Monday, December 31, 2018

A sackful of singles and album extracts--20 of them!










The engineering, if it can be called that, on the Julius La Rosa disc (We Need a Little Christmas) sounds like something anyone could accomplish with a $9.99 microphone and a transistor radio.  Good Lord.  And La Rosa's over the top performance sounds like it was his last chance to escape the firing squad or something.  Did he always sound this outrageously fake?  Overdone enthusiasm is the kiss of death, even when you're selling a piece of fluff like this.  I'ts like someone grinning like Gene Kelly and shouting "I'M HAVING A GREAT TIME!  I WOULDN'T WANT TO BE ANYWHERE ELSE!" at a party and expecting people to believe you.

Come on, folks!  Haul out the holly!!  We don't need bass or mid-range when we've got the McChristmas spirit.

Then it's the Beginning of the End (what's with that name?)  with a track that's surreal in its superiority to the opening inanity.  Believe or not, this superb jazz-funk group used the same Gee Whiz backing tracks for an attempted Funky Nassau follow-up called Doin' the Funky Do (1972).  When and if I find an affordable copy of Do, I'll grab it.

The New Hallelujah (Hallelujah Chorus) is a Moog number arranged by Ralph Carmichael and featured on a Light Records LP--the kind which you're not sure about the title or who to credit.  It's an amusing relic (1970), and very well done.  Dallas Corey's sides are very pleasant vanity holiday singles, complete with children's chorus, and you won't be humming them for days.  Or even seconds.  But they're better than listening to Julius have a heart attack trying to sell A Little Christmas while the MGM engineer filters out the bass.  1982's Happy Birthday Jesus (leaving out commas didn't start with the internet) is another fluffy vanity (fluffy vanity?) effort--this time, with the artist's full name (Al Rosa) as the label, not just the surname (Corey for Dallas Corey)--and it's no disgrace to the season, either.  It's catchier, in fact.  The chorus is cool.  Cliche City, U.S.A., but that's called Christmas.  "Have a merry, merry happy birthday, Jesus."  And Al gives us a spoken section that sounds like it's the first time he read it.

"Angels sing-aling"?  Now, that's too much.  Sorry.

A 1941 Novachord Parade of the Wooden Soldiers?  Sure.  Collins H. Driggs was good friends with Ferde Grofe, but I don't remember the details and don't have time to look them up.  Driggs and Grofe played in a Novachord quartet at the 1939 World's Fair, I think.  Not positive.  Anyway, anyone listening to this would think the Novachord was a very limited proto-synth, and no one would blame them.  Actually, it made some amazing sounds--its range was uncanny.  No one was more surprised than I was to discover that.  There's a Driggs 78 on YouTube from the set this 78 came from, and I don't understand sound reproduction that awful.  It's not rocket science.   Use 78 needle.  Do some filtering.  Maybe the YouTube poster grew up listening to Julius' We Need A Little... and thought that was how sound is supposed to sound.

Two lovely Liberace sides from 1953, with a great picture sleeve.  People laugh at Liberace.  My jazz musician father insisted Liberace had limited ability.  I took ten years of piano lessons.  Liberace did not have limited ability.  Lew White tickled the ivories (or whatever they are on organs) quite well, too.  Ernie has featured these two delightful 1942 numbers, and I'm featuring them, too, so nyah.  John McCormack's unbelievably beautiful early-1920s version of the Bach-Gounod setting of Ave Maria sort of hurts my ears because of the transfer quality, which was likely first-rate for 1960; not so much now.  I just mail-ordered a copy of the 78 (whose label number isn't in my 78 dating guide--its listing stops short), so I'll get to see what I can do with it.  The performance by all three musicians--tenor, violin, piano--is a recording-history landmark. 

Ambrose Haley's 1947 Old-Timey Christmas is the ultimate contrast to the previous performance, but different isn't necessarily bad, and it's not only not bad, it's quite good.  "Authentic" is too relative a concept to have any meaning, and so I avoid using it.  But this is authentic, rock-the-jukebox country.  Bluegrass, really.  But bluegrass is country, after all.

The four Gateway label sides are standard budget-label holiday hit copies.  And I have no idea what I just typed.  Eileen Scott--and, off the top of my head, I recall it was her real name--is a familiar name and voice, and a good singer.  I don't know if "Jack Daniels" was a joke, or what.  And I seem to remember him showing up on the Broadway label, but we've talked before about the impossibility of keeping cheap-label data straight unless you're an android specifically programmed for that purpose, so I'll just say, um, Merry Christmas!  The angels are sing-aling.  And the New Year is about 30 minutes away....





CLICK HERE TO HEARA sackful of singles




We Need a Little Christmas--Julius La Rosa, 1966
Gee Whiz, It's Christmas--The Beginning of the End, 1971
The New Hallelujah (Hallelujah Chorus; Arr: Carmichael)--Clark Gassman, Moog Synthesizer, 1970
It's Gonna Be a Mixed Up Christmas--Dallas Corey and Nashville Hillview Baptist Children's Choir, 1972
The Birth of Christmas--Dallas Corey, 1972
Parade of the Wooden Soldiers (Jessel)--Collins H. Driggs, Novachord Solo, 1941
Toy Symphony (Haydn)--RCA Victor Orch., c. Ardon Cornwell, 1947
Ave Maria (Schubert-Gounod)--Liberace, Orch. conducted by George Liberace, 1953
Christmas Medley--Liberace, Orch. conducted by George Liberace, 1953
March of the Toys--Lew White, Organ, 1942
Wedding of the Painted Dolls--Lew White, Organ, 1942
Parade of the Wooden Soldiers (Jessel)--Bobby Harris w. the Peter Pan Orch. and Chorus
Ave Maria (Bach-Gounod)--John McCormack w. Fritz Kreisler, violin, Vincent O'Brien, piano, early 1920s
Old-Timey Christmas--Ambrose Haley and his Ozark Ramblers, 1947
Happy Birthday Jesus--Al Rosa, 1982
Fall Softly Snow--Al Rosa, 1982
The Night Before Christmas Song--Eileen Scott (Gateway 9024 (45 rpm EP; 1956)
C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S--Terry Buter (Same)
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer--Jack Daniels (Same)
Nuttin' for Christmas--Dolly Nunn (Same)


Lee

A Pietro Deiro Publications accordion Christmas





So, I just had one of the weirdest dreams ever.  After the Thin Man was just playing on TV, I was sleeping in my chair, and the dream scenes were happening in accordance with the movie's audio.  I'm in a big house, and Nick and Nora are there.  There's a huge basement which has recently been revamped, and a big party is going on down there.  Someone is murdered in the basement, the cops show up, and I'm looking for my Canon digital camera so I can take a shot of the one of the many elegant rooms down there--one of the thirty or so beyond a passage behind the furnace.  Nick is sitting at a table, being comforted by a woman who is not Nora, and he's somehow suspected in the crime, but he takes the situation casually.  When he's cleared, he responds with a shrug.

That's the problem with weird dreams.  They don't sound nearly as weird as they actually were when you describe them.  It's like, "I had this really strange dream.  I was driving a car."  "And?"  "I was driving a car.  Very weird."  "Driving a car is weird?"

I bought this ten-selection Christmas EP expecting "fake hit"-style tracks, but everything's accordion and percussion.  The eBay ad either didn't mention the nature of the music, or I failed to read the full description.  "Produced by Pietro Deiro Publications," says the label, Pietro Deiro having been a famous and influential accordionist of the early 1900s.  I have some acoustical Victor 78s by him that I haven't gotten around to hearing.

I deduced that it was an instructional record, but I could have avoided the task of deduction by reading all the way to the bottom of the tiny print--"Instructional record to be used only with accompanying text."  So, please don't use this record.  Download it, listen to it, but don't use it without the accompanying text.  I don't have the text, but eBay to the rescue, providing us with images:


Includes the record, too.  $14.99.  I'll pass, since I don't have an accordion.  The disc is fun listening--more entertaining than you might imagine.  Listen, enjoy.  Just don't use without the booklet.

Arrangements by Pietro Deiro, Jr.




CLICK HERE TO HEAR: Pietro Deiro Publications Christmas




Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
A Merry Merry Christmas
Jingle Bell Roll
When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter
The Night Before Christmas Song
The Santa Claus Parade
Everyone's a Child at Christmas
We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer--Christmas Selections (No, 913, MO8H-3055/56)


Lee

Murphy Trucking Company: The Treasures of Christmas--3M Club Chorus (1980)





I was going to start my essay with, "This isn't your usual Christmas record," but is there such a thing?  What's a usual Christmas record?  I'm at the point where I'm not sure.  It's possible there are no usual Christmas records, which would mean that all Christmas records are unusual by definition.  The logical problem, of course, is that, if all Christmas records are unusual, then unusual is the norm.  In which case, all Christmas records are usual.  This is what an intense season of holiday music posting will do to you.  Learn from my example.  Don't let this happen to you.

So, the cartoon character is Murph, who looks like a Leprechaun but I'm almost sure is supposed to be an elf.  Or an elfrechaun, maybe.  On this disc, the 3M Club Chorus (don't ask me) sings five selections for the Murphy Trucking Company of Minneapolis/St. Paul, and they start out with We Need a Little Christmas, except it's called Melody of Christmas on the label.  How on earth did they get away with that?

Anyway, this is followed by Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, then the rest of the numbers are slow meaning-of-the-season songs.  The 3M Club Chorus is very good, and the stereo sound is decent.  Nevertheless, the star of the show here is the label design, the clear vinyl, and the goofy fold-out cover.  Side One was pressed considerably off-center, which is why I didn't rip this last year.  This time, I got out my tapered reamer (after doing the label scans) and widened both spindle holes.  Took a few tries, but I got Side One centered.  The old Dual turntables had removable spindles, which was a great idea that I wish would have become standard.  But it didn't.

Ironic that this is dated 1980, as the Murphy Trucking Company folded in the 1980s.  And if anyone can interpret the dates/captions on the front cover, please comment.  "Minnesota's gift to the nation"--1977.  "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"--1978.  The... what?

Maybe Murph is a Leprechaun, and he does seasonal work at the North Pole and sees no need to change his suit.  Clothes in elf sizes are hard to find, unless you're willing to wear children's styles.




To the Murphy and the 3M Club Chorus: The Treasures of Christmas, Murphy Trucking Co., 1980



Melody of Christmas 
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
Holiday Joys
Through the Eyes of a Child
December Child

3M Club Chorus--The Treasures of Christmas.  A Murphy Production, 1980.


Lee

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Ridiculously good holiday vinyl: Christmas Carols by Father Sydney MacEwan (Columbia CL 924; 1956)







A Goodwill find.  I had no idea who Scottish tenor Father Sydney MacEwan was, but I figured this was worth a 99 cents gamble, especially with the cool cover.  Turns out MacEwan (1909-1991) had a fabulous voice, with a strong John McCormack quality.  He's not quite on John's level, but how many humans are or were?  He's close enough.  The performances are flawless and lovely and relaxing, and we get a superb alternate melody for O Little Town of Bethlehem--not the one we've heard 5,000 times, which I have nothing against, except we've heard it 5,000 times.  And Sydney takes What Child Is This? at a fast clip, which is a refreshing change and which does the tune (Greensleeves) right, in my opinion.  And we're treated to some carols we don't (or I don't, anyway) hear all the time, if at all, and that's too bad, since they're splendid: the Polish carol Midst Quiet Night, the Basque carol The Infant King, and Helen Taylor and Michael Head's modern (1928) carol The Three Mummers.  The last title had me a bit verklempt.  What can I say?

The LP ends with a joyous and playful The Twelve Days of Christmas.  Buster and I were just talking about a choral director with airs about him, to put it nicely.  Like many, I'm sure, I've dealt with marginally gifted people who thought the world should cut a path around them, so it can make for a surreal contrast when we encounter a great talent whose sole goal is do justice to whatever material he or she has chosen to share with us.  Their humble devotion can be downright humbling.  The other types of "artists" live in a fan club of one, and they should be happy they have that many.  Oh, and in case I forget, the fabulous choral backing on these tracks is by the George Mitchell Choir.

Sound quality is extraordinary.

Yeah, it was worth the 99 cents....




Click here to hear: Christmas Carols by Father Sydney MacEwan


Adeste Fideles (In Latin)
Coventry Carol
God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen
O Little Town of Bethlehem
What Child Is This?
Midst Quiet Night
Silent Night
The Infant King
The First Nowell
Good King Wenceslas
The Three Mummers
The Twelve Days of Christmas

Christmas Carols by Father Sydney MacEwan (Columbia CL 924; 1956)


Lee


Sunday morning gospel--Fields on Fire-athon; Pictures/A Picture from Life's Other Side




I haven't done a Sunday Morning Gospel in a long, long spell.  Kind of nice to get back into the spirit.  I've done research on both of the songs in this morning's -athon but never came up with definite dates.  He Will Set Your Fields on Fire, a country and bluegrass gospel standard, is credited to H.W. Ballew (words) and Mrs. L.L. Brackett (music).  Someone stole the copyright in 1943 (the usual "Arr. by" scam) but it's clearly a quartet piece from the late 1920s.  And I just now noticed that The Music of Bill Monroe (Neil V. Rosenberg, Charles K. Wolfe, University of Illinois Press, 2007) gives a year of 1902 for the song, but I've found no other source for this, and I find it odd that neither I nor the folks at Hymnary.org have located an early printing after much searching.  It could well be 1902, but it has a 1920s sound, and Smith's singers were an as-written sort of group, which is my weird way of saying that they stuck to the songbook versions, coming as they did from the shape(d)-note tradition, which was highly disciplined and not very flexible.  

I'd love to see the original sheet music version of Fields.

Ironically, although the later versions of the song sound faster, they're actually taken at a slower tempo than the 1927 Smith side.  It's the fast bluegrass strumming under the melody and harmonies that makes things sound faster.  A similar evolution happened with rock songwriting, come Carole King and other folks who traded eight-bar sections for sixteen, with that Beatles-style beat moving things along, even as the melodies slowed down.  Will You Love Me Tomorrow may be the classic example (quarter and half notes).  Classic 32-bar AABA standards move faster than rock tunes when played as written, but they don't have that beat.  Swing treatments are an exception, as they have a strong forward push rhythmically.  Bill Haley was quite frank about rock and roll coming from swing, and he was right, but don't tell any of the Rolling Stone folks. They know the truth--rock and roll started in the Grand Ole Opry.

Anyway, in my awesome playlist,. we hear everyone from the Smith gang to Carl Story to Kitty Wells to Pat Boone.  I love it, I love it.  Unfortunately, I don't have the 1967 version by the Browns, the folks who hit it big with The Three Bells.  I thought I did, and I'm annoyed to discover I do not.

Pictures from Life's Other Side, a.k.a. Pictures from Life's Other Side goes back at least as far as 1898.  It's the kind of socially-conscious song common in the late 1800s--evangelical Christianity was a socially progressive thing in those days.  Not to give any "seculars" a heart attack, but it's true.  Having said that, despite its message that we should watch out for those who have fallen by the way (the "mighty gallery of pictures" line has no equal in pop song history--none), Pictures was turned into a gospel number--it didn't start as one.  I don't consider this a folk song--it doesn't sound like one--though given the weirdness of song publishing then and now, more than one version may well have found its way into print, each one copyrighted, for what copyrights were worth once the major labels started scouting for "folk" talent.  Suddenly, A.P. Carter's name was on recently published gospel material, and, even across the many decades, I feel for the real authors.




Click here to hear: Fields on Fire-athon




He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--Smith's Sacred Singers, 1927
He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--Carl Story  and his Rambling Mountaineers, 1960
He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--The Lewis Family, 1976
He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--Bill Monroe, 1954
He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--The Country Gentlemen, 1971
He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--The Chuck Wagon Gang, 1986
He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--Kitty Wells, 1959
He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--The Boone Family, 1973
Pictures from Life's Other Side (Vaughn)--Smith's Sacred Singers, 1926
A Picture from Life's Other Side--Bradley Kincaid, 1932
A Picture from Life's Other Side--Carl Story
A Picture from Life's Other Side--G.M. Farley and the Foggy River Boys, 1963


Lee

Saturday, December 29, 2018

An Hour of Christmas Orchestral Music--Royale Concert Orch. (Entire LP, this time); Gilmar 78 rpm EP fun






Today, the return of my eight-selection Gilmar 78 rpm EP, Christmas Favorites, which obviously originated with the Tops label.  My clue?  The "Tops All-Star Orchestra and Chorus" credit.  After you've been blogging for a while, you develop these Holmes-level skills of deduction.  You have to put in a lot of time, though.  Doesn't happen overnight.

The record is beat-up, but plays very nicely with my regular (.7 mil) LP needle.  The tracks are from different sources and eras, so there's no consistency, fidelity-wise.  I tweaked the treble rolloff for max upper range, since a few of the tracks sound pretty muffled.  I'm sure Tops/Gilmar put zero effort into balancing out the sound.

People have asked for Side A of An Hour of Christmas Orchestral Music, and so I ripped it and added it to Side B.  We now have a complete rip.  And the A side is very nice--I should've ripped it in the first place, but I was in a hurry or something.  Not sure.  I'd blame it on the cats, but I can't think of any way to pull that off.  Um... they, er... they were being cats, and so I was only able to manage a Side B rip.  Yeah, that 's it!  The cats were being cats.

Seriously, the first side is lovely, and it provides nice contrast to the peppier flip, with its mislabeled tracks and double(d) versions of Jingle Bells and March of the Toys.  Only problem is some annoying rumble in the quieter spots, and I think it's just the usual bit of good sides vs. crappy mastering.  This is a Record Corporation of America product, after all.  But, man, what a great cover.  And does anyone besides me use the adjective "peppier" anymore?

Enjoy!

Click here to hear:  Christmas Favorites (Gilmar RX100)
Click here to hear:  An Hour of Christmas Orchestral Music--Entire LP


I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Frosty, the Snowman
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Jingle Bells
White Christmas
Silent Night
O Come All Ye Faithful
Deck the Halls

Christmas Favorites--Tops All-Star Orchestra and Chorus (Gilmar RX100; 78 rpm EP)


Silent Night, Holy Night
The First Noel
Adeste Fidelis
O Little Town of Bethlehem
We Three Kings of Orient Are
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Angels We Have Heard on High
Jingle Bells
White Christmas
March of the Toys
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
Toyland
March of Toys
Jingle Bells

An Hour of Christmas Orchestral Music--Royale Concert Orch. (Halo 51500)  Jacket says 1957, discogs says 1956.  Take your pick.


Lee

Lakewood Sings--The Choirs of Lakewood High School (Lakewood, Ohio), 1961






I was about to make this into a zip, then I noticed I'd marked the "Ezekiel" track as "Ezekia."  Had to fix that, then re-export the tracks, which is no big deal, but there's always some tiny error that happens.  How to account for these things?  I know--I typed the wrong letters.  That explains it.

I don't remember when or where this showed up.  Well, it was in Ohio, anyway--I haven't been outside of the state in forever.  Lakewood, Ohio, is metro Cleveland, if I'm using that term correctly.  The liner notes to this LP--the type that randomly capitalizes things--tells us that "the Choir has appeared on National Television and Radio Programs, and has consistently received superior ratings in the Ohio State Competitions."  The choir directors are T.R. Evans and Ulah Gilmore.

The choirs are very, very good.  So, what do you do when you're blessed with gifted high school singers?  You push them past their skill level.  You overtax them, because showing student vocalists in a bad light is some kind of tradition, I guess.  It's beyond me.  With choral music, showiness is the often the  rule, "showiness" being a synonym for reaching too high.  And for tossing taste aside.  Keep things fast, busy, "different."  When everyone is trying to be "different," "different" becomes "same."  That never occurs to some folks.

So, the choirs--senior and junior--sound great in spots, not so great in others.  The male sections in high school choirs often sound weak in unison sections, possibly because fewer males volunteer for choirs, and because the male voice, being lower and louder, isn't as easy to control.  Just a guess from a non-choral expert.  Anyway, Praise to the Lord is a hymn that moves along just fine without the over-arrangement it receives here, one which pushes the senior choir to levels it can't achieve, and ditto for Now Thank We All Our God.  Why take unusually good high school singers and aim too high?  It's like, "You guys are great, so let's give you stuff that would tax pros.  Just as our way of saying thanks."

A disservice to the singers, in my opinion.  They're terrific.  Of the fine tracks that work well, there's the opening one and an amazingly good Carol of the Bells, which almost erases the awful memories of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's idiot-festival version (I was stuck with that thing blasting into my ears while looking through a box of Goodwill LPs, and I actually said out loud, "Does this thing end?").  Also, Carol of the Drum gets just the right treatment, and I'm pleased to see the proper title and credit, even three years after the song was stolen, retitled, and recredited, reminding us that copyright law is a joke.

I want to give this a rave review--the singers are wonderful.  The material, except for the spiritual (there's nothing that works less well, in choral terms, than white school and church choirs singing such material), is well chosen.  Recording quality is fine.  But a number of the arrangements are far better suited to, say, John McCarthy's singers.  Why did the adults do this to these highly talented teens?

Click here to hear: Lakewood Sings--The Choirs of Lakewood High School, 1961


THE SENIOR CHOIR
Now Is the Caroling Season
Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head
A Spotless Rose
Carol of the Bells
Carol of the Drum

THE COMBINED CHOIRS AND ALUMNI
O Come, All Ye Faithful
Alleluia
The Lord Bless You and Keep You

THE JUNIOR CHOIR
Praise We Sing to Thee
Let Thy Holy Purpose

THE SENIOR CHOIR
The Lord Is My Shepherd
Praise to the Lord
Now Thank We All Our God
Ezekiel Saw De Wheel
Lakewood High, We're Proud of You

Lakewood Sings--The Choirs of Lakewood High School, Lakewood OH (Delta Records of Ohio; Pressed by Columbia Record Productions XCTV-82122/23; 1961)

Lee

Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Family Christ Mass (Dane Gordon-Milford Fargo)--Third Presbyterian Church, Rochester NY (1973)



From a local Goodwill, a two-LP set housed in a single jacket with a booklet enclosed--a Christmas Mass with music by the late Milford Fargo, who was an associate professor of Music Education at the Eastman School of Music.  Fargo was a close friend of Alec Wilder and conducted Wilder's Children's Plea for Peace on the Turnabout label.  Fargo's Mass was recorded at the the Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester NY on Dec. 24, 1972 at the Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York, and the  booklet has a 1973 copyright date, so I'm going with that.

The text is by Dane Gordon, who apparently is still with us, and who a Google check identifies as an emeritus professor of philosophy from Rochester Institute of Technology and a retired Presbyterian minister.  Gordon was born in London and served in the Royal Navy during WWII.

This was the most complicated ripping and labeling task I can recall.  To get the track info and artist credits as close to correct as possible, I had to consult the booklet provided, the labels, and the back cover for any inconsistencies or omissions.  In the final band on Side 4 (the Agnus Dei), five titles flow together without a break, so track-marking was tricky.

The Kyrie ("Lord Have Mercy Upon Us") is probably my favorite part--simple but moving.  Don't be thrown off by the brass when it enters in another key--that's intended as a modern touch.  I think.

As Gordon points out in the booklet, "The mass is traditionally divided into Five parts: Kyrie Eleison, Gloria in Excelsis, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei."  So the booklet lists all five in all-caps, with no subtitles.  The labels, deciding not to cooperate, use all-caps and subtitles, except for the Credo, which isn't all-caps and has no subtitle.  A small deviation, but enough to throw things off.

The texts are... interesting.  They contain lines like "When Adam was a soldier, he went to war one night.  He launched a guided missile and said, 'Let there be light.'"  And "So Joseph took the little babe, and off they rode to Egypt.  And Mary mixed some lemonade, Because she thought they'd need it.  Tra la, tra la, tra la la la, tra la.  And Mary mixed some lemonade, Because she thought they'd need it."

From Wake Up Early: "Take a photograph.  Leave yourself out of it.  Take a photograph when nobody is there.  Jump down an oil well.  Wait for tomorrow.  The glory of God is the bite in the air."

In the notes, the author explains, "A Family Christ Mass is an attempt to present this ancient form of worship with contemporary ideas and music of many styles.

"Christ was interested in the details of his everyday life.  This Mass touches upon details of today's life using words and music that are intended to relate to all members of a family."

I'm too tired to argue.  Because there are two LPs and a slew of scans, I broke things down into three zips.



A Family Christ Mass (Gordon-Fargo), recorded 1972 (PCI Recording Services USR 5164, 1973)

ZIP FILE 1: Sides 1 and 2
ZIP FILE 2: Sides 3 and 4
ZIP FILE 3: Jacket, labels, booklet




No way I'm listing all the titles!  Please consult scans....



Lee





Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Granville (Ohio) Elementary School--1961 Christmas Program






I found this LP in 2009 at Goodwill--probably around these parts, not in Columbus, Ohio.  Anyway, it came in a plain white jacket, and there's no track information on the label, so for my 2010 post I had to figure out the titles.  Luckily, that post is at the Wayback Machine, so I was was able to access the title info.  Figured out one more this time from a single mention in cyberspace--O Nightingale in Hiding, an old French carol.  Five titles are my best guess, and they are preceded by an asterisk.

Granville, Ohio, is close by.  A short drive from here, I do my grocery shopping there, and I pass through it when traveling to Heath or Newark.

For students from grades 1 through 6, these kids are quite good, with at least one selection featuring excellent and complicated part singing.  I'm too tired to remember which one that is, but you'll hear it.  I like the background noises, for some reason--the clunks and other sounds, and less than expert editing.  At least nothing gets cut off.  The background sounds make everything sound more natural, giving the listener more of a sense of being there, even if this was 57 years ago.

Not your usual public school carol and hymn line-up, by a long shot.  The kids worked hard on this material--you can tell.  Very diverse playlist, with performances that are disarmingly simple and honest, and some material you wouldn't expect kids this young to tackle at all, let alone so well.

The accompanist is listed as Mrs. Albert Davison on Side A and Mrs. Albert W. Davison, Jr. on Side B.  You'd think they must be the same person, but maybe the first woman is the wife of Davison, Sr., and the second the wife of Davison, Jr.  It's remotely possible....




CLICK HERE TO HEAR: Granville Elementary School--1961 Christmas Program





SLEIGHLIST

Granville Elementary School--GRADES 1, 2, 3 

Under the Stars, One Holy Night
O Come All Ye Faithful
Cold December Flies Away
Angels We Have Heard on High
*The Birds Sing Their Carols
Away in the Manger
Shepherds, Shake Off Your Drowsy Sleep
O Savior Sweet, O Savior Kind (J.S. Bach)
*A Gentle Babe Lay Sleeping
He's Got the Whole World in His Hands

Granville Elementary School--Grades 4,5,6

Masters in This Hall
Say, Where Is He Born? (Mendelssohn)
*Such a Night There Never Has Been
*Sing Noel
What Child Is This
*Lullaby
He Shall Feed His Flock (Handel, from Messiah)
As Joseph Was a Walking
O Nightingale in Hiding
O Come All Ye Faithful
Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring (J.S. Bach)

*--My best guess at the title

Granville Elementary School--1961 Christmas Program.  Mrs. Albert Davison, Acc. Grades 1,2,3; Mrs. Albert W. Davison, Jr., Acc. Grades 4,5,6.  (N9OP-4788/89)

Lee

Monday, December 24, 2018

Dreck the Halls with Premier Albums--tra, la, la, la....






One glance at the back cover tells us this is the outfit that gave us Coronet and Spin-O-Rama.  In other words, Premier Albums, Inc., which didn't even bother to provide a label name for this one.  So you know it's going to be maximum bang for your dollar-bin buck.  Sure enough, it's a cobbled-together effort with mostly dreadful audio quality, but it does have the best fake-hit version of The Little Drummer Boy I've so far come across, a recording which also appears on Ultraphonic and Tiara, and a 45 rpm single whose label I can't recall.  It's ruined by a barely visible but bad scratch, so I substituted my Ultraphonic version, which was mastered at a slightly faster speed--I slowed it down to match the one on this LP.  Other tracks are fine, scratch-wise, if not sound-wise.  The fun and lively stuff happens on Side A, with Side B devoted to Silent Night, O Little Town, etc. The 21 minutes of fun ends with a dreadful version of I Heard the Bells, whose words were written by Longfellow.  I didn't know that.  This track doesn't use the traditional tune (Waltham), which I was never crazy about but which tops this one.  To be fair, it's hard to judge the quality of a tune when it's this badly arranged and recorded.

The clunky rendition of Deck the Halls (once known as Deck the Hall) sounds very familiar, but I can't place where else I heard it.  It's one of my shares for this year, but which one?

The front jacket is terrific.  Premier's covers were usually at or below Design-label standards, so I don't know what was happening here.  A totally cool cover when you least expect it.

The Caroleers are credited with these tracks, and they sure had a knack for sounding like eight or nine different outfits.  I'm guessing "The Caroleers" is a totally made-up credit.  They show up on other collections, and I don't know if that generic credit was unique to Premier, or what.  If I did know at one time, I don't at this one.  To the fun....



CLICK HERE TO HEAR:  The Little Drummer Boy (Premier Albums, Inc.)



The Little Drummer Boy
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
Jingle Bells
Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly
Twas the Night Before Christmas
Silent Night
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
I Heard the Bells

The Little Drummer Boy--Christmas Songs for Children (Premier Albums XM-8)


Lee



hhhhhh





My thrift-store Christmas decoration finds for the year.  Two photos of the same four items--a cardboard church ornament, a plastic Rudolph, a cool snowman-and-tree decoration that someone might have made him or herself, and a plastic Santa ornament.  The last one has the look of something pretty old, but could easily be a reproduction.  Except that ornament reconstructions tend not to be plastic, so....

Just today, I bought another plastic ornament--a weird made-in-Japan thing, but I couldn't figure a way to fit it in with these.  Photographed at my computer desk, with a pre-assembled cardboard office box for the background.  With my photo software, I blended portions of the background to make it look solid.

Total cost--a couple bucks.

Merry Christmas Eve!



Lee

Christmas Music for the Winter Season, or An Hour of Christmas Orchestral Music (Halo 51500, 1956)





Half an LP for this rip--I stuck with the B side only on this disc, because that's where all the good tracks are.  You're not missing much.  Side 2 is where all the action is.

The last time I put this up was six or seven years ago, and I used my other, lesser-condition copy.  This one is a solid VG+.  Notice the arrow drawn on the B-side label by whoever owned this back in the day.  It indicates that Jingle Bells is both the first and last track, and that is indeed the case.  Luckily, they're different versions.  And March of the Toys occurs twice in different versions, too.  Halo thought they could fool us with March of Toys--leaving out the "the."  Quite ingenious, but I'm afraid it didn't work.  You have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool me.  8:30 am at the latest.

This copy has the Record Corporation of America (Eil Oberstein) name and partial address on the back--and, oddly enough, it shows a year of 1957, whereas discogs says 1956.  Not a big deal.  I already put 1956 on the files, and I trust that discog knows what it's doing.  Or the member who posted the info.  This LP either preceded my appearance on the planet by one year, or it saw life the same year I did. (Sputnik, Jailhouse Rock, Leave It to Beaver!)

This copy says "Halo" on both the cover and label, and while that doesn't make up for the botched track listing or the conflict between jacket title and label title (Christmas Music for the Winter Season vs. An Hour of Christmas Orchestral Music), it shows that Olbertsein's labels could get something right.  My other copy is a mess, attribution-wise, its cover showing "Ultraphonic" in the upper left-hand corner, but "Golden Tone" at the bottom and on the back.  What does the label say?  "Rondo-lette," what else?.  I don't have time check to bsnpubs.com, so I'll just assume Tops owned this material by time it came out on Golden Tone (Golden Tone and Tops being related).  And I lied--I did have time to check.  Took me a couple minutes.  Tops was owned by Precision Radiation Instruments (PRI), Incorporated, and Golden Tone was one of PRI's sublabels.   In the early 1960s, Golden Tone acquired some Record Corp. of America material, apparently including this LP.  Isn't it all clear as crystal now?

The "Royale Concert Orch." credit suggests there was a Royale label version of this at some time, and in fact at least four of these tracks came out on Royale under the title Christmas Orchestral Music.  There's obviously one long confused and confusing history behind this.  Oh, and there's nothing close to one hour of music here.  And think of the time I could have saved by not worrying about any of this.

I could have shortened this essay to "Side B has cool stuff."  But, nooooo.

Ultraphonic, Halo, Royale, Rondo-lette, and Golden Tone tracks are waiting for your ears:



CLICK HERE TO HEARA (Not) Hour of Christmas Orchestral Music ( Halo 51500, in this case)



SIDE B

Jingle Bells
White Christmas
March of the Toys
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
Toyland
March of Toys
Jingle Bells

An Hour of Christmas Orchestral Music--Royale Concert Orch., or whatever this really is (Halo 51500; 1956 or 1957), Side B only


Lee


Christmas Favorites--Tops Orchestra and Choristers (Tops L1525; 1957)




No... Nooo!  It can't be!!  It's not possible!  Yet, is is.  Its... it's...



Yes, Santa Claus Is Riding Through the Sky yet again, only this time it's "through the sky," not "thru."  He rode thru/though the sky on the Treasure Products LP I put up yesterday, and that LP was an exact dupe of a 2012 Ernie share, only with a different cover and label.  So, is this Tops LP a second dupe?

Nope.  There are only three common tracks, and that's where it gets a little strange.  Because one of the common tracks, Silent Night, is sung by the same female duet on the other two, but the musical backing is completely different.  So, it's the same track, basically, but revamped.  On this track, there's something closer to an orchestra rather than a small group.  Same  two ladies, same male voices joining in on the last stanza, but new production.  How often does this kind of thing happen?  A dollar-store label decides, two year down the line, "Hey, we could have done that better,  Let's do it over"?  In what alternate universe?

Oh, no.  Have we hopped universes?  And I don't have a thing to wear for the occasion.

 The third common track is 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, nice enough, but the least of all the musical versions of this 1823 poem that I've heard, with the 1948 Record Guild of America classic blowing away all the others..  And this singer's voice is good but too put-on.  Only Jerome Hines sounded like Jerome Hines.  Just be yourself.

So, this is not just another version of that same album.  It's a pretty fun collection, with decent versions of  Rudolph, Frosty, and Jingle Bells.  A few awful transfers, but this is Tops Records.





CLICK HERE TO HEAR: Christmas Favorites--Tops Orchestra and Choristers, 1957



White Christmas
Silent Night
Deck the Halls
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Joy to the World
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Frosty the Snowman
'Twas the Night Before Chrsitmas
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Winter Wonderland
O, Come All Ye Faithful
Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing
Jingle Bells
Santa Claus Is Riding Through the Sky
The First Noel
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Away in a Manger
Good King Wenceslaus

Christmas Favorites--Tops Orchestra and Choristers (Tops L1525, 1957)

Lee

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Salvation Army Presents "Army of Stars"," Christmas 1964--Hosted by Ronald Reagan





Brief narrations by Ronnie Raygun open and close this 1964 Salvation Army Christmas LP.  "Army of Stars," it's called, and since they're using quotes, I am, too.  Otherwise, I'd use italics.  Ken Koury conducts the ABC Army of Stars 43 piece orchestra (the cover didn't use quotation marks that time), and I just now discovered that "ABC Army of Stars" yields an entire four Google matches.  Great singing, with terrific work by the Azusa College Chorale.  Since you asked about Azusa College, which is now Azusa Pacific University (you didn't?), here's its history.

Cool album, nice sound, and I was able to remove 99.5 percent of the bad scratch on The Lord's Prayer.  You wouldn't know it had been there, except I just told you, so now that's out of the bag.  Hm.  Out of the bag.  Cat's out of the...  Wait.  Cats.  The cats need food.  Time to feed them!

While I'm feeding the round-faced furry ones, enjoy the Salvation Army's 1964 "Army of Stars"!



CLICK HERE TO HEAR: Army of Stars 1964



"Army of Stars" Theme, w. Ronald Reagan Introduction
The Holy City (Adams)--Glade Peterson
Eri Tu Che Macchiavi (Verdi)--John Shaw
The Lord's Prayer (Karla Carey)--Dorothy Cole, Azusa College Choir
Di Provenza Il Mar (Verdi)--Thomas Stewart
For Unto Us a Child Is Born (Handel)--Azusa College Choir
Cantique de Noel (Adolphe Adam)--Dorothy Cole
Closing Theme, w. Ronald Reagan

Lee





Merry Christmas! Favorite Carols and Songs (Treasure Productions 824)





This is the same LP posted by Ernie here.  Except it's a different label and jacket.  So, why am I posting it?  Good question.  Oh, and the Tops label put out at least some of these same tracks--in particular, Santa Claus Is Flying Thru the Sky, which appears to have originated as a Lincoln Records single in 1950.  Here's the Lincoln single.  Image swiped from discogs:



I also have it as a Tops for Tots single, put out, of course, by Tops.

Some surprisingly excellent sound quality on this LP, but a junky pressing.  That'll happen.  Meanwhile, the front jacket says "Treasure Label," but the back jacket says "Treasure Productions."  The label says "A Treasure Production."  I went with the middle choice.

I've had this for a long time, and I've been wanting to put it up, and now I have.  But my life feels just the same.  Confusing.




CLICK HERE TO HEAR: Merry Christmas! Favorite Carols and Songs



Joy to the World
Santa Claus Is Flying Thru the Sky
Good King Wenceslaus
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
My First Christmas Tree
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Jingle Bells
'Twas the Night Before Christmas
O Come All Ye Faithful
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
The First Noel
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Silent Night
Deck the Halls

Merry ChristmasFavorite Carols and Songs (Treasure Productions 824)


Lee

Season's Greetings from Jan Cyman and the Musicalaires--Holiday polkas that rock!




I genuinely love polkas.  Polkas go back as far as some country fiddle tunes--namely, to the time of Jefferson and Washington.  That may sound unlikely, but we know for sure that polkas were around in the early 1800s, and I read a scholarly piece on line (a piece I now can't find, of course) which talked about polka melodies notated in the late 18th century.  It's wonderful music, and more complex than people think, and certainly not easy to play correctly.  I have, and have heard, some other Christmas polkas of the non-traditional type (there are, as far as I know, traditional Christmas polkas), but these rock the needle out of the groove.  This is the real stuff.  Starting about eighth grade, I was best buddies with a Polish American, and I became close to his family--and their polka LPs.  I knew I was supposed to laugh at this stuff, but I preferred enjoying it.

My first copy of this was trashed, and after I'd ripped it and starting doing the file repair, I realized it was hopeless.  An inexpensive copy was sitting at eBay, waiting for me, so I got it.  And here it is.

I'm not someone who likes his music loud, but crank up a polka with my blessings--this stuff deserves a right turn on the volume dial.  (Old-fashioned reference to technology no longer in manufacture.)  Regarding the Captain Santa Polka, it is, of course, Captain Santa Claus (And His Reindeer Space Patrol), the song on the flip side of Bobby Helm's Jingle Bell Rock.  Don't know how the LeMANS label got away with not crediting the authors.  I won't snitch if you don't.



TO THE POLKAS: Season's Greetings from Jan Cyman and the Musicalaires



Christmas Season Polka (Cyman)
Captain Santa Polka
Dance Around the Christmas Tree Polka (Yankovic)
Christmas Feelings Waltz (Cyman)
Jolly Old St. Nick Polka
Christmas Time Is Here Again Polka (Cyman-Yankovic)
Why Can't Everyday Be Christmas Polka (Cyman)
What Christmas Means to me Polka
Footsteps on the Roof Polka (Cyman)
I Want an Old Fahioned Christmas Polka (Cyman)

Season's Greetings from Jan Cyman and the Musicalaires (LeMANS LPC-53; 1978)

Lee


Friday, December 21, 2018

Happy Birthday to Our Savior (With Ecclesiastical Approval)--The Boy Savior Youth Movement, St. Francis Xavier Church (1962)




This is one of those fashionable-to-laugh-at records that aren't doing any harm to anyone.  It's kind of charming.  I just wish I could figure out who's singing.  "Boy Savior Youth Movement" only brings up this record.  Doesn't help me a bit.  I have the record.

There's a Director and assistants listed.  Of what?  And we have a National Director.  Again, of what?  The movement?  The singers on this disc?  Anyway, most of the tracks are solo performances by a nice tenor voice that clearly does not belong to a boy.  And there's some unison singing and, on The First Nowell, a little bit of harmony.  Or something like harmony trying to happen.  On only two tracks--Nowell and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing--does a young voice lead.  The careless tape splice in Nowell is kind of amusing, especially with the surge in volume.

I Googled Joseph Caruso and Anthony Russo, with zilch on Caruso, except that he's on this disc.  This may be Reverend Anthony Russo.  He shows up five times and is identified as the coordinator of the Deaf Apostolate for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  There's a mention (or possible mention) of the Movement in the March 4, 1958 edition of Asbury Park Press, but I'm not signing up for a free Newspapers.com trial, and that's final.

From the back cover: "The Boy Savior Movement tries to get boys and girls to celebrate Christmas properly by singing appropriate carols, so that, praising God they may grown not only in years but also in grace before God and men."  Well, okay.  But who's on this?

A quick glance at this label will have most folks thinking "The Youth of America" is the group singing on this disc.  But there's no group singing on this disc (save for the moment of part-singing I mentioned).  And the disc is for, not by, The Youth of America.  And I'm becoming disoriented.  I give up.  Done.  I concede defeat.  Uncle.

By the way, it requires ecclesiastical approval to wish our Savior a happy birthday?  Really?  Or does his birthday require it?  Oh, right--I give up.  I forgot that I gave up.




CLICK HERE TO HEAR: Happy Birthday to Our Savior



Happy Birthday to Jesus
O Little Town of Bethlehem
The First Nowell
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
O Holy Night
We Three Kings of Orient Are
Silent Night, Holy Night
O Come, All Ye Faithful
Joy to the World
The Pledge of Allegiance
Happy Birthday to Jesus

Happy Birthday to Our Savior (Pending Ecclesiastical Approval)--The Boy Savior Youth Movement, St. Francis Xavier Church, 1962.  Performed by whoever's on this.  Matrix numbers on label are NO8U-3452 and NO8U-3453.


Lee

It was the cat. I'm almost sure.



A weird night tonight.  I'm sort of winding down from stress, but I just went into an obsess-athon over true mono vs. the "summed" type.  What would a pure lateral signal sound like when processed properly by a mono cartridge?  Well, my father had a mono cartridge on the family hi-fi set, so if I can think back far enough, I can get my answer.  Buster feels the differences between combined R+L channels and pure mono are too slight to worry about.  Probability favors his view.  I can't see how the differences would be big enough to worry about.

I'm not supposed to go into over-thinking mode when I'm coming down from stress.  And now I can report that I wasn't coming down from stress.  I was going into it.  I should realize by now that my obsess-athons are signs that anxiety is building up. Sometimes, it's hard to tell the difference between moving away and moving toward when it comes to emotions.  At least when your emotions are all over the place like mine.

I don't believe in psychic things, but tonight....  Well, I placed my coffee cup on the stairway landing, went back to the kitchen, then returned.  Btw, Bev once told me that the narrow stairway, which lines up with the front door, was designed for carrying coffins downstairs.  Nothing to do with tonight's experience (far as I know), but I have no reason to doubt her, especially given that the first two rooms of this house were built before Abe became president.

So, I had put my coffee cup down.  Just I was about to grab the cup and start up, the door to the little side studio slammed shut right in front of me.  BAM!  Scared the .... out of me.  I don't believe in ghosts, but apparently my brain possesses one or more modules that do.  Modules have been described to me as "areas" of functioning in the brain.  They're not specific regions--they're stages of cognitive evolution.  My explanation makes perfect sense, right?  Anyway, we humans have at least one module (I doubt there's just one of this type) that just reacts.  It can't be reasoned with.  It's purely reactive.  It can react with fear to the idea of a witch or ghost or whatever, even if we know those things aren't real.

So I opened the shut door slowly, knowing that ghosts don't exist but still fearful I'll be greeted by one.  No ghost.  Just Calvin sitting on the bed looking innocent.  Which, for a cat, means "I just did something naughty."  (The human version is a shrug and a "Who, me?")  Right after the door slammed, Mingo had strolled away like he'd shut it himself, which is impossible for a cat to do from the outside.  Inside, no problem.  So I figure Mingo and Calvin were playing or sparring, and the roly-poly Calvin, who tends to awkwardly slide into things, plowed into the door, knocking it shut.  It's also possible there was enough air pressure difference between the two rooms to have done it, even though no windows were open.  This is an old, old house and not perfectly insulated.  And the necessary gust could easily have come from the area above the Styrofoam ceiling tiles.  That makes the most sense.  We have critters running around up there--probably squirrels, as raccoons would come crashing through.  Where there are unwanted critters, there's an opening for them to get in.

I prefer to think I don't have a poltergeist.  On the other hand, I'm fine with one so long as it doesn't eat my food, wake me up, or break anything valuable.  If it would answer the phone when I'm out, that would be a big help.

Lee

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Testor Chorus--Christmas Carols from Many Lands (1959; recorded in 1957)





From December 27. 1957, this is the Testor Chorus singing live in Rockford, Illinois.  This taped performance was released two years later on today's LP, Christmas Carols from Many Lands.  I didn't feel like ripping the Messiah excerpts, so we get Side 2 only.  My copy is all snap, crackle, and pop, with a jump in Carol of the Drum when I played it with my regular stereo stylus.  I switched to my wider mono needle and laid on the tracking force, and the results were way better.  And no jump.  The declicking filters of VinylStudio and MAGIX spelled the end of the Rice Krispies noise.

Carol of the Drum, of course, was stolen in 1958 by Harry Simeone and Henry Onorati and retitled The Little Drummer Boy.  Actual author Katherine K. Davis got her song back, but had to share credit with the thieves, because that's how copyright "law" works, so to speak, in our country, I guess.  Totally absurd, and Wikipedia glosses over the issue in its usual irresponsible fashion in its Little Drummer Boy entry.  W. keeps asking me for money.  When pigs fly.

Love the way the chorus races through Drum--ironic that, between the taping of the number and its appearance on vinyl, it would be stolen and retitled.  The really cool thing about this LP is that we get two more Davis choral compositions--Swedish Dance Carol and As It Fell Upon a Night.  The side starts with Gustav Holst's "choral fantasy" Christmas Day, which is many levels below what I'd expect from that amazing composer, but so it goes sometimes.  Nice to encounter such a serious, professionally done company holiday LP (from an outfit that makes model kits and adhesives!), and, while the chorus isn't world-class, it's quite good.  I find myself focusing on accompanist June Olson Ives' excellent work, though.  The sound glitches at the start, by the way, were in the original tape--it's nothing I did.

Funny how they race through Carol of the Drum but sing Silver Bells like a dirge.  Winter Wonderland fares much better, though I was almost expecting the High Spirits to step in with their tambourines and other classroom percussion.  Doesn't happen.

Considerably better than you might expect.  This effort from Testor doesn't test our patience.  Get it?  Testor, "test our."  Ha, ha, ha!



CLICK HERE TO HEAR: The Testor Chorus--Christmas Carols from Many Lands



Christmas Day (Holst)
Swedish Dance Carol (Davis)
The Snow Lay on the Ground (Sowerby)
What Can This Mean (Staley)
Carol of the Drum (Davis)
As It Fell Upon a Night (Davis)
Silver Bells (Livingston-Evans)
Sanctus (Verdi)
Winter Wonderland (Smith-Bernard)


Lee

Songs of Faith and Doubt by Sydney Carter--Donald Swann (1964)





Sometimes the best things show up in cluttered boxes of thrift LPs.  Such was the case with 1964's Donald Swann Sings Songs of Faith and Doubt by Sydney Carter.  I'd have foolishly passed on it, had Lord of the Dance not been in the title listing.  As far as I know, this if the first recording of that 1963 classic, which of course became hugely popular in and out of church.  After hearing this version, all others sound inadequate to me.  Carter's lyrics are brilliant, and probably because of the wonderful, bouncy melody (adapted from the tune to the Shaker hymn, Simple Gifts), people seem to miss the more powerful portions of the text, such as:

I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame,
And the holy people said it was a shame;
They whipped and they stripped and they hung me high;
And they left me there on a cross to die.

A lot of internet people claim that the dancing Christ is patterned after a pagan god or gods, just because pagan is so in right now, but maybe we should listen to Carter, who, after all, wrote the words.  In this EP's liner notes, he says he was attracted by the Shakers "because they used dancing as well as singing in their worship.  Christ is often pictured, metaphorically, as a shepherd or a king; why not a dancer?  His whole life, it seems to me, is the expression in dramatic form of the way things are, and were, and ever will be."  The dance is human nature, the human spirit, the indomitable human will to survive.  This is Metaphor 101, not rocket science.

Speaking of cluelessness, the folks behind the Lord of the Dance musical used Carter's words without permission, actually believing them to be folk lyrics.  As far as I know, the show was sued, but I guess Wikipedia wimped out and no longer includes that info in its entry on the musical.

The Devil wore a Crucifix is merely superb next to the EP's three devastatingly brilliant numbers--the one I've been talking about, plus Every Star shall sing a carol, and the life-altering Friday Morning.  The latter is probably Carter's masterpiece, and it's not easy to handle:

You can blame it on to Pilate,
You can blame it on the Jews.
You can blame it on the Devil,
But it's God that I accuse.

The song's closing lines move me so deeply, I can't describe how deeply:

Goodbye and good luck to you,
Our ways they will divide.
Remember me in Heaven,
The man you hung beside.

A weird choice for a Christmas LP, maybe, but Lord of the Dance and Every Star shall sing a carol fit this season of birth and rebirth beautifully.  Carter describes the meaning of the Nativity infinitely more eloquently than I can, and so I quote from Every Star:

When the king of all creation, 
Had a cradle on the earth, 
Holy was the human body, 
Holy was the human birth.  

God above, Man below,
Holy is the name I know.

Donald Ibrahim Swann, born in Wales in 1923, was a lifelong friend and songwriting partner of Carter, and his performances on this EP, on which he accompanies himself, are magnificent.




CLICK HERE TO HEAR: Songs of Faith and Doubt by Sydney Carter




Lord of the Dance
The Devil wore a Crucifix
The Rat Race
Every Star shall sing a carol
The Mask I Wore
Friday Morning
Lord of the Dance (Mono)

Songs of Faith and Doubt by Sydney Carter, sung and played by Donald Swann (Argo ZFA 48; 1964)

Lee