Friday, December 30, 2022

2022: That's a wrap!

It's time to wind down another Christmas season here at Merry & Bright.  It felt like a good year - some pretty good shares, a great interview with Laurie Berkner, a fun Q&A with Jessy J, some awesome new music to feature, and a lot of new songs to round up and get the word out about.  

Christmas here in Kansas City was a White Christmas.  Although we didn't get fluffy, new Christmas Eve snow, the ground was still covered with the snow from the preceding Thursday, as we went into a major deep freeze following the snow, so there was no melting.  It's tough to melt with a high of -2.  As my son put it, it was a perfect white Christmas - snow on the ground but the road were clear.

Kansas City White Christmas 2022, 7:00AM

Christmas Day in our household brought all five of our children, their spouses/significant others, and the new granddaughter.  For gift exchange, with a couple exceptions, we always open one gift at a time, so that everyone can enjoy what everyone else is opening.  (Having done the crazed giftageddon of simultaneous opening before, I never want to do it again).  So, gift opening took a solid two hours, after which we had over-proofed dinner rolls and ham a bit on the dry side, but dinner was till awesome.  

One of the exceptions to the one-gift-at-a-time process is the opening of the Beverage Santa gifts.  A few years ago Beverage Santa began leaving a beverage for each child under the vintage aluminum tree.  These are distributed and opened all at once.  This year, Beverage Krampus also made a stop and left each child and spouse/SO a wrapped can of Fruitquake Mountain Dew (fruitcake flavored soda).  

One of our many Christmas trees

So, after snacks, gifts, dinner, dessert, and beverages, it was a wonderful and joyous Christmas!

As I wrap things up here, I'll make one final shout out to some of the amazing independent artists that sent me their music this year.  Please seek out these musicians via their internet presences and support them however you can - buy their music, add their songs to your streaming playlists, spread the word about them to your like-minded friends.  So here's to Cristina F, Carol Crittenden, Mackenna Swann, Jason Beers, Lee Langdon, Ren Geisick, Sofia Talvik, Jessy J, and Laurie Berkner.

I'll be back next season, and have a couple ideas brewing already.  Hope to see you all here too!  Have a prosperous 2023!

Aaron Henton (Der Bingle)

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!  

I didn't get to my usual Christmas Eve post this year, because of changes to our usual Christmas Eve/Day schedule.  The Bingle children are all adults, and we have a new Bingle granddaughter this year, so we are happily adapting to new traditions.  We started with a Christmas Eve brunch at our son's place, came back home to watch some NFL football, went to Christmas Eve Mass, picked up Chinese food on the way home, and hung out with the oldest Bingle child and her husband (I guess she would be nee Bingle, to be all society and whatnot), the youngest Bingle, and the dogs.  Had some Glogg (delicious!), hung out, watched A Christmas Story.

Christmas Day saw me up at 6:30, because I love 7:00AM on Christmas Morning.  Tended to the dogs, tended to some stockings, and settled in with coffee and, later, mimosas with breakfast.  Later this afternoon all of the children will be here for gifts and Christmas dinner.  A wonderful day it will be.

I posted on my Facebook today what has become my favorite line from a Christmas song:  "The secret of Christmas is not what you do at Christmastime, but the Christmas things you do all year through".  I truly believe that, and hope the sentiment reaches each of you in your own way.

Many thanks to all of my Christmas music brethren - you're an amazing community to be a part of.  Thanks Ernie, Greg, Rob, Brad, Martin, Joanna, Jason, Tim, Mitchell and everyone else who contributes to the joy we get from sharing joy through music.

And thanks to everyone who stopped in and read a story, heard some new music, learned about a new artist, and downloaded some old music.  It's much appreciated.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Fox and Goodman: A Double Share

Today I have a double-share for you to wind up sharing season here at Merry & Bright.  I'll be back with at least a couple more posts to wrap up 2022, but this is the grand finale for shares.

First up, "A Virgil Fox Christmas" 14 Carols for Organ and Chimes.  But, best of all (as the cover art reveals) there are Sing Along Lyrics, and instructions for the at-home carolers anticipating a joyous, rousing evening of caroling by the stereo!  Here in the 21st century, with the downloaded music and the ability to bring up the back cover image on your preferred mobile device, no longer must you be shackled to the room with the phonograph.  You can have Virgil Fox's organ and chimes accompany you throughout your neighborhood, caroling from door to door!

The back of the album has Instructions for Carolers (watch out for the modulations between verses!), and also a directive on which carols You Don't Sing.  Don't be caught singing these four (but, who can resist singing Silent Night?), lest the spirit of Virgil Fox (1912-1980) come a-calling.  Sing those four at your own peril.

Fortunately, the approved sing-along carols are the beloved, familiar songs we all know and love, so most of you won't need the words.

Please enjoy singing along to "A Virgil Fox Christmas"

<download link>

The second share is "1000 Strings at Christmas" by Al Goodman and his Orchestra.  "1000 Strings..." has eleven popular carols, a magnificent retro (well, it wasn't retro back in the day) cover, and a place on the back cover to write your name, if you were giving this album as a Christmas present.  Too bad folks!  I know what Mrs. Der Bingle is getting for Christmas now!  :-)  

The music on this record is quite well done and very enjoyable.  Most Christmas music collectors span many genres of the music, but many (born no later than the first half of the '70s) drift back toward the classic sounds of their youth, at least at some point each season.  These were the sounds of Christmas we grew up with, and Al Goodman's "1000 Strings at Christmas" is a perfect fix for our nostalgia cravings.

Enjoy Al Goodman's "1000 Strings at Christmas"

<download link>

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Living Voices "Holiday Get-together"

Today's share answers the pressing questions "Is 'Get-together' one word, two words, or hyphenated, and is 'together' capitalized?   Now we know...

"Holiday Get-together', a 1974 album by the Living Voices, is another fine entry in the "Living _______" series.  The music is delightful, splendidly produced, and performed with gusto.  Much like the Living Trio from earlier this season, it is what an experienced Christmas music collector would expect.

There are 10 tracks on the record, 8 of them medleys.  The medleys are labeled 'Medley 1', 'Medley 2', etc in the download files. The two solo songs are "Do You Hear What I Hear" and "Out of the East", a less familiar carol.

Not much else to say, except I think you'll enjoy "Holiday Get-together" by the Living Voices.

<download link>

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

20 Questions with Jessy J!

Jessy J, California sax player extraordinaire, released one of the top new Christmas albums this season, California Christmas 2.  The contemporary and Latin jazz musician has emerged as one of the top musicians in SoCal.  Jessy released "Blue" earlier this in 2022, an 8-song album of original compositions, prior to California Christmas 2, with it's 9 traditional songs, reimagined as soulful Cali-jazz tunes.  Jessy is also a member of Ray Chew's house band for Dancing with the Stars.  

This isn't Jessy's first venture into the world of Christmas music.  She released California Christmas in 2016, and was a featured performer on Merry & Bright favorite Rehya Stevens' song Fly Past My Roof on Rehya's album Celebrate.

Jessy has been very busy this season, performing gigs across the county and playing selections from California Christmas 2.  Between shows, Jessy found time for a 20 Questions feature for Merry & Bright, a fun little exercise in rapid-fire Q&A, so you can learn a little bit more about Jessy!

Visit Jessy J's website

California Christmas Vol. 2

20 Questions with Jessy J

1. Favorite Christmas Song
Feliz Navidad

2. Favorite SoCal Christmas Activity
Going to the Beach

3. Best Celebrity Dance Competition
Dancing with the Stars

4. Fruitcake? Yes or No

5. Musician Who Inspires You
John Coltrane

6. Favorite Holiday Sweet Treat

7. Number of Instruments You Play
More than 10

8. Surprising Fact About Yourself
Born in Oregon

9. How often are you confused with Jessie J?
Not that much anymore

10. Your level of Christmas decorating – None, Light, Moderate, OMG It’s Blinding!

11. Artist you would most like to meet

12. Favorite Family Christmas Tradition
Singing Carols

13. Dogs, cats, or other?

14. Career recognition dream – Grammy, Oscar, EGOT?

15. Favorite Christmas Recording Artist
Bing Crosby

16. Favorite food

17. Favorite charitable organization or cause you support
LA Mission  (Editor's note:  Click here to visit and support the LA Mission)

18. Best concert ever that you attended
Tom Petty

19. Would you like to say a few words to your fans?
MERRY CHRISTMAS and Happy Holidays!

20. “A California Christmas 3” in the future?
That's a possibility….:)

Monday, December 19, 2022

"Merry Christmas from Blood City, USA" - Christmas Noir by Jason Beers

"Merry Christmas from Blood City, USA" is the latest album  from Kansas City musician Jason Beers.  Much like the "NOW That's What I Call Music!" series-in-perpetuity, it's another year, another Christmas, and another Christmas album from Jason Beers.

From the mind what gave us "Garth Dohlie's Christmas Party", "Music for Seasonal Affective Disorder", "Having a Marfy Christmas" (Mrs. Helen Marf, tympani virtuoso) and "Still Having a Marfy Christmas" (Mrs. Helen Marf again) comes the 4th soundtrack for the Blood City, USA movie series.

Yes Virginia, there is such as thing as Christmas Music Noir, or perhaps Christmas-electronica-noir, because here it is, in all its glory.  And smack me upside the head with a dadgum mistletoe, this music works!  I've heard Jason say about a million times "the bongos really tie this whole thing together." Well, this time it's not bongos (bongoes? bong-gos?) it's sleigh bells.  "Sheila Undercover" is as noir as you can get, and there are sleighbells for rhythm throughout the whole song.  And it's perfect!  It's Mike Hammer skulking down a dark alley wearing a Santa Hat.

"Merry Christmas From Blood City" opens the album with a familiar Christmas melody, accentuated and enhanced with electronic moods.  Party on!

"Slay Ride" - I swear the Spirit of Mort Garson Past invaded the soul of Jason Beers for this one, composed and performed a masterpiece of electronic music, and added sleigh bells.  So many sleigh bells.  But they really tie the whole thing together.

"Billy Stagger and the Sex Elf" - well, this is a family blog...

"Snowball Fight" - the intensity builds.  With sleigh bells.  It's like Quarry lining up his hit while wearing an elf costume.

"Ho Ho Ho" - there's a lotta ways to interpret that title in the context of "Blood City USA".  Remember that time in another song when Santa Lost a Ho, and all he said was 'Ho Ho'.  I digress.  "Ho Ho Ho" is groove-funk, with a sleigh bell/drum break.  Remember the Zeppelin Christmas tour of '71 when Bonham did "Moby Dick" entirely with sleigh bells and a slide whistle?   Oops - digressed again.  "Ho Ho Ho" is danged cool.

The album wraps up with "Blood City Christmas Party".   Listening to this, you can just imagine Nero Wolfe sittin' on his XXXL keister knockin' down a gallon of eggnog.

To all my Christmas mixtape buddies out there, who are always looking for something different:  You want different for your 2023 mix?  Add "Slay Ride" - I dare you.  It has sleigh bells, therefore, it IS a Christmas song.

"Merry Christmas from Blood City USA" Liner Notes 

Here is the 4th soundtrack for the Blood City, USA movie series - action movies following the adventures of Billy Stagger in Blood City. Merry Christmas From Blood City was, admittedly, a cheap money-grab movie for the holidays. There was no theatrical release as it went to straight to video, exclusively in Jumbo Video stores in Canada. Infamous for the X rating it received due to graphic sexual penetration scenes and intense violence during the climax of the movie, Merry Christmas From Blood City, USA was banned in the United States and much of the rest of the world until 2022, 35 years after its release. And yes, this is the movie that launched the internet meme of "Come hither, Sex Elf, and witness the demise of my enemies!!!!" If you can find this movie, I recommend NOT watching it with the family on Christmas Day.

Der Bingle's recommendations from the Jason Beers catalog:
Crumbling Towers
How to Open a Portal to Hell
The Clyle Davenport Efron's Flight Series
The Blood City USA Series
Sasquatch Jazz
actually, I recommend everything....

R.I.P. Wild Larry

Hallmark, Belafonte, & Warnes

Tonight's share is "The Traditions of Christmas", a Hallmark Cards album released in 1991, their seventh Christmas record.  Seems like vinyl was nearing its hiatus about that time, so this must have been one of the last vinyl Christmas records produced by Hallmark.  

They made some very good records - top musicians, excellent production - and this one is no exception.  "The Traditions of Christmas" features Harry Belafonte and Jennifer Warnes, with the American Boychoir and the London Symphony Orchestra.

What would a Harry Belafonte Christmas album be without "Mary's Boy Child"?  Fortunately, we don't have to find out, as his trademark Christmas song leads off the album, a new recording done for this record.  Mr. Belafonte sings four other carols, including "The First Noel" and "The Baby Boy".

Jennifer Warnes is also in exquisite voice for this record.  She begins with with "O Little Town of Bethlehem", and adds "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "I'll Be Home For Christmas" as her contributions to this album.

The American Boychoir adds four songs, making this an excellent addition to your collection.

With only 6 days left until Christmas, please enjoy "The Traditions of Christmas".