of six Top Ten singles during this time and his popularity throughout Europe took a firm foothold.

This Christmas album was recorded and released in 1964 and it's a beaut. The very first song on the album is Al's signature Christmas song - "You're All I Want For Christmas". This song would get my vote for "Most Underused and Appreciated Christmas Song" of all time. It's that good!

The album contains four pop standards ("Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer", "White Christmas", "Medley: We Wish You A Merry Christmas / Silver Bells", and "I'll Be Home For Christmas". Then Martino switches gears and sing traditional carols very well ("The Little Drummer Boy", "What Child Is This?", "Silent Night", "O Holy Night", and "O Come All Ye Faithful").

Al's warm, rich voice - a cross between Perry Como and Dean Martin - makes each track come to life. Produced by longtime Sinatra producer Voyle Gilmore, this album reached the Top Ten during Christmas, 1964 - at the very height of the British Invasion.

I first became aware of Martino singing Christmas carols during the 2000 Christmas season when I heard "You're All I Want For Christmas". I began searching for his Christmas album but found it was long out of print.

Then I found this in 2003:

johnny fontane

Purchased at a garage sale for 25 cents (don't you just LOVE when that happens?), I was ecstatic! The only problem was that I didn't own a record player at the time so I threw it into my pile of records labeled "waiting to be recorded one day".

Last year, when I began sharing out Christmas albums, I discovered this album among my lost gems in the stack and couldn't wait to share it with everyone. A quick search of the Internet informs me that back in 2002, Collector's Choice decided to release this album on CD (with a bonus track of "Silver Bells" all by its lonesome).

This brings me to the point of why I held back on this CD review for some time. In the next few weeks, you're going to find hundreds of Christmas albums out there for easy pickings - yes, including a few from me. I still could have gone ahead with my plans and shared this album out.

But if it's available elsewhere on CD, I won't. It's not fair to the artists involved and my conscious remains clear. End of story. Click on this link to purchase your own copy (only $10 - a steal!).

Martino continued his recording career throughout the 1960s and 1970s - scoring a surprise number one hit in America with "Spanish Eyes" in 1966. As his recording popularity died down in the US, it only rose to greater heights in Europe.

Case in point: Martino recorded "Volare" in 1976 and it reached number 1 in both Italy and Belgium while making the top ten in Holland and Spain (try that on for size, Frankie!).

During the 1980s, his popularity waned in Europe and everyone thought that was the end of that. Not so fast. Just like Tony Bennett's rennaissance in America during the early 1990s, Al enjoyed renewed popularity at the same time in Germany and became as popular as - dare I say this? - David Hasselhoff!

To this day, Martino consistently sells out concerts and sells well in Europe. I would love to see Al get some of that popularity here in the US again. It's well deserved and long overdue - no deal with the Godfather necessary.

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


Friday, November 10, 2006

Please Stand By

I'm looking at the space formerly occupied by the stack near my computer. There are two CDs left to review before the 2006 Christmas downloading season begins. These CDs also share some special significance (alliteration aside) that will be explained after my return.

Return? What's he talking about?

There is a great deal left to do here and not much time to complete it in. I have several projects concerning this yuleblog that need to be completed. I'm also preparing to contribute heavily over at during the upcoming holiday season in many different ways.

Lastly, I have over 120 Christmas CDs for family and friends that require my attention pronto. I have pushed this back and pushed this back to devote more time to the yuleblog and I cannot delay this anymore. Over the next few days, I will attempt to get the 2006 edition burned, packaged, and ready to ship - this is priority right now.

Oh, I get it... he's taking some time off... procrastinator!

I have set aside the next week to finish all these projects. Between now and Monday, November 20th, the yuleblog will be quiet.

When I return, I hope to dazzle you and spread the yuleblog spirit everywhere with what I've planned for the remainder of the year.

Hmmm... that's sound interesting. I'll have to keep checking back!

Check back with us early and often...


Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Lost Yuleblog Entries

Back in September, I took the month off while compiling my annual Christmas CD for family & friends. In previous years, I would have to listen to every CD because I didn't keep track of the new additions into my collection. That's one of the main reasons why I began this yuleblog.

While I was working in my basement / dungeon / bachelor pad (I can dream) one September day, I came across a stack of Christmas CDs. Four releases of the 2005 holiday season, two new Christmas CDs I purchased, and one used Christmas CD that were never logged into my spreadsheet or never logged into the yuleblog!

Today, I will right this wrong and review these albums that should have been reviewed back in January of this year. To keep my feeble mind in order, I will actually use empty days in January to place these yuleblog entries in. If this stack of CDs wasn't moved to the basement, it's likely this is when I would have written them.

Between now and Wednesday, November 8th, a new link will be placed here for a lost yuleblog entry:

Special thanks go to the person or persons who inadvertently moved this stack to the basement many months ago! It was fun revisiting these Christmas CDs one more time!

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


Friday, November 03, 2006

A Bongo Trio - Three Reviews in One

Why didn't someone think of this before?

One song, one CD, many different versions?
And with Christmas songs? BONUS!

Someone did it, though. Not once, not twice, but THREE times!

This is the first of THREE CDs compiled by our friend Bongo over at his BongoBells blog. These three CDs were the very first albums I downloaded from his site and you probably can STILL download these albums if you hurry!

Twenty Little Drummer Boys - TRACK REVIEW:

1.) The Harry Simone Chorale
I use to detest this song when I was a child because I thought it was repetitive and the Rankin-Bass Christmas special sucked. I have since wised up.

2.) Cuba L.A.
Imagine sitting in a Cuban jazz bar in L.A. around Christmas. This is smooooth!

3.) Peter Wood Singers
Bongo snagged this from and you can read my yuleblog review here.

4.) RiverTribe
An electronica version? Somehow, it fits with this song nicely!

5.) Ten Point Ten
An interesting version... a Michael Bolton sound alike? And this lasts 6:46? Check please!

6.) Eric Darken
Very nice voice although the song rambles here and there. Very 1980s feel to this one!

7.) Sy Mann (from "Switched On Santa")
Four out of five physicians recommend a daily dose of MOOG. You can download this album at my buddy Jeff's website!

8.) Smokey Mountain
Played on authentic 19th century instruments, this one lasts only 1:37. A nice version all around.

9.) Arthur Lyman
A great version from the Hawaiian Island king of vibes!

10.) Take 6
Whatever happened to these guys? One of the highlights off their 1991 Christmas CD.

11.) Terry Beaumont
Xylophone? Vibes? A bouncy island beat you can dance to? Sweet!

12.) Mannheim Steamroller
Must .... reach .... the .... skip .... button .... before .... passing ....... zzzzz

13.) Jingle Cats
Cleverly uses a cat's purr to catch the feel of the "rum-pa-pum-pumms". Not as annoying as you would think!

14.) Daryl Stuermer
A soft jazz version for the first 2 minutes, then a screechy electric guitar for the next two. Whoa.

15.) The Fab Four
This Beatle soundalike group blends "Little Drummer Boy" around "Sun King" - it works fantastically!

16.) Yellowjackets
A pure jazz version of this song by a group who knows its business!

17.) Kofi
A hip-hop / reggae version of this song by a poor man's Shaggy. I can't stop laughing!

18.) White Heart
METAL! Banging my head while holding the lighter (not cell phone) over my head!

19.) Ray Stevens
Don't look Ethel... but Ray's done a pretty funny parody called "The Little Drummer Boy-Next Door"

20.) Bongolong
Our friend Bongo plays the final version a la surf guitar style! Dude! A narly way to end the CD!

This is the second of THREE CDs compiled by our friend Bongo over at his BongoBells blog. These three CDs were the very first albums I downloaded from his site and you probably can STILL download these albums if you hurry!

God Rest Ye Merry 22 Gentlemen - TRACK REVIEWS:

1.) Chick Corea
If you're a jazz fan, than look no further than this! If not, you're probably going to be confused.

2.) The Gypsy Hombres
Think of gypsy music by way of Django Reinhart. Their whole Christmas CD is like this... Great stuff!

3.) Take 6
Hmm... I don't remember this one from their album. Not bad!

4.) Viva Voce
A metal version taken from "Happy Christmas V2". Play this one at your next Christmas Headbanger's Ball!

5.) Jimmy Smith
SWEEEEETTT! One of the better versions of this song out there! I reviewed Smith's Christmas album back in January...

6.) Kenny Burrell
They finally released his Christmas album on CD? How did I miss that one? Adding this to my list...

7.) Eric Darken
WOW! This one's better than his version of "Drummer Boy". Very nice tune!

8.) The London Philharmonic Orchestra
This is definitely orchestral! And then some! Wow... Even sounds a little like an opera!

9.) The Fab Four
Mix "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" with the Beatles' "Within You, Without You"... not of one their better ones.

10.) Mannheim Steamroller
TWO SONGS IN ONE DAY??? Two more than prescribed by law! God, this is awful...

11.) Dixieland Christmas
Need I say more? This one swings!

12.) Christmas On The Border
A Santana soundalike group doing their version... Interesting, yes.

13.) Armenia
Sounds Armenian... great tango beat... I like this!

14.) The Swingle Singers
Long before Rockapella were the Swingles... The only bad thing about this song that it's 1:05! Fantastic, as always!

15.) Ramsey Lewis Trio
I never knew Ramsey recorded this one! Excellent, excellent! How many Christmas jazz albums do you own Bongo?

16.) Cuba L.A.
Another great tune from these guys... Taken from this Christmas CD I must add to my list...

17.) The Yuletide Lounge Band
This is very, VERY good. Nice vocal quality too! From a inexpensive, very underrated Christmas CD!

18.) Tairona
Crickets to begin with... then add panflute and a third world music band. Not a strong one.

19.) The Border Patrol
A Mexican flavored version. Sounds good the first time around, gets old upon repeat hearings.

20.) Stan Kenton
Not as jazzy as Stan could have gone but it's better than most of the jazz versions out there.

21.) Jethro Tull
Given the FULL Jethro Tull treatment complete with trilling flute. Around the 2 minute mark I zoned out...

22.) Bongolong
Bongo rocks the house with this classic rock version! There is no end to your talent my friend!

This is the third of THREE CDs compiled by our friend Bongo over at his BongoBells blog. These three CDs were the very first albums I downloaded from his site and you probably can STILL download these albums if you hurry!

We Three Kings of Orient Are - TRACK REVIEWS:

1.) Ten Point Ten
This 6:40 version is about 5 minutes too long... Bonus points if you can sit through the whole thing!

2.) Hadley J. Castillo
Very nicely done on the violin (backed by piano, guitar, and accordian - a Mexican combo maybe?).

3.) London Symphony Brass Ensemble
Very brassy and not dull to listen to. A good version of this song!

4.) Keith Emerson
A synthesizer virtuoso performance. Too close for Mannheim Steamroller for me...

5.) The Three Bings
What if the Doors backed Bing Crosby? Cleverly mixes "Three Kings" and "People Are Strange".

6.) Tairona
The panflute is back... Thanks to the strong drumming, I'd take this one over the last.

7.) Following Yonder Star
Strange one, this is. Not sure if its jazz, soul, or a fusion of both. Very different.

8.) Mannheim Steamroller
This one at times reminds me of "Switched On Santa". The typical Steamroller elements take over and sink the ship.

9.) Rhythms Of The World
This one sounds colonial... It goes nowhere pretty quick.

10.) Dingers
Reggae influenced alternative rock? Wow! What a change of pace! My favorite of the THREE discs so far!

11.) Cuba L.A.
Very nice slower tempo song from these guys... Hope they put out a full Christmas album at some point!

12.) The Swingle Singers
Just as its getting good, it ends (1:14)! C'mon Swingles! Stretch it out a bit...

13.) Eric Darken
Jethro Tull should take some notes from this guy on the flute. Not a bad jazz version at all.

14.) RiverTribe
This electronica version has digeridoo and sitar elements intergrated into it... Refreshing!

15.) Turning Point
A jazz version with no life that rambles on and on just like this sentence.... zzzzz.

16.) Stan Kenton
Starts off small and soft, builds to a big, bold, jazzy climax, and goes down smooth. Bravo!

17.) Richard Sussman
This guy's having too much fun playing the acoustic guitar... Wish I could say the same about listening to it.

18.) Jethro Tull
Why don't they sing anymore? It might have helped... More cowbell would have been good.

19.) Bongolong
A Chinese influenced version of this song? Bongo, this is fantastic stuff! Nicely done!

Bongo, thanks for compiling all of these. I hope you'll continue to gather different versions of songs and issue them onto CD.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Nelson Eddy - Songs For Christmas

"Ahhh, sweet mystery of life! At last I've found you!"

The song "Ah Sweet Mystery Of Life" was utilized in the 1974 movie "Young Frankenstein" at certain climatic moments in the movie (wink wink).

However, it was first introduced in the 1935 movie "Naughty Marietta" by Nelson Eddy, the gentleman on the cover of today's album.

This amazing Christmas find from 1951 was brought to us from Bongo at his BongoBells blog (say that five times fast!) and you can STILL download this album over there!

Nelson Eddy spent much of his childhood becoming a classical trained opera singer. He honed his craft by singing at recitals, theatrical productions, and churches in hopes of bigger and better things.

That came in the late 1920s when he became a principal performer with the Philadelphia Civic Opera. His introduction to opera also gave him the chance to study under many of the leading voice/opera coaches of the day.

After a successful singing stint in Los Angeles, Eddy was spotted and signed by Louis B. Mayer of MGM. His movie contract called for three months off in the year so he could continue to perform concerts and operas - one of the first movie stars to demand and get his own terms nonetheless!

It was also at MGM where Eddy was introduced to a lovely soprano starlet who worked herself up through vaudeville, Broadway musicals, and concerts and the like. Her name was Jeanette MacDonald and one of the greatest screen duos in history was born.

Nelson and Jeanette made eight films together over their long careers. In two of those films, Eddy played a Canadian Mountie in full gear singing his way through the movie and into MacDonald's arms. For a time, anyone in Mountie gear was expected to burst into song a la Eddy.

It was also around this time that Nelson began a long recording career. From 1935 to 1938, he recorded for RCA Victor and since Jeanette was also under contract with RCA, many of their screen duets were immortalized forever. After his contract expired, he signed with Columbia Records and remained with them for the next twenty years.

Eddy also constructed a home recording studio as a way of monitoring his own vocal performance. Not only did he study his singing, but he also experimented with multi-tracking by recording three part harmony (soprano, tenor, baritone). This was prominently featured when Eddy lent his voice to a singing whale in the Walt Disney film "Make Mine Music" back in 1946.

This album (with some help from Paul Weston & The Pied Pipers) is your basic Christmas album - chorus, orchestra, and arrangements all perfectly balanced with the strong baritone of Nelson right out front.

In fact, it's very basic.

Eddy's voice is masterful and shines throughout but I get the feeling this was recorded in a rush. For example, "O Holy Night" is a song designed to test even the most experienced singer with emotion and vocal range. Eddy doesn't even break a sweat!

Every song is done at a brisk pace which doesn't allow for much passion and emotion. It might have helped if Eddy recorded some contemporary songs ("White Christmas" is the only one written in the 20th century on this album) and trimmed down the standard carols. This is probably why the album sounds so blase.

Nelson continued his film, recording, and concert career throughout World War II (he toured extensively with the USO through North Africa after its liberation in 1943) and beyond. He also dabbled on radio and television, even reuniting with Jeanette MacDonald occasionally on a TV show or album.

In 1953, Eddy formed a nightclub act, not knowing if the risky career move would pan out. He chose a young singer named Gale Sherwood for his partner and hit the road. It worked well. Nelson and Gale continued singing together for the next fourteen years!

On March 5, 1967, Nelson and Gale were performing at the Sans Souci Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida when he was stricken onstage in mid-performance by a cerebral hemorrage and died the next day. He was not buried in a Canadian Mounted Police uniform (lousy urban legend).

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