Thursday, August 30, 2007

Eddie Layton - Organ Music For Christmas

From an infamous Kermit Schaefer blooper:

"While our game is being temporarily delayed, let us listen to our organist in the center field stands as he entertains you while diddling on his organ."

Back on November 26, 2006, our friend Ernie posted this one at his blog under the title "Better Layton Than Ever". After downloading this and having the album sit on my hard drive for nearly a year, I'm finally listening to it and writing about it!

And after doing some quick research on Eddie Layton, I'm ready to play ball!

Layton was born in Philadelphia in 1925, studied music as a child, and was studying meteorology in college when World War II broke out. Enlisting in the U.S. Navy, Eddie was assigned to the Naval Air Station in Lindhurst, New Jersey. A chance encounter with a Hammond organ would soon change his life forever.

After World War II, he fell in love with the Hammond organ and soon began studying under the tutelage of the one and only Jesse Crawford (he of the hundreds of budget Christmas albums that clutter vinyl bins everywhere).

Layton was so adapt at playing the Hammond organ that he was able to find effects and little known features on the instrument. This convinced the Hammond Organ Company to retain him as a demonstrator for its stores over the next 50 years!

In the late 1940s - early 1950s, Layton was playing all around New York City as an organist, played at Radio City Music Hall (where he rubbed elbows with George Wright and Dick Liebert),and found a home on the radio in various soap operas of the day on CBS Radio.

Around this time, he began recording for Mercury Records, quickly becoming their star organist. He released a number of albums between 1956 and 1963 covering a wide range of music. If you want to hear some of these tunes, WFMU's 365 Days Project just posted an entry all about Layton.

After leaving Mercury Records, he signed with Epic and chose as his first project this Christmas album you see here before you. Layton carefully chose both traditional and popular Christmas songs - sometimes weaving several into one.

Released for Christmas, 1964, it's a good Christmas organ album - a notch above many of the Christmas organ albums I've gotten in the last two years. Eddie does a masterful job keeping it light, fun, and above all, Christmas-ey.

His medley of "Rudolph / Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" is the standout on the album. Having a mad xylophonist run up and down the scales is a nice touch inbetween some great swirls on the Hammond organ. Other tunes worth a listen include "Let It Snow", "Silver Bells", and his version of "O Holy Night" that's powerful and clocks in just under two minutes!

Layton released several other albums for Epic Records in the mid-1960s when fate knocked at the door. The New York Yankees were under the ownership of CBS and they remembered their house organist. They offered Eddie the prime gig of playing the house organ at Yankee Stadium during home games which he declined at first, having little knowledge of baseball game and driving a car.

The Yankees promised him limo rides to and from his house (for an organist!) and he agreed to a one game tryout in 1967. That one game gig stretched into a career spanning over 36 years, eventually winning him jobs playing for the Knicks and the Rangers. Layton played his last version of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" on September 28, 2003 with a capacity crowd cheering his name.

Better Layton than ever, indeed!

UP NEXT: What I downloaded on November 25, 2006 at 6:34 PM


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Billy Vaughn - Christmas Carols

In our last post, I explained how FaLaLaLaLa has brought thousands of Christmas music enthusiasts together to read, listen, learn, and even contribute anything Christmas to the site.

I had this album in my collection (mono - badly scratched) and wasn't planning on sharing it out. However, FLLLL community member Voldar had a STEREO version and shared it on November 26, 2006 at 9:25 AM - great post V!

This wasn't the first time I obtained a copy of a Billy Vaughn Christmas album. Several years ago, I traded for a Canadian CD copy called "Christmas With" that featured an exact budget number ten songs.

Are they both and the same?

To let the suspense build, here's some information on the artist in question. Born and raised in Kentucky, Billy Vaughn was only three years old when he taught himself the mandolin after contracting measles.

As he matured into adulthood, he joined the United States National Guard in 1941 for a one-year hitch. That changed when World War II broke out and Vaughn served his country until the end of the war in 1945. Taking advantage of the G.I. Bill, he enrolled into Western Kentucky University, majoring in music composition.

While in college, Vaughn earned money by playing piano in clubs and lounges, even some cutting hair as a barber. In the early 1950s, he was asked by several classmates to sing and accompany their vocal group on the piano. Calling themselves "The Hilltoppers", they became quickly popular and even recorded several songs for a new record label out of Nashville called Dot Records.

At the height of their popularity, Vaughn left the group to become a music director at Dot Records. His first order of business was to form his own orchestra and record albums under his new banner. Between 1954 and 1957, he developed a signature "twin sax" sound that might have stood out from the rest. For every good album Vaughn released, there were several syrupy albums issued.

In 1957, Dot Records was sold to Paramount Records. Vaughn suddenly found his orchestra and himself backing several of Paramount's major stars like Gale Storm, Pat Boone, even some word jazz with Ken Nordine! Vaughn continued his own musical career while helping many others during this time.

At Christmas, 1958, Vaughn released this album in both mono and stereo. It's a simple album, nothing too fancy, not much to get excited about. He mixes up the orchestra with some nice choral work and presents it in straightforward fashion. Not one song stands alone in sound or arrangement - the "twin sax" sound could have helped a-plenty.

And yes... this album and the Canadian version I own already contain many of the same songs. However, there are subtle differences in both that would scarcely make owning two copies of each worth the trouble.

Around 1963, Vaughn abandoned his "twin-sax" sound and tried to recreate the Glenn Miller sound. It has been argued that during this period, Vaughn was so busy recording for others at Dot Records that he simply lended his name to the albums. Several albums were also issued featuring Vaughn and his orchestra trying to capture the Ray Conniff sound - an attempt so blatantly bad that these are seldom talked about.

In 1968, Dot Records was bought out again and promptly became a country & western label. Vaughn's popularity in the United States was close to nil but in Germany and Japan, he was extremely popular. He led orchestra tours through these countries several times throughout the 1970s before calling it a career.

Billy Vaughn died in September, 1991 at his home in California.

UP NEXT: What I downloaded on November 25, 2006 at 1:12 AM


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Swingalongs - Sing A Song Of Christmas

Our next album comes to us from the wonderful online kingdom known as FaLaLaLaLa. The King of Jingaling, FLLLL's gracious, generous, and benevolent ruler featured this album.

(I was awake at 1:30 AM on November 24th, 2006 when I found this online. Many times throughout the downloading season, I'll find myself staying up later, even waking in the middle of the night for 30 - 45 minutes searching for new stuff. I really need to learn how to do RSS feeds!)

The King has shared many fantastic albums over the years at FLLLL. While I offer gems like Alex Houston & Elmer, he offers gold. Not fool's gold. Real gold.

His albums are always a cut above the rest because of the immensely intriguing stories behind the albums themselves.

Last month, The King offered the famous "NORAD Tracks Santa" LP, released at the height of the Cold War. Several years ago, it was The Rhodes Kids whose album was produced by a bonafide porn peddler.

At first glance, you'd think this album is another "cut it quick, get it out, make a Christmas buck" type of album. That's where the King's sharp eye separates himself from the rest.

While doing research on the album, he discovered that this very album was the follow-up to this immensely popular Christmas album:

Perhaps the greatest budget Christmas album of all time, no less! With this in its favor, you're thinking this album has a great chance of being good. Maybe great.

In their attempts to be "hip" and "now" back in the new decade of the 1970s, they decided to go with a medley format - the album itself has six tracks and 20 songs advertised on the front. Adding the usual mix of horns, bouncy beat (enhanced by a very 1970s bass guitar), and choral arrangements adds to the fun, giving the music an overall "Now Sound" feel.

The last word on this album? I'll let the King tell you in his own words:

"But there is something enticing about these folks trying to make centuries-old carols up-to-date. There is a sense of freshness in their approach. They're not just coasting through the old arrangements. The bass gets groovy in a few places, the music swells. You wanna shake your hips a little. It's a bit "Up With People" in places, but fun and warm and charming."

Somewhere in this wide world, someone grew up listening to this album at Christmas. It's always fun to find people offering their thanks for reconnecting with those precious childhood Christmas memories. That's one of the reasons why The King of Jingaling created FaLaLaLaLa - still the best Christmas music resource on this planet.

UP NEXT: What I downloaded on November 24, 2006 at 9:25 AM


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Buck Owens & Susan Raye - Merry Christmas From

Finally, after nearly two years!

Way back on December 15, 2005, Ernie (of Ernie Not Bert) first posted this album at his blog. How I missed it the first time, I'm not sure but I spent a few days smacking myself in the head over my failure to download.

Ernie reposted the album (you da man, Ern!) and I got my copy last year on November 23rd, 2006.

For those who only Buck from his days on "Hee Haw", here's the quick story:

Born Alvis Edgar Owens, Jr. in 1929, he grew up on a Texas farm whose family mule was named Buck. At the age of three, he announced to the family that his name was Buck too. No one thankfully objected.

While working as a truck driver in the late-1940s, Owens found himself driving through the picturesque San Joaquin Valley in California on his way to Bakersfield. The beauty of the land convinced Buck that this was the place where he wanted to settle down and did so in 1950.

Meanwhile, up in the state of Oregon, a girl named Susan Raye was born in 1944. While she attended high school, she discovered her flair for singing. She auditioned for a local radio station and got a job as a disc jockey. This led to work on television on a Portland TV station where she hosted a show called "Hoedown".

While Raye was finding her voice, Buck found his. He gave up his truck and became one of Capitol Record's busiest session musicians, recording for the likes of Tennessee Ernie Ford, Faron Young, Gene Vincent, and Del Reeves. Just as Buck was getting ready to launch a career for himself, something happened.

A new music craze called "rock-n-roll" hit and Owens took to it immediately. If you're searching the record bins and come across an obscure rockabilly hit called "Hot Dog" by Corky Jones, grab it. Buck recorded it under that name and it was the only rockabilly song he ever released!

In 1959, Buck launched his country music career. At the time, Chet Atkin's "countrypolitan" sound was the main thing - lush strings, Mitch Miller-like background vocals, and slow ballads accompanying crooners like Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, and Patsy Cline. Also known as the Nashville sound, it dominated country music, slowly made in-roads onto the pop charts, and left a void for authentic country music.

Buck created the Bakersfield sound. Two Fender Telecasters, both picking and not strumming, a big backbeat, lots of steel pedal guitar, and a hot fiddle thrown in for good measure. The sound was totally unique and it filled the gap that the Nashville sound abandoned. A former bandmate of Buck's (who coined the name Buckaroos) went on to have his own established career with the Bakersfield sound. His name was Merle Haggard!

Back in Oregon, Susan Raye was singing in clubs, at fairs, and took any singing job she could take. She was still waiting for her big break. It would be some time before it would happen.

Buck Owens & His Buckaroos' had a string of hit after hit, peaking with his 1963 #1 hit, "Act Naturally". Owens was so influential in country music that the Beatles took notice, covering "Act Naturally" on their "Help!" soundtrack album in 1965.

At Christmas, 1965, Buck released his first Christmas album. Entitled "Christmas With", it's a perfect mix of Buck, the Bakersfield sound, and Christmas all wrapped into one. With such songs as "Blue Christmas Lights", "It's Christmas Time For Everyone But Me", and Buck's signature "Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy" to complement the standards, it's a great album of country and Christmas.

The following year, Buck released his live "Carnegie Hall Concert" album which captures Buck conquering New York City. For his next "live" album, Owens travelled to the metropolis of Tokyo, Japan where his music was immensely popular. "Buck Owens & His Buckaroos in Japan" was the first country album recorded outside of the United States and was a huge international success in 1967.

In 1968, Buck decided to record a wholly new Christmas album. "Christmas Shopping" features mostly original Christmas songs. Some of these songs are beautiful sentiments of Christmas ("Merry Christmas From Our House To Yours"), others are tongue-in-cheek ("Christmas Shopping"), even a country/tragedy song ("All I Want For Christmas Is My Daddy". Some fans of Buck's prefer his first Christmas album to this one. Not me. This is the one I reach for.

Later that same year, Jack McFadden, Buck's manager, travelled to Oregon and caught a show featuring Susan Raye. He was so impressed he invited her to travel to Bakersfield to audition for Buck himself. She made the trek to Bakersfield, Owens loved her style of singing, and promptly invited her to join him on tour. Raye had gotten her big break.

At Christmas, 1968, Buck & His Buckaroos' took a trip around the moon. They recorded a special cassette for the crew of Apollo 8 for their orbital mission. If you find a space documentary called "For All Mankind", you'll hear a snippet of the recording.

Around this time, Buck began co-hosting "Hee Haw" on CBS and began recording with Susan Raye. Many of their singles were hits on the country charts, including "The Great White Horse", "Togetherness", and "We're Gonna Get It Together" as well as solo singles that were moderate successes on the country charts. Raye's popularity was on the rise and she soon joined the cast of "Hee Haw" as well.

In 1971, CBS pulled the plug on "Hee Haw" but the show was picked up for syndication. Both Owens and Raye stayed with the show while working on their recording careers.

Raye's first top ten hit in 1971 was "Willy Jones", a song written by Buck. She followed it up with "L.A. International Airport", another top ten country hit that reached #53 on Billboard's Top 100. This song became a certified international hit when it reached #1 in Australia. Raye had become a full fledged country star without ever stepping foot in Nashville - just like Buck and Merle.

This 1971 Christmas album you see contains a mere ten songs; three songs are from "Christmas With", the other seven are off "Christmas Shopping". The addition of Susan Raye adds a new dimension to these tunes with her rich voice expertly handling both lead and background vocals. Buck and Susan fit together quite nicely and after hearing just Buck sing these songs repeatedly over the years, this is a wonderful new way to hear them again.

Raye's career continued to flourish during the early 1970s. She had her biggest solo hit in 1972 with "(I've Got A) Happy Heart" which reached #3 on the country charts as well as another top ten hit with "My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own", a Connie Francis cover. Her success continued through 1974 which fate stepped into both Raye's and Owens door.

Don Rich, longtime guitarist, harmony partner, and best friend of Owens, died in a motorcycle accident. Rich's death caused Buck to semi-retire from recording and ended his collaboration with Raye. Raye signed with United Artist Records and continued to record, never again having the same success as when she recorded under Buck. She retired in 1978 to devote more time to her family.

Buck tried to revive his country career. In the late 1970s, he recorded several albums (in Nashville of all places) and the results were not well received by Buck's longtime fans, the country charts, country radio, even Buck himself. By the mid-1980s, he was no longer recording and was forever known as a a country comedian on "Hee Haw". Owens quit the show in 1986 after co-hosting for nearly 17 years.

Susan Raye had decided at this time to head back to college. She received her degree in psychology and tried to strike gold again in the music industry in 1985. She recorded two albums and charted a few singles but instead of building on that, she took her college degree and began working successfully as a psychologist.

Around this time, a young country singer named Dwight Yoakam came along. A total disciple of the Bakersfield sound, he asked Buck to help him record a song entitled "Streets Of Bakersfield". It went to #1 and Buck was back on the music scene again.

Owens had shrewdly bought back all his published rights from Capitol Records in 1974, all remaining copies of his albums in Capitol warehouses worldwide, and controlled his music like a hawk. No music of Buck's was on the shelves for nearly 15 years. He began reissuing his albums through a deal with Sundazed Records and began performing again. While on the road, Owens began selling original, shrink-wrapped copies of his albums at premium prices (clever, clever guy!).

Throughout the 1990s, Buck divided his time between Bakersfield and the road. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 1996 and at decades' end, he celebrated his 70th birthday with a reunion concert of the original Buckaroos at Buck's Crystal Palace in Bakersfield.

Susan Raye made her final public appearance (to date) at the 75th anniversary of the Los Angeles International Airport on August 6, 2003. She sang "L.A. International Airport" naturally with a Bakersfield band backing her up. She continues to work as a psychologist.

Well into his 70s, Buck was still appearing on stage. Such was the case on March 24, 2006 when he joined his bandmates for a chicken-fried steak dinner before a show at the Crystal Palace. He wasn't feeling well and was planning on skipping then show when Buck encountered a group of people from Oregon. They had driven all the way down to see Buck that very night.

Buck told a friend "if somebody's come all that way, I'm gonna do the show and give it my best shot. I might groan and squeak, but I'll see what I can do." Buck Owens died the following day of a heart attack in his sleep.

Country Music Television ranked him #12 in their "40 Greatest Men In Country Music" special in 2003 (why so low?) while voting "The Buckaroos" the 2nd greatest country music band of all time.

If you get a chance to buy Buck's two solo Christmas albums, they're well worth the money. And this little gem is great to hear Susan Raye in her prime.

UP NEXT: What I downloaded on November 24, 2006 at 1:30 AM


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Merriest Of Christmas Pops (RCA Victor)

On first glance, this album has potential (any album with the RCA "Living Stereo" banner is a plus).

As you look down, you'll notice the song titles, the cute Christmas graphics, but not one artist listed on the cover - a sure sign of trouble. If you're too lazy to check the back cover, you probably wouldn't have purchased the album.

Thankfully, Ernie (from Ernie Not Bert) studied this album carefully and with his keen collector's eye saw the gold within and posted it on November 23, 2006.

As Ernie explained in his original post:

"The only problem is that parts of this record have been released on CD. Several years ago, they took the Esquivel solo tracks, as well as the tracks on which he backs the Skip-Jacks, mixed in some LP tracks that had a holiday theme, added a rather merry non-holiday B-side, a couple of tracks by a famous swing-revival DJ featuring a voice-over from the bed-ridden Esquivel, and called it an Esquivel Christmas album.

"It's short, but great. So that means I can't share 6 of the 12 tracks with you. Trust me, the remaining six tracks are well worth your time. The remaining tracks all feature Ray Martin And His Orchestra, and most of those feature lead vocals by Mimi Hines. She does a great job using several different voices to make each song sound a little different."

Ernie knows what he's talking about, folks. These six tracks are just plain phenomenal. Mimi Hines and Ray Martin aren't as space-age trippy as Esquivel but they're just as much fun.

You'd swear that was a six-year old girl singing "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" or "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" but it's Hines singing it to perfection! Then marvel at her brassy adult voice on "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer" and "Santa Baby". Granted, "Santa Baby" isn't as sultry as some the other versions out there but it's nice to hear her jazz spin on the number.

Ray Martin's two contributions are lush, stylish, and easy fare. On both songs ("Winter Wonderland", "I'll Be Home For Christmas"), Martin mixes it up between the choral group and strings taking turns on the melody as if he's inviting you to sing in the instrumental breaks - 1950s karaoke?

Overall, a great abbreviated album. I just have to get the Esquivel album out, add the missing tracks, and voila!

UP NEXT: What I downloaded on November 23, 2006 at 6:41 PM


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Hermanos Zavala - Christmas In Mexico

It's not often you see a Christmas album adorned by imitation passport stamps (see the top right corner) or a piñata for that matter but...

This intriguing album was downloaded on November 21, 2006 at 12:43 PM from our friend Bongo over at BongoBells (great find, Bongo!).

Google picks up a myriad of stuff concerning Hermanos Zavala. The laughable AOL Music site claims you can find Zavala photos, songs, live performances, even music videos. Umm, yeah.

Other sites found include "The One Hundred Voices of the Hermanos Zavala" and "Mariachi Los Hermanos Zavala". The rest is just recycled hash which is a pity.

This album is the Spanish equivalent of a Mitch Miller album! A soft rendition of "The Christmas Song", followed by a raucous version of "Sleigh Ride", then a very reverent "Adeste Fideles" sung beautifully in Spanish.

It gets better. "Rodolfo el Reno de la Nariz Roja" takes on elements of The Three Suns and is a hoot! "Silver Bells" is next and conjures up images of Bob Hope walking the streets of Mexico City at Christmas. "Ave Maria" is next so keep walking down the street to the local mission where midnight mass is underway.

Side 2 brings us "Blanco Navidad", a version Irving Berlin would be proud of. The next two songs are original and unique. "God Be Praised" borders on the Now Sound but maintains that Mitch feel - very cool. "The Christmas Star" has just enough Mexican charm and heavy on the Christmas.

"Jingle Bells" in Spanish is always fun and festive but the final two songs are heavy on the reverent side. "The Virgin Of Guadalupe" is a beautiful song that tells the story of Our Lady Of Guadalupe. "Silent Night" follows in Spanish and is always the perfect way to end an Christmas album.

This is a fun album that you'd have to file under "Change Of Pace" for sure. Some of these tracks will one day find a home on my annual Christmas comp as well.

UP NEXT: What I downloaded on November 23, 2006 at 6:36 PM


Monday, August 06, 2007

Hanna-Barbera Organ & Chimes - Merry Christmas

This one almost had me in its tentacles. eBay had several copies tempting me to spend $20 or more to get my own LP. Thankfully, I checked out the cool wax.

Brainwerk runs the fun sharity blog entitled "Check The Cool Wax" whose great Christmas comp I reviewed here earlier this year. Last November, he posted this album and I was able to scratch this one off my list.

By the looks of the cover, it promises to be a fun, fun album. Fast Freddy Flintstone on the stalagmite organ, Snagglepuss pickin' the bass, Huckleberry Hounddog on the chimes, and don't forget Magilla Gorilla on the triangle!

But we're putting the cartoon horse before the cartoon cart. We have to go back to 1939 for the beginning of this story.

On the backlot of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer stood the animation studio where William Hanna and Joseph Barbera first met. They had an instant rapport and set to complete their first collaboration - a 1940 cartoon called "Puss Gets The Boot". This simple cartoon pitted a tom cat against a clever mouse. Hence, Tom and Jerry were born.

For the next seventeen years, Hanna & Barbera and Tom & Jerry created one minor masterpiece after the other. Shortly before MGM closed the animation studio in 1957, the duo had won eight Academy Awards and formed a successful animation company of their own (which did side work like the animated titles for "I Love Lucy").

Hanna & Barbera took aim at the growing number of kids thru television. By 1961, they had their first hits on the tube with "Huckleberry Hound" and "Quick Draw McGraw" and were planning their most ambitious gamble yet - a prime time animated television series for ABC that featured some caveman guy yelling a three word phrase...

"The Flintstones" was a phenomenon. It quickly spawned off merchandising, feature length movies, and even a commercial or two:

During the massive wave of Hanna-Barbera products, this album was recorded and released by Hanna-Barbera Records (go figure) for Christmas, 1965. Look at the cover closely again. Let your eye wander to the left where it says "Featuring The Hanna-Barbera Organ & Chimes".

Yep, this whole album is one guy playing the organ, another person on the chimes, and occasionally you'll hear the piano and sleigh bells. "Jingle Bells" is the only song on the album that has any life, the rest are dull with an occasional hint of cartoon color. I suppose if you close your eyes and concentrate hard enough, your mind will allow you to imagine the pantheon of Hanna-Barbera stars at Christmas time. The music alone will barely get it done.

Following the demise of the modern stone-age family in 1966, H & B continued to put out cartoons at an alarming rate. At one point, it was estimated that three out of four animated shows between 1961 and 1977 came from the Hanna-Barbera studios.

Favorite characters during this period included Snagglepuss, The Jetsons, Top Cat, Jonny Quest, Yogi Bear, Wally Gator, Atom Ant, Magilla Gorilla, Birdman & The Galaxy Trio (the inspiration for "Harvey Birdman, Atty At Law"), Scooby Doo, Josie & The Pussycats, Charlie Chan & The Chan Clan, The SuperFriends & Justice League, The Funky Phantom, SpeedBuggy, and Jabberjaw.

If I forgot one of your favorites, leave a comment below.

By the mid to late 1970s, Hanna-Barbera decade long domination of the airwaves was beginning to wane. The production was beginning to suffer as "talking heads" and action implied off screen became the norm.

We had seen every variation of "The Flintstones" and "Scooby-Doo" imaginable (including the much hated Scrappy Doo) and very little new original animated series. It got so bad that H &B began animating "Happy Days" and "Mork & Mindy" for Saturday morning fare in the early 1980s. At decade's end, the cash cow had died and Hanna-Barbera was strapped for cash.

Enter Ted Turner. In 1991, Turner bought out H & B and began the Cartoon Network. While many of the older shows took up space, a new generation of animators came to work for H & B and began to think outside the box. We were rewarded with shows like "Johnny Bravo", "Dexter's Laboratory", and "The Powerpuff Girls". Hanna & Barbera are constant inspirations on Adult Swim, "Robot Chicken", and "Robert Smigel's Funhouse" on SNL.

At their induction into the Television Hall Of Fame in 1994, Joseph Barbara (who died last December at the age of 95) turned to his lifelong partner William Hanna (who died in 2001 at the age of 90) and said "their hasn't been a week that went by that I didn't say to you three magical words. Yabba Dabba Doo". The gents shook hands and wandered off into rerun heaven.

UP NEXT: What I downloaded on November 21, 2006 at 12:43 PM.


The Cricketones - Christmas Is For Children

Today starts a look back at the 125+ Christmas albums (yes, 125 plus!) that I downloaded during the 2006 holiday downloading season. Some will get serious looks. Others will get thumbnail sketches. Will I get to them all? Only time will tell.

This was the first full album I clicked. Even wrote down the date, the place, the time, and from who - November 18, 2006 at 9:03 AM from FaLaLaLaLa community member Inkydog.

If you look closely at the bottom right hand corner of the album, you'll notice that this is from Design Records, a budget budget division of the budget label Pickwick International.

Design Records are the same folks who brought you wonderful Christmas albums like "Dennis Day Sings For The Family", "Christmas With The Happy Crickets", and probably the greatest budget Christmas release ever: "Tijuana Christmas" by The Border Brass.

Not much info is out there on the Cricketones. But the music is festive, fun, and very light - perfect fare for kiddies, Christmas, or both. I'm very much reminded by the Caroleers when listening to this for the first time. With such song titles like "The Little Christmas Stocking With The Hole In The Toe" and "I've Got 18 Cents To Spend On Christmas", it falls into that Caroleers category for the first five tracks.

The rest of the album is very different. The Cricketones sing some Christmas standards - their telling of "The Night Before Christmas" is quite nice, "Rudolph" has a radio orchestra feel to it (lovely), and a six minute condensation of Scrooge's "Christmas Carol" is quite strange.

This takes us up to the midway point of side two (or track 9 for those playing at home). Suddenly, and without warning, we get simple renditions of "Joy To The World", "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear", et al not sung by the Cricketones. This is a choir, orchestra, and they're playing it at full blast. As if they ran out of original material and stuck on whatever they wanted on the end of the album. Lame.

But that's the world of budget labels: get it out fast, cheap, make a buck. Inkydog slips in a bonus track by the Cricketones entitled "Mixie Pixie" that wasn't on this album and it's about 1 minute in length. There's more in this one minute that the last half of side two combined. Thanks Inky for sharing this "album" out with us!

UP NEXT: What I downloaded on November 20, 2006 at 8:46 AM