Friday, December 2, 2022

Season's Reading: Traditional Home Christmas 2001


Christmas 2001. Here in NYC it was, to state the blindingly obvious, different. But, looking back now at that year's crop of holiday magazines there's a reassuring level of normalcy, due, no doubt, many issues having been put to bed months earlier. There are a surprisingly small number of Christmassy ads though, but I imagine that's just a coincidence.

(Please pardon the quality of the scans, I'm in the midst of moving house and both my flatbed scanner and Printer/Scanner are packed away at the moment.)

The issue is made up of the usual array of well turned out homes of the well off and tradition interior design inclined. 

I remember being quite the Smith & Hawken fan back in the day. I'd absolutely forgotten that they'd become corporate compost back in 2009.

My daughter went through a Swarovski phase when she was little, luckily she preferred the relatively less expensive little animal figurines and had doting Grandmothers to help her build her collection. I think we have a couple of the annual ornaments around somewhere, or perhaps she has them at her house. Not sure if we ever got the 2001. 

Another victim, I assume, of the 2008 financial crisis, Home Depot's fancier sister chain EXPO Design Centers went the way of Smith & Hawken the same year of our lord 2009.

I'm not much of an interior design guy, so when browsing Home mags I usually forward to the token food article they usually have. The very brief foodie feature in this issue finds legendary
 Chef Lydia Bastianich creating a menu of antipasto for the holidays.

A couple of, less refined, but likely quite nummy,  recipes came courtesy of a GladWare advertisement

An ad for that year's Christmas Revels, which are always a delight and which I unfortunately didn't make the trek to see in 2001.

I'll close things out with the only non-Christmas ad I found at all interesting, from Ikea.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Do You Hear? The Alcoa Singers, Arthur Godfrey, The Forester Sisters, Beegie Long, Christmas Filmstrip soundtracks and more...


An Old-Fashioned Christmas with The Alcoa Singers (1979)

Featuring a number of songs from The Stiguest Man in Town (sadly those few songs are the only ones I could find streaming.)

And, while I'm at it,  I might as well include the original television soundtrack to The Stingiest Man in Town from The Alcoa Hour in 1958

Arthur Godfrey -  All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth (1967)

Kid's album from Godrey and The Richard Wolfe Children's Chorus. Godrey's reputation took a major hit back in the fifties when he fired popular singer Julius LaRosa while on the air. My father knew LaRosa personally and hated Godfrey from that moment on, a hatred that persisted well into the 70s and 80s as I began my interest in old time radio, vintage pop and classic movies. so, I have mixed feelings about "the old redhead" and the drunken uncle unctuousness of his performance here makes this one a tough sell for me. 

A far more palatable holiday release is the much earlier Christmas with Arthur Godfrey and All the Little Godfreys. A more traditional album with a more diverse array of vocalists, including the aforementioned LaRosa, make this more enjoyable, though still inessential effort.

From 1980 comes the lackluster bargain bin easy listening/ elevator music of The Birchwood Pops Silent Night. Not even worth using as background music.

A Christmas Card (1987)
The Forester Sisters

Nice 80's country release.

I'll close with a handful of recent shares from legendary vintage Christmas music blogger Ernie (not Bert). For years Ernie has been rescuing rare, forgotten, out of print Christmas vinyl and giving it new life while exposing a whole new audience to the songs and sounds of Christmas past. The work he's done over the years has been a magical gift to holiday music lovers. Let's take a peek at just the tip of the iceberg of what he's got going on so far this season...

(All images in this section come from Ernie (Not Bert))

Beegie Long - Organ and Chimes (1966)

A pure nostalgia bomb. Albums like this were a staple of my parents and grandparents generation at Christmas time.  So many visits to so many friends and families homes during the holidays had this sort of thing backgrounding their festive hospitality. Listening to this, I can smell the olfactory warm hug of hot cocoa,  Gingerbread and fresh Christmas tree. 

If you never experienced it the way I did this may seem like dull, old fashioned elevator music ripped from vinyl that's seen better days. For me it jumpstarts a Proustian rush of pure joy and contentment, with just a tad of melancholy for times, people and places now past.

Christmas with Al Martino

Seasonal radio program featuring festive reminisces from  crooner Martino between appropriate musical selections, mostly from Martino himself, naturally. Martino recounts tales of Christmas during his humble Philadelphia childhood and a look at how the Martino's past and present celebrated the holidays.

A nice flashback to Christmas radio back in the day.

Visit Ernie

A cute novelty single from Barefoot Man,, Santa Got a Sunburn is worth at least one or two listens, though the flip, Grandpa's Christmas Fiddle, perhaps less so

Speaking of novelty singles today Ernie offered a bit of a novelty post - eleven tracks by artists whose name begins with "Little". So we get everything from blues great Little Milton, bandleader Little Bobby Rey and a bunch of kid novelty acts with tracks like Have a Gluey Christmas, A Oscar for Santa and Picture Of Mommy Twisting With Santa. The Little Milton track is the best of the bunch with Rey and the "Little Toodles", a kid act that seems to have an older girl singer, also providing listenable fare.

Visit Ernie

More rare and wonderful finds from The Ernie-verse include a selection of holiday themed films strip soundtracks.

They all have there own nostalgic charm, even without the accompanying visuals, though Holidays - The Spirit of Christmas from Eye Gate House is hampered by a particularly harsh beep to indicate when the teacher should move the strip along, making the terrible voice acting and on the nose storytelling where young Wendy visits Mr. Oldman, and old man, and Mr. Riches, a rich man, armed with holiday gifts.

A far more pleasant and professional sounding releases come from Singer featuring less brutal, and sometimes even lovely, cues. The Beasts at Jesus' Manger , How We Got Our Christmas Customs, The Baby King and the children's story The Lollipop Dragon Helps Santa are quaint, charming listens.

Ernie also offers up a trio of excellent releases from Cathedral Films ; The Story of Jesus - The Nativity (two different versions) and Stories for Christmas - The Christmas Donkey and Peter and the Hermit.

Visit Ernie

I'll finish off my Ernie's with another filmstrip release, though these play more like a regular album. Christmas Songs in Latin and Christmas Songs in Spanish featuring solo operatic performances. accompanied by Organ of various hymns and carols. An interesting one time listen. especially the Latin selections, but not much more. Still. A treat to have the chance to experience this all but forgotten Christmas media.

Yule Logged - Dead of Night, Scrooge (1935), The Abominable Snow Baby, A Christmas Gift, Carols from Kings, I'll Be Home for Christmas and more...


Dead of Night (The Christmas Party) (1945)

Started my black Friday with a quick rewatch of The Christmas Party segment of the classic horror anthology in which an innocent Christmas party game of sardines leads to an otherworldly encounter.

Over the years, I've warmed to the English tradition of ghost stories being part and parcel of the holiday season. I really dive into the spooky stuff after Christmas, as Winter's darkness takes hold,, but I do enjoy the occasional ghostly visitation as a palate cleanser to the more traditionally cheerful or sentimental holiday fare.

Also, I must note that while I enjoy a good ghost tale. I generally dislike Christmas-themed horror, with a few exceptions, such as Black Christmas, Rare Exports, and last year's Le Calendrier. I'm planning on finally watching Krampus this year; though I've owned a copy for a few years, I've never gotten around to watching it. Hopefully, it will join that select group.

Scrooge (1935)

Of course the most obvious Christmas ghost story is Dicken's A Christmas Carol though I don't really include it in that genre.

Seymour Hicks' second go-round as the stingiest man in town, coming more than two decades after his appearance in 1913's silent Scrooge (aka Old Scrooge)

Hicks was a fine actor in his time and an important figure in the history of English theater, but his Scrooge is underwhelming in this stage melodrama.

Scrooge is a bit creaky but as it's the very first sound version, that's to be somewhat expected. For a change I decided to watch a "fully restored and colorized" version that sadly added nothing of value to the experience. As vintage adaptations go, it's lower tier; while it has its moments, it doesn't really have any high points.

Interestingly, according to Letterbxd the invisible ghost of Jacob Marley was voiced by The Invisible Man himself, Claude Rains.

Though I happily watch multiple versions of A Christmas Carol year in, and year out, I seldom revisit this iteration. Recommend for Carol completions and old movie buffs only.

The Abominable Snow Baby (2021)

The Abominable Snow Baby is a bit of a horror tale itself. Not just because of the titular creature but because it opens with an apocalyptic event that's played for laughs, though it doesn't deserve any. Based on a story by the wonderful Terry Pratchett, yet mostly devoid of the wit and ingenuity of any other Pratchett I've encountered, and I've read most of his work over the years.

A perfectly acceptable kid's special but nothing more than that.

A Christmas Gift (1980)

Obvious sentimental Christmas short from Will Vinton. I'm not a huge fan of Claymation; I find it to be  very much of the Uncanny Valley and while I appreciate the exceptional craft and talent behind it, the finished product just doesn't affect me as the film intends it to. If this isn't an issue for you, though, I highly recommend checking it out.

Carols from Kings (2021)

Perfect background watching /listening material. Always lovely and exceptionally well-produced.

The Red Green Show - Snowed In (2002)

Next I caught Snowed In. a winter episode of The Red Green Show, which is another type of palate cleanser thing during the holiday season, sometimes watching a frosty themed show can break up the festive monotony without totally breaking the mood. Santa Claus does get a mention though, plus, technically, Red (&) Green is always pretty festive by default.

Christmas Solo (2017)

A pair of High School choristers rivalry leads to romantic complications for their single parents in this merely competent effort from 2017.

I'll Be Home for Christmas (1997)

Ann Jillian, Robert Hayes and Jack Palance star in this small town Christmas romance. It's a charming little flick with the bonus of Corner Gas's Eric Peterson sporting some long luscious locks. And it's better than every Hallmarked product I've seen so far this year, despite being just as cliché driven as any of them.

London Burning - Ding Dong Merrily (1988)

Solid Christmas set episode of British fire brigade soap. I remember watching London Burning back in my UK tape trading days and though I only dimly recalled the characters it was easy to pick things up and enjoy the show.

Paramount Mountain Holiday Campfire (2021)

I'm a bit of a yule log aficionado so I was pleased to see Paramount Plus had added one to their streaming service - Paramount Mountain Holiday Campfire - and it's fine. Not much holiday going on and really it's at about the level of an above average YouTube ambience channel. But it's fine.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

New Christmas Releases from Elton John, David Foster & Katherine McPhee, Loreena McKennitt, Sissel, Ellie Holcomb, Hush Kids, A Very Yinzer Christmas and more...


Christmas Songs

David Foster & Katherine McPhee

Nice enough mini album with highlights being the energetic take on Santa Claus is Coming to Town and a terrific big band-ified Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (the arrangement is such fun ill forgive McPhee's cringe shout out to Rudolph at the very end.)

Under a Winters Moon (Live at Knox Church,Stratford,Ontario/ 2021)
Loreena McKennitt

McKennitt's voice is as transcendent as ever on this live recording which combines traditional hymns and carols with relevant readings including Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales.  A lovely performance best listened to rather than relegated to background duty.


Winter Morning 

Another ephemeral voice is heard from on this 7 track offering from Sissel joined by The Tabernacle Choir. 


Ellie Holcomb
Sing : Christmas Songs

Nice mix of both praise and Christmas songs (sacred and secular).


Miracle in a Manger. 
Jason Crabb

Fine collection if mostly familiar tracks from Christian artist Crabb


A Very Yinzer Christmas

Pittsburgh area regional compilation. sporting a generous 26 tracks. Not too many familiar names for those of us not immersed in the Pittsburgh scene, I'm only familiar with a few; Donnie Iris, Norman Nardini and Joe Grushecky.

Compilations of this sort are often seriously hit and miss but, A Very Yinzer Christmas maintains  a steady level of average to above average songs, As I was listening and starting to formulate my review in my mind i wanted to note the rare accomplishment of not having a bad track in the bunch. That thought persisted right up until I hit the last few tracks. At least whoever programmed the album had similar taste to mine and hid the significantly less successful cuts at the back


 Step Into Christmas
Elton John

5 track digital ep collecting the solid title single, the fun to hear once or twice a year novelty track Ho! Ho! Ho! (Who'd Be a Turkey at Christmas?) , the earlier, inessential, Joss Stone duet Calling it Christmas and two other songs I don't consider Christmas.  


 Christmas from Ireland

Lovely Celtic choral crossover .


  All I Want for Christmas is You / It's Christmas -  Hush Kids

A decent subdued take on "All I Want" does as much as it can with the source material. The flip, the Hush Kids original It’s Christmas is far more affecting and a lovely Christmas song.


Wrapped up in a Bow - Jamie Fine

The vocal styling here are nit for me and the song isn't strong enough to transcend them


 Last Christmas / Winter Wonderland - Remi Wolf

I honestly have no context for contemporary artists like this, many millions of listens but I've never come across them before. Is this single terrible, no, especially the go at Last Christmas but I don't imagine I'll ever want to hear it again.

Driving Home for Christmas - Tom Grennan

Overwrought take on Chris Rea's classic. Not bad but a bit much.

Because It’s Christmas - Peter Cincotti

Solid, catchy pop jazz original.


Friday, November 25, 2022

Kenny And Corky - Nuttin' For Christmas / Suzy Snowflake


 Kenny And Corky - Nuttin' For Christmas / Suzy Snowflake 

 Kenny And Corky - Nuttin' For Christmas / Suzy Snowflake