Monday, December 17, 2018

Merry Christmas from Coral Records (1958)--Mel Torme, Dorothy Collins, Teresa Brewer, Lawrence Whatshisface

The cover is almost cooler than the material, but this is a nice enough various-artists collection.  The liner notes describe these Coral artists as "some of the most celebrated personalities in show business," so there.  My favorite tracks are Dorothy Collins' Mister Santa, which is a holiday version of Mister Sandman, and Teresa Brewer's version of Jingle Bell Rock.  Though it's the usual cheap Coral vinyl (though better than, say, Parade or Tops), it's in fine shape, so the sound is clean.  The Christmas Song continues to be a standard I have no feeling for.  I even mildly dislike it, but the writer-singer's own version here is kind of refreshing in its directness--compared to other versions, I mean.  And Torme was certainly a smooth crooner.  If it has to be on this comp, then let it be Torme doing it.  And, dear Lord, The Littlest Angel can't content itself with simply being bad, it has to rip off The Little Drummer Boy so blatantly as to almost be that number.  Not the tune, of course--I mean the so-called lyrics (by Hal David's brother Mack).  I realize Christmas pop songs are supposed to be cliche fests, but there's no excuse for this thing, as much as I love its Classic Hollywood version of Heaven.  Can we be sure Frank Capra didn't have a hand in this?

The Lennon-ah Sister-ah's Merry Merry Christmas doesn't hold a holiday candle to the Ruby Wright version, though it's okay.  Nothing against the Sisters.  They were bland as can be, but that was a Welk requirement.  The singing was never a highlight of his show.  The incredible band, and Myron Floren's astonishingly fast Tico Tico--the non-singers had to be at the top of their game.  The singers were so-so.  Band great, singers okay.  Singers okay, band great.  I seem to be stuck on that single thought.  What's happening?  Is my Serotonin on strike?

Did I mention the band was great, but the...?  Yeah, I guess I did.  In a parallel universe, there's a version of this (on the Laroc label) featuring a bland cover and fabulous tracks.

CLICK HERE TO HEAR: Merry Christmas from Coral Records (1958)


Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town--The McGuire Sisters

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus--Teresa Brewer
White Christmas--The Ames Brothers
Mister Santa--Dorothy Collins
Merry Merry Christmas--The Lennon Sisters
The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)--Mel Torme
Jingle Bell Rock--Teresa Brewer
The Littlest Angel--The McGuire Sisters
Santo Natale--Johnny Desmond
Winter Wonderland--The Ames Brothers
Christmas Carols--Part 1 (Adapted and Arr. by George Cates)--The Lawrence Welk Choir
Christmas Carols--Part 2--Same

Merry Christmas from Coral Records (Coral CRL 57355; 1958)



Buster said...

I have this LP and contemplated sharing it this year mysekf, except I've been having so much trouble doing transfers that I changed my mind.

I'm not sure I agree that none of the Welk singers were good. Alice Lon was a talented vocalist and Norma Zimmer (T-Norma T-Zimmer-a in Welk-speak) was exceptional, in my estimation.

Ernie said...

Lots of great singles from Coral collected up here. :)

And you put scans in the download! Thank you!! :)

Lee Hartsfeld said...

(Corrected text....)


My bad--my verdict wasn't qualified (as in, say, "Welk's singers tended toward being...") and was based on only those vocalists I've heard. Careless writing! I was half-asleep and writing fast, so I guess I have an excuse. Universal verdicts are almost always a bad idea. I'll make a point to give Zimmer and Lon a listen. If you regard them as talented, they probably were!

One of the first things Bev taught me was the importance of qualifying a claim or opinion. "In my experience..." "As a rule...." "Based on what I've heard..." You leave the door open for exceptions, and that usually covers your keister.... (Spell Check doesn't recognize "keister"??)


Yes, I'm finally doing things right! I already scan the front covers of LPs and, often, the A-side labels, so I figured why not go all the way? Take a chance. Go for it. Life is short. Unless you're tall. What on earth am I talking about? Anyway, I was glad to find a reasonably priced eBay copy of this to replace the hopelessly scratched-up copy I'd thrifted. I had fixed three or four tracks of the bad copy, realized my hands and wrists wouldn't last the course, and headed for eBay. And there it was.

The thrift (or was it flea market?) copy I had was one of those evil things that look fine. You figure you'll get a decent rip, but it's nothing but clicks, pops, and ka-booms. People think music blogging is for sissies, but let me tell you....

Buster said...

Lee - I would have to agree that Aladdin and Joe Feeney were reprehensible and the Lennon Sisters were glutinous. And the others weren't particularly memorable, either.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

What's your opinion of Larry Hooper? I find him competent but drab. But his "Oh Happy Day" is amazing, since it's early rock and roll, and Welk elected to do it in that mode. It sounds more rock'n'roll than the small label original. But things like Welk doing r&r in 1953 are not things that remotely interest rock journalists, all too busy hyping Elvis to give anything else any mind.

What I find funniest of all (or saddest) is the rock-snob tradition of decrying pre-Elvis white covers of black music. There are whole CD comps dedicated to ridiculing those sides. (So, are they funny or are they a crime? Or both?) What makes the snobbery ridiculous is that the white pop singers in question grew up on Benny Goodman playing Fletcher Henderson charts, so they were hardly unfamiliar with music that rocks. And what brand of logic says that a skillful Patti Page copy of Ruth Brown is heresy, but Elvis copying Little Junior Parker and Otis Blackwell demo is not only okay, but the real thing? Proving, as always, that nothing is more relative than "real." Except, maybe,"authentic."

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Otis Blackwell demos, I mean. Plural. If I were a Bible literalist, I'd consider typos one of Satan's chief curses to peoplekind.

Buster said...


I am not familiar with the song you cite, but Larry Hooper had a nice voice.

I absolutely agree with you about white artists covering black music, and I am no fan of Elvis outside the rockabilly repertoire.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

The ironic thing about Elvis is that, as his voice got better, his material got worse!

By all means, listen to "Oh Happy Day." I have the original--some guy literally recorded it in his living room, I recall reading. Sounds like it! Bass voice like Hooper's, not as smooth. Amateurish, and clearly a copy of all the black I/vi/ii/V triplet-dominated ballads of the time (the Mills Brothers' 1944 "Till Then" is a near-example, except it strays slightly from the mold). The much better singing and production on the Welk disc makes it the one to hear, even though it's a cover. What amazes me is that Welk was handed a rock and roll side to do, which was quite outside his usual fare, and he nevertheless did it justice. The man was not a nice person, but I like his willingness to do justice to the genres he took on.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

And the wonderful thing about "Oh Happy Day" is that three famous numbers share the title. You probably know this, but there's the original "O Happy Day" hymn (tune from 1854, and better known as "How Dry I Am"), then the different "Oh Happy Day" by Edwin Hawkins. In between comes this thing.

Wiki says the Hawkins song was a redo of the hymn, but I don't hear it as related.

Then there's the "At the Bar" parody of "At the Cross": "At the bar, at the bar, where I had my first cigar...."

David Federman said...

When you think of all the star power Coral Records had to draw on for this anthology, it seems a little sad. For instance, Johnny Desmond recorded a lot better seasonal songs for this Decca subsidiary. Nevertheless, I love these label artists-samplers assembled for Christmas. And Mel is there to remind me of the richness of the label's roster at the time. Thanks. It is albums like this that often lead to fuller Christmas outings by the artists on them.

KL from NYC said...

Thank you for this one.

Christmas Collector said...

Link is dead, can you reup tried 12-22-18 9:10 pm

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Re-upping now. I don't know why it disappeared.

Should be up in a few minutes. It's 9:30 as I type this.

Kwork said...

Link is alive. And, I am a proud fan of The Littlest Angel. Not only are the harmonies great on the McGuires version, but it was used as a tool when I was young to help teach me the power of meekness and the strength of the widow's mite, so to speak. Of course I don't believe it literally, but the message. And, isn't it a bit less violent than The Little Drummer Boy. If someone had walked into a room and wanted to beat on something to try and entertain a baby in especially these modern times, I think the police might have been called. LOL!
Anyway, thank you for this one.