Monday, November 29, 2021

Dinsdale's Festive Faves Day Six (Robert Shaw Chorale, Anita Kerr, José Feliciano , Manheim Steamroller, Cerys...)



Another day, another lucky seven festive favorites (plus a bonus playlist)...

Robert Shaw Chorale - Christmas Hymns and Carols Vol 1 (1954)

The Anita Kerr Singers ‎– Spend This Holiday With Me (1969)

José Feliciano (1970)

Led off by the holiday hall of fame classic Feliz Navidad, this wonderful Christmas album is full of mellow folk, with a dash of easy, renditions of familiar standards done in the, now, familiar Feliciano style. Heavy rotation year in, year out.

Re-christened after the mega-hit it spawned, a deluxe version with bonus tracks is available for streaming.

Manheim Steamroller - Christmas (1984)

Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band - A Tapestry of Carols (1987)

The Sixteen - Christus Natus (1996)

Cerys Matthews - Baby It’s Cold Outside (2012)

Bonus Playlist

  Christmas Dreamers: The Numero Group Guide to Yuletide Country

New Christmas Music 2021(Nat King Cole, Manchester Orchestra, Dave Barnes, Wiaiwya, Goo Goo Dolls, The Bittersweets, Peter Simandyl...)

 Dave Barnes - I Wish it Would Snow

Nice mini-album, I’ll be sampling it some more throughout the season.

Wiaiwya - 24

Strong inde-pop compilation featuring great tunes from the lies of The popguns, Corvair, Piney Gir, The Orchids and more. Not every track is a winner but there’s more good here than meh. Check it out and pick your faves…

The Bittersweets - Love Came Down at Christmas

Lovely, ethereal


Peter Simandyl - The Winterking (Christmas Song) / Daylong Dance

Interesting euro-folk

Emmy Law - Different This Year


Tom Speight - Driving Home for Christmas

Better than average “Acoustic cover”

Goo Goo Dolls - One Last Song About Christmas

Pretty decent mainstream rock ballad. Bonus track on re-released version of their Christmas record.

The Lathums - Krampus

Growing on me but I don’t know what kind of staying power it’ll have.

A Sentimental Christmas with Nat King Cole and Friends

Posthumous duets are … unsettling, both in motive and execution. That said it’s hard to go wrong with Nat Cole as source material, hard but not impossible. I can’t think of any good reason to come back to this album again - there’s bo added value in the Frankensteined songs, so what’s the point.

Manchester Orchestra - Christmas Songs Vol 1

A collection of Christmas dirges. What fun.

Yule Logged: Just Another Christmas, The Walton's Homecoming, Grinch Musical, Duck the Halls, A Christmas Carol (1949), Home For Christmas

 Just Another Christmas (2020)

So, this is what, at least some of, the Hallmark-style Christmas movie should be, and could be if they were created by people making an effort, for audiences with basic standards and realistic expectations of being entertained. With what, I imagine, was a fairly low budget, Just Another Christmas succeeds because it’s well written, professionally directed, and acted by actors and actresses actually, you know, acting. It doesn’t assume its’ audience consists of easily entertained pre-programmed performative consumers willing to ooh and aah over what they should, and deep down do, know is dreck, to the point of claiming that’s its’ crass cheesiness is what they like about it. 

This Brazilian, mostly comedy, takes the familiar Groundhog Day trope and plays around with it in inventive ways. The film starts out as a well-made but formulaic farce before morphing into a far more interesting film. This may well be the Citizen Kane of Groundhog Day holiday romances.

Just Another Christmas came out last year and I probably missed it while suffering through Return to a Royal Christmas Wedding at Pemberly Part III; Gingerbread Miracle Angels on Ice. Never again.

Home For Christmas (2020/2021)

Norwegian awkward, po-mo, soapy rom-com that’s not as clever as it thinks you’ll think it is, though it is fairly well crafted for what it is, which isn’t much. It’s as if Showtime did a Hallmark. Not really my thing.

I made it through the first season but bailed early on in season two. I just couldn’t care less about anything that what going on. Your mileage may vary.

A Christmas Carol (1949)

This may be the closest we’ll get to witnessing a Victorian provincial touring company version of Ebenezer Scrooge, as character actor Taylor Holmes (who debuted on the stage in 1900) chews, swallows, digests, and regurgitates the scenery in an occasionally preposterous performance. Only the reassuring presence of narrator Vincent Price keeps affairs from veering entirely towards the ridiculous.

As corny as this heavily condensed early TV version may be, I still unspool it at least once or twice each season, that’s the strength of the combination of Price and Dickens 

Duck the Halls: A Mickey Mouse Cartoon Special (2016)

Loved the backgrounds, hated the character designs (which verge on the grotesque at times), annoyed by the script, irritated by the voice acting. 

Pet peeve alert

There are countless hours of footage, and hundreds (probably thousands) of pages, of Donald and Daisy doing wintery things in winter but in this current climate of retcons, reinventions, multiverses and deconstruction we’re meant to accept that they always migrate south for winter and Donald has never experienced the holidays. And not just Donald but none of the various related  waterfowl in the Disney cannon. 

I don’t expect strict continuity between cartoons let alone over decades but that’s just dumb, and avoidable. Just say Daisy likes wintering in Miami  and Donald misses celebrating a trad Christmas with the rest of the crew and everything's fine. But the sheer hubris of writers these days essentially hijacking IP, admittedly at the behest of dismal Disney corporate drones, as if the characters weren't already fully, and in this case, perfectly formed and awkwardly forcing them out of character for ... reasons.

End of rant 

I’m glad my kids were grown by the time this aired. I wish I cold peel the layers of animation off and just let the backgrounds run with the sound off.

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical (2020)

Theater people. There’s a reason they used to run them out of town.

It’s like a community theater kid’s program mutation of Cats (the movie!) and The Star Wars Holiday Special. Kill it, kill it with a flaming plum pudding or drop a roast beast on its’ head. Just make it stop and make those responsible understand that this sort of thing can never happen again. Take in all the way to the Hague if necessary. 

The Walton’s Homecoming (2021)

Well, at least they didn’t make it a musical.

Not an improvement on the original in anyway, except perhaps for the families living conditions which have definitely taken a upward turn from the original. Everything is spacious and clean and, despite talk of the depression, there’s little evidence of actual hardship. The script has been re-written as to blunt the impact of the parts of the story it’s kept while adding nothing of merit in the new bits. 

One very nice touch is that the film features an introduction and narration from original John-Boy Richard Thomas,  I was hoping for a bit more quality and authenticity, seeing as it has real connections to the original. It’s certainly being tilted towards appealing to the CW’s core audience, but not so much as to be off-putting.

I imagine, if you haven’t seen 1971's Homecoming A Christmas Story, this will seem at least passable but, in comparison to the original it’s a noticeable step down. However, it’s also probably the most wholesome drama The CW has aired in some time so there’s something to be grateful for in that. 

In the end it wasn’t at all bad, it does have some merits - in following the original to a decent degree and featuring more good than merely passable performances - and I didn’t have to hate watch it, as I feared I might. But, if I have a hankering for the story again next year, I'll be going back to 1971 to get it.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Dinsdale's Festive Faves Day Five (Andre Kostelanetz, Bing Crosby, Albion Christmas Band, Kate Rusby, The Roches, Perry Como...)


Andre Kostelanetz - Wonderland of Christmas (1963)

Bing Crosby - White Christmas (1970)

I must have worn this one out on vinyl, cassette, and CD over the years.

The Roches - We Three Kings (1990)

Albion Christmas Band - Snow on Snow (2008)

Pretty much all the Albion band’s Christmas releases are frequent flyers around here during the holidays.

Let it Snow : Cuddly Christmas Classics from Capitol (2011)

A fabulous compilation of classic Christmas tunes.

Perry Como - Complete RCA Christmas Collection (2013)

Kate Rusby - Angels and Men (2017)

The second of Rusby’s three (so far) Christmas releases and just a joy to listen to. All three are wonderful and worth a listen.

Bonus Playlist: J-Pop Christmas

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Dinsdales Festive Faves Day Four (Beach Boys, Herb Alpert, Chanticleer, Lauren Daigle...)


Christmas with Patti Page (1955)

Mantovani - An Album Of Christmas Music (1958)

This seems to be the same album with a different track order.

The Beach Boys Christmas Album (1964)

Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass - Christmas Album (1968)

Vienna Boy’s Choir - Frohe Weihnacht (2008)

Chanticleer  - Magnificat (2010)

Lauren Daigle - Behold (2016)

Bonus Spotify Playlist - Christmas Jazz

Friday, November 26, 2021

Yule Logged: One December Night, A Christmas Story 2, Homecoming A Christmas Story, Blizzard, Dick Van Dyke, Noel....

 This time out I've got capsule reviews of six movies and three TV shows and, as usual, I'm a little bit sour...

One December Night (2021)

It’s an upside-down world these days. Hallmark manages to somehow snare a pair of bonafide top-notch actors with personality to burn for one of their Christmas romances and, instead of making a holiday buddy comedy about two old rock stars forced to come together for one last concert, they merely shoehorn them into a generic soap opera. Bruce Campbell and Peter Gallagher still elevate every scene they’re in, but they deserve so much better, and are the only reason to muddle through. The rest of the cast is okay but if Bruce and Peter can barely make the script work what hope do the day players have.

What a waste.

We need better screenwriters.

A Christmas Story 2 (2012)

Obviously unnecessary sequel thrusts little Ralphie into his teen years and the twin obsessions of cars and girls. While this might have worked with the original (and that’s a shaky might) it absolutely doesn’t here. In fact, in might have been interesting to see how the man who directed Porky’s would have handled more (im)mature topics in the A Christmas Story universe. Then A Christmas Story 3 could have been a horror film to draw on his previous Black Christmas experience. (Good lord, I hope I haven’t given any studio exec the bright idea to do that. Mea culpa.)

Acting is atrocious, script has some moments that might have worked in a better film, the production values were very Canadian,  overall the whole thing is a masterclass in mediocrity.

On the bright side, it’s not the worst A Christmas Story related production I’ve ever seen.

2nd Chance for Christmas (2019)

From the Director of Two Headed Shark Attack and Megashark vs, Crocosuarus comes 2nd Chance for Christmas, my first A Christmas Carol adaptation of the season. Can a man direct campy Syfi channel trash and produce a decent holiday flick? I mean, Bob Clark made Black Christmas and A Christmas Story, and while Two Headed Shark Attack is no Black Christmas the precedent is there. 

Obviously this is no A Christmas Story, it’s much closer to A Christmas Story 2, but at least this one didn’t make me sad and angry, just bored. Supporting players like A Christmas Story’s Zack Ward, Mark McGrath, and Jim O’Heir, can’t do much with the material their given and the featured players are umm, less than compelling. The script has a few good lines but only about one every twenty minutes. 

Holiday Road Trip [2013]

Okay, so the Director of Two Headed Shark Attack couldn’t nail a Christmas flick but surely the helmer of Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers will be able to summon the holiday magic, right. Right?

Well, for what it’s worth, Holiday Road Trip is the best movie I’ve seen so far today. It’s not great, not even good, but it’s better than the first three.

The Homecoming A Christmas Story (1971)

Spun this one up as a refresher before watching the CW remake.

An absolute masterpiece compared to today’s made for tv holiday fare. A terrific cast, many of whom went on to the eventual Walton's series, a solid script and excellent direction by Fielder Cook, who would go on to direct the 1973 TV remake of Miracle on 34th Street.

Blizzard (2003)

Dull. My attention wandered constantly. Even my wife snuck out of the room midway through and she likes Hallmark stuff. This was better than most Hallmark but really meh.

The Dick Van Dyke Show : The Alan Brady Show Presents (1963)

So when one of the best sitcoms of all time wants to do a holiday episode they decide to turn it into a variety show. Lots of folks love this episode but my relationship with it has remained entirely platonic. It's quite good  but I don't consider it an all time great. A song and dance number with DVD and MTM is the highlight. 

Last Man Standing - Putting a Hit on Christmas (2012)

Funny holiday episode from the serie's peak period. Not sentimental but fairly Christmassy just the same.

Noel the Happy Christmas Ornament (1992)

You learn something knew everyday. Today I learned that glass blown Christmas ornaments are sentient, omniscient and obnoxious, unless they're magically born of a glass blowers tear. So there's that.

Premiered back in 1992, but I don't remember ever watching it with my kids. It's not bad, but once is more than enough and I don't think my kids missed much. 

Fun tip: If you watch Noel try this drinking game - every time the narrator says the words  "a thing called" or "the thing called" take a glug of eggnog. By the end of the show you'll be off eggnog for the rest of the season. Your welcome.


New Christmas Music 2021: Dan+Shay, Neon Trees, Spoon, Cerys Matthews & Iwan Rheon, Tenille Towns, The Weeping Willows...

 Dan+Shay - Officially Christmas

Slick country-pop. Not bad but not great either.

Neon Trees - Holiday Rock

Pretty good through the first few listens.

Spoon - Christmas Time is Here Again

I always thought it was a shame The Beatles never managed to write a proper Christmas pop classic. This might be the closest, though it’s not that close. Spoon do as good a job as you can with the material. Decent enough, we’ll see how it ages.

Benjamin Francis Leftwich - Tinsel in the River

Another single making a decent first impression.

Tenille Towns - Songs for Christmas

Really nice 4-track EP. Definitely adding this to the main mix.

Nikoline Steen Kristensen - Rigtig Jul

Pleasant slice of Nordic pop.

The Weeping Willows - Songs of Winter

The festive follow-up to 2014’s Christmas Time Has Come, offers more of the Scandinavian Americana the band is known for. Features their hit single of last Christmas - Merry Christmas, My Love.

Tebey - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

Solid country cover.

Cerys Matthews & Iwan Rheon - A Christmas Wish

Another pretty decent pop single, this one uplifted by the marvelous Cerys Matthews (who also released a terrific Christmas album a few years ago).

Collabro & Cliff Richard - Mistletoe and Wine

I have mixed emotions with this one. I love Cliff, like the original song, but this adds nothing of note and Cliff is, not surprisingly, sounding his age. So, good on him for trooping on but I’ll stick with the classic rendition, I think.

Dinsdale's Festive Faves Day Three (Favorite Christmas Albums and Playlists)


Nat King Cole - The Christmas Song (1962)

The Andy Williams Christmas Album (1963)

Ultra-Lounge Christmas Cocktails Vol 2 (2000)

The Essential Winter’s Solstice (2005)

Hall & Oates - Home For Christmas (2006)

J.S. Bach - Christmas Oratorio

The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse (2019)

(Bonus Spotify Playlist) Christmas Choir

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Dinsdale's Festive Faves Day Two (Favorite Christmas Albums and Playlists)

Here are seven more great holiday albums (plus a bonus playlist!)

Christmas with the Normal Luboff Choir (1964)

Johnny Mathis - Give Me Your Love For Christmas (1969)

Bing Crosby - A Time to be Jolly (1972)

One of my favorite Christmas albums, now sadly out of print but available to stream as Bing Crosby Christmas Album

The Jethro Tull Christmas Album (2003)

Laurence Jalbert - Noel Des Anges (2004)

Thea Gilmore - Strange Communion (2009)

The Lori Mechem Quartet - Christmas is Coming: A Tribute to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (2012)

Bonus Playlist : A Deacon Blue Christmas

Do you hear? Something Festive, Radio City Music Hall, Kate Nash, Loretta Lynn, Weeping Willows, Choir of King's College...


Another random trip through my Christmas music library....

Something Festive (1970)

Terrific compilation from A & M Records back in 1970.

Merry Christmas New York from the Radio City Music Hall (1972)

This one has special sentimental value to me since it’s from about the time my parents began bringing us to the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City (actually we would hit the Music Hall a few other times each year as well but Christmas was always that much more special since it was usually accompanied by a tour of Christmas window displays and light installations around the city… NYC may have been falling apart but it was pure magic for a kid like me.)

Loretta Lynn - White Christmas Blue (2016)

Released fifty years after her first Christmas album White Christmas Blue is trad country done right with Miss Loretta doing a fine job even after all the years that have passed.. 

Noel McLoughlin - Christmas and Winter Songs From Ireland (2010)

Perfectly nice set of tunes. I don't hit it up that often, but I don't mind when it comes around on shuffle.

Weeping Willows - Christmas Time Has Come (2014)

A nice collection of tunes from the Swedish Americana band. I revisit it each year, though it’s in fairly light rotation. 

Have Faith with Kate Nash This Christmas (2013)

Huge Kate Nash fan here. Let’s see what she gave us for Christmas...

The rather explicit, but undeniably catchy punky power-pop I Hate You This Christmas is followed directly by an ambient tinged Silent Night, the indie-pop Christmas is in the Air, an Auld Lange Syne that’s pretty much the Silent Night redux, and finally the indie-folk Faith. Honestly only I Hate You is worth multiple listens and that only with mature ears.

Classical Corner

I’m a sucker for choral works year round but especially at Christmas...

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge -  Favourite Carols From King’s (2014)

Exceptional release from King’s, as always.

The St. Olaf Choral Ensemble - Ris’n With Healing in His Wings (2002)

The annual St. Olaf College Christmas Festival 2002 edition. Quite nice, as one would expect.

The Cambridge Singers / John Rutter : Candlelight (2011)

Another fantastic chorale collection.

Harmoniia Sacra - In Dulci Jubilo (2019)

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Dinsdale's Festive Faves Day One (Favorite Christmas Albums and Playlists)


Since I have been doing my Do You Hear? posts a couple of folks have asked what albums were actually in my heavy and medium rotations around the holidays. Fair question. So, here's the first in a series of posts where I'll share some of my favorite year in, year our Christmas albums and playlists. There won't be much commentary, just what I think is a lot of great seasonal music. Hopefully you'll find some old friends and some new favorites among my selections.

There aren't in anything but rough chronological order as I'm still picking them semi-at random from my library. I don't think I could make a definitive ranking of my faves if I tried (and I have and haven't been able to).

 Frank Sinatra - A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra (1957)

The Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Gunter Kallmann Choir - Christmas Sing-In (1970)

Medieval Baebes - Mistletoe and Wine (2003)

Tori Amos - Midwinter Graces (2009)

Poema  - Once a Year (2010)

Sufjan Stevens  - Silver and Gold (2012)

Plus a bonus playlist ....

Christmas Peaceful Piano (Spotify Playlist)

 Check back nearly every day for another set of wonderful tunes...

Monday, November 22, 2021

New Christmas Music 2021: Winter Tales, Lori McKenna, Sarah Reeves, Pistol Annies, Elizabeth Chan, Hiss Golden Messenger, Karla Bonoff....

Here are some more first blush reactions to various new Christmas releases. Remember, these are just one man’s thoughts, heck, I may even disagree with some of my initial takes as time goes on. Don’t worry about whether or not I like something, check it out for yourself.

Various Artists - Winter Tales

Contemporary Classical-ish compilation from DG which opens with my biggest disappointment, a mediocre track from two of my musical heroes - The Eno brothers. The rest of the album unfolds much as you’d expect. given the players (Peter Gregson, Vikingur Olafsson, Balmorhea, Mari Samuelsen, Ane Brun, and Dustin O'Halloran among others), and is quite good and highly recommended.


EODM Present a Boots Electric Christmas

Six-track EP from Eagles of Death Metal side project Boots Electric. A fairly spares and initiate offering in a lo-fi indie rock vein and as such it’s pretty good, especially O Holy Night, which is available in equally good regular and a capella flavors.


Hiss Golden Messenger- Come All Ye Faithful

A more accessible and fully realized indie folk/rock effort. I can easily see tracks like Grace, Lights of St. Stephen, and Shine a Light ending up on a lot of a certain type of playlist this season. I look forward to living with it a while longer to see what kind of staying power it has once i integrate my perennial favorites into the mix.


Morgan Evans - Christmas in the Sun

Not much of a Christmas tune but it’s fine.


Lori McKenna - Christmas is Right Here

A lovely, melancholy seasonal EP from one of my favorite modern singer/songwriters. One of the best yet this year. Christmas Without Crying goes right into heavy rotation.


Karla Bonoff - Silent Night

Another legendary Singer/Songwriter, another first-rate Christmas album. Bonoff’s classic tracks from the 70’s and 80’s still litter my everyday playlists so this is a real treat. Also a treat. The duet, on O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, with old friend Michael McDonald. Definitely returning to this one as the season progresses.


We the Kingdom - A Family Christmas

Excellent mini-album, in the Worship-Pop/Rock genre, featuring guest turns from Chris Tomlin and Dante Bowe.


Hunter Brothers - Joy to the World

Enjoyable stuff, if a bit poppy for my personal taste, from Canadian country act Hunter Bothers (and not "The" Hunter Brothers which I keep typing - I mean they are actual brothers, not just led by a dude named Hunter Brothers). Highlights include a duet with Madeline Merlo on Have Yourself a Merry Christmas and the light jazzy Santa Claus is Coming to Town.


Sarah Reeves - More the Merrier

Nice retro-vibed release from pop singer/songwriter Reeves. My expectations were low, most releases from today’s pop/dance stars don’t really resonate with me, so while the jazzy, trad, stylings may not be super unique these days it was still a pleasant surprise. One of my early faves.


Pistol Annies - Hell of a Holiday

Country super-trio hits the holiday trail with this fairly strong offering. The album could have used some editing (No-one needed another cover of If We Make it Through December) and the pace is uneven (but heck, who even listens to albums in order anymore, right?) . Early favorites include Believing and Snow Globe.


Elizabeth Chan - Greatest of These Days

Forget those who declare Mariah the “Queen of Christmas”, the true Queen is, and has been for a decade, Elizabeth Chan. Her newest release combines some of her previous holiday hits with a flurry of new tracks. Always heavy rotation.