Friday, December 29, 2023

Wrapping Up 2023

Hello all!  It's time to wrap up 2023 here at Merry & Bright.  Covid Update:  Today is day 6 after first symptoms.  All symptoms are gone, I'm feeling fine, but still testing faintly positive on the test strip.  So, activity will be limited for one more day.  Protocol says that I can go out masked (since there's been no fever at all and symptoms are gone), so I'm going to hit a couple of record stores briefly today.  But that's about it.  Seeing "Godzilla Minus One" was on the agenda today, but I think I'll push that back until I test negative.

Family Christmas festivities are still scheduled for New Year's Day, so that'll be good.  The youngest daughter was at the Pop Tarts Bowl in Orlando yesterday (12/28).  We saw her on the broadcast a couple times.  And, being with the winning team, she got to help eat the edible mascot after the victory.  We're looking forward to her return to hear all about the trip.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the blog this year - I appreciate your comments and reading the blog.

Special thanks to Laurie Cameron for delivering the best artist interview I've published.

Special thanks to Tim Neely for his lengthy interview.  I think the collector community really enjoyed Tim's insights and thoughts.

As always, thanks to the Brotherhood of Christmas Music: (INPO) Ernie, Rob, Brad, Greg, Hugh, Tim, Tim, Mitchell, and all the rest, many of whom I'm sure I am unintentionally omitting.

Lots of great music came to Merry & Bright this year.  If you haven't had a chance to scroll through the New Music Roundups, I hope you can take a few minutes and check them out.  Mango Island Sound is a great new friend of Merry & Bright; I can't wait to check out the catalog of Death Hags; Frida Hansen may take the prize for beautiful new voice this year; and so many more!

What will 2024 bring?  Hard to tell.  I love doing the artist interviews and profiles, so I imagine the mojo of the blog will continue to lean that direction.  I feel that I fill a bit of a gap there, amongst the top Christmas Music blogs.  New music features and roundups - yep, those will stay.  

Music Sharing:  I didn't have as many this year, and think that will continue to be a trend.  I'm going to stop buying vinyl "that I don't have" (like the Klokken Ringers, although it was pretty good) and instead only buy ones that really intrigue me (like Nora Aunor).  If the intriguing ones are sharable, I'll share.  After moving hundreds of records to the basement this week, I need to slow the acquiring and enjoy what I have.  Maybe I'll ship the excess to Ernie.  Nah, he's got them all already :-)

So, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy New Year, Happy and Safe Holiday of your personal choosing!   Be Great - Do Great Things - Be Nice To Others.   See you around!

Monday, December 25, 2023

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!  I hope everyone's Christmas was joyful, safe, and happy :-)  Here at the Bingle house, my Covid symptoms are pretty much like a head cold.  Not too bad, ups and downs in sniffles and energy level.  I'll be house-bound for at least one more day, likely two.  Shades of 2020, we did a family Zoom call this afternoon for the holiday.  We hope that this is the last Zoom Christmas.

Take care everyone!

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Bah! Humbug.

Well, the plans were Christmas Eve brunch at my son's house, with all the siblings who could make it.  Then, back home for a while before 4:00 Christmas Eve mass, then home for the evening.  Christmas Day plans were a little altered anyway - casual late afternoon with the kids and granddaughter, stockings, soup 'n' sandwiches.  Then big family Christmas was planned for New Year's Day, since our youngest daughter is away, working as a nutrition intern at a college football bowl game in Orlando.

But - a positive Covid test this morning busted those plans all up.

I haven't had Covid since early January 2021, so this is round 2 for me.  Had a sore throat last night, and was more concerned that it might be strep, and I'd need to find a testing location and get an antibiotic on Christmas Eve.  But I did a Covid test first, and it was a big positive.  I have a slight sore throat, a little nasal congestion, and seem to be a bit more tired than usual, but that's it.  But, in the name of not spreading it around, plans today and probably tomorrow are scuttled.  

Oh well - the Christmas season was already extending by a week, so there's a silver (and gold) lining.  Now we just hope that no one else get it before New Year's Day.

So, Merry Christmas Eve everyone!  I'll be back with a couple other rambling posts before wrapping things up for the year.  I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday!

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Bells! Bells! Bells!

My final share for this season is a fine, joyful collection of well known Christmas carols by the Klokken Ringers.  I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is a very nice album of 14 songs, leaning toward the spiritual rather than the secular.  Accompanied by organ, French horn, and flute, the arrangements are classic and the sound is very fitting for your Christmas spirit.

Please enjoy The Klokken Ringers I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day  download link

Friday, December 22, 2023

Christmas Time!

Whew.  After that last share, we need something to get back into the real Christmas spirit.  I think I've got just the ticket, Christmas Time, a compilation album from the Vocalion label featuring some of the biggest Country & Western stars of the day.  

Loretta Lynn, Kitty Wells, Red Foley, Ernest Tubb, and Webb Pierce are featured on this record, along with some artists that aren't quite as well known - Elton Britt & The Pinetoppers, The Maddox Brothers and Rose, and Lonzo and Oscar.  All in all, this is a really good collection of vintage C&W Christmas recordings, all nicely and subtly arranged, none of the over-production that is so prevalent now.

The album closer "Jangle Bells" by Lonzo and Oscar, is especially refreshing.  A semi-novelty song to the tune of Jingle Bells, it's a bit of humor with a nice fiddle break.

Although this contains Bobby Helms' "Jingle Bell Rock", widely available on nearly every CD in your local thrift shop, I haven't excluded it from this record (I suspect other of these songs are too).  I figure everyone grabbing this album already has JBR in their collection.

Enjoy Christmas Time!

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Merry? Christmas?

Here on the longest night, the day on the calendar where we here in North America have the fewest hours of daylight and therefore the most hours of darkness, it seems fitting to share Born To Die.  My reaction when I saw this in the record store was "Well, that's cheery."  The opening song and title track reference suffering and shame.  "March of the Wisemen" certainly has a funereal dirge quality to it.  "I'm Goin' Home", sung by composer Ron Hamilton, speaks of being tired of what the Earth offers. 

If you're tired of Ho Ho Ho's and jingling bells, this may be your remedy.  While "Listen to the Christmas Bell" is more celebratory than the rest of the "Christmas Cantata", most of the chorale music, with three soloist numbers, is pretty much a downer.  Frank Garlock, President of the record label, says that Born To Die "contains some of the most beautiful Christmas music ever written".  He calls it "refreshing".  I'll let you be the judge.

This is Dread Pirate Ron's first full-length cantata.  I'm sure history shows whether he composed additional cantatas, but I didn't go look.

Eleven tracks.  Most of them reference Christmas.  

Enjoy?  Born To Die  download link

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The Soul of Santa: Doing Good This Christmas Season

What could be better than a new album of amazing Christmas music?  Easy! When purchasing that album supports a charitable organization with abundant heart and overflowing soul, in their mission to ensure that everyone has a space in this world, regardless of disability.

The Soul of Santa "Do Good" Foundation is a Kansas City-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization striving to connect individuals with disabilities in our community to the resources they need to live a full, productive life.  

Donate to The Soul of Santa

The Soul of Santa describes their mission as "Our mission is to connect high-functioning individuals with disabilities from low-to-moderate income households to resources. Through personalized holistic workforce development plans, fundraising, community awareness and education, we will help empower them to experience the fullness of life."  The story of the foundation, all the good they do in the Kansas City community, and how to support them is on their website.

This has been a busy holiday season for The Soul of Santa.  They hosted a Christmas Tree Lighting at the historic 18th & Vine jazz district in Kansas City.  They produced a "Very Jazzy" Holiday Benefit Concert, featuring the incredible Lonnie McFadden, a true gentlemen and a gem of the Kansas City  music scene.  

Best of all, the organization pulled together some of the finest musicians around to produce "The Soul of Santa" Christmas album, 13 tracks of soul-stirring holiday tunes (available to purchase on Amazon and stream from the usual streaming sites).  Buying the album directly supports The Soul of Santa and their mission.  The album features "The Soul of Santa" by AriaCamille, "A Big Dawg Christmas" by Roblo Dastar, "Christmas Magic" by The Royal Chief, "Slidin on Christmas" by Xta-C, and many more!

At the Ali Center in Louisville, KY, one can purchase items in support of the center and their mission that state "Be Great - Do Great Things".  What The Soul of Santa does in our community is indeed Great.  Please consider supporting The Soul of Santa by purchasing the album or making a donation to them through their website.  Or volunteer!  There are many ways each of us can support their wonderful work.

Soul of Santa Executive Director Dennis Powell took some time out of his very busy Christmas season to answer a few questions about The Soul of Santa (the organization and the album).  Thank you Dennis!


Q&A with Dennis Powell, Executive Director, The Soul of Santa "Do Good" Foundation

Q: “The Soul of Santa” is a wonderful new album for this holiday season. How did the idea of producing a Christmas album to support the mission of The Soul of Santa “Do Good” Foundation come about?

A: Our founder, Tucker Lott, has written poetry for many years and he had the vision to create original music for Aria to sing with her angelic voice. We were able to connect with Grammy nominated super producer Jo Blaq who took this project to another level. After Aria passed it became even more important to give her music a grand release as a way to honor her. We knew that her voice would touch people once they heard it and it would also be a unique way for people to support our foundation. In talking with the team Shawn Edwards had the idea to create a compilation album in the vein of the “A Very Special Christmas” album series and we decided to expand the project to 12 songs as a play on the “12 Days of Christmas.”

Q: Can you tell us a little about the artists that appear on the album, and their connection to The Soul of Santa?

A: We cannot thank Jo Blaq, Roblo Dastar, The Royal Chief, Paula Saunders, Andrea Tribitt, XTA-C and Doris Donley enough for lending their talents to this project. Not only are these incredible artists but they are all from right here in Kansas City! They all believed in the mission of our foundation and nearly all of the songs were created just for our album. Jo Blaq has become family and is a staunch supporter ambassador for our foundation. We are eternally grateful for their support and ask that you give them a follow!

Q: How has the Kansas City community responded to the efforts of The Soul of Santa organization over the past few years, and are you seeing some excitement this year about the Christmas album?

A: The awareness of our organization is growing which has led to increased support. Many people have no idea how much work we are doing to truly embody our mission to “Do Good 365!” Our Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremonies centered on disability awareness were on a much grander scale in terms of production and sponsorship support and we saw increased participation as a result. We expect that the attendance at our fundraiser concert will grow as we continue to connect with the community. This has by far been our best year in terms of impact and it is only going to get better from here!

Q: There is a special story about one of the artists on the album, AriaCamille. Can you share her story and the connection to the album?

A: Aria was one of Tucker’s daughters and she is the inspiration for our foundation’s mission. Aria lived with epilepsy however she did not let that, or anything else, dampen her spirit. She was unable to complete chiropractic school due to epilepsy so she transitioned to becoming a school teacher for students with special needs. Unfortunately that career did not compensate her at the level she deserved and she needed some additional resources to experience the fullness of life. When we decided that we needed to narrow the focus of our foundation to a primary community of interest Aria championed helping people like her and thus our mission statement was formed. This album is a display not only of her tremendous talent but also her perseverance. We are determined to make sure the world knows about the special gift that was AriaCamille!

Q: Last question – what is your Christmas wish for the good people that The Soul of Santa “Do Good” Foundation serves?

A: Our vision is to create a world where no one ever feels forgotten or overlooked due to their disability. We strive to empower our Souldiers to experience the fullness of life not just on Christmas but 365 days a year! We have been able to help thousands of individuals and we hope that we can continue to be a resource for many years to come! Please consider supporting our efforts by signing up to volunteer, downloading our album, purchasing some merchandise or making a donation.

Q: Thank you so much for your time! To all of the good people at The Soul of Santa, I wish you a joyous holiday season!

A: Thank you for reaching out and we hope you have a wonderful holiday as well! You were one the first publications to reach out in support of our album and we cannot thank you enough. You are the first person to know that we will be releasing a special live album featuring some classics that we know you all will love! Merry Christmas!!!

Donate to The Soul of Santa