Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pre-Season Mini Reviews

Dang, it was hot in Kansas City yesterday.  89 degrees on October 17th!  Nuts!  What better way to beat the heat than some pre-season mini reviews?

In the off-season I picked up quite a few used CDs at various thrift and used record stores, way more than usual, and my discriminating tastes were set by the wayside in hopes of finding a $2 gem,  Some have turned out to be pretty good, some not so much.  I want to offer up some mini-reviews of releases from years past.

Now, I usually don't write too much that's negative.  If there's something I don't like, I either don't review it, or try to find an appreciation vector and focus on that.  Some of tonight's reviews are a little less cheery than usual, dear reader.  You've been warned.

Tony Orlando & Dawn "A Christmas Reunion" (2005)

Those of us who are of a certain age, and who recall the glory of Tony Orlando & Dawn from the 1970's, probably have a pre-set expectation of a TO&D Christmas album, and you'd be pretty much right.  The sound and groove are generally the expected.  What was unexpected for me, was how much I liked this record.  The musical arrangements are fairly standard, but I really dug the vocal arrangements on several of the songs.  Mr. Orlando, Telma Hopkins, and Joyce Vincent do a really nice job with standards and a few originals.  Ms's. Hopkins and Vincent (collectively Dawn) do a stand-out job, either backing Tony or as soloists.  There is a really nice interplay happening here and there - quite pleasant.  "Mary, Did You Know" is very well done and "Savior's Day" was a completely wonderful surprise.  "I Lose It When I Hear White Christmas" has nice sentiment, but relies too much on Christmas references and catch phrases.  The low point - a bad arrangement of Emmylou Harris' uber-classic"Light of the Stable".  Erg.  Overall, though, at least a $6 return on a $2 investment.  Thumbs up.

Andy Griffith "The Christmas Guest: Stories and Songs of Christmas" (2003)

I love Andy Griffith as an entertainer.  Wholesome, down-home, friendly.  I have the utmost respect for him and his career accomplishments.  This collection of songs and stories, though, didn't hit my wheelhouse.  The stories are the bright spot, including the title track "The Christmas Guest".  I love the idea of "The Christmas Guest" story and like the actual writing, but I wish it would be mildly upgraded to improve a few dated phrases and some clumsy rhyming.  Andy Griffith is a perfect orator of this story, and his other spoken tracks are enjoyable.  His songs, though, sound like the old man sitting behind you in church singing too loudly.  Andy was past his singing prime when this record was made, and it's a tough go.  $3.99 investment, probably a $2.99 return.  My mom will like it, though.

Mojo Nixon "Horny Holidays" (1992)

Mojo Nixon's "Elvis is Everywhere" is freakin' awesome.  The song, the video, everything in all its Elvisness glory.  Alas, "Elvis is Everywhere" is not on this CD.  If listening to your drunk a-hole brother-in-law sing Christmas carols is your idea of a good time, this is the CD for you.  (BTW, I have neither drunk nor a-hole brothers-in-law, just to set the record straight)  Otherwise, it's painful, and not funny.  There were a couple moments on the original songs where there seemed to be novelty/comic potential, but no.  They faded fast.  Novelty Christmas songs are very hit or miss for me - I like a few, dislike many, and want them all to retain the spirit of Christmas even in their novelty.  Not so here.  This is crude and abrasive, and I'll never listen to it again.  $0 return on however much I paid, even $1 was too much.

Destiny's Child "8 Days of Christmas" (2001)

I found this at a Hastings store in Manhattan, KS, and decided to spend the few bucks to check it out.  Beyonce, you know.  She's pretty darned good.  Destiny's Child was a hot group, though I never listened to them because they just weren't my thing.  I had low expectations because their style is not compatible with my taste, but high hopes because you never know where you'll find a nice little treat of a song.

Most of the album was pretty much that - just not to my taste at all, but I tried to appreciate the arrangements, new lyrics to old standards, and general production of the album.  I wasn't really liking it, but I was tolerating it, and giving it the "gotta play it all the way through once" respectful treatment.

Then came "O Holy Night".  Sorry DC fans, but this was the most ear-splitting version of the song I've ever heard.  Michelle Williams, to my ear, can't hit the notes in this performance.  She is flat 80% of the time, sharp 10%, and nasally.  I couldn't make it all the way through the song.  And, apart from the intonation, the runs and vocal gymnastics just messed up the most classic of all Christmas songs.  Two songs later, "This Christmas" came on, and out came the CD from the player.  About $4 investment, I'll take a big ol' loss on this one.  Maybe I'll give it away to someone who actually likes DC to begin with.  Or, perhaps an Evil Secret Santa gift Bwa ha ha ha ha.

That's it for tonight.  Hope no one was offended by some not-so positive reviews.

Anyone want a barely played Mojo Nixon?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

200 Days of Christmas

Here in the 'pre-season' we're doing some miscellaneous posts, stretching the blogging muscles, preparing for the last 61 days of the year.  So you'll be seeing some posts about various topics here in the next couple of weeks.

Today is notice of one of the best things ever to hit Facebook:  200 Days of Christmas.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, and you're not following 200 Days of Christmas on Facebook, you need to.   Matt, who writes the daily entries on 200 Days of Christmas, is a veritable treasure trove of Christmas music knowledge.  He picks a Christmas song daily, shares a link to Youtube or other source for the music, and gives the song a quick write-up.  We have the song info, artist history, facts about the genre, other music by the artist, and a whole bunch more.  It's like a Daily Devotional of Christmas music.  I've learned so much about so many great songs - thanks Matt!

I could be greedy and ask for it to be upgraded to 365 Days of Christmas next year, but man, even Santa needs a break.  I'll be happy for 200 Days every year!

Here's that link again: 200 Days of Christmas  Head over to Facebook, "Like" the page, and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Christmas with the US Department of Agriculture Radio Service

A few months ago on one of my lunchtime browsings around the Internet Archive, I came across a collection of documents from the US Department of Agriculture Radio Service.  Each document was the transcript of a 'Housekeeper's Chat" or a "Homemaker's Chat" that was read on the USDA Radio Service.  I found many transcripts related to Christmas, the oldest from 1927, and the most recent from 1945.

There are many topics covered in the transcripts, such as selection and care of Christmas greenery and trees, budgeting, games and activities, the creation of a Christmas dinner, and many recipes.  There are also several transcripts about Christmastime overseas, meals for our military, and other topics related to our involvement in World War II.  December 15, 1941 is about shipping food packages to "the boys at camp".  December 16, 1942: "Christmas Trees and Greens in Wartime".  December 25, 1942: "Christmas Dinner Abroad".

I found these to be fascinating glimpses into Christmas in the first half of the 20th century.  And, if you think about it for a moment, 1927 is not far from being one hundred years ago.  We think of the Christmases of Charles Dickens as 'a hundred years ago', but time is flying my friends.  Some of us right now may have 100 year old recordings in our collection.

I worked through the individual PDF files of the USDA transcripts and removed the blank pages.  I then created a master file of all the individual files merged together into one.  Then I printed the merged file, 10 sheets/20 pages at a time over several days at an undisclosed location. then took them to Kinkos and have them spiral bound for my reading pleasure.  (Printing at Kinkos would have been in excess of $300; spiral binding was $4.95).  The final product is 254 pages of Christmas vintagery.

I wanted to share these with you in case you also love items from Christmases long past.  There are two links below, one for a zip file of the individual files, and one for a zip file of the merged documents.  I hope you enjoy them.

Oh yeah - they include a few different fruitcake recipes (like the one pictured above, from 1929)  :-)  I'll be trying out a new variety or two this season.

Individual files:  download link

Merged file: download link

Monday, September 19, 2016

"Happy Holidays" from Rocknoceros

Late last season our friends at Waldmania sent a CD from Rocknoceros titled "Happy Holidays".   Rocknoceros is a three-man band: Coach Cotton, Williebob, and Boogie Woogie Bennie.  The trio hails from the Washington D.C. area, and is a family-friendly, kid-focused group that combines music with a little bit of learnin' and a whole lot of fun.  Think They Might Be Giants doing kid music all the time (instead of just part of the time).

"Happy Holidays" takes on the plural form as it indeed spans the holiday season, from Halloween through Thanksgiving and Hannukah, spending some extra time at Christmas before ending with a Happy New Year.  "Halloween Masquerade" kicks off the album, a whimsical minor-key song about spooks and goblins and bags of candy, all in the name of Halloween dress-up and fun times.  "This Thanksgiving" conjures up memories of food and family at Grandma's house.  "The Dreidel Song" adds some new and unexpected dimensions to the classic tune we all know and love.  Christmas gets a 5 song treatment, including "Snow Day" about the joys of, well, a snow day, and "Wenceslas", a retelling of one of my favorite Christmas songs with modernized lyrics and a first-person point of view through most of the song.  It's a wonderful adaptation of the classic that makes the essence of the story much more understandable to the younguns.  Wrapping up the album is "Auld Lang Syne (Enjoy Yourself)", an uplifting message in song encouraging us to keep things in perspective, especially as the year turns over, and make sure we enjoy ourselves and our friends and family.  It's a very positive and happy conclusion to the record, and an important one at that.  Enjoy yourself!

"Happy Holidays" is a joyful, upbeat, and chock-full-of-fun record.  I love what Rocknoceros has done with their original songs and their re-molding of Christmas classics.  I don't know how the kids' music market works these days, but if I had had this album when I was growing up in the late '60s (a vinyl LP for my little blue record player) I would have played it all year round.  It has just the right spirit and energy for the kids, and it's fun for adults too.

If there are kids in the family, you should check out Rocknoceros' "Happy Holidays".  Maybe as a pre-holiday gift. Someone have a September or October birthday?  It's a perfect present!

And kudos to Waldmania PR, too.  I love their approach to their market and their focus on kids entertainment.  All of their offerings that have come my way have been very high quality, with focus on talent, creativity, and all-around good entertainment.

"Happy Holidays" Amazon link
Rocknoceros website

Sunday, September 18, 2016


I'd love for it to actually be Septembrrrr! weather, but the truth is that it was in the mid-80s today here in Kansas City, and the 7-day forecast is for all highs in mid-80s and lows in low 60s.  I'm ready for the 40s and below.  Just call me Snow Miser.  (Go ahead - many others already have).

September does bring about the awakening of the blog and blog-related activities.  Der Bingle has been busy in the off-season, and I have already been working on many things for all of you faithful readers.

Like what, you say?

Well, I have almost all the principle ripping done for this year's shares, with only one album left to rip and just one other set of audio files to process.  Way ahead of schedule on that front.  Then there is the cover art scanning and stitching, the file zipping and uploading, and then everything will be ready to share.  Interesting stuff this year, folks, with a story behind it all, too.

What else?  I'm working on some artist interviews and/or mini Q&As.  I have one new album submission sent to me this year already, and a couple leftover from last year.  Hopefully (as always) I'll keep up with what is coming in.  I may have some art of a different kind to share out, too, as I'm always branching out to the new shiny Christmas object that catches my eye.

Assuming I can keep up the pace, I have lots of stuff for you all this year, and some of it will start pretty early in the season.  So, please check in early and often so you don't miss out!

Fall begins in just a few days, and the blog posts soon after.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Kickstarter: Holly JULY Christmas with Phoebe Gildea and Noah Brenner

Just a brief post here today to support a great little Christmas music Kickstarter project ending in the early, early AM on Aug 1.  Phoebe Gildea and Noah Brenner are creating a new album of Christmas music, due out for this holiday season.

Phoebe Gildea is a soprano who focuses on opera and musical theatre.  Noah is a harper (now, that's a new word for me - I always thought is was harpist), a singer, and an arranger.  They met while tango dancing, and are now collaborating on what should be an excellent collection of Christmas music!

Phoebe and Noah have a quite modest Kickstarter goal, that as of this posting is less than $1000 from being successfully backed.  They have a splendid selection of backer rewards, including near-immediate downloads of two bonus songs.

Please visit their Kickstarter page, read about their project, and watch their video.  Phoebe and Noah are happy, funny, energetic, and enthusiastically committed to this project.  They are exactly the type of artists I love to support, and they will give you a little charge of good feelin's, which all of us need these days.

Love these artists, love their project, and I hope you'll visit their page and be convinced to be a backer.

Merry July!

Have a Holly JULY Christmas Kickstarter site

Phoebe Gildea website - listen to Phoebe!

Noah Brenner website


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Der Bingle's Tips for a Christmas in July Party!

Merry July good people!

There are many in the Christmas-on-the-web community that share a little taste of the holidays in mid-Summer, celebrating Christmas in July.  I think this is a beautiful thing, as, in July we are now closer to Christmas next than we are to Christmas past.  This year I thought I'd share a few tips to a guaranteed successful Christmas in July Party!

Well, anytime in July is good, but it would be best to avoid early July so you don't interfere with Independence Day festivities.  So, I think that July 25th is perfect, being 5 months from Christmas, but the Saturday closest to the 25th will work splendidly.

Der Bingle loves traditional Christmas cards, and I think that sending Christmas cards out to your guests as invitations really gets the spirit in high gear from the get go.  It may be tough to find Christmas cards at your local retailers this time of year, but fortunately Christmas on the internet never stops.  Here are some of my favorite sites for Christmas cards:

Paperless Post - a veritable treasure trove of cards for all occasions, including an extensive Christmas collection.

A couple designs from Paperless Post:

Retro Christmas Card Company - modern cards with a retro feel.

This is a great one from Retro with a party feel:

Kansas City local Artist Stephanie Summers' holiday cards 

And, I really dig the cards created by the Museum of Modern Art

Find a design that fits your party and surprise your guests with a summertime Christmas card!


It's much too hot in these parts (Missouri) to wear an ugly Christmas sweater in July, but fear not!  There are plenty of sources for ugly Christmas sweater T-shirts on the internet!  Here's one: TeePublic.  And there are many others to choose from, including quite a selection on Amazon.  So, stay cool and still dress for the occasion!


Even though it's Summer, you can still keep the spirit of Christmas dinner alive and well.  Instead of a roast turkey or a baked, glazed ham, try smoked sliced turkey and ham from your local deli.  You can smoke it yourself on your grill, as long as you have a way for the smoke to permeate it.  Get thin-sliced ham and turkey, and enclose it in a grill basket (like this).  Soak some wood chips, like hickory, mesquite, or apple.  Get your charcoal grill going, add the soaked chips to get a good smoke going, and place the meat in the basket on the grill.  The smoke will give the meat excellent flavor.

Fresh summer vegetables like red peppers and green beans add festive color to your menu.

And it wouldn't be a summer party without home-made ice cream!  Here's the ol' family recipe for excellent home-made vanilla:

Vanilla Ice Cream

4-5 eggs - beaten
1 1/2 cup sugar
2-3 cups whole milk

1 can evaporated milk
1 pint half & half
1/2 pint whipping cream

Peppermint candies, crushed,

Stir eggs, sugar, and milk together.  Cook over slow heat in top of double boiler, stirring occasionally, until it coats a spoon slightly.  Add evaporated milk, half & half, and whipping cream.  Stir to mix.  Add this mix to your ice cream freezer and freeze according to freezer manufacturer's directions.

For our manual hand-crank freezer, I crank for 30 minutes, constantly keeping an ice-salt mixture around the freezer canister.

Once the ice cream is frozen, immediately add the crushed peppermint candy and mix well, then serve.  Now it's truly a Christmas in July frozen minty treat!


What would a Christmas party be without Christmas music?  Just a regular ol' party, that's what.  The final ingredient in a great Christmas in July party is a super, upbeat selection of Christmas music.  A few recommendations:

The Beach Boys Christmas Album - a perfect blend of summertime sounds and Christmas
The Ultra-Lounge Christmas Cocktails sets
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's Christmas albums
Brian Setzer Orchestra's Christmas albums

Or you can stream Christmas playlists from Amazon Prime Music or services such as 8tracks or Mixcloud.  The King of Jingaling himself has several Mixcloud playlists ready to kick up your Christmas in July party jams!


Now, add in some fun activities and you have the perfect Christmas in July party.  Maybe you can do a summer-themed steal-a-gift/white elephant exchange.  Maybe some Christmas karaoke by the pool.  I'd love to hear your ideas for fun and games.

So there you have it - Der Bingle's Christmas in July Party Tips - go have a Merry ol' time!