Sunday, December 05, 2021

Merry Christmas--delightful Palace label cheapness (and recycled Robin Hood singles)! (Palace XM-902)


No Christmas is complete without a Palace label offering--and we've got two this year.  One is a re-up, and the other is new to the blog.  This is the new-to-the-blog one--Merry Christmas (jolly original title, no?) on Palace XM-902.  Three of these tracks were carried over onto Palace XM-903 (Christmas at Home) and then at least six or seven were carted onto Palace XM-911 (Christmas Surprise Package), with Fontanna somehow becoming "John Rawles."  Ah, the world of budget labels.

Also, the final selection, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (plus, I believe, I'm Getting Nottin' ((!)) for Christmas), comes from Robin Hood, a subsidiary of Hollywood Records, and, after studying the Robin Hood releases at Discogs, I find it highly possible that many of the other tracks are Robin Hood reissues, too.  Most of these have a culled-from-singles sound to them. 

For such a desperately cheap label, Palace (which partnered with the equally desperately cheap Masterseal) did have some cool jackets at times, and this is one of them.  It's very charming, very period--and, in fact, very well designed.  Someone might even be fooled by it ("This looks legit!").  But one glance at the labels, with their thick and chalky white ink, and we know we're in the budget zone.

Some interesting liner-note content: "For those who do not practice the Christian faiths, Christmas also has a meaning of more than passing significance."  Which would be...?  The notes continue: "Wherever Christmas carols are sung, the differences and barriers which separate us during every day (sic) life suddenly disappear and we are united by a common spirit of rejoicing."  Yes, I can see that.  Especially such deep and reflective carols as I'm Getting Nottin' (sic) for Christmas.  

Anyway, for a budgetphile like me, Merry Christmas is cheap-Xmas gold.  I love to find these things.

DOWNLOAD: Merry Christmas (Palace XM 902)

Jingle Bells
Home for the Holidays
Silent Night
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
I'm Getting Nottin' (sic) for Christmas
O Little Town of Bethlehem
White Christmas
One Little Candle
Deck the Hall
Sleigh Ride (Anderson)
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Satna Claus Is Coming to Town--The Robinettes

Merry Christmas--Fontanna, His Orchestra and Chorus (Palace XM-902)


Saturday, December 04, 2021

Christmas Songs and Carols--Sixteen Singing Men, Curt Davis, Jerry Barnes, Caravan Singers, more! (Singcord ZLP 872S; 1972)


Reading from the last chapter of a book by a former prof, Jack Santino, I came across a fascinating, however obvious, point.  New Old-Fashioned Ways, it's called, and that's meant to be ironic, of course.  Santino is brilliant, though he was out of his element, really, in the classes I attended, given that he's a folklorist.  As a result, I didn't realize how very smart he is, though of course I knew he was anything but dull.  I apologize to the author if I'm getting this wrong, but the fascinating point is that "commercialized" holidays are what we can expect in a capitalist society.  In other words, in the case of Christmas, it's totally appropriate--or at least inevitable--that C. will be "commercialized"--it speaks of/to the cultural importance of the holiday. It also shapes the events in accordance with our culture.  Christmas is the big day, and so it's commercialized to the max.  At least in my country, it's our way of mass-observing the event.

And it's interesting to see that Christmas, as far back as 1996, had become "the holiday."  That's the phrase we hear most often.  Note that Easter, Thanksgiving, and Halloween are never called "the holiday."  "The holiday" is Christmas.

And what does this have to do with today's offering?  Hm.  Let me think about that.

We just encountered a Parade (SPC) label sampler, and now we have a Singcord label sampler, so there's some method to my Xmas madness, at least for the moment.  Being a small (but not a "junk") sacred label, Singcord's sampler is a better-quality affair (as in, much better), with artist credits and everything.  The tracks are marvelous, as we'd expect from this company, and they include two sublime cuts by Sixteen Singing Men, one of my favorite sacred outfits (we'll be hearing an entire LP by them soon).  Other highlights: a very lively We Wish You a Merry Christmas by Dean Brown and the Caravan Singers, and Jimme McDonald with the folky Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow.  The only meh track, to me, is Straw Carol, but you can't win them all.  This sampler LP straddles the fence between art and pop, musically, which is exactly as Christmas--I mean, holiday--music should be, in my view.  Formal but not formal. The theme of keeping things in their place, of celebrating in a temperate way, is one hundred percent a part of holiday culture, but, being a symbolic sentiment, there's no literal meaning we can hang on that idea.  That is, what does it literally mean to make merry, but not too merry?  Also, the meaning of "merry" has changed over the centuries, though I forget exactly how.  Some Xmas historian I am...

To avoid the eyestrain of fixing the code, I'm going to let the track listing double space.  It's the Blogger default.  Didn't used to be that way...

DOWNLOAD: Christmas Songs and Carols (Singcord ZLP 872S; 1972)

In a Cave--Sixteen Singing Men

Hark the Herald Angels Sing--Curt Davis, Organist

Mary's Boy Child--Bob Parks and the Evangelaires Quartet

O Little Town of Bethlehem--Jerry Barnes with the Ralph Carmichael Quartet

We Wish You a Merry Christmas--Dean Brown and the Caravan Singers

O Holy Night--Sixteen Singing Men

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear--Herman Voss, Organist

Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow--Jimme McDonald, Soloist

Straw Carol--Dean Brown and the Caravan Singers

Silent Night--Jerry Barnes with the Ralph Carmichael Orchestra

Christmas Songs and Carols (Singcord ZLP 872S; 1972)


Thursday, December 02, 2021

It seemed hilarious at the time: "Parade Christmas Sampler"



A thousand years from now, Johnny Kay/Kaye's voice will still be heard at Yuletide.  This is a safe prediction to make, since there's absolutely no way to test it.

Anyway, I was thrilled when I found this, because the whole thing seems funnier than heck--Parade (SPC) offering a sampler of its endlessly recycled material.  As in, "Come, sample our cheap catalog, and get a taste of our terrible pressing quality."  And the pressing is pretty marginal, at least on the Kay/Kaye tracks, which were badly distorted in the louder sections--on my initial rip, that is.  I would give this LP a visual grade of VG+, so something went wrong when this was stamped, because it's not needle wear.

Anyway, and oddly enough, my 1.2 mil stylus rescued the Kay/Kaye tracks.  I say "oddly," because I would think that the louder grooves would be wider.  In which case, a wider stylus should make things sound worse.  But the opposite occurred.  Where's Robert Stack (Unsolved Mysteries) when we need him?  And aren't mysteries, by definition, unsolved?  Otherwise, they wouldn't be mysteries.  

And what can we say about a sampler that doesn't even identify the performers, beyond showing some album jackets on the front?  I didn't bother figuring out the credits (save for Johnny, whom I could i.d. a hundred miles away)--somehow, it didn't seem worth the trouble.  We know that the Abbey Choir, The Caroleers, Jesse Crawford, and some others appear in this sampler, and that's enough.  But, really, a sampler should name names, and this one doesn't.  If SPC's goal was to introduce buyers to the fullness of its cheapness, then they did a bang-up job.

Don't get me wrong--I love SPC's cheap stuff, especially their often wonderful fake hits.  And, really, their studios produced some fine sound.  But their stampers produced some un-fine artifacts.

By the way, please don't rely on the Discogs listing for this sampler, as it clearly refers to some RCA holiday comp.  It has nothing to do with this record.  Then again, a messed-up Discogs entry is almost apt.  We know that SPC wouldn't have cared.

DOWNLOAD: Parade Christmas Sampler

O Come All Ye Faithful
The Night Before Christmas
White Christmas
I Heard the Bells (Longfellow-Marks)
Jingle Bells
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Away in the Manger
When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter
Every Valley Shall Be Exalted
As With Gladness
Joy to the World
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
The Twelve Days of Christmas

Parade Christmas Sampler (Parade XSP-419)


Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Home for Christmas--Terry Baxter, His Orchestra and Chorus (Columbia House DS 950)


A Christmas without Terry Baxter is like... well, a Christmas without Terry Baxter. But, seriously, this Columbia House mail-order LP is a superior product--it touches all the musical bases, from Silver Bells to Some Children See Him to Rudolph to The Holy City to Hallelujah Chorus. I was expecting same-sounding tracks, but the arranging styles vary quite a lot, with tracks that recall Ray Conniff, Robert Shaw, Johnny Mann, and George Melachrino. I especially like White Christmas, which uses musical quotations almost to the point of comedy but is all the more fun because of them. Meanwhile, Rudolph sounds like a joint Henry Mancini/Floyd Cramer effort, and there's a beautiful brass version of The First Noel, though at one point it sounds like an organ has joined in, creating a serious mismatch in resonance. I still like it. The Holy City is a standout, too, with an elaborate, George Martin-esque sound. Silver Bells receives a sort of bluesy treatment--Ray Charles Lite. I love the ways the styles bounce around.

These imaginative settings have me appreciating titles I don't usually dig.  Exception: Do You Hear What I Hear, a number which (to my ears) nothing can save.  Apologies to fans of that song, but I can live without it.  And if Terry Baxter can't sell it to me, no one can.

Everything is expertly done, of course. Well, nearly everything--the piano-dominated instrumentals are pretty tacky compared to the rest of the LP, and they contain enough keyboard bloopers to warrant retakes. Maybe these were rushed to meet a deadline. But the rest of Home for Christmas is top-notch in the musicianship department. A much better LP than I would have expected from Columbia House. (That'll teach me.)  One of the funnest Xmas offerings so far this year.  It originally made its appearance at the blog in 2018, but the Zippyfile link went bye-bye ages ago--plus, this is in a higher bitrate than before.

Click here to hear: Home for Christmas--Terry Baxter Orch. and Chorus 

White Christmas
The Little Drummer Boy 
The First Noel 
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer 
Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine 
When Christmas Comes 
The Holy City 
Do You Hear What I Hear? 
Joy to the World
Angels We Have Heard on High 
Silver Bells 
Some Children See Him 
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town 
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel 
I'll Be Home for Christmas 
Hallelujah Chorus 

 Home for Christmas--Terry Baxter/His Orchestra and Chorus (Columbia House DS 950) 


Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Another Pickwick offering--"Christmas Sing-Along" (or, if you prefer, "Christmas Sing-A-Long"), 1962


Last year, I presented one of my favorite finds ever--the Pickwick Christmas Is for Children LP, circa 1957--and so it's nice to have a "new" Pickwick holiday classic to share out.  At Discogs, "Gerald Gibson and His Sing-A-Longers" pulls up only one LP, and--surprise!  It's this one.  As a lone search phrase, "Gerald Gibson" brings up folks who clearly aren't this person, assuming this person was for real to begin with.  (Then again, someone had to have directed the music...)  Anyhow, very enjoyable stuff, with that chintzy Pickwick sound we love so well.  And this is yet another budget "vinyl" which can't decide on its title--on the jacket, it's Christmas Sing-Along, whereas on the label it's Christmas Sing-A-Long.  One hyphen, two hyphens--whatever.  I believe I tagged it as Sing-A-Long.  This is a vastly important matter, so I thought I'd discuss it.

In "full spectrum stereo," by the way, courtesy of Hurrah Records, which describes itself as follows: "Tomorrow's sound today.  A complete music library for the home.  Music for every listening pleasure.  Yes--music to please every member of the family from grandparents down to the diaper set."  Wow.

Not only all that, but Hurrah Records are "Designed to please the most exacting technicians."  It seems that Pickwick really went all the way with this one, except for telling us who Gerald Gibson is.  Or his Sing-Alongers/Sing-A-Longers.  Everything we could ask for--except an artist bio.

The cover art is beautifully period--a very 1962 depiction of carolers singing by the light of a street lamp.  Penciled on the back jacket is "Jack R. Houocker (sp.?)," a previous owner, plus the words "Ha! Ha."  Was that an editorial comment?

DOWNLOAD: Christmas Sing-Along: Gerald Gibson and His Sing-A-Longers

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
White Christmas
Jingle Bells
Deck the Halls
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
O Come All Ye Faithful
Joy to the World
The First Noel
Silent Night
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
O Little Town of Bethlehem
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Away in a Manger
What Child Is This

(Christmas Sing-Along--Gerald Gibson and His Sing-A-Longers; Hurrah HS-X7; 1962)