Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Spirit of Christmas - The Living Strings

One more in the series of 'Living' albums, and perhaps the last post this year, here's The Spirit of Christmas by The Living Strings. This one might be the most shared Christmas album on the planet, I'm not exactly sure. But since I recorded the album for myself, I thought I should share it here too.

It's up to the usual standards of the series with nice arrangements by composer Johnny Douglas, who is most notable to this child of the '80s as a regular contributing composer on animated series like Transformers and G.I. Joe. Before all that Saturday morning magic, Douglas arranged a few of the Living albums, including the more recent vintage (if you consider 1974 recent) The Christmas Songbook for The Living Voices.

Notable interpretations include Harry Belafonte's hit "Mary's Boy Child", which stands out from this traditional orchestral pack due to it's strong Calypso-flavour. The medley "We Wish You A Merry Christmas / We Three Kings / It Came Upon A Midnight Clear / O Holy Night / Silent Night" could very well set the record for most Christmas tunes performed in under five minutes. Check out the sweetly warm sax in "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" mashing up with a reprise of the Calypso percussion from "Mary's Boy Child" for a study in Johnny Douglas' deft skills as an arranger.

Hey! Did you know this album is now available to purchase? Yes, that's right, Dulcima Records, dedicated to releasing the music of arranger Johnny Douglas, has released 'The Spirit of Christmas', 'White Christmas' and 'A Christmas Songbook' on a 2-CD set.

Click here to order now!

I'd like to thank everyone that has visited Hi-Fi Holiday, downloaded an album and posted a comment. The comments this year have been especially gratifying.

I sincerely wish you a safe and Merry Christmas and hope the New Year brings better times for all. I'll see you next year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Best-Loved Carols of Christmas - Nelson Eddy

Christmas music blogs are a wonderful thing. There's a handful of really great ones that dig deep each year by taking the time to restore and share some great LPs that were once lost to time. If there's a downside, it's that these great blogs have posted some great stuff I'd planned to share! I'm not going to ask them to stop -- just the opposite. But that's enough whining, it's almost Christmas, so let's get some cheer going. Here's something I hope you'll enjoy, Nelson Eddy Sings The Best-Loved Carols of Christmas.

Unfortunately the Harmony/Columbia LP does not include info on recording date, or the orchestra and singers that accompany Eddy's baritone (though I believe this might be a straight re-issue of Eddy's 1951 Christmas album Songs of Christmas).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Joy of Christmas - The Living Guitars

The "Living" series continues with... The Living Guitars! Yes, this is an entire album featuring your favorite Christmas classics all accentuated for guitars. But this should really be called The Living Guitars and Organ and Bells, because that's what you'll find in the 1969 selection.

It's a breezy and brief album (just shy of twenty-three minutes), with the arrangements best suited for lighter fare like "Jingle Bell Rock/Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree", "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus/Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", and "Deck The Halls", all of which are album highlights (though it's not easy to single a few out -- they're all gems!). Indeed all of the tracks are presented as medleys, so if you dig "Silver Bells", get ready to meet "The Real Meaning of Christmas".

The Joy of Christmas is certainly pleasant Christmas eve background music for some yuletide merriment where a delicate balance between cheer and mellow mood is required.

New Link! Nov/26/13 — Please enjoy: The Joy of Christmas - The Living Guitars

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Christmas with The William Booth Singers and Salvation Army Band

The actual title of this one is Christmas With The William Booth Singers and The International Staff Band of The Salvation Army. But that's too long to fit in a blog post title!

CWTWBSATISBOTSA, for short, is a neat little album. It's a mix of vocal tracks with band, and instrumental only tracks, warbled out with gusto by the brass-heavy Salvation Army band. It's the only Christmas music I've heard that alternately sounds like Christmas Eve in a Catholic Church and a bustling downtown Santa Claus parade.

After a couple of years of rummaging through piles of neglected old LPs at local Salvation Army stores, it's nice to rescue a title like this. The Salvation Army has done so much for Christmas music in general, and this album proves it!

I wasn't able to track down any release info for Christmas With..., but my Google educated guess dates sometime within the early 1960s. Allegedly, Alma Records released several titles on it's Christian Faith Records imprint within that period. If you've heard this one before or have any further info, please post a comment.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Wishing You A Merry Christmas - Johnny Cole and His Chorus

Johnny Cole (aka Johnny Kaye, aka The Voices of Christmas, aka...!) must have been a workhorse for Crown Records. Under a number of guises he churned out a handful of Christmas albums for the label , including Wishing You A Merry Christmas. All while while channeling his very best Perry Como.

On Wishing You..., Johnny's sleepy tone is backed by his enthusiastic chorus. It's not the pinnacle of the Christmas music art form (kind of like the cover art - quaint, chintz), but there are some goodies, like "Jingle Bells", with slip-sliding choral harmonies and jaunty organist accompaniment. Though thinking about it, it's hard to do "Jingle" wrong.

I'm not sure what particular vintage this pressing of Wishing You A Merry Christmas is, as it appears another Johnny Cole album with the same name (but different contents and cover) was released by Crown Records in 1959. You can grab it at Christmas Forever.

If you like what you hear, download the remastered tracks with a subscription or free trial from emusic.com.

Merry Christmas - The Mills Brothers

We're rolling now. It's Fall, the temperature is dropping (at least here it is) and it's time to start posting some albums. I've been waiting all summer for this!

First up is Merry Christmas by The Mills Brothers. 12 familiar favorite songs all performed with emphasis on the Mills' vocal stylings, with minimal accompaniment (organ, chimes, harp). Highlights include "O Holy Night" (when isn't it a highlight?), "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "I'll Be Home For Christmas". The Mills Bros. have soft, light voices -- perfect for the material. Great stuff too to put on later in the evening, when all the Christmas hub-bub has you beat, put this on and relax!

Originally issued on LP in 1959 (from which this recording is sourced from), it was later re-issued on DOT in the '60s and Pickwick in the '70s. Universal Special Products re-issued the same contents on CD in 1993. That CD is now way-out-of-print (that's worse than just out-of-print) and used copies go for big bucks ($70) on Amazon.com. Short version: Merry Christmas is otherwise unavailable. So I hope my LP recording will provide some relief while you track down a copy of the CD... Paying $70 for it.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Christmas Suite for Orchestra - Richard Benson

It's July... Time for some Christmas tunes?

Here's a quickie, "Christmas Suite For Orchestra" by Richard Benson and Orchestra from the Reader's Digets 4-LP set Joyous Music For Christmas Time.

According to a review on Amazon of the set, Joyous Music For Christmas Time originally retailed for:
"$7.99 ($1 more if you wanted stereo.)

This album was available every year until 1973 and eventually sold over a million copies."
This almost nineteen-minute suite is a smorgasbord of your favorite carols all given fresh orchestral arrangements and recorded in pristine stereo sound. The suite was issued on CD at one point, but has now gone out-of-print. This recording is taken from the LP set.

I couldn't track down any info on Richard Benson or his orchestra, so if you know something please post in the comments!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Just checking in...

Hi folks, seems like there's people visiting here even as the temperature rises outside and Christmas is a distant memory.

I'm checking in to let you know there's more music to come. I've been recording a lot of LPs over the past month, some gems, some less so! Please stop by every once and awhile and hopefully you'll find something you like.