Thursday, December 13, 2018
Various Artists, Part 4--EMERICK, Woody Wooddell, The Singing Dogs, Carl Weismann, The Little Jingle Singers
I sort of cheated here by putting up the wonderful 18 Christmas Songs picture sleeve, because I only ripped four of the tunes. All the others are the usual carols--which I love, but which get played to death "this time of the year." And they sound terrible in this set, because the grooves are worn and because the label is Value Hit Parade Tunes. The sleeve says Broadway, which was the main label--Value Hit Parade Tunes was a sub-label. Anyway, the four sides include All Around the Christmas Tree, which was recorded in 1945 by Dick Todd with Mark Warnow's Hit Parade Orchestra and Chorus on the Sonora label. Buster posted the original 78 last month at his blog. Looks like Varsity reissued it in 1948, and in the years to follow, the track showed up countless times on the dollar-bin labels, including this one. It's a wonderful number, and I remember being surprised when I first heard it, wondering how something so good could have ended up in junk-label circulation. Now we know. A couple years back, I won a mint copy of the Sonora 78 from eBay, but it arrived in pieces. I could tell it had been mint when complete. Dang.
What to say about the Emerican Records 45? Or the "Emerick" credit on bottom of the label? Nothing to do with the Beatles recording engineer, Geoff Emrick, I'm sure. The all-caps "EMERICK" credit is confusing, since it follows "Featuring Lisa Wargo and the St. Peter's Children's Choir of Lorain, Ohio." So, is EMERICK the group backing Lisa and the choir? That's my guess. Where Is Captivity? (Bring them home for Christmas)--so we know the song is a reference to hostages, and the year is 1980, so it has to be the Iran hostage crisis, which I remember well. The lyrics are from a child's point of view--is "Captivity" a place, he or she wonders? The child's naive and innocent misunderstanding of the situation is supposed to underscore the senseless cruelty of it, but I find this pretty forced. (Another coal in the stocking for me!) It's very period, and I don't like the period, so maybe that's why I found the equally pop-folk flip side, December Lullabye, too much to take. I lifted the needle halfway through. The problem with topical songs on vanity-style labels is that they seem exploitative from the start. No one asked me, but....
Christmas in Killarney, which I guess is a minor standard, is very well sung by April March (not the 53-year old singer from California), Year unknown. The flip is fine, too. The label looks like it was designed in someone's garage, but the production is excellent. Killarney is a tune that could easily be turned into dreck, but this version does it just right.
I was surprised to discover that the Woody Wooddell 45 is from 1952--the label (Dome Records) doesn't look it.
That's a label to die for, though not literally. ("Dying for" is a Halloween thing, not a Christmas tradition.) Elfie the Elf is okay, though Christmas Isn't Christmas wins the Dumb Title Prize, at least for this playlist. Christmas Isn't Christmas? Yes, it is. And Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving. Halloween is Halloween. A kiss is just a kiss. You needed to add a qualifying phrase, songwriters. In the title, not just in the lyrics. Good grief. Pleasant ballad, though, and Woody has a nice voice. Elfie, meanwhile, is almost more Gene Autry than Gene Autry.
I'm fond of Randi the Handi Elf. It has just the right light touch, the singer has a pleasant, honest voice, and the children's chorus is beautifully mixed in, recording-wise. Of course, it's the umpteenth Santa-employee-aspiring-to-higher-duties number, but what do we expect from holiday novelties? Originality? Hardly. And I don't need to point out that an elf named Randi provides unlimited middle-school humor opportunities, but, anyway....
We know right off the bat that Santa Got Stuck in the Chimney Upside Down is a silly side, because it's called Santa Got Stuck in the Chimney Upside Down. This isn't Sydney Carter. But, a good number for kids, by kids. Turns out that Bill Boehm's Singing Angels of Cleveland, Ohio were very popular. I did not know that. I do now.
Ray Stevens' Play-Like-Floyd-Cramer-in-Four-Easy-Lessons Happy Blue Year is not one of Ray's best moments, but I ripped it anyway. So there. Stevens' piano chops got much better with time, of course. Maybe his heart wasn't in it. His fingers certainly weren't.
Here's the lowdown on The Singing Dogs: The Singing Dogs. I've included the justly famous Jingle Bells bark-athon by itself from a DJ 45, and you also get both sides of the original 1955 RCA single, which included four other songs. There must be a ton of wordplay opportunities here, but I'm having the doggonedest time. Coming up bone-dry....
The Samuel E. Wright who appears on the Thimble Records label (Merry Christmas ((To All the Little Children)), Winter Waltz) is none other than this singer. No wonder he sounds so professional. It's because he is. Arranger credit goes to Phil Medley. The Phil Medley?
The two soporific Ray Haney sides on MGM border on song poems. That sort of makes them innovative for the year (1955).
Click here to hear: Various Artists, Part 4
Where Is Captivity? (Bring them home for Christmas)--EMERICK, featuring Lisa Wargo and the St. Peter's Children's Choir of Lorain, Ohio (Emerican Records 12235-1 and -2; 1980)
Pearl's Jingle Bells--The Singing Dogs, Dir. By Carl Weismann (RCA Victor Record Prevue)
Pat-a-Cake, Three Blind Mice, Jingle Bells--The Singing Dogs, 1955
Randi the Handi Elf--Dan Marshall and Tommy's Chorus (Amlin 1266)
Christmas in Killarney--April March w. Fred Barovick Orch.
When Christmas Rolls Around--Same
Happy Blue Year (Stevens)--Ray Stevens (NRC 063; 1960)
Santa Got Stuck in the Chimney Upside Down--Lori Ann Wagner and Bill Boehm's Singing Angels
Ding Dong Bell--Same
Merry Christmas (To all the little children)--The Little Jingle Singers, feat. Samuel E. Wright
Winter Waltz--The Jinglers
Story of a Christmas Tree--Ray Haney (MGM K12106; 1955)
The Picture on the Christmas Card--Same
Elfie the Elf--Woody Wooddell and Bailey Sisters (Dome Records 1055; 1952)
Christmas Isn't Christmas--Same
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town--Value Hit Parade Tunes 2012
Poppy the Puppy--Same
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus--Same
All Around the Christmas Tree--Same (Dick Todd, 1945)