12 December 2012

Christmas Vinyl 2012!

And Yet Still More Christmas Music Vinyl!
By Kristin Battestella

Yes, I’m still listening to some rare, unusual, elusive, and downright spiffy old warped Christmas Records! Aren’t you?

Charles Dickens Classics: A Christmas Carol and Mr. Pickwick’s Christmas – The Dickensian bicentennial love has spilled over into our holiday snap, crackle, and pop with this record reading by Ronald Colman and Charles Laughton.  Soft carol interludes and complete sound effects accent Colman’s condensed Side A as Scrooge. Some of the tale is merely a necessitated part and parcel reading, but other segments are the famous dialogue as drama, and all the quintessential scenes are there. It’s more like a radio production than an audio book thanks to all the bells and whistles and kids today will most definitely still get a kick out of this. Though not as famous, Mr. Pickwick’s Christmas told by Laughton on Side B is a lovely encapsulation of the Victorian of Dickens and the post-war sound. It’s the perfect late night listen for wide-eyed children and gets folks to pay attention to some humor and holiday memories.  This record is perfect to cap off a seasonal classroom or family baking night with young ones. 

Favorite Christmas Carols from the Voices of Firestone Volume 1 – Big vocalists Rise Stevens and Brian Sullivan lead this debut set of perfect carol medleys such as the lively Joy to the World, sweet Away in the Manger, deep We Three Kings, happy Hark the Herald Angels Sing, stunning Silent Night, and more.  Full operatic editions of O Holy Night, The First Noel, a darling It Came upon a Midnight Clear, and a catchy O Christmas Tree are ideal for a mellow holiday dining room, too. The shrill alternating choir sounds of What Child Is This and O Come All Ye Faithful won’t be for everyone, nor the wobbly O Little Town of Bethlehem. However, the family friendly and old-fashioned sounds of Jingle Bells, Up on the House Top, Deck the Halls, and Jolly Old Saint Nicholas keep the album charming for all.

Sing We Now of Christmas: The Harry Simeone Chorale – There’s plenty of spiritual and holiday fun in this packed choir set- from the innocent softness of Away in the Manger and Good King Wenceslas to the festive shaker styled Go Tell It on the Mountain and Rise Up Shepherds. O Holy Night is big and reverent with all the right notes; What Child Is This and We Three Kings are wonderfully ancient and brooding.  Lovely lesser-known carols such as O Come Little Children, The Friendly Beasts, and Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming might be jarring to some amid the famous and sing-able, but it’s nice to discover new old carols, too. Likewise, less commonly heard renditions of O Tannenbaum, The Coventry Carol, Ding Dong Merrily on High, and the Latin Adeste Fideles are a treat. There’s a little bit of everything here, something fast and fun for the whole family with spoken verses amid quick choruses and near medley editions of a rousing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and a tender O Little Town of Bethlehem. Though not for uber modern families who dislike traditional high-pitched notes, this one’s fun for old school families.

A Very Merry Christmas Volume 1 – The Ray Conniff Singers open this 1967 debut of the Columbia record set for Grant’s Stores with a typically styled Little Drummer Boy, and the rest of Side A is a confusing mix of country, pop, and unfamiliar tunes. Though Johnny Mathis is always strong for O Holy Night, Patti Page sounds surprisingly poor for Santo Natale. Simon and Garfunkel are also a miss with The Star Carol, but fortunately the flip side wins with traditional family fair. A medley of carols including The First Noel, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, and O Come All Ye Faithful; Do You Hear What I Hear by Bobby Vinton; a fun Twelve Days of Christmas with Burl Ives and Percy Faith; a wonderfully medieval God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman; and a big Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah finish this first volume in fine form.

A Very Merry Christmas Volume 2 – Mitch Miller’s Joy to the World and Robert Goulet’s O Holy Night skip on my copy of this second LP from Grant’s, but both are still delightful, as is Mahalia Jackson’s slow and soulful rendition of O Little Town of  Bethlehem.  Here we Come a Caroling sounds a little strange thanks to the lyrical swapping of Wassailing for Caroling, but kids can single along with this and Side 2’s Jingle Bells opener. Doris Day isn’t super brooding like we expect for Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, but it is bittersweet nonetheless. Although it’s made a bit too lullaby-esque, it’s great to hear Johnny Cash sing I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.  Common recordings like We Need a Little Christmas, What Child is this from Bing Crosby, and Johnny Mathis’ Silver Bells can be found almost anywhere today. However, these record anthologies often have a few rarities that you just can’t get elsewhere, and this second attempt is a more polished and pleasant listen.

 And to think, I have even more Christmas records!!!

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