Thursday, December 30, 2021

Hoover-Schrum Grade School Band, c. Michael Landes--Holiday Time--U.S.A. (1969)

NOTE: A repost from 2019, in a higher bitrate, with noticeably better sound as a result.

And now, the Hoover-Schrum Grade School Band of Calumet City, Illinois--and Diane says she didn't gift this to me, so I must have found it in a local thrift.  And the sole reference I found on line is this 2016 YouTube post,  It gives priceless info on the LP, including the all-important detail: the year (1969).  But--and I hate to say it--the YT transfer is over-filtered.  Digital filtering can easily remove part of the audio to avoid hiss, and that's a trade-we have to work hard not to make.  So, you have two rips to choose from--mine and YT's.  (I hate to be critical of someone else's effort, but the YT transfer is a bit overdone.)

I was tempted to sum the left and right channels for mono, but there's very slight stereo happening here, so I kept it.  Some privately done LPs have this very type of narrow-width stereo, and I'm not sure how it happens.  Maybe it's in the mastering stage, or maybe the microphones are too close when the tape is first rolling.  I'm not knocking the sound overall--it's very good, very vivid--but there isn't much stereo.  But I didn't want to eliminate the slight depth by going stereo to mono.

The YouTube post mentions the hot temperatures and missing band members, but the band is nonetheless extremely good--preternaturally so, in some places.  Listening to this, I had to keep reminding myself that this is a grade school band, especially on Original Dixieland Concerto and the 76 Trombones portion of Music Man.  I wonder if the superb trumpet soloist on the Manhattan Tower track went on to a music career.

Why the first part of this holiday concert is made up of non-holiday material, I don't know, but it's highly entertaining--full of variety and surprises.  All of it designed, maybe, to put the audience is a festive mode prior to the unleashing of the Xmas numbers.  Now, why would "a musical tribute to the uplifting of the spirit of all mankind" use Everything's Coming up Roses as its musical theme?  Maybe the song symbolizes the band's successful concert streak that preceded the making of this disc (except the program was arranged prior to that streak, so I guess that can't be).  I don't know.  Actually, in his closing remarks, conductor Michael Landes recommends Roses as a positive-thinking aid.  I can see that--it's an uplifting number.  I'm overthinking things.

The remarkable grade school musicianship makes this LP a winner all the way.  My 2019 essay took the arrangements and selections to task (while praising the gifted kids), and I must have been in a bad mood, because I find it very pleasing this rip around.

Musicians: A+.  Program: A-.  A very fun listen.

DOWNLOAD: Hoover-Schrum Grade School Band, c. Michael Landes; 1969

Curtain's Coming Up--Everything's Coming up Roses
Music Man
Original Dixieland Concerto
Manhattan Tower
Christmas Party
Roses Rhapsody
Winter Wonderland
Havah Nagilah--Exodus
Jingle Bells Rhapsody

Hoover-Schrum Grade School Band, c. Michael Landes--Holiday Time--U.S.A. (No label name WFC-859; 1969)


Festival de Navidad (Christmas Festival)--Delightful holiday sounds in alta fidelidad!

An extremely fun Latin American Christmas LP, with titles in Spanish and featuring six numbers by the Cuban-American Tonight Show pianist Jose Melis, though his are the least exciting tracks in this mix, which seems to be predominantly Puerto Rican.  But don't ask me--I'm no expert in this area.

"Alta fidelidad," of course, means high fidelity, and the sound is certainly detailed and robust--condition issues were minor, though I had to do a certain amount of manual noise removal, even following a pass or two through Vinyl Studio's amazing declicker. The label, Tropical, is un producto de Seeco Records, Inc., and there were a good number of titles released on this sublabel.  If I'm lucky, I'll encounter some more.

Hard to pick a favorite track, though Los Parranderos is definitely a candidate, with its splendid instrumental backing and cool, complex vocals.  A "parranderos" is a reveler or a merrymaker, which we can sort of tell from the house-rocking tone of the number--Oye! Los Angelitos Cantan (Hark! The Herald Angels Sing) is pretty anticlimactic as the follow-up track.  Melis was a fine pianist, of course, but his tracks sound totally conventional in this collection.  Melis is credited as Jose Melis y su conj., and I'm assuming that means "and his group."

Enjoy the Festival de Navidad in alta fidelidad, and bear with the rather out of place Melis numbers--or just skip them altogether.  They'd have made a nice album all by themselves, but here they tend to slightly spoil the festive mood, at least to my ears.

Fine musicianship throughout, and fine fidelidad.  To the festival--and I'll leave the titles to the mp3 tags and the back cover photo.

DOWNLOAD: Festival de Navidad (Tropical TRLP 5057)


Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Christmas Carols and Songs for Children--The Jeri Mann Singers (Not) (Sutton SSU 96X)


Today, we have half an LP.  I didn't rip the A side, because it's the same ol' Johnny Kay/Kaye tracks that appeared on SPC, Pickwick (International Award), Crown, and who knows where else.  The "Jeri Mann Singers" credit is obviously nonsense, especially given that the B side is totally instrumental--no voices to be heard there.  And it's the B side I'm providing, if only in the hopes that someone can identify on what other LP (or LPs) these tracks showed up.  I'm certain I've put them up already, and under some other name on a different label.  Someone with a more precise audio memory than me might be able to peg them--if so, please leave a comment.  In time, I'll be sifting through my mp3s in search of the duplicate tracks.

One clue may reside in the misspelling of Wenceslas ("Wenceslauss")--a typo that appeared in an earlier post this year.  That may turn out to be the vital clue.

And yes, the stereo on/in these tracks is the real thing.  The pressing isn't so good, but that's par for the cheap-label course...

I'll bet you're just dying to listen to these by now, the way I've hyped the selections to the stars.  And--good grief--Holy Night.  No O.  Just Holy Night.  Maybe Sutton ran out of upper-case O's.

UPDATE: My thanks to Phil for jogging my memory.  These tracks are from the Lester label LP Singing Strings Herald Christmas, which I've just reposted here (in a new rip).  Included in my essay are the extremely helpful comments left at my 2018 post by Ronald Sauer, who meticulously traced the history of these tracks and shared his findings with the blog.

No wonder these tracks sounded so familiar.  Sutton used six of the twelve tracks featured on the Lester label LP.  Ronald reports that these tracks really made the budget-label rounds.

DOWNLOAD: Jeri Mann Singers--Carols and Songs for Children (Sutton SSU 96X)

Deck the Halls

Joy to the World

First Noel

Good King Wenceslaus (sic)

Holy Night

We Three Kings


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

High Spirits, Past and Present (Youth of Holy Spirit Parish)--Merry Christmas to: You (1973)

From the liner-notes insert: "This group will make the top singers such as Andy Williams, and Perry Como look sick.  No one can top this fine group."  A repost, in a higher bitrate, and with more scans, including two liner-note inserts (in three scans).  A children-making-music classic!  With refreshingly pre-hip-hop percussion, to boot.  My 2019 essay:

The High Spirits were a group of children from the Holy Spirit School in Whitehall, Ohio, an enclave of Columbus.  The kids on this 1973 LP are third- to eighth-graders, and they were directed by Sister Carol Ann Krell.  Total pop-folk, good singing, fun percussion, cool (and very natural) stereo sound--you can't miss with this one.  Maybe the best LP of its type I've ever come across, and it's a local effort, to boot--about an hour's drive away.  The children aren't trying to be cute, and the adults in charge haven't given them any corny material, so... no complaints.

Generic cover, but nice.  I've included label and liner note scans--the typewritten liner notes were inserted into the jacket (the back is blank).  I don't think they were mimeographs; probably photocopies, and of course not up to modern standards.  I've included these in the zip file.

No Santa Got Drunk and Fell Off the Roof or Happy 25th, Jesus type of stuff.  Just carols and a few pop Christmas standards.  Totally delightful, and I keep hoping to find one or all of their other LPs  As of 1973, they'd made four of them, plus a 45.

DOWNLOAD:  High Spirits, Past and Present (1973)

Winter Wonderland
Sing We Noel
Go Tell It on a Mountain
Children Go
What Child Is This?
A Christmas Round
Away In a Manger
Do You Hear What I Hear?
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Silver Bells
White Christmas
Angels We Have Heard on High
'Neath the Silent Stars
I Heard the Bells
Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy
Drummer Boy

High Spirits, Past and Present--Christmas, 1973 (Mus-i-Col 101651/52, Columbus OH)


Some more 2020 Christmas links, revived dumped all, or nearly all, of my 2020 Christmas uploads, resulting in "dead" links.  I've revived most of them, except for a post of Xmas singles whose zip file I can't find on my hard drive.  A total mystery.

Anyway, here are some revived posts and links, in addition to the ones I've already offered.  The post urls are below the jacket images:

DOWNLOAD: Macy Singers 1954

DOWNLOAD: Union Central Chimes

DOWNLOAD: Pac-Man Christmas Album

DOWNLOAD: Christmas Everywhere--Fran Alexandre

DOWNLOAD: Christmas Chorales by Scheidt and Bach

Gilmar, Merv Griffin, Santa Claus Polka (1926), Record Pak Xmas selections, etc.

DOWNLOAD: More Christmas 78s

DOWNLOAD: Shell's Wonderful World of Music, Vol. II

That's as many as I can manage at the moment...


Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas! And some carols by your blogger.


I love that ad from Christmas, 1884.  A two-page spread in a children's magazine.  Hope everyone is having a wonderful Christmas--ours is warm and wet.  I can't hear the rain at the moment, but I'm sure it's still going.  Now, I could swear I saw a very light snowfall just before the rain kicked in last night.  Of course, I could have dreamed that, but I think I was awake.  Not sure, but I think.

The local forecasters were assuring us we wouldn't get a white Christmas.  But it looks like we might have had one--for about 20 minutes, anyway.

Stay merry, bright, and safe, and if you feel the urge, give my 2021 carols a listen.  I wrote these over the past two nights, all the while trying to convince myself I was too busy to be composing and notating (and trying to read my own writing).  Actually, I can notate very precisely when I take the time, but when time is limited... Four carols, all with titles, and I hid the edit marks pretty well, I think.  I write so fast that I have to rehearse my own pieces--they never come about as a slow process; they just flow out.

Oh, and "Decorated Homes on Dark Country Roads" refers to my 7 pm drive home last night, with me getting lost for the first time on that trek (it's a straight shot, so I don't know what I did).  While I was finding my way back to the right road, I noticed how lovely the lighted-up houses were in the pitch-dark of the country.  But I named my carol after the fact--it wasn't really inspired by this experience.  It works, though.

57 and cloudy, says my desktop weather app.  Maybe we're experiencing a brief dry spell.  Anyway, Merry Christmas and a great transition to 2022!!

DOWNLOAD: Carols by Lee

Christmas Time 2021

Christmas Eve Service 

Decorated Homes on Dark Country Roads

Dreaming of a Wet Christmas

All written and played by Lee Hartsfeld on his Casio WK-3800.


Friday, December 24, 2021

Western Springs Sings--Christmas 1959--Western Springs Savings & Loan Association

A repost from 2018, the original Zippyfile link long since departed, and the music in a new rip and higher bitrate.

From 1959, a Christmas LP produced by Western Springs Savings and Loan. We're talking Western Springs, Illinois. There is quite a lot of variety here, from grade school kids to church choirs to a high school marching band to the Q Suburban Barbershop Chapter. The back jacket lists every single person present on every track. I used the back jacket titles in the playlist below, not the shortened ones on the label. Great to have a Christmas LP which contains Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light, as harmonized by J.S. Bach. I love playing this on the organ, though it's a little tricky, since I don't pedal. This means moving bass voices up an octave when necessary, but I get through it, somehow. On this disc, the church choir does a very good job, though the superior First Congregational Church choir, in its two selections, is professional-quality. For some reason, the marching band track is my favorite, maybe in part because the audio quality is nice and natural. The opening tracks are a bit weird--36 seconds of Silent Night on a music box, which amounts to about half a stanza, with the track fading into about 21 seconds of We Wish You a Merry Christmas. An unusual but fun opening. 

The liner notes include a thank-you message that really dates the LP--in a good way: "We wish to thank the organizations and individuals whose generous participation helped bring this holiday recording to you.  For those who would like to send a copy to friends or family, a limited number of records are on hand, at cost, from our office."--Western Springs Savings & Loan Association.  So charmingly old-fashioned.

Each track closes with a sudden appearance of surface noise that quickly subsides. It can't be needle wear, because it wouldn't happen in that pattern, nor in that consistent of one. Very strange.  Obviously, the hiss can't be in the master tape(s)--it's clearly of the vinyl type.  Anyway, the locally produced holiday album by which I'll be judging all others from now on: 

CLICK HERE TO HEAR: Western Springs Sings: Christmas--1959 

Silent Night--Regina Music Box 
We Wish You a Merry Christmas--Third Grade, Franklin School 
Sing We the Virgin Mary--First Congregational Church 
Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming--The Villagers 
Carol of the Bells--The McClure Seventh Grade Chorus 
Winds Through the Olive Trees--First Grade, Franklin School 
While Shepherds Watch--Baptist Church 
Christmas Medley--Lyons Township High School North Campus Band 
Fum Fum Fum--Upper Grades Chorus, Laidlaw School 
O Come All Ye Faithful--Q Suburban Barbershop Chapter 
See Amid the Winter's Snow--Saint Cletus Boys' Choir 
Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light--First Methodist Church 
Sweet Little Jesus Boy--Robert Gooding, Soloist 
We Wish You a Merry Christmas--First Congregational Church 

Western Springs Sings--Christmas 1959: Produced by Western Springs Savings and Loan, 1959 


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Another 2020 re-up: Merry Christmas From Line Material!


Last year, I put up my latest rips of those classic Line Material sides from 1957-1962, plus the 1949 and 1956 LM offerings.  And Workupload zapped that file, too--apparently, it happened during this year's site outage.

The post once again has an active link: Merry Christmas From LM (Latest rips)

Last year, my 1949 rip came out worlds better than ever before, though it's a very ordinary side compared to the classics to come.


110 musicians! No, wait--105. No, 98. Just a second--now it's 25 or 30. (Hard to keep count...)


Such a lovely cover, and 110 musicians, no less!  (Or is that "fewer"?)  I wonder where Wyncote got the "110" concept from?  Do you think it's possible they inverted "101" to arrive at that number?  Nahhh.  No way that could explain it.

The stereo sound (true stereo, even) is pretty decent, but there are constant channel dropouts, with The First Noel spending nearly half of its running time without a left side.  (O Holy Night has a lot of trouble staying in stereo, as well.)  Either the quality control folks at Wyncote didn't catch the problems, or else they deemed them unimportant, or else there were no quality control people at Wyncote.

Only my accountable devotion to cheap vinyl offerings (especially during Christmas) could have me putting this up--that, plus the possibility that someone in Audience Land will recognize where else these tracks have popped up.  On a Longines Symphonette set, maybe?  But, back to the frequent channel dropouts, how is it possible nobody noticed this while they were screening the finished product?  But I need to stop pondering this mystery.  It could drive me sane.  I mean, insane.

This rip is my second run-through, because I accidentally left the tracking force at 1.5 grams on the first swipe, and my 1.2 mil stylus wants 3 grams of VTF.  It's a less bumpy ride this time, though there's still line hum (I think the term is), plus the occasionally errant channel.  Plus, occasional channel flutter.  I suppose, if this was mastered with a damaged reel to reel tape, it would explain the sonic defects, though it sounds more like a loose audio cord to me.  A broken wire, a connection not properly seated... who knows?  Busy techs stepping on the cord during the mastering session?

No back cover scan, due to water damage residue.  You're not missing much--Wyncote's back covers were about as memorable as SPC's.  A free catalog is offered on same, as if anyone would be eager to expand their Wyncote library after this encounter.

1964 says Discogs--and so does the label.  So, 1964 it is.  Oh, and Wyncote was the Cameo-Parkway budget label, though "budget" hardly begins to describe it.  To its credit, Wyncote didn't engage in any of that "We offer the finest sound available and a vast catalog of family favorites..." jazz.  

DOWNLOAD: Christmas Favorites--International Pop Orch. (Wyncote W-9117; 1964)

O Come All Ye Faithful

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Joy to the World

Deck the Halls

The First Noel

Good King Wenceslaus (sic)

O Holy Night

We Three Kings of Orient Are

Silent Night

Christmas Favorites--International Pop Orchestra (Wyncote W-9117; 1964)


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The Schola Cantorum of Valparaiso University, The Men and Boys Choir of Trinity Church, New Haven


After a Christmas diet of Wyncote, Palace, Pickwick, and (last year) Pac-Man, my blog will probably be confused by today's offerings.  We'll be hearing the first sides of two custom-recorded efforts of a high-art nature.  Both showed up at the same Goodwill, and both have playable A sides but trashed flips.  What to do in such a situation?  Combine the two, of course--the material is too good not to post.  As for a "schola cantorum," it can be 1) a singing school, 2) "an enclosure designed for a choir and located in the center of the nave in early church buildings"--Merriam-Webster, 3) or the choir itself.  In the case of the Valparaiso (Indiana) Schola Cantorum, I'm fairly sure it's 3).  And, having attended small country churches for the past 30 years, "nave" was a new word to me, and it seems to have more than one meaning, though I think it typically refers to what we country mainline Protestants call the sanctuary--or, simply, the pews.  We keep things simple: The pulpit and the pews.  On the pulpit, you have the minister, the lectern, the organ, and (if you have a choir) the choir.  That's the economy version of your basic church arrangement.

The Valparaiso choir (mixed, unlike Trinity's) sings superbly, as we'd expect (it's a Lutheran school, after all), and we get some fancy and wonderful arrangements of In Dulci Jubilo and Martin Luther's deathless From Heaven Above (Vom Himmel Hoch--one of my favorite Luther hymns, with its Ein Feste Burg-esque closing cadence), plus modern fare like British composer John Joubert's Nowell, which presents a major change in moods following its jubilant opening, and Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly's gorgeous A Christmas Carol, for which a quick Google search reveals no date.  Sussex Carol gets the best treatment that I've ever heard, with Dale Wood evidently the arranger (he definitely didn't write it), and O Come All Ye Faithful (Fantasia on "Adeste Fideles" by Richard Wienhorst) is certainly different, and quite catchy, even if a bit mournful in tone.  (And "Fideles" is correctly spelled!).  Gorgeously performed, of course.  The choir is directed by Frederick Telschow, I should have mentioned, and I have no idea on the year of release, though I'm guess 1968-ish.  It's on the custom label Delta Records (of Chicago).

Those were the playable Schola Cantorum tracks, so we switch to the excellent 1955 mono sound of the men and boys of the Trinity Choir, who sing a wonderful program of carols and hymns, some olden and some not so (though I do need to keep in mind this is almost 2022...).  O Leave Your Sheep starts things out, and though the name doesn't ring a chord, I know I've heard this French carol someplace previously.  (I hope to Heaven the Trans-Siberian Orchestra hasn't desecrated it.)  One Winter Night, by the then-contemporary British composer Reg'nald Hunt, seems to be from 1932, and Christmas in the Wood is a carol by the "contemporary" American composer Mabel Daniels, and the notes tell us that it "differs from the carol in its greater formal freedom and less clearly marked symmetries."  So there.  I skipped some tracks (but circled back to them later), jumping to Spanish composer L.T. (typo?) DaVittoria's (1540-1608) motet Magnum Mysterium, whose superb polyphony veers between fluid counterpoint and something closer to (but not quite) parallel organum.  In the Bleak Mid-Winter, with its famous and incredibly touching 1872 text, is a hymn I find difficult to disconnect from the famous Gustav Holst tune, but this lovely setting may be even better.  More polyphonic mastery, courtesy of Michael Praetorius (1571-1621), with To Us Is Born Emmanuel, and then the very familiar Deck the Hall in its proper, singular title.  And several more fine tracks, including a superb setting of In Dulci Jubilo by W.J. Westbrook (1831-1894).

And we get Albert Schweitzer at the organ on track 19, performing the Bach Christmas choral prelude Gelobet seist Du, Jesus Christ (Praise Be to You, Jesus Christ)--tune by Martin Luther.  No idea on the recording date.  Albert does the music justice, of course.

DOWNLOAD: Schola Cantorum, Trinity Choir (1955 for the latter)


O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Carol of the Advent

In Dulci Jubilo


From Heaven Above (Luther)

A Christmas Carol (Zoltan Kodaly)

Sussex Carol

A Christmas Wish (Dale Wood)

O Come All Ye Faithful (Fantasia on "Adeste Fideles"--Richard Wienhorst)

(Frederick H. Telschow, Conductor)


O Leave Your Sheep

One Winter Night

Christmas in the Wood

O Magnum Mysterium (L.T. daVittoria)

In the Bleak Midwinter (Rossetti-Darke)

To Us Is Born Emmanuel (Michael Praetorius)

Deck the Hall

In Dulci Jubilo (Arr. W.J. Westbrook)

Hymn for Christmas Day

Choral Prelude: Gelobet seist Du, Jesus Christ (Praise Be to You, Jesus Christ) (Luther-Bach)--Albert Schweitzer, organ

The Morning Star Is Glowing (Michael Praetorius)

The Holly and the Ivy

There Was a Rosebud Bloomed in the Snow

Villagers All This Frosty Tide

Schola Cantorum of Valparaiso University, cond. Frederick H. Telschow, Organ: William F. Eifrig, Philip K. Gehring (Delta Records DRS78-805)

The Choir of Trinity Church, New Haven (Men and Boys), Choirmaster and Organist: C. Huntington Byles (Overtone OV. 11; 1955)


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The New Born King--Jerry Barnes With the Ralph Carmichael Orchestra (Zondervan Victory ZLP-6455)


There's a good deal of background on today's "transitional musical curiosity" in this detailed 2018 analysis by Johan Palme, posted at Records.Christmas.  Ralph Carmichael is working in "a new language he’s not fully familiar with," says Palme, but to me the arrangements sound assured, professional, and imaginative--I hear no stumbling.  But this kind of thing is totally subjective--there's no right or wrong when it comes to musical criticism.  The least usual number here is Glory Manger, which seems to be associated with Harry Belafonte, if my Google search can be trusted, and which comes out sounding a bit like James Brown on the instrumental end.  It really stands out among the selections, and in fact it sounds like early soul music, but it's handled adroitly.  I just can't see a pro like Carmichael being thrown for a loop by new pop music styles.  I think he was able to accommodate such developments in his sleep.

Jerry Barnes has a strong, smooth baritone with just a touch of Vaughn Monroe's patented nose-and-throat-congestion style--and the "just a touch" part is a blessing.  Anything more than just a touch, and I wouldn't have ripped this.  Not that Monroe was a bad singer; it's just that his voice sounded wrong.  I want to call it "phlegmatic," but I'm not sure that's the word.  Again, Monroe sang like someone congested in his throat and nose.  His voice was also big and strong, so the effect was something like when you turn the treble way down.  Apparently, he was regarded as a manly-man vocalist.  But Barnes' singing voice gets more pleasant the more you listen to it.  Pleasant is the word which best describes this album.

I think we hear some of the roots of praise music in this effort, along with a touch of Top 40 pop and soul, but I've never placed huge significance on the combining or borrowing of styles in popular music of any type, since it's an event that's common as dirt.  Rolling Stone put out a long, go-nowhere history of rock and roll in which the swapping of influences between White and Black musicians accounts for rock evolution, though the logic escapes me.  First of all, a dirt-common event like cross-influence isn't likely to function as the lifeblood of evolution; plus, you have an infinite-regression problem.  Rock History is big on the country-plus-blues-equals-rock-and-roll notion (A+B=C), but that hardly works as the primary mechanism for any kind of evolution, simply because with that model you have the problem that each A and B, in turn, needs its own A+B, and so on and so on.  And I keep fumble-fingering "evolution."

As for this being some kind of turning-point or end-of-an-era LP, the diversity of style and material is pretty standard by gospel music terms--I've become so used to styles within styles in gospel that I don't give such a display of diversity any special thought--it just goes with the genre.  And I've gone on a little too long--sorry about that.  Enjoy this one for Barnes' pleasant, only slightly Monroe-like baritone, and Carmichael's superbly creative arrangements.  Nothing unusual happening here, imo.  Just a pleasant and fun ride.  Oh, and not even Jerry or Ralph can sell me on Do You Hear What I Hear?  I'm still mystified by the popularity of that one.

DOWNLOAD:  The New Born King--Jerry Barnes With the Ralph Carmichael Orch. (Zondervan Victory ZLP-6455)

The New Born King

I Wonder as I Wander (Niles)

Christmas Is a Birthday Time

Silent Night

Was He Quiet or Did He Cry?

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Little Baby Jesus

What Child It This?

Jesus, Jesus Rest Your Head

Away in a Manger

Glory Manger

O Little Town of Bethlehem

The New Born King--Jerry Barnes With the Ralph Carmichael Orch. (Zondervan Victory ZLP-6455; 1964)


Monday, December 20, 2021

"Hail to Christmas"--Peter Raymond Carolers (Wyncote W 9151; 1966)


Another thrift gift from Diane!  At first glance, this looks like an exceptionally cheap effort.  But, of course, looks can be deceiving.  Except, not in this case--this is, in fact, an extremely cheap effort.  It's every bit as bargain-basement as it looks, if not moreso.  And it features one the worst choirs in the world.  Normally, I'd hate to be that nasty about it, but the choir tracks are awful.  But this is a Cheapmas miracle--the perfect terrible Xmas LP.  There are two types of terrible--plain terrible, and wondrously terrible.  This is the latter.

Fun-awful, we could dub it.  Where to start?  Well, I've less than praised the choir, but there's also a singer who makes like Dean Martin on Let It Snow, and not very successfully.  I dig that track.  Then there's another male singer who handles the majority of the numbers (which are solo, despite the "Carolers" credit), and he's pretty mediocre, and the backings sound cheap--and, once again, we have the makings of a classically cheap Christmas budgeter.  ("Budgeter"--budget LP.)  And we have the title track, Hail to Christmas, which sounds like a Polka attempt--I'm not sure.  It was dubbed from a wobbly master--my LP was perfectly centered on the turntable, so I don't know what happened there.  An uncentered master disc, probably.

Tacky, really, is the word which best describes Hail to Christmas.  A triumph of tackiness.

Now, whenever you see a "Stereo" sticker placed over the catalog number (see upper r.h. corner), you have to wonder, "Are they serious?"  In this case, no.  The sound is pure, unadulterated mono, and it even says "Mono" on the labels.  Or, rather, "MONO."  I combined the channels for the best effect, and so the audio is tolerable, however cheap.

This is just a lovably chintzy effort--with a cute over, to boot--and solid gold to lovers of awful and/or of the awfully cheap.  I have some high-art stuff coming up, featuring the Schola Cantorum of Valparaiso University (Indiana) and the Trinity Church Men and Boys Choir (New Haven), so this is the calm before the... something.  I want to do a pun on that phrase, but I can't think of one.  "The cheap before the...?"  Anyway, enjoy the glorious awfulness of Hail to Christmas:

DOWNLOAD: Hail to Christmas--Peter Raymond Carolers (Wyncote W 9151; 1966)

Jingle Bells

Silent Night

Sleighride (sic)

Hail to Christmas

Deck the Halls

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Let It Snow

Frosty the Snowman

Christmas Tree

Joy to the World

Hail to Christmas--Peter Raymond Carolers (Wyncote W 9151; 1966)


Sunday, December 19, 2021

Christmas... Back Home in Indiana--The Bill Gaither Trio (Heart Warming R3197; 1972)


A superbly produced LP from 1972, featuring the The Gaither Trio, a praise music outfit I love, despite my not being a praise music fan in general.  Remarkably, this was not a gift from Diane, despite the Indiana theme, and despite the fact Diane has sent me a good number of Gaither albums.  (I almost typed "vinyls."  Saints preserve us!)  Good for my spell checker--it doesn't recognize "vinyls" as a word.  As it shouldn't.

A number of standard Christmas hymns/carols, plus the always welcome C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S (Jenny Lou Carson/Eddy Arnold), a spirited rendition of The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy, and a Gaither original, Redeeming Love, which is joined to Hark the Herald Angels Sing.  I suppose Redeeming Love is a bit cliched--even a little maudlin--but it works quite well in that unique Gaither way.  Gaither's stuff is fun, even when it's corny.  Everything is so superbly musical.

And a very nice Allelujah, plus a very brief but lovely O Come, O Come Emmanual (half a stanza), which has never been my favorite advent hymn, but which, in this case, I wish had been extended.

The second original Bill and Gloria Gaither number is the spirited anthem King of Kings, which skirts the edge of maudlin, but which succeeds nicely, because... well, because it's offered in the best Gaither fashion.  These talented folks simply can't do wrong by me.  Enjoy!

DOWNLOAD:  Christmas... Back Home in Indiana (Heart Warming R3197; 1972)

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy (Caribbean Trad.)

Sleep, Baby, Sleep (Slaughter)

What Child Is This?

The First Noel

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Luke II (King James version)/Silent Night (Mohr-Gruber)

Hark the Herald Angels Sing (Wesley-Mendelssohn)/Redeeming Love (Gaither/Gaither)

C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S (Carson-Arnold)


12/24/69 (Moore-Powell)

O Come, O Come Emmanual/O Little Town of Bethlehem (Brooks-Redner)/Joy to the World (Watts-Mason)

One Little Manger (Powell)

King of Kings (Gaither/Gaither)

Christmas...Back Home in Indiana--The Bill Gaither Trio (Heart Warming R3197; 1972)


Saturday, December 18, 2021

Revived 2020 links for 2021

The brief site outage this year at Workupload seems to have claimed many of my links.  I've revived a number of them so far, though it's time-consuming.  (Blogging can be that way!)

The juggling aspects get complicated, mostly.  But, where there's a will, there's an inheritance, I always say.

These links are back in business:

Hark! The Herald Canines Sing--The Singing Dogs

Yet More Christmas 78s, Part 2

Yet More Christmas 78s

Picture Sleeve Christmas (not to be confused with "record cards")

And, of course, Pickwick's Christmas Is for Children, whose link had been dropped by Workupload.

Japanese Children's Choir--Christmas Carols



A Cozy Christmas--The New Songs of Bob Ashton: Ralph Carmichael Singers and Orchestra (Cooper Tires/Stylist SA 400; 1967)


Another entry in the modern-carol songbook, with the style shifting from old-fashioned to (what was then) current and hip.  So, we get some traditional Bach/Palestrina-style voicings along with more "modern" harmonies.  Keeping in mind that "modern" harmony goes all the way back to composers like Erik Satie and Claude Debussy in the late 19th century.

Genuine stereo today--very spacious stereo, in fact.  Very definite stereo, you might say.  And I wasn't able (with a quick Google search) to track down who Bob Ashton is/was, since there are multiple Robert/Bob Ashtons in cyberland, but I did note that the Captain shared this years back, though his link has gone to the great url repository in the sky.

From 1967, apparently, and some swingin' stuff--in that 1967 jazz manner.  The compositions are very pleasant and fast-moving, and I especially like the re-harmonized O Little Town of Bethlehem, for which the Descant (a melody above the melody, basically) is credited to Ashton.  His Descant gives a whole new feeling to the harmonies.

And... it's cool to have the "Cooper Tires" edition.  A give-away, we can be sure.  Or something free with two fill-ups, maybe.  "Want me to check the oil?  You get a free Christmas LP."  "Yeah, that'll be great!"  The Ralph Carmichael Singers are the best ever, as ever.  I love the way they were able to seamlessly slide between secular and sacred material.  They could sound like a first-rank church choir or (a big group of) backing singers for Tony Bennett.

Christmas Shopping is a fun number, and it's nice to have a holiday song devoted to this theme, though I was expecting a more harried pace, and more of an emphasis on the pressures of the hunt. But it's all calm and beauty and peace.  No stress.  Just like in real life.  A Christmas Alleluia has a nice jazz-in-church feel, and It's Cozy and Warm Inside will take you right back to... hey, 1967.  Coincidence?  

Only two traditional numbers in the bunch, with a nice "period swing" to most of the numbers (a phrase I just now made up).  I Googled "period swing," and up popped entries about pendulums.  Oh-kayyy.

A fine thrift gift from Diane.  As ever, thanks, Diane!

DOWNLOAD: A Cozy Christmas--Ralph Carmichael Singers and Orch. (Stylist SA 400; 1967)

It's Cozy and Warm Inside (Ashton)

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear (Sears-Willis)

Christmas Tree (Ashton)

A Miracle on Christmas (Ashton)

A Carol for Peace (Ashton)

I'll Spend Christmas Without You (Ashton)

O Little Town of Bethlehem (Brooks-Redner; Descant by Ashton)

A Christmas Alleluia (Ashton)

Christmas Shopping (Ashton)

Why Was Our Saviour Born (Ashton)

A Cozy Christmas--Ralph Carmichael Singers and Orchestra, Stylist SA 400; 1967)


Thursday, December 16, 2021

My favorite strange Christmas singles--"Buzzy, the Christmas Tree," "Dear Lord and Santa Claus," more


So, an Alfred Burt LP on Word that promises stereo but delivers mono.  And whose first side is a reissue of 1954 Columbia tracks.  It's all gotten me dizzy.  Or maybe it's my sinuses in this atypically warm December weather...  Anyway, I was behind on my Alfred Burt knowledge, which has been bumped up considerably.

Speaking of atypical, here are (let me count them) eleven atypical, other-than-normal Christmas sides that I've offered over the years--my favorites from that category.  I guess that Buzzy, the Christmas Bee would have to top the hive, though there's the weird Ghost on Christmas Eve, plus the dreadful Dear Lord and Santa Claus.  The latter is one of those "My Lord, why did they make this?" sides.

I was able to include a label image with each track, but this was only possible via my media player because the "album" field was different for each track.  This compelled Groove Music to treat these as separate tracks, and so I was able to insert separate images.  Whenever and wherever my media players see a single album name, then I'm stuck with a single image.  This may be unique to the process of exporting tracks from my MAGIX program, though.  Like today's tracks, it may not be something typically experienced.

1980's Where Is Captivity (Bring Them Home for Christmas) of course refers to the Iran hostage crisis. And the 1956 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (Breaking Through the Sound Barrier) is an example of a totally unsuccessful "break-in" (or "break-in"-esque) record.  "Break-in" sides are supposed to be dumb but funny, and this side is, in my opinion (and it's only my opinion!), stupid.  But it's also plenty weird, and so I'm including it.  But I think it helps us appreciate Dickie Goodman all the more.  Hearing something done wrong can be an education.

I Wish You Christmas is a real "Huh?" title to me, and maybe I'm simply not enough of a poetry person or something.  I mean, when you're wishing someone a Christmas, you need to include an adjective.  Merry, Happy, Jolly, Lousy--whatever.  Meanwhile, Duke Mitchell was the father of Jeff and Sue Mitchell, and Duke is best known as one half of a fake Martin and Lewis team which starred in the really terrible Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla. (1952).  From that title, it's hard to tell that the movie stinks, but trust me.  Lugosi clearly did not want to be in it.  Now, I have listened who-knows-how-many times to Buzzy, and I forget whether or not Buzzy performs any actual function for Santa and his team.  Any useful function, that is (besides buzzing).  He doesn't sting--I caught that much--but typically Santa's sidekicks, however off the bee-ten track they may be, have some specific duty, and I don't know what Buzzy's is.  My brain has blocked it out, I guess.

Since I was sticking to vinyl, I didn't include I'd Like to See My Mom for Christmas, which is on a 78, and which is a song by Eddie (Put Christ Back Into Christmas) Unger.  I'm sure Unger did not intend a creepy song, but that's what he gave us, regardless.  I mean, "I'd like to see my mother again" songs are pretty common, especially in bluegrass gospel, but I guess there's a right and a wrong way to pen the lyrics.  Anyway, you can hear that gem here, though I'll need to revive the zip file.  Workupload dropped it, for some reason.  And, wait a second--the Mom side isn't included in the zip, which means I'll have to share that side in a future post.  My bad.

And, wow--almost one strange side for each of the twelve days of the holiday.  You can always play I'd Like to See My Mom... on one of the days (once I put it up), to make an even twelve.  A baker's dozen, minus one.  Clearly, I had intended to include Mom in the 2020 post but... forgot?  These various-artist lists get complicated.

DOWNLOAD: Strange Xmas Singles

Buzzy, the Christmas Bee--Jeff and Sue Mitchell

Elizabeth the Christmas Queen--Buddy Pastuck, the Roller-Skating Cowboy; 1978

I Don't Believe in Santa Claus--The Staffords

The "Let-Me" Song (Carroll)--Irene Carroll; 1956

Ghost on Christmas Eve--Allen and the Lads (1965-ish)

'Twas the Night Before Christmas (Breaking Through the Sound Barrier)--Frank and Jack, 1956

The Ain't-Not Tree--Radio City Music Hall Chorus (Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1963)

I Wish You Christmas--Mary Fran Warren; 1981?

Memoirs of a Christmas Tree--Bud O.J.; 1966

Dear Lord and Santa Claus--Biddle (Bo) Peep

Where Is Captivity? (Bring Them Home for Christmas)--Lisa Wargo and the St. Peter's Children's Choir of Lorain, Ohio; 1980


"Christmas Surprise Package" (Palace XM-911)


A blog repeat from three or four years ago, but a new rip, and in a higher bitrate.  Yee-ha!  Christmas Surprise Package, it's called.  And the burning question is, why?  Maybe the surprise is the cheap LP hidden in a rather classy-looking cover.  That could be it.

"Let's call it 'Christmas Surprise Package.'"  "But why?"  "Because we've got a neat Christmas-package stock photo, and we need to use it for something."

Maybe the surprise involves the Jerry Maynard tracks, all apparently repeated from Palace XM-906 (Sing Along Christmas Carols).  As in, "Surprise!  You just made a repeat purchase!"  Or maybe it consists in the six or so Fontanna tracks which, following Palace XM-902 and XM-903, suddenly became credited to John Rawles.  I have no idea--I just work here.  It's beyond me.

But what a cool cover and fairly neat concept.  If only we could figure out what they mean--and something tells me that Palace couldn't have cared less.  And you just have to love this label for the lack of love it poured into its offerings.  I really adore the audacious cheapness of this outfit--it took cheap to new levels, and in the face of stiff competition (SPC, Pickwick, Premier, Crown, etc.).  It out-cheaped them all.  That must have taken a lot of dedication and devotion.

Fun tracks, even if they were on a repeat-release spin cycle...

DOWNLOAD: Christmas Surprise Package--John Rawles and His Orch.; Jerry Maynard, Organ with Chimes


White Christmas
Winter Wonderland
I'll Be Home for Christmas
One Little Candle
Jingle Bells
Night Before Christmas
We Three Kings of Orient Are


O Holy Night
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
The First Noel
Joy to the World
Deck the Hall
Away in a Manger
What Child Is This
Angels From the Realms of Glory

A Christmas Surprise Package--John Rawles, Jerry Maynard (Palace XM-911)


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The Christmas Spirit--Alfred Burt Christmas Carols: The Ralph Carmichael Singers and Brass Ensemble (Word WST-8371; 1966)


Superb performances of nearly all of the fifteen Alfred Burt carols, which were written between 1942 and 1954.  This Word LP is from 1966, and it's the stereo edition.  (Update 12/15: Though the label says "WST," this is obviously a monaural pressing.)  Side 1 features The Ralph Carmichael Singers and Side 2 gives us the Ralph Carmichael Brass Ensemble.

For the most part, there's a significant contrast in mood between the two sides, with the vocal renditions generally quiet and reflective, and the brass ensemble performances often livelier and more extroverted.  Louder, too.  Both approaches work beautifully, and there's really not much more I can say about these performances except that they're the best possible.

Side 2 being a continuous medley, I put it on a single track.  Interesting that Word Records chose to describe its stereo as "dual channel," which is a little bit redundant.  Oddly enough, the monaural catalog number appears in the lower r.h. corner of the cover (W-3771).  Oops. (Update #2: And I've since determined, partly owing to GroovyLounge's input, that the LP is in fact mono, despite the mislabeling.  Sorry 'bout that!)

This terrific LP is another thrift gift from Diane.  Thanks, Diane!

DOWNLOAD: The Christmas Spirit--Alfred Burt Christmas Carols (Word EST-8371)


Caroling, Caroling

The Star Carol

Christ in the Stranger's Guise

Come, Dear Children

Some Children See Him

All on a Christmas Morning

O Harken Ye

Jesu Parvule

Nigh Bethlehem

Bright, Bright the Holly Berries

Ah, Bleak and Chill the Wint'ry Wind

We'll Dress the House


Caroling, Caroling

All on a Christmas Morning

We'll Dress the House

The Star Carol

Some Children See Him

Come, Dear Children

Medley: Ah, Bleak and Chill the Wint'ry Wind, Jesus Parvule

O Harken Thee

The Christmas Spirit--Alfred Burt Christmas Carols: The Ralph Carmichael Singers and Brass Ensemble (Word WST-8371; 1966)


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

A Gift of Love--The Renee Craig Singers (Ramapo Valley Sweet Adelines)--Mew Marketing International Inc. (1981)


Well, this was a slightly tricky rip, since the second side is in a narration-with-music format.  I could have made a number of awkward track breaks, but instead I divided the Christmas-story side into two tracks.  Reason being, I could only fit so many song titles into the mp3 tag fields.

And I had to decide which name to use for this group.  The Renee Craig Singers?  The Ramapo Valley Chapter (Sweet Adelines) under the direction of Renee Craig?  Or Ramapo Valley Sweet Adelines?  I went with the first, because it's what the labels say, and because it's the simplest.  This LP comes from 1981, which I know only because of a sticker on the back jacket, all about how the arrangements aren't necessarily cleared "for contest"--a Sweet Adelines reference, obviously.  In 1981, it was apparently still okay to include the Nativity story in a concert--it may even have been expected. And so we get the story, only in a somewhat modified version.  It's kind of a layered chronicle.

Even listening through headphones, it seems as if I'm hearing fewer singers than contained in the very large group in the jacket photo.  There should be a bigger sound or something.  Oh, well--maybe it's just my ears.  (No, I'm not quoting Mr. Spock.)  This is a fun listen, and it has very much of a Barbershop feel to it (of course), which means everything sounds more like an old-fashioned glee club than, say, the Ralph Carmichael Singers.  We get a not-very-rocking Jingle Bell Rock, as to be expected when you have this many voices, but we also get a more musically successful March of the Toys/Toyland performance, with a sung Toyland, for a change.  It's very charming.  

The Side 2 Nativity narration puts a new twist on the story--or should I say, multiple new twists.  Because of this, it's impossible to properly summarize things, but it concerns the mother of a son who works at the inn, with the Star of Bethlehem suddenly appearing, and angels giving instructions to the mother and son, and then a long and exciting car chase, with Mannix smiling sardonically just before the freeze frame.  But, seriously, a few too many cliches happen in the storyline, but everything is very smoothly and expertly rendered.  Maybe it's best to simply enjoy the Side 2 music and let the story happen in the background.  That may be the reverse of the original intention, but it works for me.

A Diane gift for the season.  Thanks, Diane!

DOWNLOAD: A Gift of Love--The Renee Craig Singers

Come Let Us Sing of Christmas Day (Renee Craig)

Jingle Bell Rock

Christmas Was Meant for Children

March of the Toys--Toyland

My Favorite Things

A Child Is Born

Winter Wonderland


Come Let Us Sing of Christmas Day (Renee Craig)


A Child Is Born in Bethlehem

Rise up Shepherd and Follow

A Baby in the Cradle

I Am So Glad on Christmas Eve

Play a Lullabye for All Children (Vic Cenicola-Renee Craig)

Silent Night

A Gift of Love (Renee Craig)

Make Today the Best Day (Isabelle Peters)   

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

A Gift of Love--The Renee Craig Singers (Mew Marketing International Inc.; 1981)


Monday, December 13, 2021

Don't look now, but I think Workupload is back up.

 Workupload seems to be back, only it's giving a funky message along the lines of, "We've been getting strange requests lately.  Please verify that you're a human being."  I'm paraphrasing.  So, unless you're an android, that should be no problem.  Just click the box.

I just hope the site hasn't dumped any of my files.

Anyway, this wonderful LP was my best find of/from the previous Christmas...

I believe (not sure) that it was released in 1957.  The label is Design, which of course means Pickwick.  Lots of Pickwick classics from (more or less) when they first appeared.  Here's the link to my previous post.  And, if you want to skip the text, here's the file link:

DOWNLOAD: Christmas Is for Children (Design DLPX 2; 1957?)



Workupload--down again

 Oh, no. isn't coming up.  The last time it had a down period, I lost any number of files.  Anyway, apologies for the outage.  Most of my links won't be working at this time.  Unfortunately, I can't use the more dependable MEGA, because it constantly axes my uploads.  I don't know why, since it's nice to everyone else!  😑

I hope Workupload reappears soon.  I'm having a string of "Aieee!" situations right now, from my water heater to a dashboard alert in my car, to this.  But I'm staying perfectly calm, to my credit.  Unless growing fangs and sprouting chin hair counts as not staying calm...


Sunday, December 12, 2021

SPC, Pickwick, Spear Records Christmas! Restored link.


I discovered this morning that the download link wasn't working on this post (from last year), and the file must have vanished this year when Workupload was down for a day.  I've discovered a number of other defunct links links from fairly new posts, so if you encounter expired links from 2019-2021, let me know--I have most of the zip files on my hard drive.  Anyway, from January, 2021, Peter Pan, Pickwick, and Spear Records classics of the lovably cheap variety.  To the original post:

This time, more kiddie stuff, some of it performed by kiddies, including three Pickwick tracks which appeared on both Playhour Records (in mono) and on this two-record set (in stereo):

The Joyous Season was a Pickwick special, by which I mean it was Pickwick at its... Pickwick-est.  Not only are there no artist credits to be found, there isn't even a label name--that is, unless The Joyous Season was supposed to pull double duty as both the set title and the label name.  With Pickwick, any act of cheapness is possible.  By the way, my copy made it to Goodwill with only one record in the fold-out packet, so I guess I could call mine The Semi-Joyous Season.  Miraculously, the single, sleeveless record is in like-new condition.  Except for the missing record, someone took good care of this.  (Maybe they never played it.)

Anyway, we get stereo versions of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Up on the Housetop, and--especially for Bryan--The Twelve Days of Christmas.  All appeared on Pickwick's Playhour label in mono mixes, and I've included the mono mix of The Twelve Days.  What's cool about this is the novelty of hearing a Pickwick children's track in actual stereo, and you can hear how the mono mix gives the voices a more strident quality.  If Pickwick had never issued The Joyous Season, we might never have had the chance to hear any of the group's kiddie efforts in stereo, so... this is cool.  It rocks my world, anyway.  My therapist told me, "Whatever excites you--so long as it's legal."

Next, Spear Records, which Discogs tells us was connected to Spear Products.  Going to Spear Products, we learn that Spear Products was connected to Spear Records.  Going to Spear Records, we learn that Spear Records was connected to Spear Products.  So, going to Spear Products, we... (Somebody stop me... Help!!)  Whew.  And, so, we--or, at least, I--know zilch about Spear Records, except that it was a very, very cheap operation which managed to convince some talented folks to record for it, which only goes to show that there are more talented people than labels to feature them.  Something like that.  The Spear sides are fun and short.  Their 45s were co-released with six-inch 78s in the manner of Golden Records.  Which was connected with Golden Products, which was connected with Golden Records, which was connected with... just kidding.

Spear's choral direction was by Hugh E. Perette, who also recorded for Mayfair and Mercury.  One of his Mayfair sides was Kiddie Konga, on which he backed June Winters (left), who was married to Hugo Peretti, one of the writers of Elvis' Can't Help Falling in Love.  What stories these cheap labels tell.

Then, Laura Leslie--who recorded Baby, It's Cold Outside with Don Cornell on RCA Victor--somehow finds herself at SPC (Synthetic Plastics Co.), recording charming but poorly pressed Peter Pan Records sides like Sleigh Ride, which I really love in this version.  Actually, I love it in any version.  I'll have to jump down so I can combine the label image with text.  Here I go.

What a cool pic label.  And someplace, buried or tucked away in all my stuff, is the cool pic sleeve for this side.  I'll have to swipe the Discogs image and see if I can coax over here, on this side. 

Well, I almost did it.  There it is, directly below.  Note the cruder but fun "period" art.  Then, one of my all-time favorite low-budget kiddie holiday sides, Sing a Kris Kringle Jingle, written by none other than J. Fred (Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town) Coots.  According to the seven-inch Peter Pan 78 I ripped, the singer is Bobby Stewart.  According to the 45 rpm edition, the singer (who gets one or two short solo spots) is Gabe Drake.  I'm going with Drake, because it's clearly the same guy who did the Prom fake-hit version of Rock Around the Clock--the best of the RATC fakes--though this assumes he was actually named Gabe Drake.
Next, La Dee Dah and Love Is Strange.  And what are these two numbers doing in a holiday playlist?
Simple--they were both issued by SPC with Christmas art on the labels.  I have no idea why.  Logic would suggest that SPC simply screwed up, or... that it ran out of regular labels and decided to use a stack of leftover Christmas-themed labels (waste not, want not).  As I'm always saying, the cheapie labels saved money on quality control by not having any.  Very clever strategy.  See labels below.

On Peter Pan, Gabby Dixon and the Crickets (pre-Buddy Holly?) give us When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter, a fairly well known song by Johnny (Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer) Marks.  And I guess I figured that Pickwick had trademarked "Crickets" and all variations thereof (Cricketones, etc.), but I'm looking for order in the cheap-label world, and I already know there's none to be found...

And here are four later (post-1950s) SPC efforts, from an EP whose sleeve art makes me cringe.  I don't know why.  Rudolph is supposed to look cute, but... I don't know.  Something's wrong with the art.  For one thing, he doesn't look like a reindeer.  Maybe that's it.  And did I say post-1950?  Yes, except for the same ol' Johnny Kay version of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, which likely showed up in so many different issues, someone could write a book about it.  Or at least a long chapter in Johnny Kay--a Discography. Kay was the SPC singer with Perry Como's voice but not his looks--he looked more like Johnny Desmond, but with less sex appeal.  Not knocking his looks--Kay had nothing to worry about in that department, but we all know that singing stars need more than excellent pipes if they're going to make it big.  Oh, and Rudolph's Christmas Party may not set new standards for terribleness, but then again... Other than Kay (who, of course, is not credited), the artists on Rudolph are the usual unknown kid singers.  We have to wonder if there was a special musician's union for uncredited artists.  

Then, we hear what I regard as the second-best recording of Carol of the Drum, under its much better known stolen title (not quite sure how to put that), The Little Drummer Boy.  This is allegedly by the Peter Pan Caroleers, but this sounds very recorded-in-Europe, and the choir is simply too good to be Peter Pan regulars.  Otherwise, I can't figure how such a superb rendition would end up on the cheapest of the kiddie labels.  It has a fairly cool picture sleeve.  Well, actually, it's not very good, really...

The rest of our tracks are Pickwick specials, including the mono Playhour label rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas, plus the fun, toss-away Mixie Pixie.  The echo-drenched Carol of the Bells is well done--perhaps too well done for Pickwick, a la The Little Drummer Boy for SPC--and I think it's important to annually post at least one recording of this great number done correctly.  Namely, in its original version with its wonderful counterpoint and its slow, dramatic crescendo.  (We also hear it earlier in the playlist as Ring Christmas Bells.) I suspect the most famous rendition of Bells is that bit of mindless, noisy repetition by a group I'd love to have banned from all thrift store PA speakers during Christmas.  Done stupidly, Carol of the Bells is nothing but the same four (actually, three) notes repeated over and over and over, and I totally get why so many folks hate it--I used to be one of those folks.  That is, until I heard the Robert Shaw Chorale's first RCA recording, at which point I realized, "Hey, this is music!"  Superb music.  Performers who don't feel like doing it correctly, or who can't read more than one line of music at a time, or whatever, should jump down a well rather than debase this choral classic.  Just a kind, cheery suggestion for the season.  Remember--three more days!!