24 December 2010

More Christmas Vinyl

More Christmas Vinyl
By Kristin Battestella

It’s that time of year again! Time to dust off those warped Christmas vinyl delights and enjoy the snap, crackle, and pop of records in lieu of a real toasty fireplace- after awhile, they sound the same anyway.  Here are a few timeless hits to enjoy again on the phonograph or bring into the digital play list. 

Christmas AlbumBarbra Streisand A Christmas Album – Reissued in several CD sets, this 1967 Christmas debut has remained popular thanks to big and fine Broadway-esque renditions of classics like The Christmas Song and Ave Maria, with new arrangements of My Favorite Things and The Lord’s Prayer.  I could, however, do without Babs’ iffy take on Jingle Bells- her super speedy arrangement makes you want to check if you have the right RPM speed.  Otherwise, this short half hour set is perfect for a mature evening of holiday martinis, mimosas, and memories. 

A George Beverly Shea ChristmasChristmas Hymns George Beverly Shea – The longtime Billy Graham Crusade vocalist lends his deep sound to not often heard classics like Put the Christ Back into Christmas, I Wonder as I Wander, and O Men from the Fields along with traditional carols such as Go Tell It on the Mountain and Sleep Precious Babe.  Obviously recorded with plenty of reverence in mind, this lovely set is perfect for a Christmas Eve candlelight dinner or a somber late night wrapping presents. Although it looks like this record is part and parcel with the CD A George Beverly Shea Christmas and contemporary listeners might not be accustomed to such old-time baritone arrangements; today’s spiritual families would be hard pressed to find a more focused Christian Christmas album.

Holiday Sing Along With Mitch (Exp)Holiday Sing Along with Mitch – Well, I can’t think of a more annoying album than this kitschy set from Mitch Miller- and it’s complete with song sheets, too.  However, no holiday household full of kids is complete without this fifties best seller.  Honestly, Must be Santa and the Twelve Days of Christmas on one record? With Frosty and Rudolph, too? Oh me oh my, the kids can go to town with this one, and adults will definitely be singing along with these easy arrangements- by choice or torture.  Thankfully, mellow renditions of I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, The Christmas Song, and Silver Bells balance the fun for all.

Jackie Gleason White ChristmasJackie Gleason White Christmas ­– Though one can debate how much Gleason actually took part in his musical endeavors, slow and moody treats like the titular staple, Blue Christmas, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas are most excellent secular instrumentals for a lonely winter’s night or a private, mellow evening for two.  Even normally upbeat hits like Let it Snow and Jingle Bells are slowed down to waltzing pace with your turtledove here. Talk about fifty cents well spent! Such brass, such velvet…hot damn.

Merry Mancini ChristmasA Merry Mancini Christmas – This swanky 1966 LP from the Oscar winning composing maestro begins with a fine Little Drummer Boy and continues with smooth medleys of secular essentials like Winter Wonderland and Silver Bells- as well as the classic carols We Three Kings, O Come All Ye Faithful, and Joy to the World.  Some modern listeners may not be used to the choral styled vocals, but the blended sound is soft and easy for all to enjoy.  I don’t know about the happenin’ Rudolph rendition here, but kids always love that one. The record also adheres to the old format of secular tunes on one side, religious compositions on the other, assuring something for everyone, indeed.

Season's GreetingsSeason’s Greetings from Perry Como – I happened to find this 1959 record hidden within another set and was pleasantly surprised to find all the traditional greats like Home for the Holidays and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer in one collection.  Como’s good old jolly mid-century style adds winter charm to Here we Come A Caroling, Winter Wonderland, and even the traditionally somber God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. He doesn’t have the range for O Holy Night, but it’s also nice to here this lofty tale down on the easy notch.  A Christmas Story melody of words and songs adds a little family reverence for all to enjoy as well. Como perfectly combines the best of the secular season with the true meaning of Christmas.

I’ve linked to the CD versions of these albums on Amazon, although a few are out of print or not available for download.  However, it also occurs to me that one might not have a record player anymore these days- although the current ease of USB plug-in and conversion processes have brought several copying entertainment systems back on the market in common department stores like Target and K-Mart.  My current record player- a Crosley stand-alone unit now discontinued- was an early Christmas gift from my mother in 2003.  I had spent the previous year without a player after the needle on my automatic player broke, so $60 at Value City was a stereophonic steal as far as I’m concerned. 

Even with the ease of digital music, the affordability of transferring equipment and the nostalgia of records at second hand shops have returned- and it’s just perfect for the Christmas season!  

1 comment:

Kristin Battestella said...

It looks like the complete George Beverly Shea Christmas Hymns is now on Amazon!