Monday, November 29, 2010

Ring Christmas Bells - Boris Brott, Hamilton Philharmonic

Earlier I mentioned a theme for 2010's posts, and now it's time to reveal that theme: Christmas Made in Canada! Yes, that's right, Hi-Fi Holiday is HQ'd in the Great White North. What better place in the world to celebrate the Yuletide season, where it's very cold outside, baby, for almost five months a year!

Kicking off Christmas Made in Canada! is Boris Brott conducting members of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra on Ring Christmas Bells. Where's Hamilton, you say? Well, it's in Southern Ontario, about 45 minutes ride from stunning Buffalo, NY. You could say Hamilton, ON is the Pittsburgh of Canada -- a hard-working, blue-collar, steel town that has of late fallen on some hard times. Considering these tough times and the current state the city is in, it's surprising Hamilton once supported a Philharmonic orchestra - however, Hamilton was once as cosmopolitan a city as any in the 1920s-1950s.

The group dubbed as the Hamilton Philharmonic playing Ring Christmas Bells is a smaller ensemble than the kind which traditionally churns out powerhouse arrangements of orchestral Christmas music, so the feeling here is distinctively intimate and very late 1970s, what with the addition of reverb in the album mix.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Wayne King

Before I begin posting the promised "themed" albums this season I thought I'd first post an album (or two) I've wanted to share but for one reason or another never had the opportunity.

The first is the fantastic Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (1963, Decca) performed by Wayne King and His Orchestra & Chorus featuring the Wayne Robinson Singers.  I've nabbed two tracks from the album for my annual comps - the free-wheeling ode to Christmas shopping, "Jing-a-ling-a-ling", and a just-dramatic-enough rendition of "Carol of the Bells", with steady rhythm kept by low harp plucks. Much of the album, however is mellow ("The Christmas Song", "Winter Wonderland") -- King, like many bandleaders at the time -- knew how to arrange a tune for maximum listening pleasure.  Speaking of which, this is one rare Christmas album that plays well all the way through, making it perfect for merry-making without riding the stereo controls.

I realize this album has been posted on other great Christmas music blogs & websites, but I thought my rip of the stereo LP was too good not to share! You'll have to excuse the cover scan -- scanners don't like shrink wrap.

Link after the jump!