Finally got something new up on the International Page. But its worth calling your attention to it here on the home page. "Gonna Have A Really Soulful Christmas" is an import collection that arrives at Amazon on October 14. It's a two-disc set with over 2 hours of vintage Soul and R&B. It's got a decent SRP for that (just over $20) and a track list that covers the waterfront from the tired and true (yes, I meant to type "tired") to some very hard to find sides (a little less hard to find, perhaps, in this digital age, but certainly difficult to find in hard copy form). Not sure--somebody will probably tell me--but I think a few of these tracks are making their CD debut (Sandy Baron's "Swingin' Santa"? Bueller? Bueller? Anybody? Anybody?). And a lot of it comes to you courtesy of the different copyright laws in Europe and the UK. The label, itself, Hoo Doo Records, is based in Barcelona, Spain. And releasing music that is Public Domain under European law is what they do. By most accounts, they do it pretty well. Now, I'm not going to put this in the same category as the "Santa's Funk & Soul Party" albums from the German Tramp label (who DO pay royalties, btw), but its not a bad little collection to pick up if you dig vintage Soul. And who doesn't, right? I spent a lot of time typing up the track list, so please, out of respect for my carpal tunneled wrists and fingers, check it out on our International Page.
Christmas is coming. So is Halloween. And, while I'm not a real big fan of holiday crossovers (Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" does nothing for me), this particular time of year always does put me in mind of some of my favorite TV shows, for some reason. My favorite show of all time, I think I'd have to say, is Buffy The Vampire Slayer. That show had everything, as far as I'm concerned. At root, it was allegory. At root, it was about friendship. Previous slayers had died while Buffy lived because she had friends (alright, she died at least twice, but she always came back, so we'll let that slide). My favorite current show is probably Supernatural. Like Buffy, once you boil Supernatural down, its about something other than monsters. I've always related to Supernatural as a show about brothers. I've got brothers, myself, and I love watching that relationship in all its ups and downs.
What does this have to do with anything? Stick with me for a second.
Jason Manns is an independent artist. I'd describe his sound as a soulful folk pop. I like his sound a lot. He's got three albums on Amazon, including last year's "Move", if you want to check them out. And I was a bit disappointed that I missed his Kickstarter campaign, last Christmas, for this year's coming Christmas album. Still, although I won't be buying as much as I have in seasons past, this one was on my list.
As it happens, Jensen Ackles (Dean in Supernatural) plays guitar, writes songs and, from time to time, even sings. He's played and sung a lot with Steve Carlson and...Jason Manns. And, judging from the Instagram feeds, Jensen is highly likely to be among the friends on Jason's "Christmas With Friends". See, I told you we'd tie this together.
Jensen's not the only musical friend Jason has. He's not even his only friend with ties to Supernatural. Julie McNiven will be providing some vocals on the record. Ah, I love redheads. You might know Julie from Mad Men, but Supernatural fans will remember her as the fallen angel Anna Milton from seasons four and five. And who knows what other friends will drop in? Castiel, is that you? (Well, we can hope). Contrary to some of the twitter on Twitter, I'm not expecting Jason's album to be "a love letter" to Supernatural fans. But I was already looking forward to this one and the tie-in just gives it a little more juice for me. Should be a blast.
"Christmas With Friends" officially releases December 1, but pre-orders (for folks who missed the Kickstarter campaign, like me) are being accepted now. Jason doesn't plan on making a lot of extra copies, initially. And, given that his Kickstarter goal was $5000 and he actually raised over $43,000, pre-order is the way to go if you want your copy before Christmas (cause $43,000 equals a whole lot of pre-orders).
What would happen if all the kiddies wrote to Santa but Santa never got the letters? Would Christmas be cancelled? Thankfully, the Postal Service is pretty reliable. The Interwebs? Not so much. Used to be my web host notified me automatically when there was a comment pending moderation. When I stopped getting notifications, I just assumed no one was commenting. Well, that turned out not to be the case. Brigitte of Lie In The Sound, one of my favorite people on the planet, wrote me recently to say how happy she was to see me back at the blog thing. She mentioned that she'd left a comment or two which caused me to check the comment log. Sure enough, there was nearly a year's worth of comments waiting for me. So I apologize to you all. I wasn't ignoring you on purpose. I just didn't know.
My favorite missed comment was from Rob Parissi critiquing my critique of his 2012 Christmas single. Rob, you're right. I'm nobody. I have no credentials to speak of. I'm just a guy who loves music and listens to an ungodly amount of Christmas music, for some reason. I'm a freak. Or a geek. Or both. A guy with an itchy google finger and a blog. Heck, they'll give anybody a blog. Listening to as much Christmas music as I do, some things hit you right and some don't. I just found your mix of Funk and Smooth Jazz an odd cocktail is all. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. And I say (somewhere on this blog) that I'm far from the final word on any of this stuff. But what I did do, hopefully, was let a few people know that you'd done a Christmas single so that they could check it out for themselves. Because, in all fairness, it wasn't well publicized and I think very few people knew about it. And guess what. I just did it again. So you're welcome. Long after this world turns to dust, Rob, I'm sure your work will live on and mine won't. And I'm cool with that.
Now back to unwrapping presents.
I'm not holding out any hope for the long promised Pat Benatar or Meatloaf Christmas albums. But we have received word, albeit by carrier pigeon, that we might get a Heart Christmas album this year. Now, we have been given no details into the possibilities of what the Wilson sisters, Ann and Nancy, might have in mind--just a title ("Home For Christmas") and a release date (November 11). At present, its strictly a digital release (no hard copy--not this year). Now I recall that, last December, Heart did a Christmas concert in Seattle (with lots of "friends") which was broadcast live on AXS TV (the videos are all over YouTube). And, OK, the title of that concert was "Home For The Holidays". Close enough. Things are beginning to add up, doncha think? You don't? Oh. Well, I'm going to keep going anyway. I'm suspecting that we're going to get a Live Christmas album--the soundtrack to last year's holiday show--and possibly an accompanying DVD (on Sirius recently, Nancy said the group had both an album and a DVD in the works, though she didn't specify Christmas). Songs performed at last year's concert include Joni Mitchell's "River", "All Through The Night", "Please Come Home For Christmas" and..."Stairway To Heaven"? How'd that get in there? (Hope they leave it in, though; the choir was awesome.) And Nancy and Sammy Hagar did "Santa's Going South For Christmas". So that'd be pretty cool, doncha think? Hey, if it winds up being a studio album, so much the better (we did get that Christmas single last year, didn't we).
Just to give you a few more seconds to finish listening to Heart before listening to the Living Sisters...
You know who I feel sorry for this year? Tim Neely. Tim Neely compiled and wrote the indispensable "Christmas Record Price Guide" for Goldmine, chronicling all the vinyl Christmas releases in history. And, even though Goldmine has no intentions of publishing an updated edition, Tim still keeps track of every year's new vinyl releases. Most years, that's probably not too daunting a task. But this year, we're being overwhelmed with vinyl. I mean, look at The List. Most years, its a sea of red (new CD releases) with a dot or two of blue (vinyl releases). This year, there's an awful lot of blue on there. It's Global Warming, I tellz ya! It's almost as though the record labels are figuring this is the last year they'll have to make money. Maybe they know something we don't. Maybe the end of the world is indeed nigh. Anyway, more vinyl records for the schedule. October 14 will see the release of Dave Brubeck's "Christmas" and, on October 21, we'll get "An Oscar Peterson Christmas". Both were Telarc Jazz releases in the mid-90s and I don't think either has ever been on vinyl before. Cool beans! And, coming October 28, Friday music is releasing a limited edition vinyl pressing of Bobby Darin's "25th Day Of December". It's been remastered with care from the original Atco tapes and comes on collectors grade vinyl (180g) with original cover art. There's more, of course, but, suddenly, vinyl is so...uneventful.
And here's a little item from the overseas press. Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, who have an album of duets due soon, "Cheek To Cheek", have signed to do the television Christmas campaign for H&M stores. H&M is a clothing chain based out of Sweden, but they do have American stores as well. So here's hoping we get a Christmas duet out of the campaign. Otherwise, who cares?
Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post.
Ooh, these presents are all sparkly and pretty!
Well this seemed to come out of nowhere, but I'm certainly happy it did. The Living Sisters is a "supergroup" specializing in harmony vocals. The group consists of Inara George (Bird & The Bee), Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond), and accomplished solo artists Eleni Mandell and Alex Lilly. They started singing together for fun (in assorted combinations) back around 2006, then began recording for realz in 2009. Most of the good singers I've met in my life love harmony vocalizing. Its really an incredible skill or gift to do it well.
Two releases behind them, now--"Love To Live" and "Run For Cover"--Christmas would seem to be a natural next step. I, too, love harmony vocals and the songs of the season lend themselves well to that. But, to me, the best part of the coming "Harmony Is Real: Songs For A Happy Holiday" is that the ladies have written EIGHT brand new holiday tunes. I, for one, can't wait to hear such future classics as "Kadoka, South Dakota" (say that five times fast) and "Neon Chinese Christmas Eve". And I always consider it an extra bonus when a Hanukkah track is included (though, by my math, it's one of the covers).
"Harmony Is Real: Songs For A Happy Holiday" is on Vanguard Records (so you know its good). Look for it October 28.
1. Harmony is Real
2. Kadoka, South Dakota
3. Jingle Bells
4. Merry Happy Christmas
5. Skip the Sugar (Good Girl)
6. Christmas in California
7. Baby Wants a Basketball for Christmas
8. Little Drummer Boy
9. Neon Chinese Christmas Eve
11. Silver Bells
12. Don't Go To Sleep
We briefly mentioned David Myles at least once before. The Canadian roots artist has been working on "It's Christmas" which is now available for pre-order through Maple Music. Although the price for the disc is more than fair, it IS an Import, so your postage will be up there (fwiw, these Canadian albums generally issue domestically the following year and I haven't given up hope there will be a domestic release THIS year). But Maple Music does accept Paypal, so you've got that going for you...which is nice. "It's Christmas" will begin shipping October 22, give or take. The CD comes with 5 Christmas cards. And, hey, you can get the album on white vinyl, if you'd prefer. That version also comes with 5 Christmas cards, as well as a download card. For each record or CD sold, a donation will be made to Canada's food banks. David chose an interesting selection of cover tunes, including Jimmy Wakely's "Star Of Hope" and the old Buck Owens chestnut "Blue Christmas Lights". But I confess I'm fascinated by the title "Santa Never Brings Me A Banjo".
Are you familiar with Maysa? Well, if you're not, you should be. Most of us first took note of Maysa singing with the British Jazz/Funk group Incognito. But, before that, she'd backed Stevie Wonder. Her debut solo album was released in 1995 and she's done a lot of work with a lot of different artists in a lot of different media (including appearances on The Tonight Show and Arsenio Hall). Her last few records have all scored well on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz charts and that's the thing, you see. She's got the range, the voice and the talent to do it all. She's got the smoothness to seduce with Soul, the perfect pitch and intonation and the natural ability to improvise to amaze you with Jazz, and the power to blow you away with Funk or Gospel. The name that keeps coming to my mind is Sarah Vaughn, but that's probably unfair to both of them. Anyway, Maysa brings all of her talents to bear with each song she sings. Her voice is rich and lush like honey-dipped chocolate. You need to know Maysa. She will win you over with a single note. She's that good.
As it happens, Maysa has recorded a Christmas song or two before. Keeping in mind that she gets better every day, I think those two songs will leave you longing for more. Back around 1997, she contributed a gorgeous version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" to the soulful collection "Tis The Season". More recently, she did a slightly jazzier version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" (with Brian Culbertson) on "Soul Of The Holidays". "A Very Maysa Christmas" hits the streets October 28.
Joy To The World
The First Noel
The Night Before Christmas/Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Silver Bells (feat. Gerald Albright)
This Christmas (feat. Will Downing)
It's The Holidays
Christmas Time Is Here
The Little Drummer Boy
Pray For Peace
You're all familiar with the Icon series. Its a way of repackaging material to sell again. They usually carry a budget price and they're often released toward the end of the year. The reasoning is pretty obvious. You're out Christmas shopping for your kids or for a friend of a friend and you've got no clue what to get them. But you know they like so-and-so and, hey, here's a CD that's pretty cheap by that very so-and-so and it looks like its got tunes even I have heard. Perfect! Never mind any real fan of that artist actually has all that music already. At least they knew that you liked that artist and you'd have bet they didn't even know that much about you. There's a ton of Icon Christmas releases coming out this year and I'm paying them very little attention. But this one..... I looked at the track list on "Icon Pop Christmas Favorites" and said, hey, this is a little different. I don't think a number of these tracks have been released on hard copy of any kind before. Sure, the Anberlin track has made the rounds. But Owl City's "Peppermint Winter"? Not so much. And Javier Colon? How many people do you suppose remember that Colon was the first season winner of The Voice? How many of them even knew he had a digital Christmas album (well, EP)? And any set with The Bird and The Bee draws my attention. So, if this carries the usual Icon budget price tag, it's going to be worth picking up. And, if not, its still worth taking note of. Look for "Icon Pop Christmas Favorites" (and also "Icon Country Christmas") on October 21.
There's some good holiday Jazz coming this year. I'd say we could use a little more Hammond B3 organ, though. And, what do ya know, here comes Joey DeFrancesco to the rescue. Joey is known as "The Master of the Jazz Organ". I have a hard time putting anyone ahead of Jimmy McGriff, but there's always room for more Hammond B3 organ Christmas Jazz. And Joey's about to give us two CDs worth. "Home For The Holidays" features one disc subtitled "The Party" and another subtitled "The Tradition". Is it any surprise "The Party" is the longer of the two? 23 tracks in all. Joey goes solo, trio, quartet and quintet at various points on the album--whatever the song calls for. In addition to the organ, he also plays piano and trumpet and even sings a couple of songs along the way. Tis a Merry Merry Christmas, indeed. "Home For The Holidays" is scheduled to hit the record shops October 28. And this just happens to be a record we have a pre-order link for (via Barnes & Noble).
Almost last, but certainly far from least...
There's a new Christmas record on the way from the too eclectic for words TriBeCaStan. I love these guys! It's a little too simplistic to describe them as a mix of Jazz and World Music, but that's the general condensed version. You may recall their first Christmas EP, "The Twisted Christmas". I sure do. There's always that point, every Christmas season, when the traffic and the crowds and the general chaos of the season reaches a ridiculous level. And that's when I pull out "The Twisted Christmas". It actually helps me to smile at the absurdity of it all, rather than letting it get the best of me. It's also a good disc for late night listening, because I always hear things I hadn't heard before. Just amazing stuff.
All we know about the coming TriBeCaStan holiday set is that its called "Coal Again!", its set for release October 28, and it contains 6 songs (two more than the last one). Expect the unexpected. Heck, expect the impossible. TriBeCaStan will deliver. Read our write-up of "The Twisted Christmas" and buy it, if you haven't already.
Well, that's about all the presents I have for this trip. But I feel compelled to mention this non-holiday release that's coming soon. I think most of us grew up on "Willy Wonka" (the Gene Wilder one, not that Johnny Depp mess). It's kind of become a defacto holiday movie because somebody always shows it at Christmas time. Well, the group Primus has decided to pay tribute to that film by twisting the music like Oompa Loompas twist taffy. Says Les Claypool, "The notion wasn't so much to go in and redo the soundtrack note for note as much as it was to utilize the classic elements of the music yet try to reflect some of the darker undertones of the Roald Dahl books." The original band is back together for this one. "Primus & The Chocolate Factory" releases October 21. It might not be for most Christmas collectors, but I can't help but imagine their take on "Pure Imagination" is going to end up on somebody's mix-disc this Christmas.
Like I said, Labor Day come and gone and now the neat stuff is coming to light.
For a couple of decades, Kay Martin's Christmas album was the not so secret desire of every Christmas music collector. Released in 1962 (on green vinyl, no less), "I Know What He Wants For Christmas...But I Don't Know How To Wrap It" was what was known, at the time, as a "Party Record". "Party Records" were the "Parental Advisory" records of their day--ranging from raunchy stand up comedy to nightclub singers specializing in double or even single entendre. These were the records they didn't sell "over the counter", the records the adults kept under lock and key only to play after the kiddies had gone to bed, lest it burn their little ears and lead them to a life of debauchery. What's funny isn't that Kay's record is so incredibly tame by today's standards--of course it is--but that, even in 1962, the lyrics of half the rock music on the radio was every bit as sexually charged, if not more so. But part of the whole cache of the Kay Martin LP and the other "Party Records" is that they were "forbidden". It reminds me of a very popular coin operated peep show from the fifties that advertised "Live Nudist Colony". When you dropped the coin in and the blackness gave way to the light...it was an ant farm. And, of course, anybody who paid the coin and only got ants was going to be far too embarrassed to blow the whistle on the scam.
I've listened to a lot of the old "Party Records" through the years--Belle Barth and B.S. Pully and Rusty Warren and Redd Foxx, of course. These folks were brilliant performers. They didn't need to "work blue"--it just paid better. Ah, but this album...this...Christmas album. "I Know What He Wants For Christmas" was special. Perhaps because it was a Christmas album (did I mention the green vinyl?). I like the way Rob Martinez described it on the Christmas Yuleblog several years back. "This wasn't an album to the Christmas music community - it was a secret handshake that gained you entrance into the fraternity of die-hard holiday music lovers." Every bit of it, Rob. After the Internet was born, the "secret" was out and, via file sharing and eBay, Kay Martin's record reached new heights of demand and popularity. Copies of the actual LP routinely went for 60, 70, even 100 dollars. Hmmm. Looks like they still do. And let it be known that Kay could actually sing. She had the chops and the looks (she was once a centerfold and pin-up model), but she also had an "act" of song and humor and, in those days, that meant steady income. Sadly, Kay passed away about 2008.
So, by now, I'm sure you've figured out that I'm not talking about this delicious slice of holiday magic for mere nostalgia. I'd put it on the Essentials page if it were that (another poor neglected page). So here's the deal.
Rockbeat is reissuing Kay Martin's "I Know What He Wants For Christmas" on October 28. No, not on CD. On VINYL. On GREEN VINYL. It's basically an exact replica of the original recording--right down to the original front and back covers. So if you've ever wanted to own your very own copy of this legendary recording in its original format, without putting up the rent money to get it, now's your chance.
Personally, I confess to having mixed feelings about such "replication" releases. I only ever bought one collectible in my life as an investment. It was a sure thing. And I was right. It went up, up, up in value. And, just as I'm patting myself on the back for doing the smart thing for once, they reprinted it...and they might as well have stuck a pin in a balloon and popped it good and proper. But, where Christmas music is concerned--where Kay Martin is concerned--I just want everyone to have the opportunity to hear the music and the humor. And Rob of the Yuleblog was right about that as well. It's still an incredibly fun album. It's lost nothing in the past 52 years.
Labor Day over, we're finally ready to heat up for the holiday season. Before Labor Day, you mostly hear about the Contemporary Christian and the more traditional Big Star vocalist projects. But Rock, Jazz, Blues...you rarely hear more than whispers until after Labor Day. It's like a rule or something. Heck, you might not hear about some major Rock releases until Columbus Day.
So, last week, Seth MacFarlane does a bit of PR for "Holiday For Swing" and, today, Idina Menzel gives us the release date, title and cover art for "Holiday Wishes"--am I noticing a "holiday" theme this year? Anyway, there's Idina's cover off to your right. Look for the album October 14. The "Frozen" star promises "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", "Holly Jolly Christmas", Joni Mitchell's "River" and a new song, "December Prayer". Full track list coming soon.
And Darius Rucker of Hootie & The Blowfish tells us his coming Christmas album will have "a couple originals on it and I think eight of the standard stuff". Among the highlights are "You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch" and "Baby Its Cold Outside" (a duet with Sheryl Crow).
I should probably save this next one for a singles round-up, but its a real rock release AND its vinyl. Unfortunately, right now, its only going to be available as an import. Hopefully, it'll work its way to Interpunk or something before the season's over. Hey, a guy can hope. It's a limited edition 10" single from the British Progressive Rock band Magnum. The band has been around since 1972 (excluding a five year hiatus at the end of the 90s) and still features two original members, vocalist Bob Catley and songwriter/guitarist Tony Clarkin. Due for release October 24, the full version of "On Christmas Day" runs more than 7 minutes (ah, Progressive Rock, how I've missed you)--thus the need for ten inches. The flip features a radio edit (Radio Edit? We don't need no stinking radio edit!) and another newly cut track, "Born To Be King". Visit the band's web site and maybe you can get more information (but probably not). Thankfully, "On Christmas Day" will also be released digitally; the mp3 version, at least, ought to reach American shores.
There will also be a Christmas album from Blue Rodeo this year. "A Merrie Christmas To You" is scheduled for release November 4 and features a couple of holiday standards, a couple of originals, and a selection of more recent (and more folky) additions to the holiday canon, like Joni Mitchell's "River", Big Star's "Jesus Christ", and Gordon Lightfoot's "Song For A Winter's Night". The Canadian Country Rockers have been around since 1987, but the only Christmas track of theirs that I'm aware of is "Blue Christmas" from 1988 (and I'm not even positive that wasn't "promotional only"). This release, too, figures to be only available as an import this year, but at least it only has to come from Canada.
We've added a couple of new Southern Soul titles to The List. "Southern Soul" is, itself, a fairly broad term. In general, though, its a more classic soul sound with a bit of blues influence and definitely some sexual themes. These days, lots of Southern Soul is released on small independent labels and the artists play a fairly regional circuit. So many of the artists have been big stars in their smaller universe for some time, even if you haven't run across their music before. And, pardon me for saying so, they work their asses off. If you've never experienced an authentic Southern Soul show, you need to add it to your bucket list. But, anyway, if you dug Tyrone Davis and Willie Hutch and Clarence Carter, Stax and Atco back in the day, you'll probably like Southern Soul a whole lot. Sir Jonathan Burton, whose "Southern Soul Christmas" arrives November 4, has been around for a while so this set is probably overdue. He's currently based out of North Carolina and you'll find plenty of his music on Amazon. Burton writes lots of his own music, but he'll also be covering such R&B standards as "Please Come Home For Christmas". "Yes! Now This Is What I Call Southern Soul Xmas"--also due November 4--features 14 tracks of Christmas, deep fried Southern Soul style. Artists include J-Wonn, TK Soul, Big Cynthia, Hollywood Hayes and more. And the titles you'll want to hear include "I Got Your Cookies And Milk" and "Santa Was A Freak Like Me".
And we've gotten word this week of a few new holiday releases in Scandinavia. Figure on paying import prices if you want these this year (eventually, they'll wind their way to Amazon MP3). The big news for our Swedish friends is a new winter-themed album from Sarah Dawn Finer. Sarah's first Christmas album, "Winterland", was released in 2010 and, as it happens, we managed a small write-up on out International Page (poor page hasn't seen much action in a few years). The new one, "Vinterland", has a November 7 release date and, unlike "Winterland", is sung entirely in Swedish. The album will include some Swedish material (covers of the ever popular "Jul Jul" and the much more recent "Valborg"), interpretations of more interesting fare (Tori Amos' "Winter") and some originals co-written with some top notch Swedish songwriters. Also coming in November is a Christmas album from Sonja Alden, "Jul I andlighetens Rum" (roughly "Christmas in the room of spirituality"). Given that Sonja's upcoming October release is "I andlighetens Rum", I'm thinking the Christmas record might be an expanded version of the earlier release featuring bonus Christmas tracks. But, hey, I don't speak Swedish and google translate isn't as helpful as you might think.
None of which has anything to do with the title of this post, does it? Don't you hate when bloggers do that?
So what is "Metal Kalikimaka" anyway? It's the title of a forthcoming Christmas album from Tin Idols, a collective of Hawaii's best metal and hard rock artists. And technically, the album title is "Metal Kalikimaka--Volume 1". Hey, look, all that stuff above is great--I'm greatly looking forward to all of it--but I go out there looking for the absolutely new and different and the stuff that gets precious little publicity (if any) anywhere else. Last post, we had an exciting New Age project from David Lanz and Kristin Amarie and, this post, we're going all the way to the other end of the rainbow hoping to find another pot of gold (oh, wait...wrong holiday).
Tin Idols is the brainchild of producer/musician Gerald K. Gonsalves. Most Hawaiian music tends to be laid back and breezy, but Gerald is on a mission to expose the Islands and the rest of the world to Hawaii's fine Metal scene. To that end, he gathered up some of best musicians and vocalists of the genre playing the Islands and, last year, released an ambitious Metal reworking of "Jesus Christ Superstar" that they called "Jesus Christ Supernova". And it was well received, critically and commercially. So Gerald's "getting the band back together again" to take a run at the songs of the season. Hopefully, he'll have Cathy Malia Lowenberg back for this holiday outing; she did an awesome Mary Magdalene. Tin Idols are promising 17 tracks, including one original.
"Metal Kalikimaka" is crowd funded through Indiegogo. Unlike Kickstarter, Indiegogo lets the artist use whatever money they raise even if the campaign fails to reach its goal. But their target--which is mostly to cover the cost of licensing fees--is not at all unrealistic and they've got a couple of months to reach it. Who knows how this thing will turn out in the end? But its so crazy, it just might work. I'll drop a dime in the pot and hope the Tin Idols give us at least one track that's a Metal rendering of the Brothers Cazimero or Na Leo. That would be so totally worth it. That would be awesome. Judging from the taste we gave you up top (featuring Sandy Essman on vocals and Byron Moline on guitar), it's gonna be pretty awesome regardless. Visit the Tin Idols on Facebook and, if the spirit moves you, drop over to Indiegogo and let's get this record flying. Or...surfing. Or...canoe paddling. Or...whatever it is Metal Christmas records in Hawaii do.
We're in a bit of a lull, right now. Which is cool, you know. It's still August, after all. And Labor Day weekend. I'll bet there aren't more than one or two people even stopping by (especially since I took last year off, more or less). Sure, this week Seth MacFarlane gave us an album title ("Holiday For Swing") and a release date (September 30) for his Christmas present. But no cover art or track list, yet, so...not exactly front page news. It'll be available on CD or on vinyl, by the way. Big year for vinyl (but, if you read our last post, you know that already).
Over The Rhine gave us a release date for "Blood Oranges In The Snow" (November 4), which they say will be a bit darker than their previous Christmas albums. But no cover art or track list.
And, hey, the Earth, Wind & Fire holiday set, that I pegged for next year, is coming THIS year (October 7). And its got a nice price point and I'm really stoked about it. But no details, yet.
The new Smalltown Poets Christmas album is tentatively scheduled for a late November release. And they're funding through Pledge Music and, if you liked their first holiday album (as I did), I certainly encourage you to hop on over and pre-order the new one. For a few dollars more, you can get both Christmas CDs. Autographed! So that's pretty cool.
All of these things are reflected in The List (though I do need to update a few of the links), but I didn't feel like building a post around them. In August. With no cover art or track lists. No, I wanted to find something new and exciting that hasn't been reported by every entertainment site on the web. Well, when I go digging, I don't stop until I find something. And I found something.
Kristin Amarie was born and raised in Norway, but she's traveled the world from a very young age. She says she's always sung and created her own music and she's had the good fortune to sing with some pretty good musicians in assorted countries. But she only got around to releasing her first album last year.
I'll leave it to you to sample "Notes From A Journey" at your leisure. For me, its kind of exciting to come across a new artist in the New Age/Ambient genre (mostly) who shines so brightly. I'll grant you, when New Age was hot, they did it to death. At its peak, there was so much music marketed as New Age, it was hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. I'm basically a Pop/Rock guy who came to love Jazz and Blues, but I appreciate good music from almost any genre (except Opera--sorry, I hate the stuff). And there were some real gems that came out of the New Age movement. I think its fair to call George Winston's "December" a standard of the Christmas season, now. And some of my favorite non-holiday listening albums are by William Ackerman, Peter Buffett...and David Lanz. Wasn't it only a couple of posts ago I was saying I was a David Lanz guy? Why, yes, yes it was.
Where were we. Oh, yes. In the course of recording her first album, Kristin Amarie hooked up with David Lanz. And the two had an instant musical chemistry. David's piano and Kristin's voice coming together is like how Blair Brown described eagles mating to John Belushi in "Continental Divide" (oh, c'mon; it's a great movie that you need to watch again...now. No, wait, finish reading the post, here, first.). I mean, yeah, it'd be nice if I could come up with a less....mating analogy, but its exactly what I hear.
So, to make a short story a little less long than I've made it, here...Kristin and David have been touring extensively and...recording a Christmas album (But you already figured that part out, right? The cover art probably gave it away, huh?). "Forever Christmas" is set for release this October (with pre-sale coming soon). Earlier this year, David and Kristin released the single "All Is Calm". I don't know that its on the album, but its awesome and you ought to check it out. It's right below, here. Right now (yes, before you go watch "Continental Divide"). Don't forget to visit Kristin on Facebook or at her web site.
Happy Labor Day, everybody.
Year after year, now that I live in the south, I go through the motions of dreaming of a White Christmas, knowing full well that the odds are slim to none (and slim just left town). But hope springs eternal. And, sometimes, hopes are realized.
How many years ago was vinyl declared dead...doomed to the extinction of the dinosaurs and 8-track tapes? True enough, those circular creatures, those stacks of wax, have been on life support for a long time. But, in recent years, we've seen a gradual increase in the number of vinyl releases. And, this Christmas, there's a virtual blizzard on the way.
The latest news is that Relient K's "Let It Snow Baby...Let It Reindeer", which has become a perennial holiday seller since its initial release in 2007, is coming to vinyl for the first time. It will be a 2-LP set on opaque red vinyl (standard weight) and includes three songs that were only available as downloads and not included on the original CD. Expected shipping date is mid-November and pre-orders are now being taken by Gotee Records. Don't dilly dally as the vinyl issue is limited to 1000 copies.
1. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
2. Sleigh Ride
3. Merry Christmas, Here’s to Many More
4. Angles We Have Heard On High
5. Deck The Halls
6. 12 Days Of Christmas
7. Silent Night/Away In The Manger
8. I Celebrate The Day
9. In Like A Lion (Always Winter)
10. I’m Getting Nuttin' for Christmas
11. We Wish You A Merry Christmas
12. Santa Claus IS Thumbing To Town
13. Handel’s Messiah
14. I Hate Christmas Parties
15. Boxing Day
16. Auld Lang Syne
17. Good King Wenceslas
18. Silver Bells
19. God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman
20. O Holy Night .X
I know we've mentioned the Motown Christmas album, a new collection featuring new recordings from the current Motown roster, that will be available on both vinyl and CD this Christmas. And we covered the Seeburg and Mannheim Steamroller vinyl in our previous post. But I'm not sure if I've mentioned "An Americana Christmas" here before (though its been on our List for some time). Its the first ever collection of its kind and its scheduled for release October 14 on Limited Edition collector grade (180g) vinyl. The track sequence hasn't been finalized, but we do have a list. And cover art! In addition to classics from Bob Dylan, Emmy Lou Harris, The Band, Johnny Cash and more, "An Americana Christmas" features three all new recordings from Buddy Miller, Rodney Crowell and Luther Dickinson. Pre-orders are available now through Elusive Disc, CD Universe, and a handful of more obscure online retailers. I'm guessing it'll turn up on Amazon soon. Then again, maybe not.
If you thought, with all the vinyl falling from the sky, I wouldn't find at least one Blues LP, well...you just don't know me very well. "A Blues Christmas LP" (imaginative title, eh?) is on the release schedule for November 11, thanks to the Alternative Distribution Alliance. Hey, I don't make this stuff up. ADA is a group that helps independent labels and studios achieve more flexible means of distribution--means of distribution that all the big labels have at their disposal given the dough they're raking in on Ariana Grande and the like. In this case, ADA is helping Alligator Records find a way to reach vinyl junkies who might otherwise have missed Alligator's Christmas CDs. They've had two mighty fine holiday CDs--"The Alligator Christmas Collection" and "Genuine Houserockin' Christmas" (they also released a Cajun set, but that's not reflected in the upcoming release). Take the best of each and, hey, let's make a record! There's something about Blues on a phonograph record that beats CD and digital up and down with a big stick all to heck. It's just more "real", somehow. And I think this is the first time ever on vinyl for these tunes. No cover art yet, but we've got the track list.
1. Merry Merry Christmas - Koko Taylor
2. I'm Your Santa - Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials
3. Christmas Train - Carey Bell
4. Stay A Little Longer Santa - Shemekia Copeland
5. Christmas Snow - Michael "Iron Man" Burks
6. Back Door Santa - The Holmes Brothers
7. Santa Claus - Little Charlie & The Nightcats
8. Santa Claus, Do You Ever Get the Blues - Roomful of Blues
9. Christmas Party - W.C. Clark
10. Christmas Fais Do-Do - Marcia Ball
11. Deck the Halls With Boogie-Woogie - Katie Webster
WB/Rhino had to get in on the fun, of course. They've scheduled at least 5 vinyl LPs for the season...so far. Slated for a November 4 release, expect vinyl re-issues of Dwight Yokam's "Come On Christmas", "The Everly Brothers Christmas", "The Leevee's Hanukkah Rocks LP" and, most impressively, the original "Soul Christmas" album, first released in 1968.
I did say "5 vinyl LPs", didn't I? Well, I'm scratching my head about the fifth. I think it's both old and new...and old...and new. For the past several years, WB has been releasing compilations under the "Gift Wrapped" heading. It's always released in a variety of formats with some songs only available on certain formats and not others, and some formats only available through specific retailers, and some that, heck, you can't find anywhere no matter how hard you try. There was vinyl that was only promotional, vinyl that was only give-away, vinyl you could only buy, different vinyl they didn't even tell you about (all in addition to the CDs and mp3s). Its been a weird series featuring Christmas music from Alternative acts like DEVO and underground classics like "The Lights And The Buzz" from Jack's Mannequin. I tried to follow the series for a while, but finally gave up on it. Good music, but too much work. Well, it's b-a-a-a-c-k! Slated for an October 21 release, "Gift Wrapped: Tis The Season" features a lot of tracks they've used before, but I think there are a few they haven't. Like I said, though, who the heck knows? This is a vinyl set. I have no idea if there will be a CD or mp3 and, if there is, whether they'll have all the same songs. For the curious, here's the LP track list (no cover art yet).
1. Merry Something To You - By Devo
2. The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late) - By Tegan And Sara
3. Alone This Holiday - By The Used
4. Last Christmas - By Stardeath And White Dwarfs
5. Christmas In The City - By Everest
6. Suzy Snowflake - By Soul Coughing
1. A Change At Christmas (Say It Isn't So) - By The Flaming Lips
2. The Lights And Buzz - By Jack's Mannequin
3. Santa Claus - By Throwing Muses
4. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear - By The Spill Canvas
5. 30 Days - By Never Shout Never
6. December - By Regina Spektor
Tired yet? Well, we're not finished, not nearly. Expect collectors' grade (180g) vinyl re-issues of Trans Siberian Orchestra's "Christmas Attic" (2-LP set), sometime in October, and "Light Of The Stable"--a timeless Christmas album from Emmy Lou Harris first released in 1979--on October 21. You want to know why artists keep making Christmas albums? "Light Of The Stable" is why. That album will live forever--one of the best things ever put to vinyl--and, because of it, Emmy Lou will be young forever.
1. Christmas Time's A-Coming
2. O Little Town of Bethlehem
3. Away In A Manger
4. Angel Eyes
5. The First Noel
6. Beautiful Star of Bethlehem
7. Little Drummer Boy
8. Golden Cradle
9. Silent Night
10. Light of the Stable
Now get your boots on because the vinyl storm is about to get deep. All of the following titles (in most cases, classics) are coming on vinyl from Universal on September 30. Track listings are best available information, to date. Covers are (mostly) borrowed from Elusive Disc.
1. Overture and "A Holly Jolly Christmas"
2. Jingle Jingle Jingle
3. We Are Santa's Elves
4. There's Always Tomorrow
5. We're A Couple of Misfits
6. Silver and Gold
7. The Most Wonderful Day of The Year
8. A Holly Jolly Christmas
9. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Finale
Side B - instrumentals:
1. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
2. There's Always Tomorrow
3. Jingle Jingle Jingle
4. We're A Couple of Misfits
5. Silver and Gold
6. We Are Santa's Elves
7. Most Wonderful Day of The Year
8. A Holly Jolly Christmas
9. Medley: The Night Before Christmas Song/A Merry Merry Christmas/When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter/Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
10. I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day
1. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (Billy May)
2. Winder Wonderland (Peggy Lee)
3. Christmas Trumpets/We Wish You A Very Merry Christmas (Ray Anthony)
4. Christmas Is (Lou Rawls)
5. Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (Jimmy McGriff)
6. I'd Like You For Christmas (Julie London)
7. Holiday On Skis (Al Caiola)
8. (Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man With the Bag (Kay Star)
9. Jingle Bells/Jingle Bell Rock (Hollyridge Strings)
10. I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm (Dean Martin)
11. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus/Jingle Bells Bossa Nova (Eddie Dunstedter)
12. Christmas Kisses (Ray Anthony and His Bookends)
13. I'll Be Home For Christmas/Baby, It's Cold Outside (Jackie Gleason)
14. What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? (Nancy Wilson)
15. Cha-Cha All the Way (Capitol Studio Orchestra)
16. The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You) - (Nat King Cole)
17. The Nutcracker Suite (Les Brown & His Band of Renown)
18. Ring Those Christmas Bells (Fred Waring)
19. Violets For Your Furs (The Continental)
20. Toys For Tots (Peggy Lee / Nat King Cole / Nancy Wilson)
21. Jingle Bells (Johnny Mercer)
Holy Jingle Bells, Batman! And there may or may not be MORE holiday vinyl re-issues from Universal this year, by the Chipmunks, Ann Murray, Peggy Lee, Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck, and/or Rosemary Clooney. Goodness gracious, I'm exhausted. And broke. Well, it wouldn't be Christmas if they weren't coming for your wallet. Don't tell me vinyl is dead. (Psst: And its still only August!) For people who get their jollies dropping the needle, this is going to be....
THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVAH!!!!!!
Maybe it's because I didn't do this at all last year, but I can't recall uncovering this many planned holiday releases this early before. Sure, we're a bit light on release dates, but its still reeeeal early. And look at that TBA list; its long and getting longer. Even a few of the "exclusives" are surfacing early.
If you were one of the folks upset there was no hard copy of last year's 5-song EP "A Wonderful Christmas With Ashanti", the music gods have heard you (or at least the record label did). That set featured (as I understand it--remember I missed last year almost entirely) some music from a Lifetime movie, "Christmas In The City". This year, Ashanti's label--in association with Target--will add five new tracks to the set, resulting in the full-length Target exclusive "A Wonderful Christmas With Ashanti: Deluxe Edition". And, yes, that's going to be a hard copy CD. No word, yet, on what those 5 new songs might be. And, while we don't have an official release date, Target tends to put theirs out in mid-October. Just sayin'.
Target won't be stopping with Ashanti. In addition to their back catalog of exclusives (the ones that still are exclusive), we can expect another volume of "Mad Men Christmas". It hasn't been officially announced as a Target exclusive, but the first one was, so... The "Mad Men Christmas" CD probably isn't of great interest to collectors, but the show is set in a virtual golden age of Christmas music--snuggly bookended by Crosby and Spector--so the first one was a nice mix to listen to. And that's never a bad thing.
And our friends at the Sounds of Christmas have reported that Sandi Patty's new holiday set will be issued with exclusive editions at both Target and Cracker Barrel, containing bonus songs not available on the wide release version.
For their part, Amazon has posted their (first?) seasonal exclusive, and its a doozy. Jim Brickman has been no stranger to holiday music, certainly. His latest effort, scheduled for an October 7 release, is "On A Winter's Night: The Songs And Spirit Of Christmas". I'll be honest, I'm not the biggest Jim Brickman fan--I'm more of a David Lanz guy when I want that kind of sound. But this album, to me at least, features impressive song choices (and clearly some all new songs) AND an even more impressive list of guest artists. I love me some Ann Cochran--I've been a fan for quite some time--and I'm eager to hear what Brickman and John Oates (of Hall & Oates) do with "(The) Night Before Christmas". Aren't you? For a small taste, head to Jim's web site for a clip of "That Silent Night" featuring Kenny Rogers.
1. Joy to the Night
2. All I Want for Christmas Is You
3. That Silent Night (feat. Kenny Rogers)
4. Away in a Manger/Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella
5. Bethlehem Sunrise
6. I Wish It Was Christmas All Year (feat. Anne Cochran)
7. Blue Christmas
8. Ol Saint Nick
9. Night Before Christmas (feat. John Oates)
10. Christmas in Brazil (feat. Tracy Silverman)
11. Holly, Ivy & Mistletoe
12. A Celtic Night (Oiche Nuin) (feat. Orla Fallon & John Trones)
13. Roses in December
14. Through the Night
15. BONUS TRACK: Clouds (a tribute to Zach Sobiech) (feat. Jana Kramer)
If you haven't been checking The LIST regularly, you might be unaware of some major artists' who are tentatively penned in for Christmas records this year. One time winners of NBC's Sing Off, Pentatonix, plans on their second holiday release, "That's Christmas To Me". Mannheim Steamroller is celebrating 30 years since their debut Christmas album with a collection of fan favorites and "a few surprises". "30/40" will be available in both CD and LP formats. And the irrepressible Christmas Jug Band, who have been delighting holiday audiences since 1977, will be releasing a "Best Of" (or "Greatest Near Misses") collection, "Jugology". All three of those releases are expected October 21.
Coming up in November, we fans of Jazz will be getting a new Christmas album from Larry Carlton, "Four Hands And A Heart Christmas", which will continue the intimate style he offered on the original "Four Hands And A Heart". Anthony Hamilton first talked about a Christmas album in 2012. Well, we should finally get to hear the result of his labors, "Home For The Holidays", later this year. The Blind Boys of Alabama will reportedly release a Christmas album this season. Their first, 2003's "Go Tell It On The Mountain", was a complete joy to listen to. And Earth, Wind & Fire has a Christmas album in the works, though we may not get that one until 2015.
But this is far more fascinating to me. Back in the early days of the phonograph record, there was a company called Seeburg. Seeburg blazed a lot of new territory with this new format. If I'm not mistaken, they invented the first jukebox (certainly, it was their best selling product) and I know for a fact that they invented the first CD jukebox. They also invented a special player (and discs designed especially for that player) that businesses could use to play background music in their stores. Yes, Seeburg invented Muzak. Or at least its prehistoric forefather. The players had a larger spindle than you'd use for a 45 or LP. Thus, their records had a larger hole in the middle. And the records played at a speed of 16 2/3. At the slower speed, they could fit more music on each disc so they didn't have to be changed so often. To get a look at a Seeburg disc, check this post from our hibernating blog friend, Ernie. Seeburg's Christmas (and other) music was even more laidback than Muzak--as bland as Vanilla pudding--but its something that many Christmas music collectors have long found fascinating and irresistible. The records tend to be rare because they were intended to be returned to the company after three months to be replaced with a new batch. The returned discs were destroyed. Seeburg did later issue an LP of some of their background Christmas music. Ultimately, though, they went out of business. Somebody owns the rights to that music (or at least the arrangements), now, and they've decided to issue some of it. Or, who knows, maybe its all new stuff in the vintage Seeburg style. The MP3 version, it turns out, was released a few years back (I missed it). CD? We don't need no stinking CD. The Seeburg Christmas album is coming November 4 on beautiful, glorious vinyl! There's even one "original" in the mix--"Winter Happiness". Jeez, I hope its sized for a regular spindle and not that super-huge one from their old players.
I hate posting just one item at a time. And I really hate pushing Kat Tingey down the post roll (you're still #1 in my heart, Kat). But that's the way my time and the news are breaking right now.
Michael W. Smith has just released details for his upcoming Christmas set, "The Spirit Of Christmas". Michael is no stranger to Christmas albums (officially, this is the Christian artist's fourth holiday set). But he decided to do something a little different this time. Backed by a full orchestra, Michael has teamed up with some of the brightest Christmas lights of Country music (and U2's Bono). I've liked his past Christmas work, but can't say I've loved it. This set could be extra special, though. Nothing says Christmas like a full orchestra with both horns and strings.
Smith produced the album with Robert Deaton and David Hamilton (who did the arrangements). Here's the tracklist and working cover art and then a little taste of "The Spirit Of Christmas", scheduled for release September 30.
It's been less than two months since I told you about the album I'm most excited about this Christmas. No, not the Reel Big Fish, although that'll be cool, too. No, I'm talking about Kat Tingey.
There are some voices that (no pun intended) just strike a chord in your soul. There are many such voices I've come to love through the years. Jim Croce had one. Jillaine has one. Billie Holiday, Joe Williams, Janis Joplin, Mindy Gledhill. Yes, it seems my affections are running all over the musical landscape. But there's nothing like new love. That voice you're hearing for the first time. It makes you feel young and alive. Oh, to be young again. And rich and handsome for the first time. That'd be awesome.
Sigh. So, anyway, Kat Tingey is my latest voice crush--my latest love. Her Christmas album is "Ring Out Wild Bells" and she's set the release date as October 4. And we've got cover art! AND....we've got song clips! Yipee!!!! You didn't tell me there'd be song clips. You're driving me crazy over here.
Go and listen to Kat Tingey's Christmas samples from the forthcoming "Ring Out Wild Bells" and see if you don't fall in love, too. Especially check out that bluesy/ska take on "Mr. Grinch". Wow! I don't think I can wait another seven weeks.