Saturday, December 29, 2012

Loose Ends 2012 (pt 2)

Christmas Day 2012 has come and gone, but it's still the Christmas season here at the Bingle household.  The trees are still up, the lights are still on, and the music is still playing.  The season will continue for at least another week, until the oldest Bingle daughter and her husband come to visit.  A longer Christmas season - love it!

I have a few more loose ends to tie up here on Merry and Bright.  I wish I could give all of these artists the time and recognition they deserve, but the best I can do is mention them here and encourage everyone to visit their websites and Facebook pages.  So, here goes...

Abi Ann:  Abi is a fresh, young country pop singer with a terrific voice.  She released a new Christmas single this year, "Santa Can You Hear Me" that is a fine, catchy little tune.

Abi Ann website:  Abi Ann
Abi Ann Facebook:  link


Loop Line:  Loop Line is a Minneapolis-based band that is working on an "always in-progress Christmas movie".   A couple songs from the movie of the future are available on Bandcamp here, and the band's Facebook page is here.


Radio Station KDXH has a streaming playlist of holiday tunes featuring artists from the St. Louis, MO area.  Here it is!  link


Acoustic indie/folk act inColor, and a few special guests, gave us a 4-song EP this Christmas, available on Bandcamp. 

inColor link


And, one more:  Animal Spirit treated us with a couple yuletide songs this season, also on Bandcamp, here.


I'm sure that there are others that I've overlooked - I'll check the e-mail archives.  In the meantime, please check out these artists and if you like what you hear, please support them by purchasing their music.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!  Der Bingle wishes each of you a happy and safe holiday!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Celebration

It's Christmas Eve.  Time for celebration, time with family and friends, preparation for Christmas Day festivities, last-minute shopping, or the many other things that we do on this great day.

My last couple of shares have been about the side of Christmas for children - traditional stories and carols about Santa, toys, gifts, and joy.  Today I want to return to the spiritual side of Christmas for my final share of the season.

"A Festival of Lessons and Carols" is a 1965 release on the Argo label from England.  It is a recording of the Christmas Eve celebration at King's College Chapel in 1964 (fitting, as that was my first Christmas Eve).  Hymns, carols, readings, and lessons for the celebration of Christmas culminate in a Prayer and Blessing, with a final hymn, "O Come All Ye Faithful" closing the joyous gathering of Christians.

I have recorded this as only two mp3 files, one for each side of the album.  While recording it, I thought it best to retain the continuity on each side of the record, instead of breaking it up into several separate tracks.  However, I have also included a link to a zip file with the two wav files, in case you would like to re-edit and separate the tracks.

And, I have included scans of the booklet that was included with the record.  It has all of the carols and readings for you to enjoy.

Peace and joy to each of you, and thank you for visiting Merry and Bright this season.  As always, it has been my pleasure to introduce you to new yuletide music, or to reunite you with the sounds of years long ago.

Merry Christmas!

A Festival of Lessons and Carols - mp3

A Festival of Lessons and Carols - wav

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Jillaine: Jazzy Christmas To You II

This is a late, late, late in the season review of a new Christmas album this year, but it is never too late to review such beautiful Christmas music.

Jillaine, our favorite jazz singer here at Merry and Bright, released "Jazzy Christmas To You II" in 2012, only one year after "Jazzy Christmas To You", her debut collection of Christmas songs. "Jazzy II" picks up right where its predecessor left off, giving us another amazing album of both secular and spiritual songs for the season.

The album kicks off with a rousing, bluesy rendition of "Please Come Home for Christmas". It’s a unique interpretation of the song, with a sassy soulfulness made memorable by Jillaine and her superb band. "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" follows, with Jillaine in a duet with James Archibald. It is another entertaining, original take on an old classic, with a little honky-tonk piano break by Zach Wiggins that gives the song a little extra kick.

With "Last Christmas", Jillaine achieves the nearly-impossible: performing a version of the song that I really like :-)   Key to the success is the stripped-down accompaniment of Craig Adler's acoustic guitar and Linda Chaston on synth, along with Jillaine’s restrained vocals. Taking this song that is usually over orchestrated and turning it into a more subtle performance gives it an introspective, melancholy quality that I’ve never heard before.

The spiritual selections – "I Wonder As I Wander", "O Come O Come Emmanuel", and "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night" are beautiful. Jillaine dials back the jazzy and performs these with tremendous strength and reverence. "Emmanuel", especially, is a moving performance, full of true, heartfelt Christmas spirit.

Sass and swagger abound in "I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm", "Dig That Crazy Santa Claus" and especially "Santa Blues", co-written by Jillaine and Justin Jensen. Jillaine struts though these songs, bending the notes to suit, having a blast with her band..

"Jazzy Christmas To You II" is another beautiful record. Jillaine gives us a variety of styles, selections, and fresh, original arrangements, nailing them all. The musicians accompanying her are tops, cats, and the bee's knees.

If Rudolph's nose isn't glowing yet, it will when he hears "Jazzy Christmas To You II"!

Man, I can't wait for Jazzy III....

Jillaine Records

Amazon Link

Also on iTunes, etc

Buy this record!  :-)

Santa Claus!

As Santa is making his final preparations for his annual journey - packing the toys, checking that list one last time, moving some names from "Naughty" to "Nice" (Santa is pretty good-hearted and forgiving, you know), I thought it would be a great time to share out some stories and songs from the man himself.

"Santa's Own Christmas" is a 1967 release from Capitol with 9 tracks featuring tales from Santa's workshop and some of Santa's personal favorite Christmas Carols.  I always kind of thought that "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" might be a favorite :-)

I don't have much more to say about this one, except I really like it.  I like the concept that Capitol created for the children of the late '60's.  I can imagine this record being played many, many times on a child's little, blue, all-in-one record player (yeah, I spun Bing Crosby and Lorne Greene on mine over and over and over....).  This is a great album as we get closer to Christmas Day.

download link (updated)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas is for Children

With Christmas only a few days away, all the children are getting more excited, anticipating Santa's visit, barely able to wait for Christmas morning.  How many have heard "Can I open just one present early?"  How many of us said that very thing to our own parents when we were young?  The children around us are no different than the child still inside each of us, anxiously awaiting Christmas morning.

Tonight's share is "Christmas is for Children", and it is really great.  All you readers that grew up in the 60s and early 70s, prepare for some major nostalgia.


How about Red Skelton reading "The Littlest Christmas Tree"?  Or Burl Ives performing "Happy Birthday Jesus (A Child's Prayer)"?

How about Captain Kangaroo himself narrating "The Littlest Snowman"?

My childhood returned on a 12" vinyl record.

Side 1 of "Christmas is for Children", a Columbia Special Products release, is simply terrific.  In addition to Red, Burl, and the Captain, Side 1 has Ray Heatherton reading "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and Jose Ferrer magnificently performing "March of the Christmas Toys". 

Side 2 of the record is more of a straighforward compilation side, with some frequently compiled songs.  They are very good, and I know you'll enjoy them, but they don't approach the magic of side 1.

This might just be my favorite share of the season (although I have a few more to go in the next couple of days...).  Captain Kangaroo!  Man!  It doesn't get any better than that.

Christmas is for children, and for all of us grown-ups too.

download link

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Around the Christmas Tree

I'm snowed in today in Kansas City.  A genuine blizzard rolled through this morning, dropping about 3 inches of snow, but with 50mph winds.  On my attempted drive in to work, I couldn't see more than about 100 feet at times. So, I went back home, and have used part of the time today to do some catch-up work.  What that brings you is another share, a little earlier in the day than usual.

"Around the Christmas Tree" is a great compilation from perhaps the 1950s, just judging from the artists and the album art.  This is a great collection, with songs from The Four Aces, Dick Haymes, the Columbus Boys Choir, and others, for a total of 14 songs.  The album has a subtitle, "A Special Christmas Day Program".  Maybe the folks at Decca were marketing this as a record to play on Christmas morning while presents were being opened. 

There is some noise on some of the songs that I couldn't remove.  This was one of those records that looked to be in better shape than it sounded.  The first couple songs from side 1 have some significant start-up noise, and then it gets better as we move through the album side.  Side 2, starting with "Deck the Hall", is similar, with early noise, then better quality later.  The music behind the noise, though, is very rich.  So, I hope you can push through the static and enjoy the great performances.

A quick internet search shows that CaptainOT shared this out a few years back, here.  I don't know if it's still available.  If it is, it may be in better shape than this rip.  If not, well, please enjoy a true 1950s sonic experience :-)  The music here is worth a try, believe me.

download link

Loose Ends (2012 Edition)

Every year it seems that time speeds up during the Christmas season, and all the things I have to do/want to do/need to do don’t always get done.  Besides running “Merry and Bright” (which should be my top priority, right?  J   ), my family and I have many Christmas traditions and activities going on, like cookie and candy making, Christmas cards, etc.  Plus there’s all the non-holiday life events that happen with four active children at home.  And then there’s work and the two trips to Denver in the past few weeks, and the Completely Lost Last Sunday due to either flu or food poisoning.

This year I did a good job preparing all the shares for this season, in that they were all ripped, scanned, zipped, and loaded before the sharing season started, so I don’t have to spend time doing all that during the month of December (except for a pretty painless transition to Google Docs).   
And still, there are things left undone for the blog.  One item in particular is to recognize all the artists who provide me with music during the season, if not with a full review of their work, then at least a shout-out for their contributions.   So, here are a few words about some fine artists and their seasonal music.
First is “Christmas with the SAC Pack”, by the Striving Artists Theatre Company.   This is a 2 CD set with a whopping 50! songs of the season.   The music from this group is truly enjoyable.  Now, one reason that I didn’t get this shout-out posted sooner is that good friend Stubby did a thorough review of this release over at SHoC, so I think the word was out to the Christmas music community.  I wish I had the time to do a more thorough review, but time is crunched.  So, in lieu of a full review, here is a 5-star shout out to Striving Artists "Christmas with the SAC Pack" *****

Next is “A Kindie Christmas” by The Hipwaders.  “A Kindie Christmas” is a 10-song release that is simply a whole lot of fun.  The Hipwaders bio on Amazon says “The Hipwaders perform quirky jangle-pop for kids & families”, and that pretty much sums it up.  I really enjoyed this EP/LP from Tito, DJ, and Nick.  It’s very fresh and unique, and gives us some new and different sounds for the season.

So, thanks to these outstanding musicians for their contributions to the world of Christmas music! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Music Box Christmas

One of my favorite sub-genres of Christmas music is the beautiful music created by music boxes.  I've shared out an album of music box songs before (also from Rita Ford's collection), and this year I have another for you to enjoy. 

"Christmas With Rita Ford's Music Boxes" features 15 songs from vintage, pristine music boxes.  Some familiar songs are included, such as "Adeste Fideles" and "O Tannenbaum", as well as less familiar music.  Seasonal songs from Europe also grace the record - "Nun Danket Alle Gott", "Ora Pro Nobis" and others.

Every style of Christmas music seems to have a best-suited place and time.  Some for driving in the car, some for background music at the office, some for peaceful nights at home..  I think a perfect time for Rita Ford's Music Boxes would be early on Christmas morning, still dark outside, Christmas tree lights providing the only illumination.  You are awakened by the soft sounds of "The Holy City", from a century-old music box, and you walk downstairs to begin your Christmas celebration as "Silent Night" begins.  Heavenly.

Please enjoy "Christmas With Rita Ford's Music Boxes".

download link

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Golden Voices

For your listening pleasure tonight I have "The Golden Voices Sing at Christmas".  The record is a product of Premier Albums from good ol' New York City, and I'd date it as a mid 1960's record.  There isn't much information on the record sleeve, except that the Golden Voices were a group of non-professional singers from a small New England village who eventually found success and were able to record this album of Christmas songs for all to enjoy.

And enjoyable it is.  It's a nice collection of 12 Christmas carols, very pleasing to the ears, very nicely done.  One thing I particularly like is the song selection.  While there are a few of the usual suspects, like "Silent Night", there are also songs that are less frequently recorded, such as "Once In Royal David's City", "As With Gladness Men Of Gold" and "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night".  It's always pleasant to hear these songs performed by talented groups, instead of yet another rendition of "Jingle Bells".

This is a very enjoyable record of soothing seasonal songs.  Also, I like the spot on the back cover with "A Merry Xmas From ____________", making it gift ready!

So, A Merry Xmas From Der Bingle!

download link

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas with the Choraliers

Today's share is one of the best that I have to offer this season, so I want to give everyone plenty of time to enjoy it before Christmas Day.  It is a five record box set from the Longines Symphonette Recording Society called "Christmas with the Choraliers".

The records in this box are in very good condition, which made for some very nice transfers to digital.  The music here is terrific - it really captures the sound of the late 60's/early 70's that is so nostalgic to so many of us.  I remember many a TV commercial in the early 70's for the Longines Symphonette, and this record set really takes me back.

In the zip file, I have separated the audio tracks by record.   The box images are from a digital photo, not a scan, because the box would not fit on my scanner.  And, as a bonus, I've included a scan of the booklet that was enclosed with the records. 

So, as we head into the final week before Christmas, please enjoy "Christmas with the Choraliers".

download link

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Joy in Full Color Hi Fidelity

Yes indeed, Full Color Hi Fidelity.  That's what the album cover says.  Makes me wonder if I've ever listened to a record in black & white.  I probably did when I was growing up, as we had only a black & white TV until I was about 16.


I'm not sure why "Full Color" is prominently displayed on the album cover of tonight's share, "Joy To The World", Organ and Chimes by Ivan Dittmars.  It's an interesting album cover from the budget label.  The cover is obviously a separate print that was attached to stock Crown Records generic covers, as the back has no information about the album, instead showing information about other Crown records.

This is the mono version of this 1960's Crown release, featuring 14 songs performed on organ and chimes.  You'll likely recognize them all.  The album closes with an oddly-titled Medley "Deck the Hall with Holly/Carol of the Shepherds".

To satisfy your need for organ and chimes Christmas comfort music, here is "Joy To The World" in Full Color!

download link

While we're waiting....

As I type this post I'm moving a few more files out to Google Docs to share out.  Gotta pick up the pace - only 10 days to go until Christmas!

This is just a quick non-Christmas post about some of the tremendous musicians I've seen here in Kansas City in the past five weeks.  I'm not sure who all is on my musical bucket list, but these three artists were, and I jumped at the chance to see them perform here.

First, back on November 8th, Regina Spektor performed here at the Midland Theatre .  The first time I heard one of Regina's songs I was very "meh" about it.  Then about a year later, I re-listened again and loved it.  I don't know what sort of funk I was in the first time, but I've come to recognize her originality and artisty as a singer/songwriter/pianist.  She's an emerging star with a very strong fan base.  It was a great show.

Then, a mere 9 days later, I saw Bruce Springsteen perform at the Sprint Center.  It was my first Springsteen concert.  3 1/2 hours of energy, grit, and power.  Damn, man, it was good.  Just might take the top spot on my life list (Glenn Tilbrook solo is currently #1, but I may re-eval).

Then last night (12/14) I saw the Anat Cohen Quartet here at the Folly Theatre.  I love jazz, and I *really* love Anat Cohen's work.  I bought tickets to her show the minute they went on sale.  Anat is an astounding clarinetist in a jazz world dominated by sax.  She puts so much feeling into her performance - wow.  The quartet's performance of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" was especially poignant and moving as she related the band's sadness about the incident in Newtowne.  Anat is amazing.

Ok - just a brief aside....  back to Christmas music shortly...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Peter Raymond Carolers

I'm back from a quick business trip to Denver.  If any of you are familiar with the term ISO 9001:2008 Audit, you'll understand what a blast I had.  If not, it's just as well.

Although I did manage to get a post out while I was away from home, it wasn't a share.  And, if I know my readers, you're ready for another share.  So, here 'tis.

Tonight's share is "Hail To Christmas" by the Peter Raymond Carolers.  This is the mono version of the record from the Wyncote label, and it's undated.  It has that early 60's sound, though.  If anyone can provide the year, please let us know in the comments.

This is a nice record, good instrumentation, pleasant vocals.  Just some pretty swell seasonal music.

I'm still going with Google Docs for the time being.  If you have any problems, let me know.

I hope you like "Hail To Christmas" by the Peter Raymond Carolers!

download link

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Three Artists from Mile High

The good people at Mile High Productions have three artists with Christmas releases this year.  And, with merely a mouse click, you can check out the seasonal songs by these three fine artists.

Bunny Sigler is an R&B singer with a darned impressive resume.  Grammy Awards.  In the biz since the 60s.  Has worked with the O’Jays, Lou Rawls, and Patti LaBelle.  And now, he has released “When You’re In Love At Christmas Time”, a collection of 12 holiday songs full of groove, smoove, and style.  Bunny gives us a very unique and enjoyable R&B collection, expertly arranged and performed. 
Margo Rey is billed as an “adult contemporary” artist.  Now, “adult contemporary” usually isn’t my thing.  But within just the first few seconds of Margo’s “This Holiday Night” I knew that she was something special.  Sweet, smooth, and sultry, Margo’s voice is just wonderful.  The songs from her EP “This Holiday Night” are excellent, and will make a beautiful addition to your Christmas music collection.

RJ Comer brings us one Christmas song, “It Won’t Be Christmastime (‘Round Here)”.  I’m becoming a fan of sad Christmas songs.  RJ’s song is expertly performed, with terrific instrumentation, and outstanding vocals.  The overall musicality is tremendous.  RJ has hit the mark with a song that is both seasonal and melancholy.  I look forward to more from this fine musician.

Here are SoundCloud links where you can enjoy a sampling from these artists.  Please listen, learn, and, if you like what you hear, support the artists and buy their records!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Deja Vu

So, I'm browsing through the record bins at a local thrift store, and a green metallic cover catches my eye.  "Wishing You a Merry Christmas" the title beckons.   The cover is a retro-chic shiny object.  I am compelled to pick it up and look further.

Whoa!  Look at this!  It's a red vinyl album inside the shiny green sleeve!  I love colored vinyl.  I even have a blue vinyl version of Elvis' "Moody Blue" framed and hanging on the wall in my Elvis room (yes indeed - an Elvis room).  So, what could be better than a bright red vinyl record of Christmas music.  The artist is Johnny Cole and his Chorus.  Ok - I'll pay the 99 cents and give it a new home.

Now we come to rip-to-vinyl time.  Hey - I think I've heard this before.  Like last year (or was it the year before?) when I shared out Johnny Kay.  I think there's a thread out on a Christmas blog somewhere about Johnny Cole/Johnny Kay and his releases through the years. 

There are at least five songs on Johnny Cole's album that weren't on Johnny Kay's.  And, on the songs in common, even though Johnny's vocal tracks are very similar, the arrangements and instrumentation is different.  So, as it turns out, it is a different record than the Johnny Kay share.  And, best of all, the music is really pretty good.

So, here you go - Johnny Cole and his Chorus - "Wishing You a Merry Christmas"

New link location as a Google Doc.  Please comment and let me know if you are able to access and download:

download link

Thursday, December 6, 2012

American Christmas Songs

Good morning.  I wanted to let you all know about a great new Christmas Music site I found today:

Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells, and Silent Nights

Check it out!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Joyous and Merry

Tonight I have something a little different to share out.  As you may have noticed here on Merry and Bright, as well as on other Christmas Music sites, there seems to be increased scrutiny of the files we are posting to share.  Mediafire has tagged a few of my files as containing copyrighted material and blocked them from being downloaded.  While it's a little disappointing, I really don't have a problem with that method of copyright protection by the host.  My files are still there, they just aren't publicly downloadable.  As Doris Day sang, Que Sera Sera.  We move on.

So, what I have for you tonight is a share combined up from two compilation albums, and I've removed the songs that are readily available in digital format.  So, Perry Como, Chet Atkins, Robert Goulet, Mitch Miller & the Gang, Johnny Mathis, Steve and Eydie, and the great (and already quoted) Doris Day do not grace this share.

However, what is left is a great collection of music from the Norman Luboff Choir, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and (a personal favorite), the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra and Chorus, plus many more.

Two albums contributed to this share.  First, "Joyous Christmas",  a "Limited Edition Collectors Item" from Columbia Special Products produced for the Beneficial Finance System.  The second is "Merry Christmas", an excellent 1964 collection from RCA.

These albums are both excellent collections in the tradition of the best 1960s records - a terrific set of performances with great music that hearkens back to those simpler times before the internet, cell phones, and technology saturation.  Just a good ol' stereo record player and a couple of great Christmas records.

Please enjoy a special compilation "Joyous and Merry"

Quick update:  Reader Zepp pointed out a skip and repeat on one of the songs.  I hope to get that fixed tonight (12/6).  I'll re-post the entire share for those who have not downloaded it yet, and also a separate link to the single fixed song, for those who just need the one.

Update II:  Well, the replacement ZIP file was tagged as non-downloadable, but the old one isn't, and neither is the single "Rudolph".  So, please download both files in the following links, and replace the "Rudolph" in the ZIP file with the single MP3 in the second link.  Go figure...

New ZIP files:
Joyous ZIP (updated)
Merry ZIP

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Christmas in Europe

As aspect of Christmas that has interested me since I was a child is how the holiday is celebrated throughout the world.  I remember learning about Christmas in other countries in church as a youngster, and it seems that we even covered this in public school, which would, sadly, never be allowed now.  What was Santa Claus called in other lands?  How and when did he arrive?  Reminiscing as I write, this is one of the earliest Christmas memories I have.

My interest in Christmas traditions around the world has not waned.  I have a few books that compile stories from many cultures and traditions, such as "Christmas Stories From Many Lands".

Used record stores and the other Christmas Music sharity sites have provided a bounty of recordings highlighting the musical celebrations from other countries.  Christmas in France, Germany, Sweden, England, Poland, and many others have graced the blogs of the sharity community.

So, I was very pleased to find the record I am sharing today, "Christmas in Europe".  This is an excellent collection of Christmas songs from across Europe.  Spain, France, Italy, Denmark, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and England are all represented in this 17 song album.  The music is terrific, and the album back cover gives us a snippet of the Christmas traditions from each country.  For me, it hearkens back to my childhood, learning about the traditions of Christmas around the world.

There is more noise on these rips than I would have liked, but it's the best I could do without losing too much of the range.  Even with a bit of noise, this is still a very enjoyable record.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

download link

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ethel Smith Christmas Music

My share for tonight is a very nice record from Ethel Smith, featuring eight Christmas songs performed on the organ.  This is a 10 inch record I found in a local thrift store.  I love finding the occasional 10-inch record when I'm looking through the bins.  This record came in a sleeve that was in great shape, except for a couple spots of wear.  The record itself wasn't quite as pristine as the cover, but still provides some good seasonal organ music.

Please enjoy Ethel Smith at the organ, with chimes, celeste, and vibraphone accompaniment.

download link

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Q and A with Jillaine!

It is my pleasure and privilege to bring you this special feature today - an interview with Jillaine!  You've read about Jillaine here on these pages before.  Following her her first two album releases, she gave us "Jazzy Christmas to You!" last year (reviewed here).  In 2012 Jillaine released an album of patriotic songs titled "As American As Jazz", as well as two singles, "My World" and "The Moment".  Then, bringing joy to our hearts and ears, she released "Jazzy Christmas To You II" last month, her second collection of Christmas songs in two years.  I hope you enjoy learning more about his fine vocalist in this Q and A with Jillaine!

Q: Your vocal work is mighty impressive. Are you strictly a vocalist, or do you play instruments as well?

A: Thank you! I appreciate the compliment. I am grateful for many wonderful and very talented teachers and coaches over the years. I am grateful for talents God gave me to develop and use. I do play the harp, which can be heard on my single "My World." I played cello before I started harp. At the moment though, I perform and record mostly as a vocalist but I will be working my harp into my vocal performances!

Q: Who are your inspirations and influences as a jazz singer?

A: I really do love Ella Fitzgerald. I love the clarity and brightness in her voice and the way she uniquely uses her vibrato in unexpected ways. I enjoy knowing about her as a dignified, caring professional musician and person. I also appreciate Billie Holiday for pioneering the back beat in vocal jazz. Her tortured life is not only reflected in but poured into her music which is instructive to anyone who listens to her sing.

Q: With two Christmas albums released in two years, it's clear that you love Christmas music. How did this develop? Was Christmas music a big part of your childhood?

A: Actually, I pull out Christmas music by July! With the recordings for these two albums, I have been able to enjoy Christmas music production year round. My family has always included music with Christmas. On Dec. 23 or Christmas Eve, my family carols to our neighbors and people in the community we want to thank for their contributions to making living in our town better. We bring baklava and other family favorites to share. Sometimes my sister brings her soprano sax home and accompanies us. The sparkling quality of the saxophone stops time for a few moments as we carol. When we get home, we get into our nativity costumes to re-enact Luke 2.
When I was four, my sister videotaped me and my younger brother, Erik--the sound engineer who records, mixes, and masters all my music--as we put on a Christmas show. During one segment I'm holding a harp ornament and dancing with no regard to timing to the Beach Boys "Little Saint Nick." So you see, we embrace all sorts of Christmas music!
The day after Thanksgiving is the day we decorate the house. Erik and I have special memories of our favorite Mannheim Steamroller tracks to which we made up specific "dance moves" as we decorated.

Q: What kind of experience do you hope to give the listener of your Christmas albums?

A: I hope to give listeners of my Christmas music vibrant reminders of joyous, meaningful past Christmases as well as a hopeful vision for future ones. I love Christmas and everything it represents. I have a great love for the Savior and even though I sing secular and sacred songs on both albums, I hope to communicate an abiding love and gratitude for God, Jesus Christ, and my family. I think music should be meaningful, connective, personal, and uplifting, even when listening to blues!

Q: Who is one of your favorite traditional Christmas music singers? And who is a favorite contempory performer of holiday tunes?

A: That's a very good question! For traditional Christmas music, believe it or not, I think Elvis Presley is my absolute favorite! I have a lot of memories associated with his Christmas songs. I grew up with the compiled CD of his Christmas music. I cherish the personal emotion he infuses into his songs. When I die, I want to sing a Christmas duet with him on the other side!
For a contemporary performer I think I'd have to say Scott McCreery. His deep voice with all its richness is perfect for Christmas music.

Q: If you had to name one, just *one*, favorite Christmas song, what would it be, and why?

A: I love contemplative Christmas songs. If I had to name just one, I'd say "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." I love the harmonies and the melody. I also love the lyrics which span time and emphasize the relevancy of the Savior today.

Q: Can you recommend any independent musicians that the readers here at Merry and Bright need to check out, but may not have heard of?

A: This may be a stretch for an independent artist, but there is a song that was released in 2008 by Jay Graydon that he and his dad, Joe Graydon, recorded before Joe passed away in 2001. It is called "On This Christmas Eve." It is just the one song but it is stellar.

Joe Graydon was a complete vocalist! He was a lawyer. He was an FBI man. He was a manager. He created shows! He had his own variety talk show. He was immensely talented at including all that is good in big band music. My objective in producing music is to remind listeners of the remarkable quality recordings from the 1950s and 1960s in studios that valued live musicianship--musicianship that Joe and Jay have! They gave a great gift to listeners when "On This Christmas Eve" was released.

Q: Announcing "Jazzy Christmas To You III" was great news! What else is coming from Jillaine?

A: I have a jazz standards CD tracked. It will be out sometime next year!

Q: Last question: Will you please come to Kansas City for a gig?

A: I would LOVE to come to Kansas City for a gig! I'll have to make that happen! I am trying to finish my degree in jazz studies with a vocal emphasis. I do perform when I can. I love performing for charities that benefit children and families, having performed for a foundation that raises money for neonatal and pediatric units for seven years now. I often donate CDs to support organizations that work directly with families in distress. So maybe there is a charity I could help in Kansas City!
          Q: Thanks Jillaine! Merry Christmas!

          A: Thank you for allowing me to share! Merriest of Christmases to you!

Link:  Jillaine Records

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Saturday Night Share

Doing a quick post here tonight to share out another record.  This is "The Greatest Songs of Christmas' by the John McCarthy Chorale.   This is a 1973 release on the RCA label, and it's very nice chorale work.   The arrangements are pretty standard, but very well performed and recorded.  Plus, the album I have is clean, so I got a very good transfer from the vinyl to digital.  I think you'll enjoy it.

download link

P.S.  Make sure to come back to Merry and Bright tomorrow for a special post - an unprecedented feature here on M&B.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Royal Kickoff to the Season

Hello everyone!  I hope all my readers had a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday.  And now that we're "officially" into the Christmas season, I have my first Christmas music share of the season for you.

Kicking things off this year is a terrific recording by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians.  My record is a 1973 release of "Jingle Bells" by MCA, although it appears to be a re-release.  At any rate, it's a terrific collection of 12 songs by Mr. Lombardo and his orchestra.  Featured vocalists include Kenny Gardner and the Lombardo Trio, Richard Geary, Tony Craig, and, on "Winter Wonderland", the Andrews Sisters!

The arrangements are superb, making this a very enjoyable and nostalgic record.  A highlight is "Christmas Chopsticks", track 6, which closes out Side 1 of the record.

Please enjoy "Jingle Bells" by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians.

Update:  Sorry folks - This file has been tagged as non-downloadable by the host, so I have to remove the link.  Guy, we hardly knew ye.

<download link removed>

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Good morning and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!  I'm just about to start my personal annual tradition of morning coffee and reading Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory", a story I love more than any other.

Everyone please have a safe and happy holiday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Album Review: Two from Ken Elkinson

Ken Elkinson is an artist from Venice, CA via Cedar Grove, New Jersey and the greater New York area.  Ken has released two Christmas albums, "Generations of Yuletide" in 2008 and "Christmas Ambient" in 2012.

"Generations" is an album featuring solo piano interpretations of 16 Christmas songs, blending traditional carols such as "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" and "Greensleeves" with contemporary songs, including "The Little Drummer Boy" and "I'll Be Home For Christmas".

"Christmas Ambient" is, as you astute readers have already surmised, a collection of Christmas songs performed in the ambient music genre.  The 16 tracks include traditional favorites ("Deck the Halls", "Away In A Manger", "O Come All Ye Faithful"), beautiful holiday songs that may not get the "A-list" play ("Bring A Torch Jeannette Isabella"), and a few songs new to me, such as "The Truth Sent From Above".

Now, I don't know much about the ambient music genre (perhaps the King of Jingaling will comment here for us).  What I have discovered while listening to "Christmas Ambient" is that the music is, first of all, very pleasant, soothing, and beautiful.  Secondly, the music is masterfully crafted, subtly layering sounds together to create the flowing theme and foundation of each song, then gently adding the melody, ultimately creating a listening experience that you absorb rather than hear.  Ken's work is, to me, the ambient music novice, very pleasant and surprisingly complex.

"Generations of Yuletide", Ken's earlier Christmas release, is a quite enjoyable work.  Ken's talents as both a pianist and arranger/interpreter are evident.  For a quiet evening of Christmas music and a glass of wine with a loved one, "Generations" is perfect.

A couple other things about Ken.  First he is a prolific (and generous) musician.  Visit his website to learn more about his album releases through the years, including "Music for Commuting" a 60 track CD set of soothing music, for those who commute through snarling and crazy traffic.  Information about "Music for Commuting" and all of Ken's other releases is on his web store page.

Second, Ken is hilarious.  His wit is apparent in the liner notes in "Generations".  And, dig these highlights from his "Case History":

8/28/72 - Ken Elkinson is born in Cedar Grove, New Jersey.  His grandmother comments that he has long fingers and predicts that he will play piano.

3/39/97 - Ken debuts Midnight Conversation during a release party jam-packed with crazed fans.  The event is compared to the Beatles arrival at J.F.K.

11/1/00 - [Ken] declares himself the David Hasselhoff of solo piano when Reverly reaches the Top 20 in airplay on over 70 radio stations, including several in Germany.

4/1/04 - Due to Ken's meteoric rise to fame, a bitter east coast/west coast new age war breaks out between himself and John Tesh.

Finally, here's the best part:  a sampler collection of Ken's music.  Ken has allowed me to provide to you a few songs from his two albums.  So, here is a link to a ZIP file containing four tracks from "Generations" and five from "Christmas Ambient".  I hope you like them, and if you do, visit Ken's website or other online retailers and pick up the whole collection.

Update:  Well folks - even though the artist gave me permission to share this sample collection, Mediafire has tagged it as copyright material and is preventing downloads.  So, please visit Ken's website below to check out his music.

Ken Elkinson Collection   (sample no longer downloadable)

More information about Ken Elkinson and his music:

Ken Elkinson Website

Christmas Ambient on Amazon

Generations of Yuletide on Amazon

Music for Commuting

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Ready, Set....

It's been a good week or so for Der Bingle's preparation of the Christmas sharity.  Unlike last year, the artwork processing was very smooth.  I think the scanner is new since last year (although I'm not sure about that).  I have a new laptop which runs *much* faster, and the latest versions of audio and image processing software.  So, everything I have for sharing is ripped, cleaned, scanned, stitched, zipped, and uploaded.  Hmmmm....  kind of sounds like what happened to Scarecrow and Tin Woodman once they reached the Emerald City.

Anyway, I'll be kicking off the sharity season after Thanksgiving.  I have some things this year that I think you all will really enjoy.  Some of the records were pretty clean and pristine, and others were a little rough.  So, a few of the audio tracks have some noise that I couldn't get cleaned out.  We'll just call those a true vinyl simulation experience :-)

I also have some more reviews to do, of CDs I've purchased and others submitted to me by the artists.  So I'll be intermixing those posts in with the shares.  And I'll probably share a few other holiday thoughts and posts along the way.

Today, I and the youngest Bingles put up most of the Christmas lights.  We're about 80% done, and will get the rest up next weekend.  The season is here!

One last thing - another holiday bucket list item is checked off for me.  I got to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" live last night, here in Kansas City.  An awesome performance....

Stay tuned!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Christmas Mixes from Dinsdale Kringle

Our friend Dinsdale Kringle over at Santas Working Overtime has created some pretty awesome Christmas music mixes on  Here's a link to one of his posts on SWO:

Sister Winter Mix

From the SWO page you'll be linked to, where you can see all of Dinsdale's mixes.

I jumped on to the app store on my iPhone, downloaded the 8tracks radio app, and am now enjoying Dinsdale's "Oh God No, It's Christmas" mix.  Like I said earlier, pretty awesome.  Between this and the Live 365 app to stay connected to Sounds of Christmas, I'll have plenty of Christmas tunes available next week on my quick business trip to Denver.

Check out these great mixes from friend Dinsdale Kringle!

Santas Working Overtime

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Good morning all.  This is just a quick post to point you to an exciting announcement from Jillaine. Please visit her site to see the great news!

Jillaine's Exciting News

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Jillaine: Jazzy Christmas To You!

Merry and Bright readers who stay in touch through the off-season know that I'm a big fan of Jillaine, the immensely talented, beautiful, and young jazz songstress hailing from Utah by way of Iowa. Earlier this year, I contacted Jillaine and asked about purchasing her Christmas CD and having her sign it (Der Bingle loves signed books and CDs). Jillaine responded by sending me her entire CD catalog, signed as promised! I listened to her first two albums and fell in love with her voice and style, and reviewed the records in the blog (here and here).

I saved Jillaine's Christmas CD until the season, so it would be like a little treat for myself. You know – not unwrapping until the season and all. Well, the season arrived, I unwrapped “Jazzy Christmas To You!”, and it is, indeed, a Christmas treat from Jillaine.

Folks, I'm telling you, Jillaine has as distinctive a voice and style as I've heard in a long time. I had been totally blown away the first time I have heard an artist only three times – Oscar Peterson, Madeleine Peyroux, and Sophie Madeleine. Jillaine is number four.

“Jazzy Christmas To You!” is an amazing addition to Jillaine's recordings. Her voice is perfectly suited to Christmas music, and her interpretations of Christmas standards are fresh, unique, and, above all, fun!

“Deck the Halls” opens the album. In my opinion, “Deck the Halls” can be a tough song to make memorable. I've heard many competent but ultimately unexciting versions by artists major and minor. Jillaine breathes life into “Deck the Halls” in a completely original fashion, full of energy, full of holiday spirit. It's a perfect way to kick off the record (and, this song will open Der Bingle's 2012 Christmas Comp for family and friends).

There is only one rule for artists who record “Jingle Bells” - have fun with it. Bing had fun. Barenaked Ladies had a whole lotta fun with their version. Jillaine gives us a version of “Jingle Bells” loaded with fun and energy. It's short, sweet, and spirited.

The best song on the album may be “What Child Is This?”. Jillaine performs this with a soulful, spiritual power that is beyond comparison. Her love for the music, the message, and the meaning of Christmas exudes from this performance. I literally shed a tear the first time I listened to it.

There are 15 songs on the album, all of them strong, all of them beautiful.  Jillaine's musicians, Craig Adler on piano and guitar, James Archibald on bass, and Ryan Flores on drums blend and complement Jillaine's vocals.  Craig's piano work is especially superb, not simply accompanying Jillaine but instead combining and partnering, as great musical performances should.

What could be better?

I'll tell you what – a follow-up album this year! Jillaine has released “Jazzy Christmas To You II”, which I'm expecting to arrive in the mail any day now. No waiting around to open it – nosiree :-)

Hey Jillaine – how about a “Jazzy Christmas To You III” next year? Please?

Jillaine Music website

Jazzy Christmas To You on Amazon

And, once again, thanks to my friend Stubby for introducing me to Jillaine's music.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

New Christmas Release Mini-Reviews

I've acquired a few new release Christmas CDs this year, so I'll post a few thoughts about them.  Mini-reviews, strictly my opinions.  These albums were already on my must-buy list this year, and there are a few others I'm considering.  The great thing about online music services such as Spotify is that you can listen to many of these new releases before you make a buying decision.  So, between my mini-reviews, all the other reviews out there in Christmas music land, and the ability to listen online, you'll have lots of information available to help decide what to add to your own personal Christmas music collection.

Chris Mann - "Home for Christmas"

Chris Mann was a finalist on season 2 of "The Voice" (a show I and my family love to watch).  Chris is an opera singer from Wichita, KS (hey!  I grew up 45 miles south of Wichita), and he quickly became a favorite of ours each week as he made it further toward the finals. 

Chris has released a 6-song EP this Christmas, a Wal-Mart exclusive release.  I set aside my personal pledge to avoid Wal-Mart in order to buy Chris' CD, and it was well worth it.  Chris' performances are splendid, and this CD will get a lot of play in the Bingle house this year.  The highlights are the beautiful "O Holy Night" and "Ave Maria", and Chris' rendition of "The First Noel" is one of the best I've heard.

Stylistically, Chris Mann will be compared to Josh Groban.  There's some legitimacy to that, although Josh Groban is a purer baritone while Chris edges closer to tenor. 

I think you will enjoy Chris Mann and "Home for Christmas".

Colbie Caillat - "Christmas in the Sand"

Colbie Caillat's Christmas release was one of most highly anticipated here in the Christmas interwebs.  I bought the Target exclusive edition, with a couple bonus songs.  Colbie has a terrific, natural singing style, effortlessly hitting the notes and rhythms.  "Christmas in the Sand" is very pleasant and tuneful, but seems to be lacking songs that are truly memorable.  Nothing here really stands out as exceptional, nor is there a bad song on the disc.  To me, it's a middle-of-the-road, pleasant to hear once or twice type of album.

I'll admit to not being much of a country music fan, but I wanted to love this record.  I like it, but don't love it.  Colbie performs well, but I can't hear much passion in the recordings.  And, there are too many duets.  It seems like country singers have a quota for duets on their Christmas releases.  Three of the first six songs as duets were just too many.  Maybe I would have liked the record more if it were just Colbie.  I'll never know.

It's pleasant, and Christmassy, and charming.  Just not too memorable.

Blake Shelton - "Cheers, It's Christmas"

Hmmm, I just said that I'm not much of a country music fan, and here I am reviewing another album by a country music artist, Blake Shelton.  Blake is terrific as a coach on "The Voice", and he's very good at his craft.  And, generally, Blake's brand of country music is not too bad to Der Bingle's ears. 

Blake's "Cheers, It's Christmas" is in may ways similar to Colbie Caillat's.  It's competently done, sticks to the dual genres of Christmas and country, and features several duets.  And again, like Colbie's, it's pleasant to listen to, but not one that I'll spin every day.

One difference though, is a standout song.  Blake, together with "Voice" protege Xenia, perform "Silver Bells" using a unique and outstanding arrangement.  This is truly a memorable performance, and placed as track 12, was a very satisfying surprise toward the end of the record.

Country music fans will probably love this record.  I like it, and love "Silver Bells".

Ceelo Green - "Ceelo's Magic Moment"

We didn't know what to expect from Ceelo Green, another performer tied to "The Voice" (a coach, as is Blake Shelton).  We knew that whatever Ceelo released on a Christmas record would be interesting.

So far, "Ceelo's Magic Moment" is my favorite new release for 2012.  Yes, it's interesting, but in very good ways.  Ceelo has given us a record with a wide variety of Christmas songs, with a few guest stars, such as Christina Aguilera, Rod Stewart, Straight No Chaser, and The Muppets. 

Everything is solid and entertaining, with creative arrangements, going over the top when it makes sense (Baby, It's Cold Outside) and showing respect and reverence when appropriate ("Silent Night").  Ceelo has fun with the Muppets on "All I Need Is Love" and with Straight No Chaser on a great interpretation of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch".

The highlight, though, is a tremendous verson of "Mary, Did You Know?".   Easily the most emotional song on the record, Ceelo treats this song with all the reverence it deserves.  It is a beautifully charged song, performed excellently.

I highly recommend adding Ceelo to your Christmas.

Well, that's all for tonight.  Der Bingle will be back soon with more Christmas-season ramblings...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Season is Approaching...

It's getting close to that time of the year....  In only 7 more days I switch over to all Christmas Music.  I've been listening to some over the past few weeks, here and there, every now and then.  The WT Grant series has been getting some play in my office.  With Halloween nearing, I'm mainly spinning some classic spooky tunes for the next few days.  But then, come Nov 1, it's Christmas Music season!

I acquire Christmas Music CDs throughout the year when I find something of interest in a thrift or used book store, and then start buying the new releases as soon as they come out.  Today was a particularly good day.  I made a couple stops, and brought home the new releases from Chris Mann (from The Voice), Colbie Caillat, Christina Perri, and the latest Now! Christmas comp (pretty good stuff on it, with a few exceptions, ahem ahem Bieber ahem).  Previously I had picked up Blake Shelton's new release.  I'm not a big country music guy, but Blake is pretty good.  I wait until Nov. 1 to listen to the new stuff each year - it's like a little treat for ol' Der Bingle.

There are more new releases (or re-releases) that I will be getting.  I think Cee Lo Green's album will be interesting.  Jumped all over the chance to order a signed Doris Day release from Real Gone today.  Then there's the upcoming new release from one of my favorite new jazz singers, Jillaine. 

And, yes, I've been working on getting some shares ready for all of you awesome Merry and Bright readers.  I have some pretty good stuff I've been preparing.  I probably won't share anything out until after Thanksgiving this year, but you never know.  Maybe one or two special treats will sneak in early.  I've been focusing on recording, and tonight was a massive ClickRepair session.  Later comes the artwork scanning and processing.  Then zipping, uploading, and posting.  It's all progressing...

Well, have a great Halloween everyone!  I'll be back in the posting swing very soon.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sophie Madeleine "The Rhythm You Started"

Hello dear readers.  All of you long-time friends of Merry and Bright know that Sophie Madeleine is my favorite artist of the decade.  You can check the archives for my posts about Sophie and her music, and my opportunity to meet her last December in NYC.

Such a lovely and talented artist deserves lots of good publicity, so I thought I'd create a quick post to let you all know that her CD "The Rhythm You Started" is now available in the U.S. on Amazon and iTunes.  The U.S. release contains a new song, previously unavailable, called "Poltergeist".

Sophie is an amazingly talented singer/songwriter/ukuleleist, with a *beautiful* voice.  Check out her videos on Youtube, then head on over to Amazon or iTunes and buy her CD.  Oh yeah, she has a cool website, too, and you can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

"The Rhythm You Started" on Amazon

Sophie Madeleine website

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cavalcade of Sports

Here's an interesting little record I found recently.  It appears to be a promotional 7" 33RPM record for a larger set of recordings.  This is called "Cavalcade of Sports", and features narration by the great Mel Allen.  Who else grew up just waiting each week for "This Week in Baseball" and the voice of Mel?

For sports buffs, this is a very interesting record.  You'll hear the voices of many sports greats from years past, including Jesse Owens talking about the Berlin Olympics, Lou Gherig speaking on his retirement day, and Babe Ruth, both at his retirement and just before his death.

One of the most interesting sound clips is from Knute Rockne.  There is an extended clip of Knute addressing his Notre Dame team before a game.  Trivia time:  Knute Rockne died in a plane crash near tiny Matfield Green, Kansas, in 1931.  Matfield Green is in Chase County, KS, one of the most beautiful counties in the state.  The 60ish miles on K-177 from Cassoday, KS North to Council Grove is one of the most scenic drives in the state.  Northbound, you can see the Knute Rockne memorial off to the right on top of the hill where the plane crashed.  The memorial in on private land, so is not accessible to the public.  I used to drive by there on my college travels, from my home in South-Central Kansas to Kansas State University in Manhattan.

Anyway, here it is, of interest to sports fans, probably not so much for others.  A final note:  the record was a little rough, so there are a couple skips in the recording.


download link