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 HEAR: A 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)