Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Shawnee Choir--The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (1973)

A superb 1973 "Choir Reference Recording" by Shawnee Press, Inc., and I think it's the bit where you sell your outfit's choral accompaniment by having top musical pros sing them--sort a demo disc, really.  It's the notion that, if you buy our scores, you'll sound like this.  Sure, if your choir consists of studio-quality vocalists.

So, the arrangements and performances are fantastically good, and we get to hear some material that doesn't show up on every other LP of this type, though In Sweetest Jubilee is just our old friend In Dulci Jubilo with an English text by Roy Ringwald.  I have no idea what "English text" means--a translation?  A new text that happens to be in English?  Why, for instance, designate the text to an American folks song (Sweet Mary...) as English?  But I'm only the blogger, so I typed the credits as written.  Well, except in the case of Jesus Christ Is Born Today, because "Text and music: Roy Ringwald, to a 16th century carol tune" makes no sense at all, because I can see writing a text to a tune, but not writing music to a tune.  How do you write music to music?

Mind you, they're not talking about a tune "based on" another tune, which might make sense.  Or an arrangement of a tune.  They're talking about music "to" a tune.  But you didn't come here to listen to me obsess, so.... Bottom line--these are high art performances, and this blog doesn't typically go there (high art).  This is many levels above your usual choral holiday effort, and I wonder what happened to the "complete music scores" promised on the front (the back jacket is blank)?  Kind of makes one think that this came as a package--a promotional sort of package.  That would explain the title of the third track--The Alfred Burt Carols, Set 1.  It was probably the name of a collection sold by these folks.

"Produced to assist church, school and community choir directors in the selection of new music."  Right--Shawnee's.

Oh, and we get a selection by Alec Templeton (words and music)!  And Roy Ringwald sounded familiar, and then I realized he worked as a composer and arranger for Fred Waring, among many others.  I knew him from Waring.

DOWNLOAD: The Shawnee Choir--The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (1973)

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Pola-Wyle)
Christ Child, Christ Child (Marian Chaplin)
The Alfred Burt Carols, Set 1
Antiphonal Gloria (Houston Bright)
Unto Us a Child Is Born (Text: Isaiah 9:6, Music: Nancy M. Roberts)
Sweet Mary, Guard Thy Precious Child (English Text: Walter Ehret, Music: American Folk Song)
A Babe is Born in Bethlehem--Text: Latin, 14th cent., Music: Paul C. Van Dyke
Nowell Sing We--Text: From two 15th century carols, Music: Richard Dirksen
Alleluia, Sing Noel (Alec Templeton)
God Is With Us (Maxcine Woodbridge Posegate)
Christmas Calypso--Text and Music: (See label scan)
White Christmas (Irving Berlin, arr. Roy Ringwald)


Happy New Year! From Mark 66 (Phillips 66--White Christmas)

I didn't think I'd be pushing it so close.  Here's a this-side-of-the-border George Garabedian Christmas, with an excellent singer who isn't named.  She could be Julie Andrews (though I doubt it) or Patti Page (nah).  I don't know who she is.  Neither did producer George Garabedian, apparently.

That has to be Walter Brennan on the first track, though--The Birth of Christ.  If I had time to look it up, I would.  But I don't.  Fun tracks, all.

Merry Christmas/Happy New Year!!  I have an entire six minutes to get downstairs and watch the ball drop....

DOWNLOAD: White Christmas (Mark 56 574)

The Birth of Christ
The Child Is Born
Oh Little Town of Bethlehem
Silent Night
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Deck the Halls with Ivy
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Good King Wenceslas
White Christmas
Silver Bells

Monday, December 30, 2019

Kids' Christmas Sing-a-Long--The Maranatha! Kids (1987)--Split-track fun!

You would know that this is for kids, even if the title wasn't Kids' Christmas Sing-a-Long.  Can't quite pin it down, but I think it has something to do with the cover art.  It suggests childhood in some subtle, hard-to-pin down fashion.

Kids, yes.  With the word apostrophized correctly, even.  Specifically, there are the eight Maranatha! Kids, and you can look up "Maranatha" at Wikipedia.  Maranatha! Music, which put this out, is the label of Calvary Chapel, which is a group of evangelical churches, and which owns a number of radio stations across the country.  It was heavily involved with the Jesus movement and Christian rock, but, in regard to the latter, no one's perfect.  I suspect Calvary Chapel is an example of what I wrote about in an earlier post--evangelicals creating their own media after being eased out of the mainstream,  thus embarrassing all the folks who'd pushed them out, few of whom, I'm sure, expected evangelicals to bounce back with their own highly successful and complex media.  Those who laugh at the fare broadcast on the alternative media of evangelicals are forgetting that it's not a matter of the messages being pushed, but the genius behind the packaging and marketing of those messages, and all of this outside of the mainstream, which makes the accomplishment very amazing.  I mention all this, because Maranatha! Music was there.  I was, too, but I wasn't paying attention to this kind of thing.

For a kids-singing-Christmas-carols-songs-and-hymns LP, this is quite fun, even if you find some of the backgrounds annoying (and a tad too Disco-ish), like I do.  The arrangements are certainly very expertly done, and the Kids are great.  There's a lot of Christian stuff for kids that sounds like this, but  most of what I've heard can't compete with Maranatha! in terms of skillful production and performance and expert charts.

And... the tracks are in the "'Split-Track' format for easy sing-along fun!" says the over.  And indeed they are.  One might expect the effect to be annoying (as with the too literal channel separation in those early Beatles stereo LPs), but I find it kind of cool.  From the notes: "For sing-a-long fun, simply turn your balance dial to the left channel only--AND SING!"

I expect everyone to comply with these instructions.

DOWNLOAD: Kids' Christmas Sing-a-Long (1987)


Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Christmas Album--Evanston Township High School Music Dept. (1971?)

An album I had ready to go, but with no time to post before the big day.  The highly talented and hard-working kids from E.T.H.S. return, this time from on or about 1971, with terrific choral singing and band work, and... if only a more competent engineer had been at the helm. Augh.  The sound is hideous in spots--EQ'd into absurdity, with upper-end distortion that didn't have to be.  You'll know which spots I'm talking about when they come up--and I did my best to neutralize the audio overload in question.  This had to be post-session doodling by someone who went nuts with an equalizer, and I wish said person had not tried to "improve" the sound in this fashion, since, whatever the shortcomings of the unprocessed audio, it had to have sounded better than this.  One can't even be sure that the choral numbers which dominate this set (11 out of 13) are in stereo or... what.  Whoever mangled this sound should have been banned for life from any recording studio.  The two band tracks sound way better than the rest, with real-sounding fidelity and genuine stereo, so what the heck happened to the singing portion?  Despite this, the choral sides are well worth hearing because they are so very well done, and because it's a joy to hear high school students operating--and operating well--on this level.  And what cool gatefold-cover photos on the inside--they take me back, since they're only four years before my high school graduation (I was either in eighth grade or just starting h.s.--I have trouble calculating such things).  And scanning those sections was such fun (not).  Working rightside-up is tricky enough when you're scanning an over-sized item, and with the inner portions of a gatefold cover, you're sort of working upside down.  My first attempts were not so hot--they were either missing portions or else the results looked like Picasso when drunk--I don't remember which.  But it was great to finally get it right.  None of this will make sense if you've never done photo-stitching.  It may not make sense even if you have!

Terrific high school musicianship, a lovely stock front and back jacket, an inner-gatefold montage that takes me back (this is close to my era), and it's all worth a listen despite the engineer's inept work.  Was he having revenge on someone?  Anyway... Merry Christmas in the holiday afterglow:

DOWNLOAD: The Christmas Album--Evan Township High School Music Dept., c. 1971


Singles I didn't get to--Christmas Singles, 2019--Part 3

Here are fourteen singles that were ripped and ready to go up, but which didn't get their chance at the blog (chance at the blog?) because I ran out of time.  But I still want to share them, so here they are.  And did I remember to wish everyone Christmas?  Mary Fran Ward does just that in I Wish You Christmas, a single from... I don't know.  Nothing comes up on line in reference to it, and Discog's listing on the label gives me no way to get an approximate year by comparing release numbers.  But I do wish you Christmas.  I could make out about half of the words on both sides, but maybe you'll do better.

Fiona Kennedy's Olivia Newton-John-style Father Christmas is the kind of thing I normally dislike, but oddly enough, I find it very catchy and fun.  The flip is a gorgeous version of the classic Cherry Tree Carol, the real reason to listen to this single.  Fiona sounds like Olivia, only way better.

Silver Spurs was a book and a record, but I don't know if it was a movie.  Spurs presents the standard theme of something little (an elf or tree, typically) proving its worth.  A message to children that, though they may be wee (as the Scots say), they have value.  The Silver Spurs character is also shunned a la Rudolph, so we have two closely related themes in one.  I try not to hear children's material with the ears of an adult, but this strikes me as too arty, and the payoff takes longer to arrive than the revelation in the 1966 REMC record (I won't ruin it for you if you haven't heard it).  And the John Alden Carpenter-style piano background on the story side is too much.  This was 1975, not 1924.  But kids very possibly loved this, so I should shut up.

Ernie put up the Don Wilson sides years back, but he ripped them from an LP reissue--my 45 rpm version has the fun pic sleeve you see above, and this may have been the original issue, though I'm doubting it.  I do know that the tracks go back at least as far as 1954.  If they began life as 78s, then they're earlier.  Neither story is Christmas-related, but the background music is from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. so....  "A Child's Library of Musical Masterpieces" is the series, and apparently having Don Wilson shout at them over familiar Classical music is how you turn children on to great music.  Or have them running out of the hi-fi room.

Robert Goulet narrates One Solitary Life, which we also heard in Frank La Spina's version in the previous singles post.  Here, there is author credit, and the arrangement is in that Jesus movement style of c. 1969.  Today, we call it praise music.  As I noted before, this text has found its way around the block any number of times--here's Johnny Cash: Here Was a Man.  Cash does a far better job than Goulet, I noticed.  As noted before, the text has been traced back to a sermon given during the 1920s--it's been considerably altered from the original source.

Gene Ewing gives us a spoken Christmas message with lots of reverb, Brandae gives us Everyday Should be Christmas, and Marv Meredith and his musicians give us two Space Age Pop-style instrumentals.  SAP is not my bag, but lots of people love it.  The Christmas-all-year-round cliche probably goes back to the 1500s, and I felt like a sell-out when I inserted it into a sixth grade paper in 1968.  I got an A, the teacher circling my "What can't we have Christmas 365 days a year?" with the comment "Good!"  Or maybe it was "Excellent!"  I'd sold my soul for an A.  To the singles...

DOWNLOAD: Christmas Singles, 2019--Part 3

I Wish You Christmas (Ward)--Mary Fran Ward  (AVC Records 101082)
Peaceable Kingdom (Ward)--Same
Father Christmas (Nick Farries-Colin Smedley)--Fiona Kennedy (Radar Records CKS 1004; 1981)
The Cherry Tree Carol (Trad., Arr. Gillinson/Kennedy)--Same
Silver Spurs: Christmas Song (Betty Knigge)--Vocal: Keith Lester; Voice of Santa: Dr. Dwayne Jorgenson (1975)
Silver Spurs: A Christmas Story (Robert Knigge)--Narrator: Dr. Dwayne Jorgenson (1975)
Chin Chow and the Golden Bird (Foster-Pierce)--Narrator: Don Wilson, w. the Continental Symphony Orch., (Capitol KASF-3193), c. 1954
Little Abou, the Camel--Same
One Solitary Life (Bock)--Robert Goulet, the Choir of Bel Air Presbyterian Church (Creative Sound, Inc. CSM 555)
My Christmas Prayer/Leave It There--Gene Ewing (Compassion Record LLP-1005)
The Christmas Letter (Lloyd P. Ratcliff)--Brandae (R&A Records 101; 1984)
Everyday Should Be Christmas (Ratcliff)--Same
Teen Sleighride (Mort Garson-Grace Lane)--Marv Meredith and His Orch. (Strand 25010; 1960)
Swingin' Sleighbells (Garson)--Same


Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A Christmas Carol--Basil Rathbone and a Hollywood Cast (Columbia M-521; 1942)

You never know what'll show up in the thrifts for $3.99.  Such as this mint copy of the 1942 three-78 A Christmas Carol set, featuring Basil Rathbone, Jay Novello, Francis X. Bushman, Lurene Tuttle, and Tommy Cook (Scrooge as a boy).  Though this audio play is almost as condensed as the Classics Illustrated comic book version, Rathbone manages to create s convincing and (most importantly) a sympathetic Scrooge.  All in the space of about 23 minutes!  Since he's given so little time to develop the character, the transition from the "before" Scrooge to the "after" edition isn't as convincing as we'd want, but that's not Rathbone's fault, obviously.  Everyone is brilliant in this, with Jay Novello's Bob Cratchit (spelled "Cratchet"here) especially amazing.  The famous moment when Bob breaks down following his visit to Tiny Tim's grave is quite powerful here.  This shortening of Dickens' novella (a novella for which Dickens earned a whopping 230 pounds, according to the notes!) is something to admire, given the challenge of conveying the tale in the style of a radio play.  I definitely got my $3.99 worth, as much work as it took to stitch together and sound-adjust everything.

My highly regarded 78 stylus--a replacement for the D-whatever needle used by Stanton's 680 cartridge--gave an okay file, but I got a better one with my $20 after-market 500 cart needle.  You never know.

Totally irrelevant to anything is that there are two points of connection to actor Peter Lupus, the big guy from Mission: Impossible--back when it was a terrific TV series and Tom Cruise had yet to lobotomize it on the big screen.  I refer to Rathbone's 1960s work for American International Pictures--the studio which brought Lupus to the movies.  And Lurene Tuttle was Peter's acting coach.  Now you know.  Leave it to me to notice that.

Leith Stevens, who composed and conducted the incidental music for this set, was an incredibly prolific film composer, whose stock music was used in any number of movies (I assume "stock" means library music), and whose scores include Destination Moon and War of the Worlds.  And he composed music for any number of TV series.

I combined all six sides into a single, unbroken file, of course.

DOWNLOAD: A Christmas Carol--Basil Rathbone (1942)


Christmas Party with "Two Ton" Baker, the Merry Music Maker (1946 or 1947)

From the same thrift find that yielded the Rathbone 78 set, a two-record Dick "Two Ton" Baker 78 set, which is actual a franken-set--more on that in a bit.  Baker was a very large man, for sure, but his talent was considerably larger, to risk bringing the Understatement Police racing to my door.  Dick was a brilliant musician and a remarkably gifted comedian--sort of like Spike Jones, Doodles Weaver, Willard Scott, and the late Ron Sweed (The great, hilarious Cleveand horror host, The Ghoul) rolled into one, and then some.  Here, he demonstrates great ability as a children's entertainer.

I would have LOVED to have heard this set as a kid.  It's quite a shame that I never had the pleasure, because I was a piano student, and Dick--who, as Wikipedia tells us, enjoyed a career as a major Chicago radio and TV personality for 30 years--was one hell of a pianist.  I would have been inspired to study harder.  Wikipedia's entry on Dick contains a portion that's enough to bring a Duke Ellington fan to tears, and which confirms Baker's incredible gifts: "In 1972 Baker was selected by Duke Ellington to play piano at a symposium honoring Ellington and the history of jazz, as Ellington no longer felt he could play effectively."  This is the man we are listening to here.

Just describe me as totally and completely in awe.  I have passed up Dick's records for years, and I will never make that mistake again.  As for the frank-set aspect of this album that I mentioned earlier, it took me a while to figure out what the heck was going on, but what I got at the thrift is obviously a three-78 Uncle Don set, complete with three pockets (one empty).  On the front, someone has replaced the art with the front of the original two-78 Baker set--they literally pasted the Baker cover (which is square, not rectangular) onto this.  Make sense?  I didn't think so.  Anyway, here's what I got stuck with.  It's a modified Uncle Don front board, an Uncle Don interior write-up, and a three-pocket interior, with two of the pockets containing Baker 78s, leading me to think there was a third, missing Baker 78.  There is not.  That had me majorly confused for a while.  This is what I got:

This is what the orignal Baker set actually looks like.  Square cover, two-pocket interior:

I won't even try to guess what possessed someone to paste the original Baker cover onto a three-78 Uncle Don set on the Majestic label.  I could go crazy trying.

Discogs gives the year for this as 1947, while the online discographical project (for 78s) gives the year as 1946.  Either could be so, since the Mercury matrices (515-518) place this at 1946 or 1947.  If I had more precise matrix info, I could nail it, but we're close enough.

DOWNLOAD: Christmas Party with "Two Ton" Baker, 1948  1946 or 1947.

The Night Before Christmas/Santa's Toy Shop
Up on the House-Top and Deck the Halls
Jingle Bells

Christmas Party with Two Ton Baker (Mercury Miniature Playhouse MMP-5; 1948 1946 or 1947.


Monday, December 23, 2019

Have a Southeastern Indiana Rural Electric Membership Corporation (REMC) Christmas!

This time, three REMC (Rural Electric Membership Corporation) gift 45s for Christmas, from 1964, 1965, and 1966.  I only included the first sides of the first two; I skipped the usual flip-side Christmas carols.  The third disc, from1966, has a story which continues through to the second side, so I ripped both sides (as one file).  As records in the companies-plugging-their-own-services category go, the 1966 single is the masterpiece of the trio.  Taking forever to get to the payoff, we hear the story of two kids--Randy and Ellen--who discover that Santa follows the REMC power lines to.... Darn, I gave it away.

Anyway, the Chipmunks-style REMC jingle at the close of the 1966 disc is classic.  The sound quality is not.  The fidelity is closer to 1946 than 1966, but... these things weren't produced for a mass audience.

I've found different accounts of what REMC stands for, but I trust this page: REMC Southeastern Indiana.  The C is also said to stand for Co-op and Company, so... don't ask me.  I'm just glad I finally discovered how Santa is able to find homes in rural areas, and... d'oh!  I gave away the ending again.  Dang it.

These have their charm, but Line Material they are not.  I've put up the 1966 REMC 45 before, though I checked and discovered it's not in the blog history, so here it is again, along with the 1964 and 1965 discs, which are recent finds.  You can do worse than these company-sponsored novelties.  And you can do better.  Or you can do the same.  The possibilities are almost endless.  The "Cranfill" mentioned on the 1966 label is the Cranfill Advertising Agency in Indianapolis, which has since changed its name.

In other news, I have no idea why the jingle repeats itself at the and of the 1964 side.  It's as if the editor messed up--but it wasn't me.  Fun jingle, so I'm cool with it.

How many of your Christmases, to date, have been Southeastern Indiana Rural Electric Membership Corporation Christmases?  Not many, I'm betting.  This post may change the way you experience the holiday.

DOWNLOAD: REMC Christmas, 1964-66

Ringing Everyone a Merry Christmas--Storyteller: Marti Mae (REMC RK4m-6964; 1964)
A Delightful Story of Christmas Fun in the Country--Storyteller: Marti Mae (REMC SK4M-4692; 1965)
REMC 1966 Gift Record--Storyteller: Jack Underwood (REMC TK4M-9554/9555; 1966)


EPs that deserve their own post--Mary Peacock's "It's Christmas Again" (1958)

Mary Peacock at 94.

Mary O'Kelley Peacock was born in 1905 and died in 2003 at the age of 98.  She left Meredith College (Raleigh, NC) in 1926 with a music degree, and her songs certainly sound like the work of someone who got a music degree in 1926.  That's simply to say that they have a very Twenties sound.

This six-selection EP is from 1958--see the RCA custom matrix prefix (J)--and it features the Music Department of the Women's Club of Moorestown, New Jersey.  I don't know if It's Christmas Again was the name of a short musical by Mary, or if it was composed for this disc.  I do know this is one of the most charming, unusual, and interesting holiday finds of my career.  And I love Peppermint Lane.  It's the ear worm of this posting season.  It's on constant rotation in my head.

This appears to have been written for a young audience, and I think it's the kind of thing a young audience would have liked.  A young audience of 1958, that is.  A modern one, likely no.

DOWNLOAD: It's Christmas Again (Mary Peacock)

Happy Birthday Little Christ Child
Little is the Lord
When Christ was Born in Bethlehem (Solo: Doris Hall)
It's Christmas Again
Peppermint Lane (Solo: Alice Eisemann)
If I Were Santa Claus

It's Christmas Again--Music Dept. of the Women's Club of Moorestown (NJ)  (RCA Custom J8OH-8109/8110; 1958)


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Here We Come A'Caroling--Evanston Township High School Festival Chorus (c. 1968)

This all-Christmas LP is from around 1968 (I used Discogs for date-comparing), and we have the highly talented teens from the Evanston (IL) Township High School Festival Chorus sharing with us gorgeous renderings of traditional carols, spirituals, hymns, Messiah selections, and a wonderful Mendelssohn number.  These high school students aren't on the level of Norman Luboff's or Robert Shaw's singers, and we wouldn't expect them to be. but they sure sound headed in that direction.  Talent, spirit, love for the material--it all comes through on these well-recorded tracks.  I wouldn't call the sound superb, but it is certainly adequate, with decent-quality stereo.  Something went terribly wrong, sound-wise, with the engineering on the next E.T.H.S. LP I'll be sharing (which hails from around 1971).  Whoever engineered the choral tracks on that one should have been banned for life from any and all recording studios.  Anyway, a refreshingly traditional line-up here,  with Deck the Hall and Orientis Partibus a welcome change from White Christmas or Let It Snow. Nothing against either pop standard, but serious programs shouldn't have to be injected with Tin Pan Alley numbers just to keep things "real."  So there.  (Harrumph.)  No, I'm not being a snob.  Well, okay, maybe.

And, while the LP treats Orientis Partibus as author-unknown, Hymnary.org gives the composer as Pierre de Corbeil.  And, as we all already knew, "Orientis" is Latin for "East," though I don't know what "Partibus" means.  One source claims the words translate to, "From the East came...." but don't ask me.  The number is connected with the Festival of the Ass, which celebrated Joseph and Mary's flight into Egypt.  It was kind of a pop festival, and the Church eventually banned it for being too fun, or too common, or most likely because it often included the bringing of donkeys into churches.  The Church possibly felt things had gotten too ass-inine.   Sorry.

Apparently, Orientis Partibus is used as the melody for The Friendly Beasts.  I've talked enough.  To the talented kids....

Please see label scans for track info....


Saturday, December 21, 2019

An Evanston (Illinois) Township High School Christmas, 1955-1964

You're luckier than me--you get to listen to the sounds without having to smell the musty jackets.  Someone dumped a good number of these Evanston (IL) Township High School "yearbook records" in a local Goodwill, all having apparently been stored in a very humid environment for who knows how long.  But the discs looked fine, with no sign of mildew--no mildew visible to the naked eye, that is.  I knew they'd clean up fine.  The jackets contain barely any track-specific information, so I was at the mercy of the label listings.  There are two years represented per disc: 1955-1956; 1956-1957; 1957-1958, and 1963-1964.  The first two jackets use the same cover art, while the third (not pictured) shows the school.  The fourth (1963-64) jacket design for the yearbook record can only be described as groovy.  Sort of like if Picasso (in a more conventional mood) designed a rock poster:

Initially, I though I was up a crick in terms of matching discs to jackets, as the first three jackets are without numbering or track listings.  Luckily, the three discs have RCA custom pressing numbers, and the three prefixes--G, H, and J--give me the years 1956, 1956, and 1958.  For some reason, RCA skipped the letter I.  The 1963-64 LP cover lists track titles, so no problem there.  By that point, Columbia was doing the custom pressings, though Delta Records of Chicago was doing the producing and "publishing."  (My headache threshold is being breached--I can feel it.)

I had to adjust the uneven volume levels and bypass a lot of choppy edits, or t least soften their effect.  Recording quality ranges from pretty bad to good.  I have two E.T.H.S. all-Christmas LPs from c. 1971 on the way which contain tracks ranging from good to unbelievably good.  I'm currently struggling with scanning the inside of the gatefold jacks for those--an epic task.  I tried simply photographing them, but the results were dismal.  I hate it when scanning issues hold up a post, all while every other part is ready to rock.  I'm sure we all hate that.  Recent polls (that I just made up) show that 80 percent of Americans who live in red houses and own dogs and are undecided about Impeachment and lease 2.3 cars and have never used a trampoline hate it when posts are held up by scanning issues.  We're talking scientific proof, here.

Since the Christmas sections of these "yearbooks" aren't very long, I decided, in the interests of presenting a cool Midwestern high school time capsule, to include an elaborate talent show sketch (quite dated, in a delightful way), the E.T.H.S. marching band doing the chorus of Rock Around the Clock in 1955 or 1956, and some astoundingly good Dixieland ("trad jazz," the Brits would say) from the Windjammers, who are 99.9 percent certain to be this group, which recorded for Argo in 1965:

Pic from eBay, though I used to have my own copy.  In the liner notes, the group is said to be from "the Chicago area," and Evanston is twelve miles north of downtown Chicago, so draw your own conclusions.  Preternaturally good young talents.

The band playing Sleigh Ride on the 1963-64 Hi-Lights is also terrific, though maybe not quite as, and the audio is a major step up from the 1950s tracks.  At 99 cents apiece, the entire pile would have been too much cash to risk (in case the stuff proved inadequate for my blog), so I picked and chose.  Hence, the gap: 1955-1958, then 1963-64.  Those three RCA custom matrix numbers were a post-saver, given the absence of track listings on the corresponding jackets.  If little of this is making sense, you're fine--I'm confusing myself, too.  Some of these posts require a staff, and I don't have one....

A deliciously fun time capsule follows.  I'm considering going back for more (I doubt anyone has grabbed any), but I think maybe I've inhaled my mold and mildew RDAs for 2020, and it's still 2019.

As the track listings don't contain credits, I would have had to fetch that info from the audio introductions (which some tracks lacked), and that proved too much work--too time-consuming, anyway, with everything else I was juggling.  I'll leave it to you to pick up the specifics by ear--I just gave sketchy credits (e.g. "Music Department").  As a listener, you're not slicing and dicing files and trying to match jacket to disc, or any of that distracting stuff.  Nor did you have to wade through adults going "Blah, blah, blah, blah, as we look to the future, blah, blah, we'd like to thank this or that member of the blah, blah, blah committee, without whose axe murders we would have had to rely on attrition, blah, blah...."

Only after ripping these did it occur to me that the happy, silly, and talented teens on the earliest sides here are all 80 now, or pushing 80.  It was a "gulp" moment....


DOWNLOAD: E.T.H.S. High School Christmas

1. 1955-1956 Talent Show
2.  Rock Around the Clock (one chorus)--E.T.H.S. Marching Band, 1955 or 1956
3.  Christmas Show--Music Department (1955)
4.  The Christmas Festival--Music Department (1956)
5.  Christmas Festival--Music Department (1957)
5.  Sleigh Ride (Anderson)--E.T.H.S. Band (1963)
6,  No track title--The Windjammers (from Hi-Lights '63-'64)


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Christmas 78s from 2018--spinning again!

The terrific image above is the work of Jeff--quite a classy job.  A gift to this blog.

I've revived the 78 rpm rips from last year for anyone who didn't have the time or chance to download (I'd used Zippfile for all of them originally), so here they are.  Let me know if I messed anything up....

Christmas 78s 2018, Part 1
Christmas 78s 2018, Part 2
Christmas 78s 2018, Part 3
Christmas 78s 2018, Part 4
Christmas 78s 2018, Part 5
Christmas Is for Kiddies, Part 1
Christmas Is for Kiddies, Part 2
Christmas Fantasy--Al Goodman and His Orch., 1950


Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The original "Let's Light the Christmas Tree"--Jack Brown, the Three Jills, Ruth Lyons; 1948

Many thanks to Ron Sauer, who sent me this 78 to clean up.  It was fun finding the right response curve--this is more like pleasure than work.  Two tries, and I think my second one sounds pretty good.  Had to lower the bass turnover slightly, as well as the treble rolloff (compared to my first try).  Slight adjustments can do a world of good, as they did here.  Hope you like it.

Every source tells me this is from 1948.  Anyone with more precise info, please chime in.  I'm thinking 1948 may have been the release date, and late 1947 the recording date.  Just a hunch.  (I'm in Joe Friday mode, here.)  As you can see, Ruth Lyons is, of course, the person behind the words and music for Let's Light..., and she's on piano here.

Enjoy!  Btw, the color differences between the A and B labels aren't a scanner error--they're mismatched.  Maybe Radio Artist Records ran out of the green labels, and had to go to aqua....

DOWNLOAD: Let's Light the Christmas Tree

Let's Light the Christmas Tree (Ruth Lyons)--Jack Brown and the Three Jills; Ruth Lyons-piano, Chic Gatwood-guitar, Ish Drain-vibs, Cy Carey-bass
Jingle Bells--Jimmy Wilber and the Little Band, v: the Three Jills

Radio Artist Records 214 (78 rpm; 1948)


Merry Christmas from Homer Rodeheaver, 1955!

DOWNLOADMerry Christmas from Homer Rodeheaver, 1955

Homer Rodeheaver (pronounced "Rode-hay-ver"!) had a great voice, wrote some nice gospel songs, promoted some great ones (including Brighten the Corner Where You Are), and told rather corny stories in an Old Time Radio fashion.  He was of his period, like most entertainers.

Here's Homer's idea of a Christmas record--a recitation about 1) death, 2) a little boy making a speech by randomly stringing together memorized phrases, and 3) "an old Negro friend" and his brand of positive thinking.  The fake dialect in the last one is... embarrassing.  But, for context, consider the fact that minstrel shows lasted into the 1960s.

Anyway, what could possibly say "Christmas" more than those three items?

This, by the way, is the ranch (link) he keeps mentioning.

Homer's half-sister Ruth was a very good singer, and Paul Mickelson was a highly skilled organist and arranger, so, while this record is pretty corny, it's beautifully done.


Monday, December 16, 2019

We Have Seen His Star...--The Mennonite Hour A Cappella Choral Groups

Right after I had ripped and labeled this, I realized that, though I'd checked Ernie's blog, I hadn't checked Buster's.  Luckily, this is not a dupe of either's work.  (Sigh of relief.)

Even if I didn't know from Ernie and Buster's posts that the Mennonite Hour was a radio program, I'd have guessed--it sounds like one.  Also, on the enclosed sheet music of Charles H. Gabriel's marvelous The Star and the Wise Men, it say "Mennonite Broadcasts, Inc."  Big clue, there.

Mennonite Hour Records operated out of Harrisonburg, VA.  And I'll go with my initial impression of this album--namely, that it's mostly magnificent.  I was highly, highly impressed.  First impressions don't always endure, but I heard some tremendous singing going on, and I was delighted to hear choral arrangements of black spirituals that were not only bearable but mostly terrific.  (I love black spirituals, but choral renditions of them typically stink.)  The singers deliver the spirituals with feeling, and--best of all--without the usual fake enthusiasm and stilted syncopation.  I'm tired of Go Tell It on the Mountain renditions that sound like they're coming over a telegraph.  No such problem here.

Charles Gabriel is my favorite gospel songwriter--a genius who did everything with nearly nothing.  His famous Send the Light, for instance, uses two entire chords--I and V.  For me, he defines musical minimalism at its best.  Even Erik Satie comes in second.  The Gabriel selection on this disc makes my point, I think.  Or breaks it.  Depends on the listener.

Not counting the Gabriel, Side 1 is all standard Christmas hymns and carols, done with a refreshing freshness, if I'm allowed to type that.  Good Christian Men, Rejoice is perfect--the Men's Quartet just gallops through, giving the classic carol the fast tempo it demands, and with perfect timing and diction, and did I mention I love this LP?

I love this LP, by the way.

A gift from Indiana from Diane, and a thousands thanks to her.  I think this is my favorite post of this season--of the "new" material, anyway.  The sheet music for the Gabriel is enclosed, and I'd rush off a recording of it on my Casio, but I haven't loaded my multi-tracking software onto this PC yet, and there's an alto obligato that requires an extra finger.  So much for that.

Please see jacket and label scans for track info.  These old hands are getting typed out....

DOWNLOAD: We Have Seen His Star--The Mennonite Hour A Cappella Choral Groups (Mennonite Hour 12)