Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day, 2007

December 25th has finally arrived!

Thanks for taking time out of your holiday to visit us at the yuleblog - especially to all of our first time visitors who are looking in today!

Earlier this morning, I woke up, got dressed quickly, and ran quietly downstairs past the bedrooms of my kids. I wasn't heading to see if Santa came and left presents under the tree. I ran past the tree, past the fireplace where the stockings were hung and bulging with flair, and past the fridge (a major accomplishment for me in the AM).

I headed outdoors like a kid running to see what was under the Christmas tree. I braved the Christmas cold to retrieve my copy of the Journal-Gazette, the morning newspaper of my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Emma Downs has been writing for the newspaper for several years. Last week, she called me about my annual Christmas CDs and my Christmas music obsession after receiving a copy of my annual Christmas CD.

A phone interview was arranged, I supplied several pictures from my music collection, and the story was published today - of all days! What a Christmas present!

The story takes up the entire front page of their features section! Here's the online link to the article:


As I sit here basking in the glow of my computer monitor and the Christmas tree lights, only three words can describe how I feel right now:


In case you were wondering - The shelves are divided in three sections:
The left section is my CD collection.
The middle section music is ALL my Christmas CDs.
The right section is my wife's CD collection
and knickknacks that will be evicted in the near future.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year
to everyone reading,

Rob Martinez
aka CaptainOT

Friday, December 21, 2007

We Two Kings Of Orient Are

Over the past week and a half, I have been helping my 2nd grade son Alex prepare for his stage debut. He won a choice role in a school production that featured him as one of the Three Kings who refuses to get on a "lumpy old camel".

When I first sat down with him last week, I was surprised to discover that most of his dialogue was burned into his memory. We worked on a few lines, worked a couple of gestures, and voila! A star was born.

My first grade daughter Maggie was also in the play - as a member of the chorus. She sang songs to the both of us and it was a genuine kick to hear both of them sing Christmas songs around the house.

It all came down to last night when they took the stage for the first time:

The play began at 6:30 PM but my family and I arrived at 5:45 to secure good seats. When we arrived, we had found squatters already taking up much of the first several rows of the gym. By 6:15, it looked like the deck of the Titanic with people scrambling around for any available seat.

Not to be outdone, my three year old daughter Josie wanted to get into the act. So this is why this picture is here but come on, ain't she cute? Her personality is really sharpening into focus as she is maturing into a beautiful little girl (with flashes of hellcat).

At 6:30 PM, the chorus were led into the gym. This prompted every mom, dad, grandmother, cousin, niece, nephew, and teacher to grab their digital cameras and cell phone cameras. Hollywood premieres seldom have this many pictures taken.

Ten minutes later, the featured performers were walked into the gym - this was the first time I saw Alex's finished costume:

Props to Jenny Andorfer and Monica Zwick - the costumers of the play! I looked over at my mother-in-law and she had tears in her eyes. Alex even walked regal. I was thanking the patron saint of theater for the great seats.

The play began with some original songs about shooting stars. Four other kids dressed as shooting stars took the stage and asked "General Comet Powell" about the story of the Nativity. Through song and corny jokes, the greatest story ever told was delivered.

Throughout the play, Maggie was stationed at the back of one section of kids (it helps being a tall kid). Occasionally we made eye contact and she flashed her winning smile and the small finger wave. As for the other kids, look at the kid directly in front of Maggie - pictures do say 1000 words.

Alex's point in the play finally came and he delivered his lines perfectly and humorously. He refuses to cross the desert via camel and a song is sung by the entire cast demanding him to "get on that camel":

I'm not sure what is funnier - the chorus of shooting stars pointing toward the camel, one of the three kings trying to push Alex onto the camel, or Alex standing firm with arms outstretched and refusing to ride. Needless to say, I was one of the people in the audience leading the guffaws.

After the camel complains about the "carry-on" baggage, the Third King finally relents and decides to get aboard the camel. "One lump or two?" asks the camel. Blackout. Scene change. Much applause.

To paraphrase Linus from "A Charlie Brown Christmas", this is what Christmas is all about.

One more shopping weekend to go. A hundred presents need to be wrapped at our household (and yours too probably). People will be driving everywhere this weekend - stay safe.

There is a MAJOR surprise coming on Christmas Day here at the yuleblog. No fair peeking under the tree on this one! Stay tuned...


Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Christmas Yuleblog Sampler - 2007

On Christmas Day last year, I posted my very first yuleblog sampler - a "best of" compilation from all of my shares of the previous year. Nothing new was added, a fancy cover & booklet was thrown in, and that was that.

Thanks to my overextended schedule of the last several months, I wasn't able to complete what I wanted to do for this season. Many albums I've obtained over the past year are sitting inside a box waiting to be touched. Several of these albums have been already shared out across the sharity network:

Arthur Godfrey - Christmas With
Gary Mann - Christmas With
Seeburg - The Sound & Color Of Christmas
Ethel Smith - Christmas Music
Santa's Helpers - All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth
Swing Along With Santa's Snowmen
Susie & Allie - Christmas With

I've decided to sample the albums that you and I didn't get to hear. These are selections from full albums that I hope to share at some point down the road (unless someone beats me to it - Ernie's the 5:2 favorite right now).

These won't be included in a zip file - I don't have the time to upload that big of a creature. Instead, these will be available as individual tracks so you can pick and choose the ones you want.

I also have a front and back cover ready but no booklet. If someone wants to whip up a booklet using this picture, post a link in the comments section so everyone can get a copy.

Your 2007 Christmas Yuleblog Sampler:

Track 1 - Klara Solen Pa Himmelen Den Lyser

Ake Jelving - Christmas In Sweden
Capitol Records - T 10079 - 195?

Capitol Records issued many of these "Christmas In..." albums - this is one of three I had hoped to share. Original 1950s pressing according to Goldmine!

Track 2 - Jingle Bell Rock

Jim Baker - A Steel-Guitar Christmas
Power Pak Records / Gusto - PO-506 - 1974/1975

This was one of three Power Pak / Gusto Christmas records I had hoped to share.

Track 3 - The Carolers (Vocal)

The Sing 'N' Do Company - Christmas Windows
Sing 'N' Do Inc - 033 - 19??

A full holiday program for your school! Side one is the vocals, side two is instrumental so your kids can sing!

Track 4 - The Wise Men Who Followed The Christmas Star

The Kid's Bible Club - At Christmastime
Sword Records - S-1409-LP - 196?

Indiana leads the nation in religious albums sent to the vinyl dustbin - a mix of Bible stories & songs.

Track 5 - White Christmas

Patricia Wilde - Christmas Carols In Percussion
Acorn Records - Acorn 692 - 19??

The cover is striking but this is your typical budget Christmas organ & chimes LP. Acorn Records?

Track 6 - Good King Wenceslas

Longstreth & Escosa - Christmas With
Carriage Records - CRLP-5031 - 19??

This one comes from Fort Wayne - hometown to one of the duelling harpists & recorded here as well!

Track 7 - O Holy Night

Merrill Womach - Sings Christmas Carols
Melodies Divine - LP 6801 - 1968

A Christian artist who survived a fiery plane crash. Ernie's gonna share this one soon - check out Merrill's MySpace page!

Track 8 - Rock Around The Christmas Tree

Charles & Baker - Nashville Harmonica At Christmas Time
Power Pak Records / Gusto - PO-502 - 1974/1975

This was one of three Power Pak / Gusto Christmas records I had hoped to share.

Track 9 - Tiha Noć

Sacred Heart School Choir - Sings Croatian & English Christmas Carols
Galewood Records - GR 12561 - 19??

South Chicago school choir sing "Silent Night" in Croatian on this "for home use only" album!

Track 10 - Abe Wanene

Les Troubadours Du Roi Baudonin - Christmas In The Congo
Philips Records - PCC 207 - 1972

The title of the album says all - lots of authentic Congo Christmas songs. World music, anyone?

Track 11 - Frosty The Snowman

The Jim Glaser Singers - Old Time Christmas Singing With
Starday Records - SLP 149 - 1961

A great mix of country, gospel, and rockabilly! If I only had more time... and how 'bout that cover?

Track 12 - Buon Natale (Merry Christmas)

Various Artists - Christmas In Italy
Capitol Records - T 10093 - 196?

Capitol Records issued many of these "Christmas In..." albums - this is one of three I had hoped to share.

Track 13 - Ave Maria

Heino - A Festive German Christmas
Peters International - PLD 7064 - 1969

The one and only Heino! Side one is a 20 minute Christmas medley - side two is mostly religious songs.

Track 14 - Christmas Letter

Sonny James - My Christmas Dream
Capitol Records - T 2589 - 1966

This is a three hanky tearjerker! This is a mono copy - I'm gonna have to find the stereo one now!

Track 15 - An Editorial from the New York Sun,
Christmas 1897

Various Artists - A Christmas Greeting
Recording For The Blind Inc. - 1964

Celebs read to the blind! Louis Jourdan introduces Edward G. Robinson who reads "Yes, Virginia..."

Track 16 - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Jan August - Christmas Favorites With
Mercury Records - MG 20160 - 1955

This album and I went 15 rounds - side one has craters and I tried unsuccessfully to get it transferred several times.

Track 17 - C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S

Anita Bryant - The Miracle Of Christmas
Word Records - WST-8558-LP - 1972

After she romped with Bob Hope in Vietnam and before she took on the gay community, Anita recorded this.

Track 18 - Deck The Halls With Boughs Of Holly

Al Goodman & His Orchestra - Play A Christmas Symphony
Parade Records - XSP-403 - 195?

A budget release with some incredible sounds! Lush strings, majestic - this is quite fantastic!

Track 19 - Hosianna

Ingvar Wixell - Christmas Music Of Sweden
Capitol Records - DT-10485 - 1965

Famed opera star Wixell belts out some Swedish Christmas tunes - this will wake you up!

Track 20 - Blue Christmas

Vic Jordan - Christmas Banjo
Power Pak Records / Gusto - PO-501 - 1974/1975

This was one of three Power Pak / Gusto Christmas records I had hoped to share.

Track 21 - Indian Christmas Carol

The Klaudt Indian Family - Peace On Earth
Family Tone Records - KF-908 - 196?

An Indian gospel group from Atlanta, the Klaudts recorded and put this out on their own label!

Track 22 - Christmas Medley

Bob Ralston - Christmas Hymns & Carols (STEREO)
RCA Camden Records - CAS-994 - 1966

One of the first albums I've ever shared, I finally found a stereo copy (still sealed, no less!)

Track 23 - Kling, Glöckchen, Kling (Sound, Little Bell, Sound)

Bielefelder Kinderchor - Christmas In Germany
Capitol Records - T 10095 - 196?

Capitol Records issued many of these "Christmas In..." albums - this is one of three I had hoped to share.

Track 24 - The First Christmas

Various Artists - Cricket On The Hearth
RCA Victor - LSO-1140 - 1967

Another soundtrack to a Rankin/Bass animated Christmas special. The DVD is out, why not the soundtrack?

Track 25 - We Wish You A Merry Christmas

The Jack Halloran Singers - The Little Drummer Boy
Dot Records - DLP 25233 - 1957

Some people confuse their title song with the Harry Simeone Chorale's famous version - so I picked the last song!

High resolution front and back covers

This is my next to last share of the 2007 downloading season, my final post this year, and my final post for some time to come. In the next days and weeks, I will be helping my son with his first Christmas play at school - Alex is one of the Three Kings. My theater background should help him properly.

My family's schedule is changing constantly (school, field trips, family trips, etc) and thanks to job description changes in my wife's job, I might be heading back to the workplace. I haven't drawn a paycheck since I became a stay-at-home dad eight years ago - this could be deadly. I'll try to post here as best as I can.

Some things you should know:

1.) All of my shares will be taken down on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008 - download 'em now!
2.) If there is something you would like to see posted in the future, please visit this entry.
3.) We are not reviewing Christmas comps again next February - please refrain from sending anything (unless it's a real cool OOP Christmas album or money).
4.) My final share comes on December 26th at Otis Fodder's 365 Days Project - mark it on your calendar!

I wish all of you a very Happy Hannukah, a Happy Sinterklassavond, a Happy Saint-Nicolas Day, a Happy Winter Solstice, a Happy Boxing Day, a Merry Kwanzaa, a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

War is over (if you want it)... Peace


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

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

I tried to stay away from the Christmas organ & chimes albums this year. I have several boxed up and I passed on quite a few while searching the vinyl dustbins around my home. However when this one came around on eBay this past year, I jumped at the chance to... ahem... hear the bells!

This album was released on Word Records back in 1959. At the time, several Christmas albums were released utilizing that under appreciated instrument - the carillon bells. For more on the carillon, here's a search for several albums I've reviewed, and links to another, and another, and one more. However, this album is quite different than most.

The instrument played here is the symphonic carillon aka the "electronic" carillon. Invented by Paul Rowe of Maas-Rowe Carillons, this was the first carillon organ to employ struck metal "miniature bells" to produce an authentic live bell sound.

Add Del Roper to the mix. Born into a religious musical family, he was a pro on the pump organ by the age of 8. His musical education took him to Denver (where he learned the drums, percussion, the marimba, and the vibraharp) and eventually California where he played at various churches, public concerts, radio stations, and symphony orchestra.

At the beginning of the 1950s, Roper began to associate himself with the carillon and became a "music engineer" for "a major manufacturer of organ chimes and carillons" (quoting from the back cover verbatim). He soon went into hiding for fear of his life (just seeing if you were paying attention!).

On this album, Roper's many musical talents are put to work. However, it's the Amazing Masons that sealed the deal for me:

Adding these two fun people to the mix can make any album or party even more special, wouldn't you agree?

Known throughout the world for their Swiss hand bell virtuosity, the bells you see in the picture date back to 1847. The pure sound these instruments make is just the icing on the cake. Mix in Roper's skilled arrangements of songs (blending all the sounds perfectly) and this is a top rate Christmas organ album!

The album pretty much sticks to the standard Christmas carol fare - after all, Word Records was, is, and always will be a religious label. All the favorites are done in a reverent yet jovial way. However, the very first song is a medley of "Jingle Bells & White Christmas" (two secular songs on a Christian record label?) that is worth the price of admission - great stuff!

To quote Scrooge: "Clash, clang, hammer; ding, dong, bell! Bell, dong, ding; hammer, clang, clash! Oh, glorious, glorious!":

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

Happy listening...


Rocki Lane & The Gross Group - Christmas 45 - SINGLE

This is the last of three Christmas singles that I had time to transfer, digitally restore, scan, zip, and upload (sounds cruel when it's put that way, huh?).

Two weeks ago, Kevin Killion contributed to Otis Fodder's amazing 365 Days project a selection of assorted singles from his college radio days. Among these was the A side of long forgotten Christmas novelty single from 1969.

I found the radio station copy you are looking at on eBay earlier this year and immediately began searching for any clues on Rocki Lane, Jerry Gross, and The Gross Group via the almighty Google.

There was one website for a Jerry Gross who claims to have been born "with the gift of leaving the body at will." Considering the times and the subject matter of this Christmas single, this very well could be him!

Side one begins with Santa Claus stating "I am the oldest and original hippy and I want to know..." Cue Rocki Lane & The Gross Group who sing the rest of the question: "What's so bad about long-haired people?".

Comparisons are then made between hippies and Santa concluding with catch phrases from "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In":

"You bet your sweet bippy Santa Claus is a hippy!" "Here come de sleigh, here come de sleigh!"

It's a gasser... But then we come to the throwaway side two which is anything but! "Santa Soul" is a wild, wall-to-wall instrumental that could have passed for background music while Goldie Hawn frugged on "Laugh-In"!

I've listened to side two many times now and its vitality just gets your adrenalin rushing. Granted, it's not very Christmas-ey, but it's sounds just as good as it did back in 1969. Side A is a wee bit dated but that's the fun of that track too, right?

If anyone has any information on the whereabouts of Rocki Lane, Jerry Gross (provided he isn't floating around with Shirley MacLaine), or the Gross Group, please let us know - this is one magic single!

For long haired and short haired people alike:

Rocki Lane & The Gross Group - Christmas 45 - SINGLE

One last word on Otis Fodder's 365 Days Project: earlier this year, I was asked by Otis to contribute something for the Christmas season. Several albums were discussed (including the "Christmas 1971 Veterans Administration Hospital Program" album) and a date was reserved (Wednesday, December 26th).

I chose several after-Christmas radio PSAs and New Year's songs in one fun filled package to help you ring out the old and bring in the new. Look for that the day after Christmas at 365 Days - thanks again Otis!

Happy listening...


Monday, December 10, 2007

What does Liberace, Orion Samuelson, and CLM Industries have in common?

Ummmm... maybe...... well.......... Okay, they don't have anything in common.

Unless you count that I fixed their broken links and they're available again:

Liberace - 1954 Christmas Greetings Flexi (w brother George)

Orion Samuelson - Christmas 45

CLM Industries - Christmas 1961 - SINGLE

Happy listening...


Carmen Le Nard - Jolly Snowman - SINGLE

This is the second of three Christmas singles that I had time to transfer, digitally restore, scan, zip, and upload (sounds cruel when it's put that way, huh?). I found this on eBay the very first week of January this year. There was a ton of Christmas music just lying there online with no takers - timing is everything!

What caught my eye was the description: "Also included is a letter to prospective radio stations by the artist himself." When the package arrived, I quickly found the letter (dated October, 1987) and read a request to play the record for their radio audiences.

The letter also included his home address and phone number. I broke down and called the phone number included - to get the full story of the artist and the song. I only got a befuddled woman who didn't know what I was talking about.

I examined the record - side one is the vocal version of the song (copyrighted both in 1984 and 1986) while side two is oddly labeled "Instrumental version" with a vocal credit to Le Nard!

Recorded in reggae style with more than enough 1980s synth, chimes, and saxophone, it tells the story of a lonely guy who has no one to dance with... that is until a "jolly snowman" comes along and changes the whole story! I have to admit the song is quite good - this tune will stick in your head after the first listening!

It's a holly, jolly Holliday:

Carmen Le Nard - Jolly Snowman - SINGLE

Happy listening...


Al Caiola & Riz Ortolani - The Sound Of Christmas

When this album reared its head on eBay earlier this year, I thought there was no chance in hades that I would win it. But after a full week and no bids, luck smiled on me (a rarity this year) and I found myself the proud owner of an actual, physical, stereo copy!

So who are Al Caiola & Riz Ortolani?

Al Caiola was a guitar virtuoso who served with Bob Crosby (Der Bingle's brother) during World War II. After studying at the New Jersey College of Music on the G.I. Bill, he found work as a staff musician at CBS Radio. Since then, he has played on thousands of records as a guitarist extraordinaire for hundreds of artists.

Riz Ortolani was born in Pesaro, Italy and founded a wildly popular jazz band in the 1950s. Around 1962, he switched gears and began composing film scores. His first was for the infamous Italian movie "Mondo Cane" which gave us the international hit "More".

They were talented musicians who happened to hook up just once in their lifetime to give us this amazing Christmas album. Here's what Mr. Caiola had to say about this album in his liner notes from the back cover:

"Before telling you about our album, I want to sincerely thank the gifted Riz Ortolani whose masterful arranging played a major role in making this program a unique holiday experience. Christmas is a tradition, yet traditions must be updated to the mode of the times.

"When I first met Riz Ortolani, who has gained international prominence for his hit composition 'More', I knew his sincerity and sensitivity could provide the warmth that was needed to convey this modern Yuletide message.

"Our album includes 'Bossa Nova Noel', in which the rhythm section of the orchestra creates the contemporary atmosphere that is so characteristic of today's styles. Ortolani's deft scoring envelopes the orchestra in 'I'll Be Home For Christmas' and 'The Christmas Song', creating the unique glow that is so much a part of the holiday spirit.

"Also included in the album, among other gems, are LeRoy Holmes' 'Holiday On Skis', an original by Riz entitled 'Christmas Card', 'White Christmas' and 'Sleigh Ride'', all of which convey to the listener an up-to-date feeling for the traditions of St. Nicholas.

"I hope you will have as much pleasure listening to these songs as I did in recording them. Have a happy holiday and a very special Christmas. - Al Caiola"

Christmas should always sound this great:

Al Caiola & Riz Ortolani - The Sound Of Christmas

Happy listening...


The Manhattans - Christmas 45 - SINGLE

This is the first of three Christmas singles that I had time to transfer, digitally restore, scan, zip, and upload (sounds cruel when it's put that way, huh?).

I found this on eBay and thought "gee, what a find!" A rare single, a picture sleeve, luscious red vinyl, and in MINT condition!

I reached for my Goldmine Christmas Record Price Guide after I had won the auction. What I found was only mildly disheartening.

This was originally released by the Manhattans in 1966 (on the Carnival label - Carnival 524). The copy I had won (and what you see before you) is a reissued version on the Star Fire label from 1979.

Some quick research tells us that The Manhattans were formed in 1962 in Jersey City, New Jersey. After graduating from high school and serving in the military, the five members won a recording contract with Carnival Records two years later.

Between 1965 and 1968, they recorded for Carnival and had five Top 25 singles on the R&B charts. During the midst of this run, they released this great Christmas single.

Side A is "It's That Time Of Year", a slow, soulful single that will make you want to slow dance by the Christmas tree lights.

Side B is "Alone On New Year's Eve", a mournful tale about the woes of having no one at midnight on December 31st. The Manhattans' doo-wop style is in full effect with great lead vocals by George Smith.

Their chart success caught the eye of the legendary King Records and signed them to their Deluxe Records subsidiary for several years. Then George Smith tragically fell down a flight of stairs and was replaced by Gerald Alston. This changed the course of the group.

In 1973, they signed with Columbia Records and continued their R&B chart success - 26 singles charted during the Columbia years from 1973 to 1989. Their biggest two hits were 1976's "Kiss And Say Goodbye" (the SECOND single ever to go platinum) and 1980's "Shining Star":

After their contract with Columbia expired, the group began to go their separate ways. A new lineup of the Manhattans is still active and recording CDs. Several of the original members have reformed and even appeared on those PBS doo-wop special they show on pledge drives!

You take Manhattan:

The Manhattans - Christmas 45 - SINGLE

Happy listening...


The Soulful Strings - The Magic Of Christmas

Earlier this year, I took a extended weekend trip to my former hometown of Chicago for the sole purpose of raiding all the Salvation Armies, Goodwills, Amvets, thrift stores, and record shops of their Christmas albums.

Much has changed since I left Chicago in 1996 - well, the Cubs are STILL looking to get to the World Series but... - but one thing remains - their vinyl is usually cheap. Many of my old haunts were gone, some moved to bigger places, and new ones have sprung up to take their place.

I was travelling to a thrift store that I remembered when I spotted a resale shop in the former warehouse of a lumber company. Its massive salesfloor consisted mainly of clothing, furniture, and knickknacks. I asked a salesgirl about records and she pointed her finger at the corner of a rickety balcony that overlooked part of the salesfloor.

The entire corner was FULL of albums and 45s. Needless to say, I spent nearly two hours there searching each and everyone. Towards the middle of my search, I opened a new box and the album you see before you was staring me right in the face - with the original wrap still clinging to it!

I suddenly had several employees checking on me - the unconscious scream of delight caught many peoples attention. The album had nary a nick and I placed it ATOP my pile of vinyl to buy. When the only other person that day looking for records showed up, I guarded that pile the way a mother hen protects her chicks!

As I made my way downstairs, I looked around and didn't discover a price sign (i.e. Albums $1, 45s 50 cents). Carrying an accordian sized pile of albums, this could get expensive. I approached the counter and asked the salesgirl how much.

"Albums are usually $2 each..." (sound of my heart dropping). "But today's Quarter Day..." (sound of heart soaring).

I left that store higher than a kite - this one album made the entire trip worth it. This is one of the best Christmas strings albums of all time. To quote from SpaceAgePop.com:

Cadet, the soul label of the legendary Chess Records in Chicago, hired Richard Evans, a talented and underappreciated arranger who worked with jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal, among others, to create a series of orchestral albums of current pop hits.

String some soul of your own:

The Soulful Strings - The Magic Of Christmas

Happy listening...


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Capitol Production Music

Capitol Records was founded in 1942 by songwriter Johnny Mercer, Hollywood music store owner Glenn Wallichs, and movie producer Buddy DeSylva.

Capitol provided a competitive alternative to the three major record companies of the day - Victor, Columbia and Decca - all established in New York.

It quickly flourished with artists like Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, three guys named Les (Baxter, Brown, and Paul), and Margaret Whiting.

An overlooked facet of the Capitol Records story is their extraordinary output of production music over the years. This music was recorded for TV and radio stations, advertising agencies, and movie studios to use mainly in the background of their own projects.

One perfect example is the legendary "Capitol Hi-Q" series of music. Recorded back in the late 1950s-early 1960s, this music has found its way into movies such as the original "Night Of The Living Dead" and Michael Moore's first film "Roger & Me".

Not sure yet? The first two seasons of "Ren & Stimpy" episodes used the Hi-Q music to great effect. Yep, that music!

I first found this online earlier this year at eBay and watched it carefully. After several failed auctions, the owner of the album moved it to his online web site and posted it there for sale.

I originally thought that I had acquired a Christmas Hi-Q album - what a dream! However, it's safe to say that this album devoted to Christmas is not from that era.

The music is heavily flavored in the style of Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (possibly a late 1960s-early 1970s release?). This isn't like listening to the Mexicali Brass or The Tijuana Voices or some other knockoff Alpert soundalike. This is a small notch above those. And a small notch below Alpert.

O Capitol, O Capitol:

Capitol Production Music

Happy listening...


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Mickey Rooney - Merry Merry Micklemas


Stunned? Shocked? Nauseated? This cover has that effect on people.

Take a moment. Compose yourself, then we'll move on.

I first found a copy of this album (SRS Records - see below) via eBay. Then to my delight (and sheer astonishment), I found the underwear version of Mickey's Christmas album (Timic Records) at Beverly Records in Chicago earlier this year.

The story of these albums and how it fits into the life story of Mickey Rooney is quite compelling.

Quick history lesson: Rooney was born into a family of vaudeville actors and made his stage debut at the tender age of fifteen months!

While on the vaudeville circuit, Mickey's mom answered an ad looking for boy actors in a fledgling operation known as "moving pictures". He won the part and between 1927 and 1936, he was known as "Mickey McGuire".

As Mickey approached adolescence, he moved over to MGM and became Andy Hardy, met Judy Garland, and became, in Mick's own words, "the biggest movie star in the world..."

Between 1940 and 1970, he continued to work with Judy Garland - "Judy and I were of one heartbeat" Mick claims over and over and over - did a stint in WWII, married and divorced both Ava Gardner and Martha Vickers, appeared on television shows, many B-movies and roles (who could forget his Japanese stereotype Mr. Yunioshi in "Breakfast At Tiffany's"? Me, for starters!), and married and divorced several more times.

By the end of the 1970s, Mickey was washed up - he even turned down the role of Archie Bunker. No jobs were forthcoming and Rooney had had more failed business ventures known to man. One was a restaurant trying to capitalize on his connection with "The Wizard Of Oz" - using the Munchkins as busboys, servers, even cooks. Another venture was an acting school called the Mickey Rooney School of Entertainment - sign me up!

This leads us to 1979. Mickey went into the recording studio to cut a Christmas album featuring several of his own compositions and underwear. According to The Record Robot, this album was home produced, available by mail order only, and even included a letter with each copy on Mickey's own stationery (home address included on the letterhead). Sadly, my album didn't include a letter or autograph.

Rooney's own compositions ("Mr. Wha-Da-Ya-Want", "Mickey's New Year", and "The Gift") lead off side one and are charming in their own weird way. Alternating between singing, screaming, and some deeply creepy weird kiddie like voices, Rooney takes command and sings the only way he knows how - all out and from the heart.

The rest of the covers and originals ("These Things Mean Christmas To Me" is a beautiful song) are listenable and sometimes incredibly short - the average length of a song on this album is around 2:15!

So where does the SRS ornament cover fit in? It's the same album - different packaging (although they kept the back liner notes written by Rooney's great friend Mel Torme). This leads me to ask - did the SRS version come before or after the Timic underwear version? Anyone have a clue?

Let's grab Judy, build a barn, and put on a show:

Mickey Rooney - Merry Merry Micklemas (Timic)

Mickey Rooney - Merry Merry Micklemas (SRS)

After this album was released in 1979, Rooney hooked up with Ann Miller and appeared in the musical "Sugar Babies" across the country, snagged an Emmy and honorary Oscar, appeared in many made-for-TV movies and shows (his failed TV show "One Of The Boys" featured two young co-stars named Dana Carvey and Nathan Lane!).

Rooney has been steadily reminiscing about Judy Garland and occasionally working since - he was last seen in Ben Stiller's "A Night At The Museum" and washing imaginary dishes in a life insurance commercial with his eighth wife Jan.

Happy listening...


Friday, December 07, 2007

Justin Wilson - A Cajun Christmas With

When I began serious collecting Christmas music online via Napster (the pre-legal days), I was able to grab an MP3 of Justin Wilson's "Randolph The Rouge Nosed Reindeer". The Cajun Chef singing Christmas songs? Then I noticed several of his 45 singles on eBay, then the occasional Christmas album (which always went for a pretty penny).

Earlier this year, I found a SEALED copy of this album in a record shop in Chicago. Admittedly this isn't the original 1966 Paula album - it was repackaged and released at the height of Justin's PBS popularity in 1987.

Backed by Bert Peck & The Kings of Dixieland, Justin slices his way through twelve Christmas favorites the way he would clean and gut a catfish. Some of the songs are quite silly and fun (the aforementioned "Randolph", "Santa Done Brought Himself To Town", and "The Chipmunk Song" (??)) while others are quite touching and reverent ("White Christmas", "Silent Night", "O Come All Ye Faithful").

If you're a fan of Dixieland and the phrase "I GAR-RON-TEE" thrown around like a fish at a Seattle market, then this album is for you:

Justin Wilson - A Cajun Christmas With

Happy listening...


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Owen Bradley & His Quintet - Joyous Bells Of Christmas

Our last yuleblog entry showed off an various artists album with many of the artists on the Decca label during the year of 1957. We stay in that year with an entire album by one of those artists - Owen Bradley.

Bradley was a successful country music producer and one of the pioneers of the "Countrypolitan" sound that emerged from Nashville in the late 1950s and early 1960s - lush strings, background vocals, and smooth crooning (i.e. Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves, Chet Atkins, and some select Patsy Cline).

With Owen taking the lead on the organ and his quintet backing him up, these songs are simple, straightforward, but with some distinct style and pizzazz all their own. This is a cut above your average run-of-the-mill Christmas organ music albums!

Note: This album was recorded last year (not the best clean up job - some scratches and fuzz remain) and was scheduled to be shared out - it had a chance of being a "featured album" at FaLaLaLaLa.com.

However, our friend PDMan posted his own copy (which sounds much better than my copy) at FLLLL and I decided to pull the album from its original schedule slot. The only reason it's here now is because I'm rapidly running out of albums that I can share and time in which I can post them.

Decca the halls part 2:

Owen Bradley & His Quintet - Joyous Bells Of Christmas

Happy listening...


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Around The Christmas Tree - A Special Christmas Day Program

I've never been a big fan of the "various artists" Christmas compilation. In many instances (i.e. Goodyear, Firestone, True Value, or anything by Columbia or Capitol Special Products), it's usually the same rehashed stuff with the same rehashed songs. So when I first noticed this compilation, I thought "another various artists" comp. But when I noticed the familiar Decca logo atop the album, I began to look a little closer.

Glad I did. A quick check of the LP looked like this had just been opened (you could eat off the album). And this nifty compilation contains artists that you normally don't get on comps (Dick Haymes, The Four Aces, Axel Stordahl, Vincent Lopez, Owen Bradley, even the Shulmerich Carillon Bells!).

I found this album at a garage sale sitting on a table bathed partially in the Indiana sun. This made the sale tag on the front cover fuse with the cover, resulting in a scab on the front cover (Note to all garage sellers: vinyl & sun don't mix!).

Despite much research via the almighty Google, I couldn't find a release date on this one. Judging by the record label number, I'm wagering late 1950s - anyone have the real answer?

Decca the halls:

Around The Christmas Tree - A Special Christmas Day Program

Happy listening...


Monday, December 03, 2007

KFUO Presents Christmas Hymns And Carols

If you've been earching the musty, dusty vinyl bins of your local thrift stores, Salvation Armies, and Goodwills, you've probably come across dozens, maybe hundreds of what I call "local choir" albums.

"Local choir" albums are plentiful and usually the same. A local choir from a high school, community college, or small university dress in their formal robes, assemble on stage surrounded by microphones from a local or national recording service, they sing the same 12 or 13 songs, and it's captured on tape.

Then it's pressed onto vinyl and four to six weeks later, you have albums that were either sold for school fundraisers or given to the choir as gifts. Add a group shot of the choir director and the choir themselves to the back and it's official.

I found this album at a garage sale last year. What caught my attention about this album was the massive call letters on the front of the album: KFUO. It turns out KFUO is a Christian St. Louis radio station that's been spreading the gospel since 1924. Its sister station, KFUO-FM, has been doing the same since 1948.

Two choirs are featured on this album; the Senior choir of the First Lutheran Church of Omaha, Nebraska (Side 1) and the Children's Choir of Concord Lutheran School of St. Louis County, Missouri:

There was no date anywhere on the album so if you happen to recognize anyone in the picture above and can give us an exact release date (along with anything else you'd like to share about the choir, the directors, KFUO, or this recording), please let us know.

KFUO Presents Christmas Hymns And Carols

Happy listening...