Thursday, January 14, 2021

When are Chinese Christmas LPs not Chinese Christmas LPs? A: When they're Japanese.


Oops.  On December 10, I featured a ten-inch LP of Western Christmas songs sung in Chinese.  Except they were actually sung in Japanese, as I found when I plugged the label images into Microsoft's Translator app.  Going from Chinese to English got me nowhere, so I tried Japanese to English, and...

"Japanese Nativity Song Seika," with "Seika" meaning either "birth" or "home."  Definitely not a Chinese LP...

I like "Nativity song."  It's a cool phrase.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Priceless information on "He Will Set Your Fields on Fire"


Last month, reader Gary kindly sent me this scan of He Will Set Your Fields on Fire.  It is copyrighted 1925, as is the book containing it (Winning Praise, The Sebren Music Co., Asheville NC).  

Then, today, reader Leah--the great granddaughter of Homer Ballew (lyricist H.M. Ballew) left this comment at my Dec. 30, 2018 Fields on Fire-athon post:

"Hello, My name is Leah Stewart, daughter of Leta(Ballew)Stewart and great grandaughter of the late Homer Ballew. According to my 94 yr old grandpa Charles L Ballew who is sitting her next to me...His father Homer Ballew wrote the song he 'will set your fields on fire' when he was a young boy in the late 20's."

Huge thanks to Leah for providing this priceless information.  I asked her for a little more information, mainly to clarify that Homer was the lyricist (i.e., that he had no hand in the tune--just checking to be sure, as I don't place absolute faith in songbook credit order), but whether I hear back or not, a billion thanks for Leah's comment, which I didn't answer immediately, as I wanted to have all the relevant data on hand first.  This is the sort of feedback and handle on history which makes blogging a joy.

I am fully convinced 1925 is the correct year for this number, and I've been wondering for years when this first appeared.  A zillion thanks to Gary, as well, for providing these scans.

Sometimes, the internet is a pure miracle.  This has totally blown my mind!  Finally--the year and credits for this gospel masterpiece established. 


Saturday, January 09, 2021

The Shawnee Choir--The Caroling Season (1974); The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (1977)


Here are the other two wonderful Shawnee Choir "reference recording" LPs ripped and scanned for this blog by Brad, the King of Jingaling.  Speaking of, be sure to check Brad's site for the Line Material booklets from 1956-62 (save for 1957).  I had hoped that maybe I had a 1957 LM brochure sitting around, but memory told me mine was the 1960 catalog.  For once, my memory was correct.  Oh, well.

I suppose that, if your church has a first-class choir, these LPs would make fine reference recordings, but not many church choirs are on or near the level of the superb Shawnee outfit.  Whatever.  All I know is that lovers of brilliant choral performances live to find LPs like these.  Well, if they're into vinyl.  If they have a phonograph.  Then again, with folks like me, Brad, Ernie, Buster, and all the other vinyl bloggers digitizing audio media of old, I guess it's not necessary to own a phonograph to enjoy vinyl.  Amazing.  I made a claim, and then I obliterated it.  But I'm a good sport about such things.

What am I babbling about?  Don't ask me.  It's mild migraine time, I'm afraid.  That's what I'm dealing with right now as I type--a light migraine with occasional stabbing pains and a general feelings of "I'm not real."  That not-quite-here feeling is one of my psychological migraine symptoms--I also, on rare occasions, have audio hallucinations, OR my sense of smell is altered.  I've read that the pain aspect of a migraine is caused by inflammation outside the brain, whereas the neurological symptoms--an altered sense of smell or a not-quite-here feeling (in my case)--are caused by inflammation of the veins inside the brain.  What a wonderful thing to be discussing when we're about to hear exquisitely performed holiday music.  So, just leave me to my migraine, and meanwhile the Shawnee Choir will make anything-but-easy choral arrangements sound like child's play.  Absolutely gorgeous stuff here, and thanks again to Brad.  I had planned to get these up sooner, but you know the old joke: If you want to give God a good laugh, tell him your plans.  I guess that applies to both grand plans and to the little ol' plans of bloggers. 


The Caroling Season--The Shawnee Choir (1974)

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols)--The Shawnee Choir (1977)


Friday, January 08, 2021

Lowrey Brings Joy to the World (Lowrey 802219; 1982), or Old Lame Sines

I checked Ernie's blog, and I found no sign of this LP, so I figured I was good to go.  When I'd completed my rip, I did a recheck, and I saw that Ernie had posted this in 2018.  All I can figure is that I misspelled "Lowrey" on the first search.  But... this is a fabulous, fun, delightfully weird, and historically significant share, so... here's my rip of Lowrey Brings Joy to the World ('tis the season to be humble).

This is from 1982, which maybe takes us into the digital area, and I have to wonder if some digital sampling (of a not-advanced type) is happening on some of these numbers.  Two organs are played on this Lowrey Christmas promo--the Cotillion Model D-575 and The Lowrey Holiday Model D-350.  It should be noted that Pete Townshend used a much earlier Lowery--a 1968 Berkshire Deluxe TBO-1--to create what sounded like a sequenced synthesizer on Baba O'Riley.  A repeated-note feature was employed, as shown in this YouTube video.  Electronic organs, which date back to just before 1900, are the obvious ancestors of synthesizers, but (in my tech-limited mind), I've always considered them the original synthesizers, since the things had to generate waveforms, right?  By one means or another, they had to create artificial sounds.  In fact, doesn't sound synthesis date all the way back to the telephone?  Voices don't literally travel through wires, any more than music literally swells up out of record grooves.

Anyway, I'm old enough to remember when the sounds on this LP sounded stilted but not comical (that took a few decades).  They sounded, well, modern.  And you've got to admit that a number of the voices--including the notes produced by the "Solo, Orchestral and String Symphonizers" (to quote from the notes)--were likely sampled.  "Symphonizing" is obviously an elaborate, if cheesy-sounding, manipulation of a waveform or waveforms, so if much of this sounds like a cheap synth of today, it's only because the same sounds can be accomplished more simply and within a far smaller space.  Notes: "Choir introduces the unique sound of human-like voices singing in perfect harmony"--a sound which starts out the LP, and I could swear Lowrey sampled a vintage vocoder.  To call the effect unconvincing is an act of kindness, but it's sure cool in a "Dear God, that probably sounded cutting edge in 1982" type of way.  I remember being highly annoyed by electric organ rhythm effects back in the day, and, while I haven't grown to love them (in fact, they have me appreciating my Casio WK-3800's way better built-in beats), I've come to regard them as pricelessly hilarious.  This album is like Christmas Day on the Love Boat.

The occasional cool voice is followed by ultra-cheesy ones, and rarely is the fake percussion remotely convincing, suggesting that sampling was a very new art in 1982.  But the frequent juggling of voices adds a lot to these tracks--it makes for fun, often ill-advised mood changes mid-track.  The players are all very skilled, of course, but, all these years later, they sound like they're messing around on modern stocking-stuffer make-your-own-music (Ages 3-10) toys.  Exception: the basic, classic Lowrey organ voices, as heard, for example, on Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree.  Just take away 80 percent of the special voices, and you have some superb-sounding organ--nowadays, a sound easily sampled and offered in a keyboard-only unit (with an little add-on box for registration effects).  

Verdict: Some awesome(ly dreadful, in a fun way) vintage effects mixed with the classic Lowrey sound, all made hilarious by percussion on the level of the effects I used to create for my own homemade comedy tapes--such as, putting a mike inside a shoebox and rapping on the outside of it.  I just can't believe that, at the age of 25, I would have found these tracks modern-sounding.  But I did.  Because nothing changes faster than modern.  Even retro evolves.  In the 1920s, everyone was making fun of the pop culture of 1870-1915, or thereabouts.  Then it was hippies making fun of the 1950s.  Then the 1970s were a hoot.  Now, I guess we're at the 1980s.  I've lost track.

Hey, an almost cool effect at the end of Auld Lang Syne: a synth-sax sound which quickly degenerates into that horrible synth effect used on TV police show themes of the 1980s.  I think I heard some pitch swerve.  

DOWNLOAD: Lowrey Brings Joy to the World (Lowrey 802219; 1982)


Thursday, January 07, 2021

20 German Christmas Favorites--Let's Be Happy and Cheerful; Sleigh Ride From the Sky High; In Dulci Jubilo; O Fir Tree (Peters International 7040; 1977)


Well, according to the Julian calendar, it's Christmas!  So, merry Christmas!  And I would have had this up sooner, but I was sort of glued to the TV yesterday, telling myself, "This isn't happening," even though I knew better.  In the evening, I finished my Lowrey Brings Joy to the World rip--before discovering Ernie had posted the LP in 2018.  Now, I know I checked Ernie's blog prior to ripping the album, and I know I saw no sign of anything Lowrey there.  Therefore, I must have misspelled Lowrey (probably as "Lowery") when I did my first search.  Dang.  And it's such a beautifully cheesy LP, with snyth-style sounds coming from two 1982 Lowrey organs.  Of course, electric organs were the precursor(s) to synths--and though my technical knowledge of such stuff is limited, electric organs had to produce (and manipulate) waveforms, so they would seem to be an early type of synthesizer.  Fans of the Who know (or should know) that what sounds like a sequenced synth in Baba O'riley is actually a Lowrey organ, with a repeated-note effect activated.  (I didn't know that until last night.)

Since I've got the thing ripped and ready, I may put the Lowrey LP up, anyway--after all, I didn't swipe Ernie's rip or images.  Decisions, decisions.  For the moment, we have a wonderful LP of the TV-offer-looking variety--20 German Christmas Favorites--and it's packed with top-quality performances, and it even has a choral version of Silent Night that I love.  Typically, I don't even like choral versions of Silent Night--not because it's not a good number (it's a great one, imo), but because it's probably the most played traditional Christmas number of them all.  Few things remain fresh after a zillion plays--except for Jingle Bells.  But the Thomanchor version in this collection is totally splendid, and I hated having to do a quick fade-out at the end, but a noisy defect in the pressing made it necessary.  A noisy conclusion to Silent Night--the irony.  Anyway, I spared your ears the sound of the errant closing grooves.

And just Googled "Most popular traditional Christmas song," expecting a list of traditional Christmas songs--i.e., carols and hymns of the non-Tin Pan Alley type.  And, of course, the idiotnet--er, internet--coughed up lists which include Frosty the Snowman and The Christmas Song.  Great job, internet--don't simply play to ignorance, encourage it!  Anyway, Silent Night would certainly be one of the most-sung traditional Christmas songs, even if "traditional" apparently has no meaning in cyberspace.  ("Well, my mom heard it on the radio, so it's got to be real old!")

Bryan led me to the free Google Translate app, which translates writing from images, and I used it for the first time here.  It did mostly a good job, though there were wonky moments--I had to figure out that, in addition to a couple other terms, "People's style" meant "Folk song."  I'm assuming.  And I'm still not sure about Sleigh Ride From the Sky High, but I'll take Microsoft's word for it.  The funnest of the literal translations was the one for the great Martin Luther chorale, Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her (From Heaven Above to Earth I Come), which came out as That's Where I Come From.  Okay.  And O Tannenbaum is O Fir Tree, and I like that, so I kept it.  And I have no idea what A Muh, A Mowing is all about (animal sounds?)--only four matches in a Google search, one of which has someone asking, "'A Muh, a mowing' is a Christmas song?" Apparently, yes.  I think.

And we get a lovely version of the already lovely Italian carol You Come Down from the Stars, only under the title, Children's Eyes Under the Christmas Tree, which sounds like something out of Charles Addams.  I'm guessing it means something more like, "Children searching for presents under the tree."  I hope, anyway.  Again, marvelous performances, and I'm guessing that these are performers famous in Germany (duh), though I only recognize James Last.  A perfect mix of solo and choral material, and this should have been my opening post for 2020.  

And can anyone explain Power up the Door?  Wait--Wikipedia to the rescue: Macht hoch die Tür.  "Fling wide the door."  Of course.  What was I thinking?

"Freddy," by the way, is a terrific singer--his rendition of Vom Himmel Hoch is gorgeous.  He must be the Austrian singer Freddy Quinn.  Merry Christmas!

DOWNLOAD: 20 German Christmas Favorites (Peters International 7040; 1977)