Monday, November 29, 2010

Julie on Monday Night

A quick share for Monday night.  Here is Julie Andrews performing "A Christmas Song", from "Firestone presents Your Favorite Christmas Music Vol. 4".  I love Julie's phrasing in her rendition of this Christmas classic.  This is not on any of her CDs, and thanks to ClickRepair I have a recording that I think sounds pretty great.  Painstaking cleaning of the record took a lot of noise out, but it took ClickRepair for the final touch.  This is going on my Christmas comp this year.  I hope you enjoy this beautiful performance as much as I do.

download link

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Mighty Good Album

Tonight's album is Ashley Miller's "Holiday Music", played on the Mighty Organ of The Radio City Music Hall. According to the notes on the back cover, Ashley Miller was the organist at Radio City Music Hall for many years. This record is a very nice recording of tradional Christmas carols, including a few medleys. A very enjoyable record, and the first of at least two (maybe more) shares related to Radio City Music Hall.

Great cover art, too - Christmas decor at Rockefeller Center, circa Nineteen something something.

For your listening pleasure, Ashley Miller at the Mighty Organ of the Radio City Music Hall.

download link

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mystery 78s Redux

After some tips and advice from the readers and listeners, I've made some improvements in the mystery 78s from Hollywood Records. Here is a re-mastered (or, more appropriately, re-apprenticed) set of songs. Download link in original post has also been revised.

download link

A Music Box Christmas

For my first whole-album, all-Christmas share, I've chosen "A Music Box Christmas". These are hymns and carols played on 19th century music boxes, from the collection of Rita Ford, a collector and shopowner in New Jersey. The album was first released in 1961, and remained in print for several years (long enough to require a UPC code, which is on my copy).

The album offers 18 songs from Ms. Ford's music boxes. To me, they bring to mind a quiet Christmas season evening, snow falling from the sky. Very serene, very spiritual.

Ms. Ford's Music Box Shop has a website, Rita Ford Music Boxes. For more information about Ms. Ford, her shop and services, and her music boxes, please visit her website.

Enjoy "A Music Box Christmas"

download link

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Tradition

For the past several years, I have started my Thanksgiving holiday with a cup of coffee and a reading of Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory". This year is no different - I have just finished re-reading it. It seems as if I find something new with each reading.

"A Christmas Memory" is the recollection of a 7 year old Truman Capote growing up with his distant cousin/best friend Miss Sook Faulk, in her 60s. They have each other, and, from a boy's point of view, not much else. The story begins in late November on a cold morning when his friend declares "It's fruitcake weather!"

The traditions of the Christmas season, the bonds of friendship, and some inevitable sadness run through this amazing story. If you enjoy reading stories of Christmas, I recommend that you find yourself a copy of "A Christmas Memory". It may be the start of your own personal holiday tradition.

Amazon link

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday Two-Fer: Mystery 78s

A Wednesday, pre-Thanksgiving Two-fer. The first post for the evening had no shares, so I thought I'd add another tonight with a share. So, here are a few songs from The Cheerleaders and The Hollywood Choraliers.

I don't know anything about the artists or the recordings apart from what you can see from the record scans. These are 78rpm records, in snazzy seasonal red. Some very basic information is on the label.  Google searches yield nothing more on either The Cheerleaders or The Hollywood Choraliers, or the "Hollywood Records" label. So, if anyone knows anything about them, please leave a comment.

The records are old and pretty noisy. Probably not a choice for your annual Christmas comp, but I find recordings like these very interesting. I found a HUGE pile of 78s at a local record store last weekend (including Frank Sinatra's "White Christmas"), but the owner hadn't priced them yet. I'll be back....

I hope you find these interesting and historical as well, and that someone may have some information about the recordings or artists.

Sharity Blues Part 2

Getting into the world of Christmas music sharity has its ups and downs. I wrote earlier about the down with the Pied Pipers record that came with a flexi-disc taped to it. Another hazard to the hobby is a record that is too scratchy to enjoy. I've bought several records that were risky based on looks. Fortunately, for 99 cents or less, the investment is minimal.

Then there's this: You make a great find, record looks to be in great shape, you bring it home, and then find out that it's available on CD or digital release. No sharing allowed. I've had several of these this year, as a new contributor to the hobby. Great music, but can't share it out. Here's a few examples that I've brought home:

The Lettermen

The Kingston Trio

Connie Francis

Patti Page

And then there are the records that aren't in print digitally, but have already been shared out by others. No need to share them again. Oh well - can't remember everything that's out there. And don't feel like checking each one via SmartPhone before buying.
Fortunately, the ups of this hobby greatly exceed the downs, most notably the excitment of finding new (to me) music that is really good.  Even though I have quite a few non-sharable records, I have a decent number ready to share over the course of the next few weeks. I hope you enjoy them!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Harmonicats to Ease into the Season

My first full album share of this season is one to ease into the sharing season. "Dolls Dolls Dolls" by The Harmonicats has three songs that are traditionally associated with the holidays: "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers", "March of the Toys", and "The Toy Trumpet". The rest of the songs are, as you might imagine, about dolls. Beautiful dolls, Spanish dolls, paper dolls, dolls of all sorts.

I love the recording information on the back of the album cover (in the download file). Without this information, I would not have known that the session was taped at 15 ips (inches per second), or that a Telefunken 201 was used. Fascinating.

I like this record a lot - it's upbeat and a lot of fun. I hope you enjoy Jerry Murad's "Electronic" Harmonicats.

download link

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NPR Presents "A Jazz Piano Christmas"

We're still prepping for Christmas music sharity season here at Merry and Bright. Have a few more albums to rip, and more than a few more covers to scan. I think I'll get another pre-season share or two out there soon.

In the meantime, I'm going to post a link to a streaming Christmas music program from NPR. "A Jazz Piano Christmas" was recorded at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C in December, 2007. It features Dr. Billy Taylor, Barry Harris, Joey DeFrancesco, and the late Hank Jones. Appearing with Hank Jones is the incredible Roberta Gambarini, an acclaimed and accomplished vocalist hailing from from Turin, Italy.

I had the pleasure of attending a performance of Roberta's here in Kansas City a couple of years ago. Even though she was fighting a cold that night, her performance was astounding. She is featured on the cover of this month's Jazz Times, and has released three CDs in the US. Sadly, she has released no Christmas tunes (yet).

Roberta's appearance with Hank Jones in this program is outstanding, as is the entire program. Please enjoy "A Jazz Piano Christmas" from National Public Radio.

A Jazz Piano Christmas

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Joyce Carol Oates in Kansas City

Time for a brief non-Christmas interlude. The incredible Joyce Carol Oates appeared at a "Writers at Work" engagement at the Kansas City Public Library on Monday, November 8. Ms. Oates read a recently completed short story (completed, she said, about a week ago) titled "A Brutal Murder in a Public Place". After her reading, Kansas City author Whitney Terrell, who was a student of Ms. Oates at Princeton, conducted a Q & A session about the approach to writing.

Joyce was energetic and witty throughout the evening, frequently bantering with Whitney, and always with the upper hand. Still the teacher, still the student. As a huge fan of Joyce Carol Oates (with well over 100 [yes, 100] of her books), I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. And my wife, who has not read any of Ms. Oates work, also thought it was an entertaining engagement with a renowned author.

The evening ended with a previously unannounced book signing! I never attend an author event without books, so I came away with three books signed by the author.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sharity Blues

Getting into the Christmas music sharing hobby has some ups and downs. Lots of ups - great music, excellent and exciting vinyl finds, sharing the good stuff with the rest of the Christmas music world. But, as I'm finding out, one also encounters a few downs.

So here's Sharity Blues Entry #1.

Found a great looking Pied Pipers album at a local record store. Cover was in great shape. Love the artwork!

In the record store, I examined one side of the record. Not too bad. Not mint, for sure, but probably good enough to get a good rip from. Definitely worth the 50 cents I paid that day (local record store gives some gooooood deals...)

And then, I got the record home, pulled it out of the cover, and saw this on the other side:

Who knows how many years ago, someone taped, TAPED!!!, a flexi-disc, FREE AUDITION record to the Pied Pipers album. And left it there. Forever.

Any idea what 40 year old tape does to vinyl? Think it will come off? Hint: it will not. Sigh.

But, as with any good Christmas story, there's a happy ending. I found that Captain OT over at A Christmas Yuleblog had previously shared this album, with a different cover. I believe the music is the same, just the artwork is different. I give Captain OT the nod for adorableness :-)

So, avoid the sharity blues and jump over to the Captain's place for The Pied Pipers.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Three Songs from The Four Aces

For share #2 of this early holiday season, I am pleased to present three songs from The Four Aces.

I would be even more pleased if I were presenting five songs from The Four Aces, or even four. Here's the story behind this share. I remember having a few Christmas 45s growing up in the late 60's, in addition to the four LPs, one of which was Bing Crosby - big surprise :-) Two of the 45s I played as a young child were "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" by Brenda Lee and "Jingle Bell Rock" by Bobby Helms. These were original release 45s of those songs. So a few months ago I decided to look through the old 45s in my basement and see if those records had survived. No trace of them, but I did find an original 7 inch, 5 song EP by the Four Aces, released in 1956, eight years older than me. So, this record has been hauled around with my stuff for many years, and has been in the family for 54 years now. Time for a resurrection...

Cut ahead to now. I cleaned up the record as much as possible with the materials on hand, but succeeded in getting only three songs transferred to digital. The other two were not salvagable from the record.

The bad - there is still a lot of noise in the rips. I didn't want to noise-remove too much and ruin the music that is there, so there is still a lot of surface noise. The good, though, is that the remarkable vocal parts of the Four Aces seem to float above the white noise. You can still appreciate their beautiful interpretations of these three songs. Unfortunately, "Silent Night" and "O Little town of Bethlehem" remain unripped.

Please enjoy The Four Aces, and rest assured that future shares will be cleaner. This one has sentimental value to me, so I hope you all enjoy the music.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Christmas Music Season Begins: Les Paul and Mary Ford

I'm going to go ahead and kick off the Christmas sharing season tonight. To start things off, here is "Silent Night" by Les Paul and Mary Ford, from the Capitol 45 rpm pairing with "Jingle Bells". I have never found this recording available in the US on CD or as an MP3, so with great pleasure I'm sharing it with you.

In my opinion, "Silent Night" is an incredibly difficult song for an artist to truly make their own. Slow and soulful interpretations tend to sound more like dirges than carols. Jazzy, upbeat versions lose the reverence of the song. Straightforward performances seem flat. I do have a performance (unsharable) by a marching band that is wonderful, but generally I'm unimpressed with most version.

Enter Mary Ford. Les Paul once described Mary's voice as weak, which is why he so often enhanced her voice with a pickup delay, creating their signature sound. Here, though, Mary is not multi-tracked, and the result is beautiful. Mary has given us a performance of "Silent Night" that stands with the best.

I had the immense pleasure and privilege of seeing Les Paul perform at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York in June of 2007. We helped Les celebrate his 92nd birthday that evening. Les and his guests gave us a great show.

Enjoy Les Paul and Mary Ford performing "Silent Night".

Update:  Sorry folks - had to remove this link.  "Silent Night" is now available on the Capitol digital reissue of "Christmas Kisses", a fine collection.  Check it out here.