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 

Vintage Christmas Music YouTube Jukebox Day Three


Grandfather Kringle - Burl Ives 

Snow Coach - Russ Conway


 Gus Schwartz 

 A Marshmallow World = Bing Crosby

 Santa Claus, Jr. ~ Eddie Cletro with The Frontiersmen

White Christmas  - The Ravens 

 Ralph Emery

Disney Jingle Bells Book and Record Read-Alongs 1976 & 1987


Here are two entirely different Disney Book and Record Read-Alongs titled Jingle Bells...

 Jingle Bells | 1976 Little Golden Book & Record 

 Disney "Jingle Bells" Book-and-Audio Read-Along (1987) 

Friday, November 18, 2022

New Christmas Releases from A Girl Named Tom, The Tabernacle Choir, PG Roxette, Kalani Pe’a, Blane Howard and more...

 One More Christmas

A Girl Named Tom

I haven’t watched The Voice in ages so I was unfamiliar with A Girl Named Tom but based on their holiday release, One More Christmas, I’m going to have to check them out. This is a charming and fun collection and about as poppy as I can take. The originals hold up really well among the more familiar fare.


O Holy Night: Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square

Wish You the Best for Xmas

Per Gessle / PG Roxette

Swedish pop legend Per Gessle (Gyllene Tider, Roxette) offers this four track holiday Single/EP (it’s really two songs plus two instrumental versions of those songs).Catchy europop,


Purple Hawaiian Christmas
Kalani Pe’a

Perfectly pleasant, if fairly generic holiday offering elevated by a warm layer of Polynesian flavor. If you like that sort of thing, you’ll like this sort of thing.

Happy Xmas
Michela Anne

Four track EP limited by its choice of four massively over-covered songs that should IMHO, just be left alone if you don't have something exceptional to add to them. Outside of a slightly  better than average take on Last Christmas nothing here really stands out. Most of the tracks are fine but do nothing to justify listening to them as opposed to the existing iconic versions. It doesn't help that they include one of my least favorite Xmas songs, and a song so generic that only its original version is worth listening to. Plus, I already have a handful of amazing versions of River to choose from. Michela Anne’s take on the one song that can survive incessant cloning, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, is…fine.

Fans of the artist will enjoy this, no doubt.

A Living Room Christmas
Lunar Vacation

Three track single/EP that at least tries to salvage their uninspired choice of covering Last Christmas by making it fairly unique, fairly. I’m guessing whoever wrote the Spotify Christmas algorithm was a big Wham fan, what else would explain the glut of these covers?) The other two tracks include a a slightly left field take on Skating and a surprisingly recent cover choice Norah Jones’ Christmas Calling (Jolly Jones).

Christmas in the Car
Blane Howard

Solid country release with a nice mix of familiar tunes with fresh arrangement plus an excellent new song. There are a couple of tracks that aren’t all they might have been, a tepid take on The Christmas Song, for example., but a generally enjoyable effort.


Christmas Night with You
Straight No Chaser

One great thing, or maybe not so great, depending,, about the Christmas music scene is that it turns would be one hit wonders into perennial chart hitters. If Straight, No Chasers’ claim to fame had been a clever cover of almost anything other than a Christmas song they would be novelty, with a small n, act. Luckily for them it led to a seasonal windfall, (not to the same extent of say Pentatonix, but still…) sadly it leads to abysmal tracks like this one being forced upon us at holiday time. Unlistenable.

We’re Home for Christmas
Our distant worlds

Minimal solo piano arrangements that barely register even as background music. 

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Diego de Galdeano

Another low effort solo piano EP tailor made for Spotify “Relax” “Peaceful” “Calm” playlists.

Christmas Time (Is Here Again)

Faithful cover of the Beatles Christmas tune, so barely listenable

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Ordeal by Hallmark (Part 2) My Grown Up Christmas List, A Maple Valley Christmas, Well Suited for Christmas, All Saints Christmas and more...


I feel slightly guilty that I'm not including my recent viewing of the Lindsey Lohan rom-com Falling For Christmas here. Not because it was a Netflix Original, Netflix is more than capable of turning out junky Christmas flicks, but because it was a pretty good movie. And, I mean :movie" as opposed to Hallmarkesque inspired holiday product consume repeat consume repeat. So, if you want to accuse me of putting my thumb on the scale by omitting a much better than average film from my ordeal - fair enough.

My Grown Up Christmas List

Inoffensive but dull trifle that a few years ago would have been considered a weak effort but nowadays it’s solidly middle of the road. It tries to do something a bit more interesting with time jumps but I've already forgotten most of what happens in the film.

A Maple Valley Christmas 

Epic drama set in the rough and tumble world of a family Montana Maple Syrup Barons, it's basically Yellowstone with pancakes. Well, not really, I wish it was though. Instead we get a pedestrian real estate McGuffin driven romcomdram.

Though Hallmark are the ne plus ultra of these types of festive fodder they're clearly not the only ones peddling quickie Christmas pix this time of year so, let's move on with a couple of offerings from Lifetime - Television for Women...

Well Suited for Christmas 

My first Lifetime flick of the season combines my favorite time of year with the world of high fashion, something I literally care nothing about. Despite my antipathy towards the films McGuffin, a bachelor tuxedo design contest, the film wasn’t terrible. It was certainly a step up from My Grown Up Christmas List, if only a small step, though it felt as if the Christmas aspect was merely an afterthought.

Merry Swissmas

Another Lifetime movie, this one starring Jodie Sweetin as an architect whose Mom owns a Swiss inn , in the Swiss quarter of British Columbia apparently, and nothing interesting or charming happens. It’s too bad because it had a promising premise. This one was a definite step down even from MGUCL. In last place so far.

Back to Hallmark 

All Saints Christmas

Not a holiday musical starring 90's girl group All Saints (which is probably a good thing ?), but it is set in some fictional music industry where huge stars can browse Christmas markets on their own and their albums go "double gold".

Pretty good New Orleans set rom-com, definitely above average thanks to a snappy script and some solid performances from the leads. I sort of enjoyed it.

Christmas on Mistletoe Lake

While All Saints Christmas buffeted my sails a bit but Christmas on Mistletoe Lake was like hitting a dead calm.

Meh but not terrible holiday filler. I've already forgotten it, which is becoming a bit of a theme here. FWIW, I can still recall loads of scenes, snippets of dialogue and major plot points and superior performances from a bunch of Christmas movies from the last few years that I've only seen once and yet the vast majority of these films slide of my brain like it's been coated in Teflon .

In Merry Measure 

In which a group of seemingly sentient mannequins act out a dull and predictable story about a a high school singing competition. The “actors” are surprisingly lifelike, with little of the uncanny valley effect you usually see with this technology, though the supporting characters are still stock royalty free NPCs . Sadly the AI scriptwriting app has produced a weaker than usual story and In Merry Measure doesn’t measure up to much at all in the end.


Before we get to the current standings I want to stress that, while I have a general disdain for these films, it's absolutely not the actors or the crews that I dislike, it's the cynical assembly line corporate product churn that grinds my gears. Just as I think the fans of these films are lovely people who just want to settle into some cozy comfort viewing, I'm sure the bulk of the people on the screen and behind the scenes are doing the best they can with what they've been given and what little seems to be expected of them.

I don't hate the players, only the way the game is being played.

So, this time most of the films fell into the "Meh" category with only one Watchable, meaning if I had to rewatch it I could, if I had to. The good news is only one fell to the newly renamed Unrewatchable ranking. I've switched to a softer definition of "I would walk out of the room, and maybe the building, if the alternative was having to watch t again". 

I've also added a new ranking, the Worth Rewatching. So far only Netflix's Falling For Christmas would have qualified, but since I reviewed it in my Yule Blogged series instead I'm not sure I should include it.


The Watchables

  • All Saints Christmas
  • Ghost of Christmas Always
  • A Kismet Christmas

The Mehs

  • Christmas on Mistletoe Lake
  • Jolly Good Christmas
  • Merry Swissmas
  • My Grown Up Christmas List
  • Well suited for Christmas 

The Unrewatchables

  • Catering Christmas
  • Christmas Bedtime Stories
  • Destined at Christmas
  • In Merry Measure 
  • Noel Next Door
  • We Wish You a Married Christmas

Vintage Christmas Music YouTube Jukebox Day Two


Vintage Christmas Music YouTube Jukebox Day Two

 I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas ~ Phil Reed (1947) 

 Rita Faye -  I Fell Out Of A Christmas Tree 


Jingle Rock · Tommy Lee & The Orbits

 Camarata Chorus Jungle Tree 

 Ralph Emery Christmas Can't Be Far Away 

 Mike Sammes Singers - Deck The Halls 

 Billy Beau - Santa's Coffee 

 Little Angels – “I’ll Be A Little Angel” (Warwick) 1961 

 Look Out The Window (The Winter Song) (1951) - The Heartbeats 

Monday, November 14, 2022

Do you hear? Capsule Christmas Music Reviews with naomi & goro , Molly Burch, 101 Strings, Audrey Landers, Jan Garber, Music Box Christmas and more...

I'm back again trolling randomly through my Christmas music collection, hopefully uncovering hidden gems and rediscovering old favorites.

  Presente De Natal (2003) - naomi & goro 

Pleasant acoustic holiday offering from Japanese Bossa Nova Duo naomi & goro. Highlights include Presente De Natal and Borboleta

The Molly Burch Christmas Album (2019)

A nice collection of, often Americana-influenced, holiday songs from indie pop singer Molly Burch

The Glory of Christmas (The Sound of Magnificence at Christmas) -101 Strings

Despite the grandiose title this classic slice of vintage "Beautiful music" makes for perfect background music during the holidays for those times you need a little more oomph in the atmosphere. The 101 Strings were marketed as the first "Stereo Scored Orchestra" so this would have ended up on myriad holiday turntables as the Hi-Fi craze took off. of   There are no bravura performances or sophisticated arrangements and there don't need to be. This and other music like it is a big part of the soundtrack of Christmas Past and I cherish it.

Ring Christmas Bells  - Arthur Lynds Bigelow (1956)

Bell choir with organ accompaniment, a big genre back In the day that produced a bunch of certified snoozers, but this collection of mellow tunes is a winner. A wonderful nostalgic mood setter.

Christmas Dance Party - Jan Garber (1960)

A nice little big band record that just misses out on being a Festive Fave.

Audrey Landers Winter Wonderland (1992)

Best known, along with sister Judy, as a stereotypical amiable, ample blossomed, ditz in countless TV shows and movies, Audrey Landers also sings. Despite her screen persona, this collection of familiar holiday staples isn't a campy novelty album but a decent, if unexceptional, showcase for Ms. Landers vocal aspirations. If you walked into a nice restaurant or a second-tier cabaret and heard her sing you wouldn't be disappointed, but I can't see myself ever revisiting it, though the track "You Came To Me on Christmas" is the most interesting track here. The inclusion of a number of German language tracks makes me wonder if she was a bit of a Hasselhoff over there.

Upon further research, it would seem I have an English language version of Das Audrey Landers Weihnachtsalbum and that Landers has a number of releases and tens of thousands of monthly listeners on Spotify. TIL.

Christmas - Berdien Senberg (1986)

Pleasant enough Classical-lite record from Dutch flutist  Berdien Stenberg. Nothing earth shattering but made for nice background music.

Christmas Music Box Favorites - A Study in Stereophonic High Fidelity Sound

I don't mind a nice little music box tune hear and there during the holidays, though I'm not sure I'd want to sit through an entire album of them in one sitting. This is pretty good for the genre.