It's been called to our attention that we had the wrong cover art and track listing for Gentri's "Finding Christmas" in our post of August 21. It happens. We've corrected that piece and, to save you the effort of looking back, here is the correct information on the album which is scheduled for release on October 14.
This might be a weird long-form piece because, for some reason, we're just getting little bits of information at a time. Gonna start with these folks because I love their sound.
That's a Florida based a cappella vocal group Voctave and that was a single they released in December of last year. They are currently in the studio recording a Christmas album. Now, me, I'm someone who comes to Christmas music as a rebellion against the traditional "Lite" Christmas music that pervaded the airwaves in December when I was growing up. That includes both the instrumentals and the choral groups. I have softened some. I do like a little classic and familiar in the mix. Can't say I've done a full 180. But Voctave just posted a very little sneak peek of their Christmas recording on Facebook and I think I'm in love. I can't explain, really, but you need to check out that sneak peek because it is very traditional but very fresh. They got me. Maybe they'll get you, too. No word on an album title or release date. But DAMN! I need this album.
Speaking of traditional vocal Christmas albums, another slice of re-issued holiday vinyl is coming, though this one is listed as an import. That's sort of a back to the beginning story as "Christmas" by the Singers Unlimited was first released on vinyl back in 1972. It took until 1990 to be issued on CD. Then there was a CD re-issue in the early aughts. But the original vinyl has been commanding some outrageous prices (check the eBay auctions before you consider paying what the Amazon private vendors are asking). Amazon expects to have the new vinyl import on November 11.
Country star Chris Young's Christmas album is "It Must Be Christmas". Do we have cover art? No. But we've got a title, a release date (October 14) and a list of the songs on the record (not necessarily in order). Notable guest stars include Boyz 2 Men, Alan Jackson and Brad Paisley. We work with what we have.
Silent Night (featuring Boyz 2 Men)
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Holly Jolly Christmas
There's A New Kid In Town (featuring Alan Jackson)
The First Noel (featuring Brad Paisley)
I'll Be Home For Christmas
The Christmas Song
Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)
Under The Weather
It Must Be Christmas
This has the potential to be something really special. It's been said that Cara Dillon may possess the world's most perfect female voice. Hard to argue with that if you've heard the Irish Folk singer. As time has gone by, the Irish influence is more and more present in her music. She is currently recording a Christmas album with John Smith who, in spite of the anonymous sounding name, is, himself, one of the brightest Folk singer/songwriters that the UK has to offer. I wish we had more information. We've got bupkis. We just know that the two are recording a Christmas album. And that's good enough for me. Anyway, I'll take any excuse to listen to Cara. "Bright Morning Star" is featured on her 2014 album "A Thousand Hearts".
David Arkenstone has long been a favorite among fans of instrumental music, partly because he's mastered so many instruments. He's worked his way through New Age, Smooth Jazz, and Celtic Folk (to name a few) and also writes and records music for soundtracks. Vocalist Charlee Brooks arrived on the musical landscape in 2008, but may be best known for her collaborations with Arkenstone, beginning with the 2013 Neo-Classical album "Loveren". The two fit together perfectly, regardless of which genre or genres they're exploring together. "Winter Fantasy" has more than a few musical flavors. Overall, the album (to my ears) leaned towards Celtic Folk, but its New Age Neo-Classical Celtic Folk. The opening track, "The First Noel", is a perfect intro into the melding of all the different colors on the palette of these artists. And I gave the record my "O Holy Night" test and it passed with flying colors, raising the hair on the back of my neck to tell me it's a splendid and beautiful rendition. "Winter Fantasy" is a Green Hill release and, I'll be honest, some of their Smooth Jazz offerings give me too much smooth and too little Jazz. But they've scored with this release, which should grab you immediately and take you on a wondrous journey through the moods and beauty of the season. Check the samples over at Green Hill.
1. The First Noel
2. What Child Is This
3. Deck The Halls/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
4. Winter Fantasy
5. The Bells Of Christmas
6. Novel Nouvelet
8. The Darkest Midnight In December
9. New Snow
10. O Holy Night
11. A Wassail, A Wassail Throughout This Town
12. Veni Veni Emmanuel
13. Carol Of The Bells
We've gotten cover art a few tidbits of information on the coming Amy Grant Christmas album. The record will be called "Tennessee Christmas" and will feature a re-recording of that signature song. The record will also include Amy and husband Vince Gill singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside". There will be 13 tracks in all, supposedly. And I add that "supposedly" because there will be a Target exclusive version with extra tracks and, on previous occasions, the announced number of tracks included in the PR releases turned out to be the number of tracks on the Target version and not the standard version. I'm sure we'll know soon enough. We'll get some freshly written material as well as some seasonal favorites. And there will also be a vinyl edition at some point, as well, which will make this retro cover art look pretty cool. Since we're getting a new version (and since I like to have music going on), let's check out the original.
A few details on the coming Christmas album from Jennifer Nettles. The title is "To Celebrate Christmas" and it comes your way on October 28. That's all I know, I swear.
Also on October 28, we'll get the Christmas album from Jordan Smith, the Season 9 winner of NBC's The Voice. His record is "Tis The Season". By my count, that's the third "Tis The Season" we've learned of this year. I wonder what the record is for most Christmas albums with the same title in one year (leaving aside the ubiquitous "Christmas" of course).
Did someone say the Oak Ridge Boys haven't put out a new Christmas album in, oh, about 5 minutes? Yep, they're back again. I've lost count, but this has to be their sixth or seventh (or twentieth) newly recorded Christmas album. Still, as Gospel quartets go, they don't come any better than these dudes. "Celebrate Christmas" drops October 21. (Hmm. Is that close enough to the Jennifer Nettles title that I should call it a match? You know, for our "most Christmas records with the same title in one year" thing.)
Two of the titles look like they might have been on the group's 2012 Cracker Barrel exclusive. Those would be "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and "Joy To The World". They might have recorded them anew. Or perhaps not. I think we can let it slide, though. Just this once.
I hate when labels and artists do this. I really do. For the obsessive Christmas music collector (or blogger), it's confusing at best.
And here's what I'm talking about. Tony Hadley (former lead singer of Spandau Ballet) released a Christmas album last year. And right up top, let me say that "The Christmas Album" was really quite excellent. It often happens that artists releasing Christmas records well after their charting days are not as strong, vocally, or turn in an uninspired effort. Nope. Tony did well and made a Christmas album he could be proud of. So now all off-season, I'm reading about how Tony is in the studio recording a Christmas album. And I'm basically ignoring it, because, well, he just did one. Tony's recorded about 1 album a decade since going solo and now he's going to do back-to-back Christmas albums? It didn't make sense. And, sometimes, you get 2015 stories with 2016 dates on them, so I ignored those stories. Finally, we're deep into the year and Tony is STILL talking about this new Christmas album. So, finally, I relent. OK, I post, Tony Hadley is doing another Christmas album. Stranger things have happened.
So today I find out that the new Tony Hadley Christmas album is the same Tony Hadley Christmas album with a few additional tracks. I think what we have here is a failure to communicate. And it isn't just Tony, it's everybody. If you put out the same record you did last year or the year before, but you add a couple of new tracks, that is NOT a new album. It's an expanded edition of the old album. Jeez, that really bugs me.
Now, in fairness, the album was only available as an import (or digitally) last year, as they couldn't find an American distributor. Omnivore Recordings has stepped into that breach, so there will be a domestic release this year. Guess that's new. As for new tracks, there are three (and one of the old tracks was jettisoned). First, a duet version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" featuring Kim Wilde, replaces the original solo version. Second, "Jingle Bells" (in a duet featuring Max Giusti) is added. And, finally, we get a song that I'm guessing is a new original, "Silent Christmas".
If you didn't get "The Christmas Album" by Tony Hadley last year, it is a good one--now a duet and track better than before. The rest of us, I dunno, I guess we buy the new tracks digitally? But it's not a new album. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Release is scheduled for October 21 and you can pre-order from Omnivore.
Herb Alpert is in the studio recording a new Christmas album. You know how I know it's a new Christmas album? Because he didn't release one last year (Tony). But cool your jets. The new Alpert Christmas album (which is slated to feature Richard Capenter singing "Merry Christmas Darling") isn't scheduled for release until 2017.
Speaking of "in the studio", Avril Lavigne is (yes...as we speak), and it's expected she will release something new before the end of the year. Nobody knows what and we've been teased to death for years, but..... it could be a Christmas record. Probably isn't. But could be. But probably isn't. Reportedly she had a few sessions with Travis Clark of We The Kings. Just sayin'.
Soulful Kenny Lattimore has a new Christmas album coming. "A Kenny Lattimore Christmas" drops October 21 and will likely have a bit of a Gospel flavor.
Have I neglected to mention Lauren Daigle? I can't remember. Well, she's been on the List, so there's that. Lauren's a young CCM artist with a gorgeous voice. She contributed a couple of tracks to Chris Tomlin's "Adore" last year. Lauren says her Christmas album, "Behold", will have a bit of a classic Jazz feel. Her music up to now has been more Pop oriented (or "radio friendly", as the record labels like to say). "Behold" arrives on October 21. While we wait for sound from the new record, let's listen to Lauren singing "Noel" with Chris Tomlin to close us out today. And, hey, it looks like you can get an autographed copy of "Adore" for cheap ($4.95) right now from Amazon.
Well here's something you don't hear every day. Gary Wilson has recorded a Christmas album. Seriously. Yeah, I know. I can't believe it either. As yet, we don't have any audio from the record. But here's a track from "You Think You Really Know Me". Give it a chance.
If you never heard of Gary Wilson, you can be forgiven. Gary was always an acquired taste--a cult musician on the fringes. His sound has been described as Lo-Fi Funk. I like the Jazz of it. But it's almost as if there was a massive car wreck of Steely Dan, Frank Zappa, Lou Reed, Tom Waits, Sun Ra, Wild Man Fischer, Moby, Bjork, a horny 14 year old and a tractor trailer of duct tape and mannequins. Gary was born in Endicott, New York (which may be the only reason I've heard of him since I had some family there including a cousin who loved any kind of music that his parents didn't). He was a prodigy--learned oodles of instruments before he hit his teenage years. Wrote his first song at 10, recorded his first record when he was 13 or 14.
Gary was always a bit strange. But, after he met the avant-garde composer John Cage, he moved to another planet entirely. Among other things, Cage told Gary that, if your music isn't irritating people, then you aren't doing your job. He took that advice to heart. Gary's shows thereafter were so bizarre that it was a regular thing for club owners to shut off the electricity to get him to leave the stage. He self-financed and self-released "You Think You Really Know Me" in 1977, but it didn't really catch on. He recorded and released a few singles after that, but no one seemed to take notice. After that, he dropped off the grid and wasn't heard from again until around 2000. The thing is that Gary's records were so completely out there that, while they didn't register with the masses, people were listening. Gary was what was under the underground. That so few records were made and sold just made the recordings that much more vital. If you had the record, or if you had a 14th generation cassette of the record, it was the thing that you took to your friends and said, "Oh, man, you gotta hear this." And, of course, they then had to get a 15th generation cassette from you so that they could play it for their friends. And so on.
The process takes a long time but, by the late 90s, people who had cut their musical teeth on Gary Wilson were making their own waves. So, when a young artist named Beck was asked about his musical influences, he cited Gary Wilson. After a few more "endorsements" like that, a record company sought out Gary to get permission to re-release "You Think You Really Know Me". Gary even did a few concerts to promote the re-issue. The kid who had written his first song at 10 finally drawing crowds at 50 (and no club owners pulling the plug). Then came a documentary about Gary's "sick trip" to legend status. And he's been recording and performing since.
On October 28, Cleopatra Records will release "It's Christmas Time With Gary Wilson". As always, I want to hear at least some samples before I lay my money down, but Gary is still doing Gary. I love the Jazz vibe of his music, but, well, I do understand that Gary is an acquired taste. So this is something you're going to have to figure out for yourself. I know my readers. And some of them would never drop something like this into their Christmas playlist because it's not a very good fit between Bing and the Hollyridge Strings. And others absolutely would put this into their playlist because it's absolutely the perfect thing to drop in between Bing and The Hollyridge Strings.
I've done my bit. Now you know its coming. Make your purchasing plans accordingly. For those who vote "yay", you can pre-order through Amazon. It's bound to be a one-of-a-kind sleigh ride. For those who vote "nay", well, that's 5 minutes of your life you're never getting back.
As promised in the previous post, we're going to attempt a Coming Attractions post featuring assorted music genres, but not Country. Not that I've got anything against Country music, but Country fans have already got their hands full (and their wallets empty) with all the major artists who have announced their projects.
And some might argue that I'm blowing the whole non-Country thing right up top by showing the cover of Jimmy Buffett's new Christmas album, "Tis The Season". Certainly some of Jimmy's early hits charted Country, but I think its fair to think of his music as Pop, as much as anything. And Jimmy's getting a tad clever, here. It isn't really "Tis The Season"...it's "Tis The Sea, Son".
"Tis The Season" arrives October 28 and you can pre-order the CD from Mailboat Records. Further details are on the way.
I wanna update you on Elizabeth Chan's new album and, while we don't have any audio, yet, I like having music playing while I write and while you read. And it disturbs me that, in my doddering old age, I seem most attracted to the disco/dance flavored "Vixen" from "Christmas In The City". But, instead, I'll go "Fa La La" from last year's "Red & Green" as there's a Spanish version of that on the new record.
OK. So. We've previously told you that the new record from Elizabeth Chan--her fifth--is "Five Golden Rings", and that the release is scheduled for September 30. But now we've got the cover art and the track list. And I think the big news, here, is that Liz is going to grace us with some traditional Christmas music along side her festive originals. And, let me say, I like that she's doing that. A lot. I love the fact that Elizabeth is out there trying to write a new holiday standard. But, let's think about this for a second. Say, like me, you find Liz's singing voice to be just about perfect--just a cozy fit for the holidays--smooth as honey and very light on the nutmeg. So you set yourself up a Liz Chan listening party and you work your way through five EPs and albums and there's not one of the old familiar carols? I dunno. Maybe it's me. I'm always attracted to the new songs of the season, but I still want some familiar in the mix...just a few sprinkles of cinnamon in my apple cider. And I'd wager I'm not the only one who has wanted to hear Liz sing a Christmas song or two that she didn't write (not that she should stop writing...God, no).
That said, I'm not a fan of "Jolly Old Saint Nicholas" and I would've loved to hear Liz sing "Silent Night". Minor quibble. There look to be plenty of carols I do enjoy ("Adeste Fideles" and "Deck The Halls" will do nicely) and, as always, some brand new Liz Chan holiday magic. 17 tracks in all, "Five Golden Rings" weighs in at 53 minutes--no skimping on this holiday feast. And I can't say for sure (because I have no idea), but I see "Jingle Bells" on the playlist and I have to wonder if that's the Taylor Swift "Shake It Off" parody--one of my favorite videos from last year. Keep tabs on the Queen of Christmas via Facebook and her website.
Gentri is a trio of tenors based in Utah. They're classically trained and their debut record last year made its biggest mark on the Classical Crossover charts, but they describe their sound as Cinematic Pop. And, while I have a whole different sound in mind when I hear the term "Cinematic Pop", I can understand where they're coming from when they say that, having sampled a bunch of their music on Soundcloud. I don't see them touring with the Stones anytime soon, but their sound does have an appeal beyond the Classical market. It especially works on Christmas music as last year's EP and Christmas special demonstrated.
Gentri follows up the "Merry Christmas" EP with a full album, this year, and I'm anxious to hear some audio on the new tracks. In the meantime, there is the EP and a handful of Christmas songs from last year's special. Enough to pique the interest. "Finding Christmas" is due out on October 14.
From the sublime to something else entirely.
Every year, Cleopatra Records drops a compilation or two or three--thematically drawn together by genre. They're always a little bit off the wall. There's always old stuff and new stuff and they never tell you which is which. This year's first announced set is "Black Santa Claus" which stirs up a brew of mostly modern Hip Hop with some more standard Soul tunes tossed in for reasons I don't really get. I mean, you know, I get the whole idea of a set of Christmas Hip Hop. Kool Moe Dee and Kurtis Blow next to Onyx and Trick Daddy. I get that. But to then toss Freda Payne's "O Little Town of Bethlehem" in there? Maybe it works better in practice than in theory.
But, at the end of the day, I know this is exactly the kind of record a lot of Stubbys regulars look for. Something--with apologies to Monty Python--"completely different". And I knew this one was coming, too, since Cleopatra noted earlier this year when Onyx delivered their track (the working title, at the time, appeared to be "Urban Christmas Tales"). "Black Santa Claus" drops like it's hot on October 28. I don't want to be premature, but I'm guessing there will be a Parental Advisory on this one.
Alright, Stubby, what else you got in that big bag of yours? This one just kind of came out of nowhere, which makes it a prime target for my interest.
That version of "The Huron Carol" on the Native American flute by Nathan Tsosie just happened to be the only track on this album with a video (not saying this is the same as the track on the album). But don't get the impression that "Christmas From The Heart" is all Native American flute. Far from it. "Christmas From The Heart", on Heart Dance Records, is a compilation of (mostly, I'm guessing) newly recorded New Age and Ambient music from Arizona musicians.
Leaving aside my automatic affection for "Local Artist" comps, the roster offers enough diversity to keep my attention. I think the most intriguing character to me, after what was an admittedly brief investigation, is Amy Faithe. Amy has been out there singing for awhile, now, but mostly as a Jazz and R&B performer. She says the New Age music she's making now has always been there, so this wasn't a departure or transition for her. To me, Amy singing New Age sounds much more "authentic" than Amy singing Jazz and R&B. She's a good enough Jazz and Soul singer, but the New Age sounds to me like who she really is.
Other impressive performers, here, include Trialogue (Sherry Finzer, Darin Mahoney and Will Clipman) and Thano & Lolo. I can't speak for the record (no audio as yet), but the artists have diverse approaches and instrumentation. And I should also mention that 10% of the proceeds will go to the non-profit organization Music IS Therapy. "Christmas From The Heart" arrives October 21.
We're not done yet, though we're getting close. So I just want to thank you for hanging with me on the longer form pieces. And I've got a little something for you. I know we said we'd ride Country free today. But this bit of Americana is well worth bending those rules a bit. Besides, the little taste we're going to give you is FREE (well, name-your-price anyway). So, on a technicality, I could always say...this is Country...FREE.
Much as I love me some Americana, I'm still a bit surprised it's been such a big hit overseas. I shouldn't be. After all, all of America's music seems to be bigger overseas than domestically. Maybe we just take it all for granted. Anywho, there's a Dutch Americana band, Hidden Agenda Deluxe. They are superb, by the way. So Hidden Agenda Deluxe was touring Europe will Oklahoma's own Carter Sampson. And whatever the spirit was that moved them (perhaps it was that they will again be touring in December), Carter Sampson and Hidden Agenda Deluxe recorded a Christmas album. Some standards and covers, of course, but also some original material. Now the full album still has to be mixed, mastered, and pressed to CD. And, when it arrives in earnest, it won't be free. But the band has posted 3 of the rough mixes and a trailer with some other bits and pieces to Bandcamp. "Xmas In June Minor", as they call it, includes the best "Hard Candy Christmas" I've heard since Dolly's and the amazing "Xmas Eve In Amsterdam" (also "I Shall Be Released"--totally excellent in its own right). Go grab it while you can and, by the time Christmas rolls around, I'm betting you'll be thirsty for more.
We always get a collection or two from Jasmine Records. I usually wait for the cover art, but, looking over the track listings, this may be the first time that I've already got all of them. But you may not and it is always handy to have it all on a single (or double) disc. Collection one is "Christmas 'Round The Jukebox", featuring vintage R&B, Blues and Doo Wop. Collection two is "A Rock And Roll Christmas Party" featuring vintage Rock and still more R&B and Doo Wop. Both sets will be released September 9. Click on the titles below to pre-order.
Time for this little doggie to get to bed. Gonna close with something I think I missed last year. Sorta. It's one of those deals where I already had the CD, but they added a tune. I hate when that happens. On the other hand, the CD I had was from 2009 and we weren't around to tell you about it at the time. (I'm not deliberately trying to be cryptic and annoying; I'm just like that naturally).
Andy Goldberg. Do you know the name? You should. Andy's day gig is as an attorney, but music has always been his one true love. Specifically Power Pop that sounds an awful lot like the music the Beatles used to make. In college, he put together a band called The Sun Kings. The band didn't last (though they occasionally still play together), so Andy began recording as The Goldbergs. Among fans of Power Pop, Andy is universally acknowledged as a genius. In 2009, Andy collected up his holiday repertoire (Sun Kings and Goldbergs) and released "Jingle Jangle Pop", an EP I immediately bought for the brilliant "Chanukah Guy". A few years back, Andy got back into the studio with his latest band, The Honeymoon Stallions. And, last year, Andy released a revamped version of "Jingle Jangle Pop". I'm going to have to check the CD later to see if they dropped anything, but they definitely added "Snowbirds" by The Honeymoon Stallions. I don't think the original is still available anywhere, but the newer version can be had from CDBaby. And it's still got "Chanukah Guy".
Good night, everybody. Don't forget to tip your waitress.
Yeah, but this time it isn't me that was late. If anything, I was too early.
Twas back in 2014 that one of the distribution catalogs had listed a Christmas album from Jennifer Nettles for that holiday season. So it has taken a couple of years, but it looks like Jennifer is finally ready to release her Christmas album, as she has confirmed via Twitter. One reason for the delay was likely Jennifer's change of record labels in 2015.
We shouldn't have to tell anyone that Jennifer is the prettier half of Sugarland, whose "Gold And Green" Christmas album was the Country hit of the 2009 holiday season. And its not that Jennifer hasn't been giving her all to the season in the interim, as she's hosted the annual CMA Country Christmas special since they began airing it in 2010. And she's had occasion to drop a holiday duet or two as well.
We're a little short on details for the coming Christmas set, but Dolly Parton has said that she believes Jennifer is doing "Circle of Love"--a song that will be featured in the upcoming TV film "Christmas of Many Colors", another bio pic about Parton's early life and the sequel to last year's hugely popular "Coat of Many Colors". You might recall that Nettles played the family matriarch in that one and she'll be reprising that role in the new film.
If you're a Country music fan, you are going to be drowning in new Christmas music this year. Let's see how many I can remember. Well, there's Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, Reba McEntire, Chris Young, Brett Eldridge (although he's going for that Rat Pack style), The Oak Ridge Boys (again), Rascal Flatts, Kacey Musgraves, possibly Little Big Town, Amy Grant (if she decides to lean Country), Leann Rimes, and, of course, Jennifer Nettles. Who'd we miss? Oh, yeah, there's that French Country Christmas record, "Le Christmas Album". Dang! OK, just for that, I'm promising a Country-free coming attractions post next.
I don't know how often it happens for others, but life as a Christmas music collector has given me plenty of moments where I feel both triumphant and stupid at the same time. The most common of these moments--which I'm sure many collectors have experienced--is finding a long sought record only to realize, when you get home, that you had it all along. But this...THIS...is a whole new level of triumphant and (especially) stupid for me.
Back in 2010, Swedish singer Mans Zelmerlow released a Christmas album, "Christmas With Friends". It was said that Mans was going back to the sound of classic Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, etc. You know, lots of swinging brass and snappy arrangements. The samples I'd heard were superb. I wanted that record. I needed that record. One of the blessings and curses of the Internet is that I can not only learn of these overseas records, I can actually purchase them--usually at a slight premium after figuring out what a "British Pound" or a "Euro" or a "Krona" is in American money. Only problem was that "Christmas With Friends" was sold exclusively through ICA stores and they weren't selling them online. So, sighing heavily, I put an alert for "Mans Zelmerlow" on eBay and hoped for the best. The record never turned up on eBay. Not in 6 years.
Today, for the first time, a different CD answered the "Mans Zelmerlow" call. I hadn't seen this one before. But the cover featured Mans in a tux with a snow effect. The title was "Kära vinter". I clicked over to see if there was a tracklisting. There was. It didn't match up precisely, but it was pretty close (mostly a different order with the title track replacing "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)"--I can live with that). I magnified the back cover image a tad to see the release date of 2011. Then I totally smacked myself upside the head. Stubby, you idiot!
In this country, it is pretty much SOP for an artist who releases a Christmas album exclusive to one retailer to do what we call a "wide release" of that same record (usually with small changes to the cover art and/or track list) the following year (or sometimes a couple of years later). About the only artist I can think of who didn't do that, oddly enough, was Taylor Swift, whose Christmas EP continues to be a big seller for Target, year in and year out.
Did I ever even think the same might be true overseas? Nope. Did it ever occur to me to check the artist's web site (or, heck, even check frickin' Wikipedia) even once over the last six years? Nope. I did check Amazon every once in a while...but not for "Kära vinter". That's not one of my standard search terms. It's not even one of my off-the-wall search terms. (For the record, Amazon proper doesn't offer it, but one of their private vendors does).
The good news is that this fine Christmas music will soon be mine. I have to tell you, there is not very much on my "want list" these days. I've been at this long enough that I've pretty much located and acquired just about every Christmas record or CD I ever wanted. So, even though this won't technically be "Christmas With Friends" (and I'll leave the eBay alert live), it's close enough for me. But until the CD is in my hands, with the sweet sounds finding their way to my ears, I'm not going to be able to avoid feeling pretty stupid. Let's listen to some more while I smack myself upside the head. Stupid, stupid, Stubby! (Mind you, it's possible that this isn't the same music and that he re-recorded all those songs in a less brass-tastic way. In which case, I'll be feeling even more stupid and not at all triumphant and, probably, giving myself a concussion. But I kinda doubt it.)
Can you ever truly have enough Bing Crosby in your holiday library? I think not.
October 21 brings a new Bing release, "The Twelve Days of Christmas". Obviously Bing's not recording any new music these days, but there's still some gold in those vaults that hasn't been re-issued to death.
This new release comes from the Sounds of Yesteryear label. I'm not really all that familiar with them, but their specialty seems to be releasing music that was performed on the radio. In this case, Bing performed some Christmas music for "Philco Radio Time" on December 7th and 9th 1946. He was joined by the Andrews Sisters on several of the songs. The program was so successful that it was rebroadcast for the next few years. I've looked through a couple of discographies, fwiw, and haven't seen more than a track or two of this elsewhere. That said, this is listed among the reissues, so I'm guessing most of this, if not all, has been out there in some form or another. But, as NBC used to say about their reruns when their ratings were lousy, "if you haven't seen it before, then its new to you."
Pre-order available from Amazon or wherever you get your music on.
1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
2. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town - with The Andrews Sisters
3. It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
4. I'll Be Home For Christmas (If Only In My Dreams)
5. The Twelve Days Of Christmas - with The Andrews Sisters
6. Here Comes Santa Claus - with The Andrews Sisters
7. Medley: Deck The Halls with Boughs Of Holly/Away In A Manger/I Saw Three Ships
8. Medley: Good King Wenceslas/We Three Kings Of Orient Are/Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
9. Mele Kalikimaka - with The Andrews Sisters
10. Silver Bells - with Carole Richards
11. Christmas In Kilarney
12. "Philco Radio Time 11": Where The Blue Of The Night Meets The Gold Of The Day Adeste Fideles (Oh! Come All Ye Faithful)
13. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) - with Skitch Henderson
14. Jingle Bells - with Skitch Henderson, piano
15. White Christmas
16. The Small One (A Christmas Play) - featuring the cast
17. Silent Night, Holy Night
You might not be familiar with Helen Welch but, after a hot track like that, I (for one) am "Spellbound". That's the title track off Helen's latest album which has only been out for a little bit. In making the rounds promoting the new record, it's been mentioned that she has also been recording a Christmas album, "Home For Christmas", which is expected to be released in late November.
Helen was born in the U.K. where she is well-known and established as a performer. She's currently based in the Cleveland area of Ohio--the result of chance meetings with her now husband. She's from London, he's from Cleveland and they met in the French Alps. Twice. That's the kind of serendipity that happens when the universe is trying to tell you something.
Not familiar with Helen Welch myself, I took my usual tour of song clips and YouTube videos. She's clearly versatile--Big Band, Cabaret, Pop, Blues, sultry After Hours chanteuse--and it's my personal opinion (based on admittedly limited input) that she's a better artist today than she's ever been.
"Home For Christmas" will feature "The Christmas Song", "Merry Christmas Darling" (done up in a cool Jazz waltz arrangement), Stevie Wonder's "If It's Magic", the title track (a Helen Welch original), and much much more. Follow along on Facebook for more announcements and information as the holiday season draws closer.
Meantime, you might want to check out "Spellbound", which is absolutely stellar. And, if you need a holiday tie-in, both the title track and Helen's cover of "I Put A Spell On You" would be worthy additions to any Halloween playlist.
How bout Brett Eldredge? Brett is known as a Country singer. He's had a string of smash country singles dating back to 2012's "Don't Ya" and he toured with Taylor Swift not long ago. One of his most recent tunes, "Drunk On Your Love", was an absolute monster the first half of 2016.
What you might not know about Brett Eldredge is that he's a huge fan of Frank Sinatra. All right, maybe you knew that...but I didn't. Anyway, he's just recorded a Christmas album, described as "lavishly orchestrated", that has John Esposito (president and CEO of Warner Music Nashville) gushing and comparing favorably to the holiday recordings of The Chairman of the Board. "This Christmas album show's he's a voice for the ages," Esposito says.
Ultimately, you and I will be the judge of that, but Brett already has done a Christmas song or two. Brett tackled Stevie Wonder's "What Christmas Means To Me" on the 2014 CMA Country Christmas program and you can pick that up on Amazon. But this video from last year (at Brett's--apparently--annual Frank Sinatra show) sounds more like what Mr. Esposito was on about. No release date has been announced as yet.
The only thing stranger than fiction is real life. And this is one of those stories that you could never pitch as fiction because its just too unbelievable.
Once upon a time, their were two sisters who loved to sing. When the younger sister, Lauretta, was 20, she contracted Guillain Barre Syndrome, a debilitating disorder that attacks the nervous system, paralyzing the entire body. Lauretta couldn't so much as smile and certainly couldn't eat. Very quickly, her weight dropped to 75 pounds. She was confined to a hospital bed with a feeding tube and several machines to keep her organs working. As breathing became more and more difficult, doctors wanted to perform a tracheotomy so that she could be placed on a ventilator. If they did, Lauretta's vocal chords would be damaged and she would never sing again. So Lauretta resisted having the procedure done and doctors relented, having respiratory specialists check on her more frequently instead.
I'm sure you've figured out that Lauretta recovered. The doctors said that singing probably had saved her life as her diaphragm was very strong and the only muscle other than her heart that hadn't been paralyzed. She still had a long road back. She had to learn how to walk, how to talk, how to do just about anything all over again. But she made it through. She and her older sister Mary decided to pursue their music seriously. They toured Canada as an opening act for established Country artists and played to full houses of enthusiastic audiences. Then they took a break from music for a few years.
One day, the Ryan Sisters sat down to watch a movie--"The Secret". The film is a documentary of sorts centered on the power of visualizing and positive thinking (and that, I'm sure, isn't anywhere near what it actually is). The story of Morris Goodman was so much like her own that Lauretta was brought to tears. She grabbed a pen and a piece of paper and, within 10 minutes, had written a song, "There's A Secret". And it became clear to the Ryan Sisters that they should not only continue their musical dreams, but that their music might inspire others as well.
I came across the Ryan Sisters in one of my marathon Google sessions. Things on the Christmas music front should be hopping by now and they just...aren't. And it turns out the piece that said they were recording Christmas songs was from last year. And I read the story and I'm like, yeah, OK. Great story and all. But, you know, probably not my kind of music and its from last year, anyway.
But I pressed play and, dang, man, listen to these women sing! How can you not fall in love with that sound? Even without the great story. No Christmas music from the Ryan Sisters has yet been released, so far as I can tell. So I'm going to start visualizing a Ryan Sisters Christmas album for this Christmas. And, what the hell, maybe it'll work and we can "attract" a nice little Christmas miracle.
Pretty sure I've used that title before but, in this case, that, too, seems oddly appropriate.
Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building. But his music will never die. Recorded in 1957, "Elvis' Christmas Album" is the best selling Christmas album of all time. It's also his best selling album of all time. Now most of the people who are regulars here undoubtedly already own this album. Probably several times over. But someone's always trying to up the ante and, hey, if you're a serious collector, maybe you want every version ever released. It could happen.
Last year, Friday Music was planning to release the full cadillac vinyl re-issue. Limited Edition. Audiophile. 180 gram. Mastered from the original RCA tapes. Gatefold cover. Picture booklet of the King included (same as the booklet included with the original, featuring images from "Jailhouse Rock"). And, in this case, mono. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think it made its scheduled release. In any case, it's back on this year's schedule, due August 30. They say it's a 55th anniversary release, but, somehow, that math isn't adding up for me.
Whether or not they were planned that way, originally, there are even more re-issue versions of "Elvis' Christmas Album" from Friday Music currently showing a release date of October 7. These will also be limited edition audiophile 180 gram vinyl, with the gatefold cover and (I'm presuming) the picture booklet. Listings don't yet say whether they will be mono or stereo, but I'm guessing mono. The big difference, here, is the color of the vinyl. Or should I say "colors". These new listings come in RED, WHITE, GREEN and BLUE vinyl. Pick your favorite color or collect the whole set, right? And, me, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if more colors are coming. Where's the "CLEAR" vinyl, huh? Purple? You gotta have purple (it's very regal). Translucent yellow (call it "gold")? Check our List for purchase links for the colors we know about. Or check with your favorite online retailer.
I honestly don't mean to get snotty about the King. But, geez, if you bought them all, you wouldn't have a dime left over for anything new. And wasn't there an audiophile color vinyl release of this like 2 years ago? Oh, right, that was only 140 gram. Shame on me.
Just because the King has been gone for nearly 40 years doesn't mean he's not still issuing new records. Remember "Christmas Duets"? I'm told that, officially, that record is considered a commercial "flop". But that's no reason to stop trying. This time, it's the latest in (what I'm told is) an ongoing series featuring the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Trying to make the King sound classy, are we? This album, tentatively titled "Elvis At Christmas" will contain both the King's Christmas recordings and some of his Gospel recordings, too. Look for this holiday release from Elvis and the RPO in November.
Thought I'd have had this up sooner. Didn't work out that way. Since its still just August, I ain't gonna let it bother me much. So be it. It's still just August.
The vinyl revival continues and we've got a bunch of music joining that parade this Christmas. Also got a lot of old vinyl finally making its way to CD. These are very strange times.
Speaking of strange times, I'm opening with the oddball...just cuz.
If you were like me in the 80s and 90s, you haunted all manner of record stores, picking up any odd little Christmas record you could find. There was no Internet. Your friends didn't tell you, "Dude, you need to check this out." You came, you saw, and you bought...with no clue what a disc was going to sound like when you got it home.
No other dynamic would have led to me possessing "It's A Wonderful Record" by Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet, the Canadian Alt Surf group. I wish I could tell you that that EP was being re-issued. It's not. But three of that band's albums are being re-issued (by Yep Roc) and "Dim The Lights, Chill The Ham" from 1991 includes both "Winterfresh" and "Deck The Halls" among the bonus tracks on the CD and digital re-issues (the vinyl re-issue comes with a download card for the bonus tracks). "Santa's Compromise", which was not on the Christmas EP, is also a bonus track. Look for the re-issue of "Dim The Lights, Chill The Ham" on September 16. And, for those of you without, here's the EP in full.
Several days ago, our friends at The Yule Log announced the Christmas line-up from Real Gone this year. Refreshing memories, Real Gone is helmed by Gordon Anderson who, in 1993, founded Collector's Choice Music. The idea was to reissue and make available records that were long out of print and/or difficult to find. There are plenty of titles that wouldn't sell enough to interest the larger labels. But Gordon's bet was that the people who wanted that music were driven by a passion that would ensure that a "boutique" label could do well. I guess he won that "bet" because Collector's Choice became a huge business. Gordon sold his interest in Collector's Choice in 2010 and many a Christmas music obsessive dropped into depression. But that was short lived, thankfully, as Gordon founded Real Gone in 2011, doing much the same work he had done at CCM. It's always a big day when we learn what Christmas music Gordon has laid out for the season. Great care is taken in re-mastering the original tapes, putting together informative (often definitive) liner notes, preserving the original artwork and, sometimes, getting a legend to autograph 100 or so copies.
So let's see what Real Gone has in store for Christmas 2016.
Mantovani: Christmas Carols
Ray Conniff: Christmas With Conniff, We Wish You A Merry Christmas and Here We Come A-Caroling (The Complete Columbia Christmas Recordings) (2-CD Set)
The Norman Luboff Choir: Christmas With The Norman Luboff Choir and Songs Of Christmas (2fer CD)
The Robert Shaw Chorale: Christmas Hymns And Carols, Volume 1 and Christmas Hymns And Carols, Volume 2 (2fer CD)
The Living Strings and The Living Guitars: The Sound Of Christmas and The Joy Of Christmas (2fer CD)
Sammy Kaye: I Want To Wish You A Merry Christmas
Eddy Arnold: Christmas With Eddy Arnold (The Complete RCA Christmas Recordings)
Mitch Miller And The Gang: Christmas Sing Along With Mitch (Expanded Edition)
Jack Jones: The Jack Jones Christmas Album
The Ventures: The Ventures Christmas Album
The Supremes: Merry Christmas
Mantovani's "Christmas Carols" was previously re-issued by Collector's Choice when Gordon was there. It has since fallen out of print with the CCM CDs commanding mucho dinero. Jack Jones and Sammy Kaye are coming to CD for the first time, so far as I know, as are the albums gathered up for the Living Strings/Living Guitars two-fer. Robert Shaw's Volume 2 is also new to CD. The others, I believe, have previously been issued on CD, but without the kind of care and attention they'll get from Real Gone.
And 2017 will bring Percy Faith's 1959 stereo version of "Music of Christmas". When CDs were brand new, back in the 80s, that was one title Columbia released on CD. But it was released the way a lot of catalog product was released at the time--without proper remastering or informative liner notes. You can bet your Christmas donkey that Real Gone's reissue is going to look and sound amazing.
There are a ton of Christmas records coming to vinyl this year. Or, at least, they're promised for this year. As we've learned in recent years, some of these are likely to be pushed back to next year.
We've already mentioned "James Taylor At Christmas", Diana Krall's "Christmas Songs", and Ray Coniff's "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" as well as the two "Holiday Soul" Jazz classics. And, on our List, we have release dates planned for Chris Tomlin's "Adore" and the Friday Music audiophile recording of "Once Upon A Christmas" from Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. Another Friday Music audiophile vinyl recording--one I believe that was pushed back from last year--is John Denver's "Rocky Mountain Christmas". I know a lot of Christmas music fans for whom that was their first ever Christmas album.
In the past, a lot of these vinyl re-issues were done by smaller labels licensing the material from the majors. But the major labels are rolling out the vinyl this year as well. Glen Campbell's "That Christmas Feeling" and Merle Haggard's "Christmas Present". More recent albums getting the vinyl treatment include Faith Evans' "Faithful Christmas" and Justin Bieber's "Under The Mistletoe". All four of those are expected to release on September 23.
I've often said that the Christmas music floodgates were opened in earnest when the first "A Very Special Christmas" album was released in 1987. It continues to be a big seller...on CD. But, if you've longed for vinyl, your wish will come true this fall (if it isn't pushed back, anyway).
Also new on vinyl this year are last year's Christmas album from The Count Basie Orchestra, "A Very Swingin' Basie Christmas", and "Jann Arden's Christmas", the latter expected on October 28.
Putting a bow on this whole thing (for now), we get a number of ICON Christmas releases every year--sort of greatest Christmas hits CDs. This year, we're expecting ICON Christmas collections from Trisha Yearwood, Faith Evans, Merle Haggard, Celtic Woman and Brian McKnight.
Phew. I'm exhausted. Make your lists and check them twice, everybody, and plan your Christmas music budgets accordingly.
I love Christmas, music, and cats. What more do you need to know?