Thursday, January 18, 2018

Der Bingle's Essentials: Emmylou Harris "Light of the Stable"

Emmylou Harris' amazing Christmas album "Light of the Stable" is my choice for the second entry in my 'Essentials' series.  It'll be hard for me not to just gush on and on about this beautiful album, always an absolute must-listen for me many times every Christmas season.

"Light of the Stable" was first released as a 10-track album in 1979, and then re-released as an expanded 13-track CD in 2004 (with an intervening remaster of the original record in 1992).  I have the 2004 CD in my collection, and happily so, as it has "The Cherry Tree Carol" as an added song, one of my favorite Christmas carols.

"Light of the Stable" 2004 CD Release

Where to start with "Light of the Stable"?  The 'session' musicians, that include Ricky Skaggs, Rodney Crowell, and Glen D. Hardin?  That Willie Nelson joins as a backup singer?  That Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Neil Young are all backup singers on the title track?  Dolly, Linda, and Neil?  You gotta be kiddin' me!!!

The supporting cast is a start, but it's the beautiful arrangements and Emmylou's amazing, haunting, sexy (there, I said it), angelic voice that makes this album essential for every Christmas music collection.   The songs include standards such as "Little Drummer Boy" and the a capella "The First Noel", and songs by some of the best songwriters in the business - "Angel Eyes" (Rodney Crowell), "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem" (Arthur L. Phipps), and "Man is an Island" (McGarrigle sisters).  

"Light of the Stable" 1979 Album

The (2004) album kicks off with a rousing "Christmas Time's A-Coming", followed by "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "Away in a Manger".   After eight more gorgeous songs, Emmylou & friends close the album with "Light of the Stable", penned by Steven and Elizabeth Rhymer.

The music is tinged with the sounds of the country/roots/folk/Americana genre, but really it's simply beautiful Christmas music through and through.  Emmylou Harris is an American musical treasure who, in my opinion, even with all her success, is still underappreciated.  If you add "Light of the Stable" to your collection, you'll soon learn to not only appreciate but love her and her contribution to Christmas music.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Der Bingle's Essentials: Bing Crosby "Merry Christmas"

Where else would I start my Essentials series than with the original Der Bingle, Le Bing, Mr. Crosby -  Bing Crosby's "Merry Christmas".

The version of "Merry Christmas" that I have is MCA-15024, which according to Tim Neely's Christmas Record Price Guide, dates back to the 1955 Decca release, which itself hails from the 1949 10" set.  This is classic Bing, classic Christmas, with a selection of 12 superb Christmas songs, including "White Christmas", "Jingle Bells" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" with the Andrews Sisters, and other classics.  This album can be the cornerstone of any new Christmas music collection.
I got my copy back in the mid 1980's, one of the first "new" Christmas records I bought as a young adult.

There are many CD collections of Christmas music from Bing Crosby.  Any of the major label collections or official releases from the curators of Bing's music would be fine ways to start a collection, and I could name any of them as "essential".  But really, the only essential is having your own Bing Crosby music for Christmas.

So, why did I choose "Der Bingle" as my blogging non de plume?  Well, the first record I can remember having as a child was "Songs of Christmas" by Bing.  And this goes way back, to when I was 5 or 6 years old.  I loved it then, playing it during and outside of the season, enchanted by "Rudolph" and "Twelve Days of Christmas".  On the back of the album (see image below) the text said that he was known as "El Bingo" in Mexico, "Le Bing" in "France", and "Der Bingel" in Germany.  I thought that "Der Bingel" was funny, and so adopted it, with a spelling change prompted by Internet "research".  And so here I am.  And, the scans included here are from that very album that I grew up with.  Still in the collection, always will be.

So, the first entry in Der Bingle's Essentials is Der Bingel's "Merry Christmas".