Remembering David Bowie

I woke up this morning to see the sad news that David Bowie had passed away yesterday after an 18-month long bout with cancer. It hit me hard – along with the rest of the world, it seems. From what I’m reading in my social media feeds today, David Bowie appears to have been nearly universally beloved among my music loving friends. And although we are collectively mourning the loss of this artist that meant so much to so many of us, it has been heartening to see how we’re also celebrating his lifetime of musical gifts that touched our lives. (You can read more about Bowie’s life and music, and listen to and watch some performances, at the links below.)

David Bowie Stage LP

Listening to “Heroes” on my vinyl copy of the double live album ‘Stage’ released in 1978.

David Bowie came into my life in the late 70s (when I was about 12 or 13 years old) through FM radio first, of course, and then through listening to his albums on a friend’s turntable and then as part of my own record collection. I had heard his hits on the radio in southern California but didn’t own any of his albums and didn’t know his music beyond those songs. I remember sitting there listening to Young Americans for the first time in 1976 or 1977 and being caught up in the lush and soulful sounds coming through the speakers. It’s a great album, and it’s probably good that I started with that one. After listening to Young Americans, I heard some of his earlier albums – Diamond Dogs, Aladdin Sane, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars – and became a fan. Those albums had their edgy moments and opened up my ears to other performers like Roxy Music, Brian Eno, the Velvet Underground and Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and King Crimson. His various personae did seem strange to me – a young, fairly straight-laced, middle class kid growing up in the San Fernando Valley of southern California, but I suppose that was part of the fascination with him. Here was someone constantly testing the boundaries and pushing against the norm. I was intrigued by that. Bowie’s albums of the later 70s, the famed “Berlin Trilogy” – Low, “Heroes” and Lodger – were something else again. Those albums took me out of my comfort zone, but I later listened to them intently. I think my affinity for Bowie’s music led directly to my becoming a huge fan of the Talking Heads around 1980. (The fact that Brian Eno had a hand in each of their sounds was certainly a factor as well.) As New Wave swept through my musical world in the early 80s, Bowie put out several excellent albums and accompanying music videos that solidified his reputation for the MTV generation of listeners, too.

I had a late night radio show in the late 80s, and at first it was a mix of classic rock and newer rock, but it evolved into mostly modern rock over time. When I started to think of what constituted “modern rock,” the mid 1970s music of Bowie gave me my somewhat blurry definition. It’s still a distinction I use to this day. Bowie and some others around that time changed rock and roll forever. I’m grateful to have experienced that.

What also made me a fan of Bowie was the fact that he wasn’t just a brilliant songwriter and accomplished musician, but he was also a music producer, painter, actor and more. He did a little bit of everything, it seems, and he stayed artistically expressive throughout his whole career. I always admired that in him. My wife, who is a few years younger than I am, fondly remembers his iconic role as Jareth the Goblin King in the 1986 fantasy film Labyrinth, as do many people of a certain age.

I didn’t listen to Bowie’s new music as much in the 90s and early 2000s and it appeared he went into musical retirement after 2003. But he surprised us all when he released the critically acclaimed album The Next Day in 2013. The album had been recorded in strict secrecy and even the record company’s PR department only learned of it days before its release to the public.

And then Bowie released Blackstar just last week, on January 8, 2016 – his 69th birthday. I had been hearing a lot of buzz around this album, and rightly so. It’s really good. Go listen to it. Blackstar features a couple of very fine jazz musicians that I’m familiar with, Donny McCaslin on horns and Mark Guiliana on drums, among others, and his longtime cohort Tony Visconti once again co-produced the album with Bowie. It should come as no surprise that one of the songs on the album, “Lazarus,” opens with the now haunting lyrics, “Look up here, I’m in heaven…” It was not widely known that Bowie had been battling cancer for the past 18 months, so it was a bit of a shock to wake up this morning – three days after the release of his latest album, to learn that he had died. But how else would you expect someone who lived such an artful life to leave it? Bowie planned it this way, knowing he was dying. Visconti said this today in a statement on his Facebook page,

“He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life – a work of Art. He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry.”

Thank you, David Bowie for your music and art. Now I think I’ll go listen to some of more of your music…as I have been for nearly 40 years.

OBITUARIES – you can find much more information following the links found on these obituary pages.

New York Times obituary

The Guardian obituary

MOJO magazine obituary

BBC News obituary

NME (New Musical Express) obituary



Watch the the official video of “Lazarus” from the album Blackstar – released the same day as the album: Jan. 8, 2016. Bowie’s last hurrah…

New York Times review of Blackstar and how Bowie came to use jazz musician Donny McCaslin’s band for the recording.

NPR Music review of Blackstar

Listen to Bowie’s Fresh Air radio interview with Terry Gross from 2003

1973 video for the song “Life on Mars” from the page of older EMI Music official Bowie videos on YouTube

David Bowie VEVO official page on YouTube



25 Days of Christmas Records – Day 25

Various Artists – Great Songs of Christmas by Great Artists of Our Time (Album Six) [Columbia Special Products CSS 388, 12″ LP, 1966.]

Great Songs of Christmas frontMerry Christmas! And thanks for following along during these 25 Days of Christmas Records. I hope you enjoyed listening and reading as much I enjoyed putting together this very personal exploration of my eclectic Christmas record collection.

It was no easy task coming up with a record to feature for Christmas Day, but it didn’t take much thought to realize that I had to find something of musical significance, something that’s been with us for a long time and will surely be with us for a long time to come. I knew it had to be something that could convey the joy and majesty and spirit of Christmas Day. And it had to be something in my record collection. So I looked to the great classical composers and found a piece from Johann Sebastian Bach, perhaps my favorite composer of them all, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”

This recording comes from an album I have in my collection that is part of the multi-volume “Great Songs of Christmas” series produced by Columbia Special Products for the Goodyear company. The Firestone company also produced a similar series of Christmas albums during the 60s and 70s. Here’s a brief rundown of how these albums came to be found everywhere: “When Shopping for Tires Meant Buying a Christmas Album.” If you ever go to a garage sale or estate sale that has Christmas records, you’re likely to seen many volumes of these albums sitting there in the stacks.

Great Songs of Christmas backFor the most part, these albums featured recordings by various pop singers of the day along with some popular orchestras. These are by no means definitive recordings of the classical works that might be included on the albums. But I think this recording of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by famed cellist Pablo Casals with chorus and orchestra is quite nice. If you can read the liner notes from the back of the album, it states that the then 89-year old Casals traveled to New York specifically to record this for the album. Casals’ recordings of Bach’s cello suites are legendary. And this is an incredibly beautiful tune. Bach really was a genius.

(Since we’re talking about classical Christmas music here, I’ll include this NPR piece from 2012 as an aside: “Whatever Happened to the Classical Christmas Album?” Thanks to my friend Scott Gregory for sharing this.)

Here is Pablo Casals performing “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” as found on this Great Songs of Christmas album.

And I couldn’t resist including one last song to leave you with as my celebration of Christmas records concludes. I had also wanted to feature a recording of “Joy to the World” from my collection, but they were really all rather lackluster and none of them was satisfactory enough to post here.  So, I fudged a little. Here is a wonderful performance of “Joy to the World” by the Cambridge Singers with the City of London Sinfonia conducted by John Rutter.

Let heaven and nature sing!

25 Days of Christmas Records – Day 24

Christmas in Germany frontVarious Artists – Christmas in Germany [Capitol Records (International Series) SM-10095, 12″ LP, 1965?]

Christmas Eve is upon us. I’m going to keep it simple today and tomorrow as I celebrate with my family. This album, Christmas in Germany, features some lovely traditional Christmas melodies in orchestral and choral settings. We’ll take a listen to the most familiar tune on the album, “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” – “Silent Night, Holy Night.”

You can read the original German text along with an English literal translation and much more about the history of “Stille Nacht” at the website of the Silent Night Association based in Salzburg, Austria.

And I think it’s apropos to mention that today marks the centenary of the famous “Christmas Truce” that took place between German and Allied, mostly British, soldiers during the first Christmas at the beginning of World War I in 1914. Christmas songs and other tunes were a part of this event. If only it had proved more lasting.

Christmas in Germany backHere is the version of “Stille Nacht” heard on this album, performed by the Bielefelder Kinderchor, the Bielefeld Children’s Choir, with some church bells at the introduction.

Sleep in heavenly peace tonight, if you’re not too distracted by the excitement of Christmas morning!


25 Days of Christmas Records – Day 23

Dylan Thomas – Reading, Volume 1 – A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Five Poems [Caedmon Records TC 1002, Spoken Word, 12″ LP, 1957.]

Dylan Thomas frontThis is one of my most beloved recordings of all, and it doesn’t even have any music on it. I have written poetry at different times in my life, and at some point after I started collecting music recordings seriously, I also started collecting spoken word recordings, mostly poetry recordings. This was probably the first spoken word album I ever bought. I don’t recall exactly, but I think the first time I heard this recording was when one of my English teachers at Monterey Peninsula College played it in class one day during the Christmas season in the early 1980s. I was mesmerized. While there is no music on this recording, Dylan Thomas has such an incredibly lyrical reading voice that the images come alive as you hear them. Although his memories are those of his childhood in Wales, I’m sure we can all relate to some of the common Christmas-time themes he touches upon. It’s a wondrous poetic memoir: funny, poignant, nostalgic and beautiful. And it has become a tradition for me to listen to “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” during the days leading up to Christmas, especially on Christmas Eve if possible.

Dylan Thomas backRemarkably, this was the first recording produced by Caedmon Records and it helped the fledgling label become quite successful from the start. You can read about the creation of the album and the almost happen-stance inclusion of this story on the record in the liner notes seen here on the back cover of the album, and in this essay written for the Library of Congress. The history of this album is also very much the story of the beginning of Caedmon Records. Caedmon became the preeminent label for spoken word recordings and some of their titles are still in print today as part of the HarperCollins audio imprint. You can read an excellent interview with one of Caedmon’s founders, Barbara Holdridge, in this piece entitled “Audiobooks Before Audiobooks” by Matthew Rubery at the Los Angeles Review of Books. One avid record collector has compiled a fairly comprehensive discography of Caedmon Records recordings. It’s an impressive list of some of the twentieth’s century’s most important authors. And as you can see when browsing that list, Caedmon’s recordings also helped give rise to the role of actor as narrator: Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Ralph Richardson, Cyril Cusack, Anthony Quayle, Julie Harris and James Mason, among others, were all well-known readers for Caedmon.

Dylan Thomas vinyl

There is also a lovely little 1987 TV movie based on this story. It stars Denholm Elliott as a grandfather remembering his childhood Christmases for his grandson.

If you’ve never heard Dylan Thomas read this before, you’re in for a real treat. You can listen to the entire recording of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” here on YouTube. If you’ve heard it before, I hope you’ll enjoy it once again, as I do every Christmas season.

So pour a steaming mug of your favorite Yuletide drink, stoke up the fire, pull up a comfy chair and listen to the memories come pouring out in pure Christmas poetry.


25 Days of Christmas Records – Day 22

Imagene Peise – Atlas Eets Christmas [Warner Bros. Records 545311-1, 12″ LP, Limited Edition Red Vinyl, 2014.]

Imagene Peise frontSay it out loud: Imagine Peace. At Last It’s Christmas. Those guys in the Flaming Lips impart their weirdness on Christmas. But it’s really quite beautiful weirdness. We’re getting closer to Christmas Day and it’s getting more difficult to narrow down my last few selections for this 25 Days of Christmas Records extravaganza. I figured I’d go with some music from Oklahoma today, and something relatively new on vinyl, albeit something off the beaten track.

“The Flaming Lips secret 2007 Christmas album, Atlas Eets Christmas, was previously released in a very limited physical quantity on CD only under the pseudonym Imagene Peise (with a sticker that read “Love Is The Answer – Merry Christmas From The Flaming Lips 2007″). This Black Friday release will mark the first time the album is available both widely and on vinyl.” – The Flaming Lips Online Store

Imagene Peise backThe Flaming Lips presented Atlas Eets Christmas as the lost recording of Christmas songs by 18-year old female Iraqi jazz pianist Imagene Peise. You have to admire their creativity. As far as I have been able to find out, this is the work of Flaming Lips band member Steven Drozd. The tunes are mostly straight-forward piano arrangements of well-known Christmas tunes with some slightly odd string accompaniment on each track that gives it a hint of Middle Eastern flavor and Flaming Lips strangeness. They even added some vinyl static and pops for effect. They uploaded the whole album for all to enjoy; listen to Atlas Eets Christmas on YouTube. Read the liner notes included under the “Show More” tag on each song page for the whole imaginary back story.

Imagene Peise vinylMy copy pictured here is a limited edition of the album released on beautiful red vinyl for Record Store Day in November 2014. I couldn’t pass that up! Not knowing exactly what to expect from this album since I hadn’t heard anything on it, I was pleasantly surprised by its balance of familiar melodies and the eccentricity that is a hallmark of the Flaming Lips’ sound. I know it may be a little far afield for some folks, but it suits my eclectic tastes pretty well. Take a listen and see what you think!

Have yourself a spaced out little Christmas…

25 Days of Christmas Records – Day 21

Paul Winter – Wintersong (Tomorrow Is My Dancing Day) [Living Music Records LM0012, 12″ LP, 1986.]

Paul Winter frontToday is the December Solstice. We here in the Northern Hemisphere commonly call it the Winter Solstice, but I sometimes forget that for those in the Southern Hemisphere it is the Summer Solstice. For us in the northern climes, it is the darkest day of the year, the time of year with the least amount of sunlight. It’s no wonder we have created traditions which help us bring light and hope into our lives. And so it is with Christmas.

Looking back on what I’ve featured during these 25 Days of Christmas Records, I suppose it would have been much more apropos to write about A Winter’s Solstice, the album by artists on the Windham Hill record label, today rather than when I did earlier in the series. As luck would have it, though, featuring the Paul Winter album works out nicely for today since it coincides with the annual National Public Radio broadcast of the Winter Solstice concert which Paul Winter has presented at New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine for 35 years now. What a wonderful tradition. (See below for details about the radio broadcast.)

Paul Winter back

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Wintersong (Tomorrow Is My Dancing Day) is a beautiful album of mostly traditional folk tunes that may not be familiar to most of us as part of the usual Christmas music canon. It was released in 1986 on Paul Winter’s own Living Music Records label. My copy of the album pictured here is a promotional copy I received at the record store I was working at in 1986. As the jazz and New Age music buyer for the store, this album came into my hands and has been a treasured part of my Christmas collection ever since.

The Paul Winter Consort has long been an outstanding collective of performers making music without bounds. Music writer John Diliberto describes the genesis of the Paul Winter Consort in a piece entitled “Paul Winter Goes Where the Wild Things Are” at his website Echoes:

“World music has always been part of the Consort mix. In the mid-1960s, Winter made a conscious turn from the button-down be-bop and bossa nova jazz that he recorded on three albums for Columbia. Emerging out of jazz, 60s folk eclecticism and eastern influences via the Beatles and rock, the Consort was a group where you were as likely to hear darbuka and sitar as saxophone and guitar.”

He goes on the quote Winter’s own thoughts about the creation of the group:

“The aspiration of the Consort was to see if we could achieve with the symphonic, jazz and ethnic instruments, that kind of soulful tapestry that was orchestral and that had improvising in which you didn’t know where the blowing began and the writing stopped,” [Winter] recalls.

These are apt descriptions of the music you can hear on this album. It goes far beyond the “New Age” label that the Paul Winter Consort gets tagged with. I’ve always been a fan of the Paul Winter Consort and really enjoy the soulfulness, the spirit, the joy, the quiet and the peacefulness that can be heard in their recordings. These are all things I particularly revel in hearing at this time of year.

You can hear Wintersong (Tomorrow Is My Dancing Day) in its entirety here as a YouTube playlist. (As with other playlists like this, be aware that ads may play between tracks; you can usually skip them after a few seconds.)

And, as I mentioned above, many NPR stations will air the Winter Solstice concert tonight, including KWGS – Public Radio Tulsa 89.5 FM, which will broadcast it from 9-11 p.m. Central Time. (Click on the “Listen Live” button in the upper left of the page.) It appears that each year NPR Music broadcasts the previous December’s concert. They also have the Winter Solstice concert archived on their website, along with some of the previous concerts as well, if you don’t get a chance to hear it on the radio.

I hope this music brings some light into this time of darkness. Enjoy the Solstice.

25 Days of Christmas Records – Day 20

Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas [Ace Records ACE LP1027, 12″ LP, 198? Reissue, originally released 1962.]

Huey Piano Smith Christmas frontI have a deep affection for the music and culture of New Orleans. That passion goes back to the early 1980s when I moved to the Monterey Peninsula in California and first heard a lot of New Orleans music being played during various blues, rock and jazz programs on radio station KAZU 90.3 FM. My first post on this blog appeared by design on Mardi Gras Day, 2010. When I came across this album sometime in the late 1980s, I was one happy camper. New Orleans music and Christmas music all in one record – how could it get any better?! ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Huey “Piano” Smith is another one of these albums that’s perfect for setting a rockin’ mood at any Christmas celebration. (This will likely be the last of the more rowdy Christmas records I’ll feature during this project; the winter solstice is fast upon us tomorrow on Day 21 and I’ll focus on the mellower side of things as we lead up to Christmas Day.)

Huey Piano Smith Christmas back

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‘Twas the Night Before Christmas was first issued by Ace Records in 1962. Somewhat atypical for a Christmas album is that six of the ten tracks on here are originals written by Smith himself. They all feature his trademark rollicking, boogie-woogie piano style with Christmas-themed lyrics. One other track was written by Earl King and only three tracks are traditional Christmas tunes. I like the whole album, but my favorite song on here is probably “Almost Time for Santa” with its really snappy groove. As the cover of my 1980s reissue album states, Dr. John appears on the recording as well, although the original cover did not include this information. At the time the album was made, he had not yet adopted that moniker and would have gone under his real name, Mac Rebennack, but I assume the record company wanted to add his name on there to help push sales of the reissue.

Huey Piano Smith Christmas labelUpon its initial release in 1962, the album received some very negative publicity due to people thinking it was rather sacrilegious. New Orleans music and culture writer Alex Rawls gives more background on this in a story entitled “Huey ‘Piano’ Smith Deemed ‘Naughty’ in 1962,” which was posted at his website, My Spilt Milk, earlier this December. Definitely give that a read. Whether you think it’s naughty or nice, I think there’s no argument that this is one merry Christmas album!

You can listen to ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas in its entirety on YouTube. Once again, there’s a playlist with the whole album on it, and it appears to have been uploaded by whomever holds the license to these recordings at this time. (As with other playlists like this, be aware that ads may play between tracks; you can usually skip them after a few seconds.)

Do the Santa Claus!

25 Days of Christmas Records – Day 19

Various Artists – An Austin Rhythm and Blues Christmas [Epic Records PE 40576, 12″ LP, 1986 Reissue – originally released 1983.]

Austin Christmas frontIt’s a Friday and the beginning of the weekend (at least this year it is.) It’s less than a week until Christmas. Whether you’re ready or not, here’s a really rockin’ album to brighten up your day or night! (I’m keeping this brief today since I’ll be undergoing a minor foot surgery this morning and will be laid up a bit as I recover from that. Holly jolly!)

An Austin Rhythm and Blues Christmas has always been one of my favorite Christmas albums. I bought this reissued version back in the late 80s, having been familiar with some of these great acts from the Texas blues and rock scene. There are also a couple of swing jazz pieces on here. The album was originally released on Austin Records in 1983 with different cover art. It kicks off with Angela Strehli’s hot version of “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” and doesn’t look back. Here’s the brief review by Dennis MacDonald at AllMusic to give you the idea:

Austin Christmas back

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Originally issued on the Austin label in 1983, this rockin’ release was reissued with a new cover on Epic in 1986. Standouts include The Fabulous Thunderbirds‘ spirited instrumental “(Rockin’) Winter Wonderland” and vocalist Kim Wilson pouring his harp and soul into Hop Wilson’s “Merry Christmas, Darling.” Two of Austin’s finest blues divas, Angela Strehli and Lou Ann Barton, turn in smokey and sultry covers of yule classics, but it is bassist/vocalist Sarah Brown who sizzles with her original “My Christmas Is Hung with Tears.”

And luckily enough, there’s a whole playlist on YouTube with all the songs from album collected together. Take a listen to An Austin Rhythm and Blues Christmas (be aware that ads may play in between the videos on a playlist like this; you can skip them after a few seconds usually.)

Hope you have a yourself boogie woogie Christmas! (I guess I won’t be dancing for a little while myself…)


25 Days of Christmas Records – Day 18

Various Artists – A Very Special Christmas [A&M Records SP 3911, 12″ LP, 1987.]

Very Special Christmas frontThis album has a little something for everyone who is a fan of 80s music or those who don’t mind contemporary Christmas music in general. It’s a modern day classic. You can read the details behind the creation of A Very Special Christmas at the official website. Since this first volume was made in 1987, they have produced 10 more volumes. During that time, according to their website, “Approximately $116 million in royalties and investment proceeds has been generated by the sale of the AVSC albums to support Special Olympics’ athletes with intellectual disabilities.” This series of albums has raised a lot of money and awareness!

Very Special Christmas notes

Read the original liner notes by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. (Click on an image to enlarge it.)

I was working in a record store when the album was released and I remember that everyone on the staff found something to like about A Very Special Christmas. It has soul music, pop music, R&B, all kinds of rock ‘n’ roll, synthpop and one truly memorable hip hop tune. And it has an iconic cover that was created especially for the album by renowned artist Keith Haring. It is an instantly recognizable cover to this day. All of the tracks are new versions of mostly familiar traditional and modern Christmas carols and songs, with the exception of that hip hop song, “Christmas in Hollis” by Run-D.M.C. That song was one of the stand-outs on this album and I still love listening to it every Christmas. And you have to remember that this was released in the Age of MTV when music videos played a huge part in the marketing of a song or an album. Many of the songs on this album had videos and that certainly helped make this album a success right out of the gate.

Very Special Christmas backWatch the official video for “Christmas in Hollis” by Run-D.M.C.

This is a great song. I love how they riff and rhyme on traditional Christmas imagery backed with some heavy rap beats and R&B horns. And it’s humorous!

I was always a big fan of the Eurythmics and their artful New Wave synthpop, and their contribution to A Very Special Christmas is another one of my favorites. You can watch the video for their version of “Winter Wonderland” here. This has the 80s stamped all over it but still sounds fresh today, unlike some of the more poorly realized synthesizer-based tunes from that time.Very Special Christmas label

This video of U2 (one of my favorite bands of all time) performing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” will give you a taste of how we might have watched these videos on our little old TV sets at home. This footage comes from a Top of the Pops TV special that coincided with the release of A Very Special Christmas and featured many of the songs from the album. The host seen in the footage is singer Nia Peeples.

I’ve created a playlist on YouTube featuring versions of all the songs from the album. Most are from that time period (the Sting video is also from that Top of the Pops special) but some are live versions that I thought were more interesting than just hearing the audio.

Here’s to A Very Special Christmas and the world of good that it has done.


25 Days of Christmas Records – Day 17

Various Artists – Christmas Time With… [Vocalion VL 73812, 12″ LP, 1967?]

Country Christmas Time frontSo far, I’ve covered many of the very different genres of Christmas music that I have in my vinyl record collection: pop, rock, classical, jazz, novelty, R&B, disco, even heavy metal. And now it’s time for some good ol’ country music. I’m not talking about that new-fangled, slick country music that’s so popular these days, I’m talking about classic Country & Western. I don’t have a whole lot of country in my collection in general, and what I do have tends to be older stuff or things that kind of dance around the fringes of country music: Americana, alt-country, some bluegrass and a lot of New Grass, singer-songwriters and folk music.

Country Christmas Time backBut I do like to delve into some truly classic country every now and then, and this album is chock full of vintage country Christmas tunes. It’s on the Vocalion label, which has had a long history as a record label starting way back in 1917; after being bought out and changing hands many times, this version of Vocalion was a subsidiary of Decca Records geared toward budget reissues and was in existence from the 50s to 1973.

As you can see on the front cover, Christmas Time With… features a bunch of musicians who were big stars back in the day. Loretta Lynn is probably the most familiar name on there, but anyone with a passing knowledge of classic country will know many of these folks. It’s interesting that they also include “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms on this compilation. I’m guessing that even though the song is more rockabilly than country, they most likely figured they might as well slap it on wherever they could since it was originally a Decca recording (and a huge hit.)

Country Christmas Time vinylI’ve always been a fan of the Maddox Brothers and Rose, who do “Silent Night” to end Side 1 of the album. I had first heard of them when Rose Maddox was featured in the 1984 documentary film Hard Travelin’, about Woody Guthrie. I liked their sound, and found a couple of her tracks on an excellent compilation that came out in the late 1980s called Hillbilly Music…Thank God! Volume 1. I noticed on the back cover track listing that Red Foley is joined by “The Little Foleys” on his rendition of “Frosty the Snowman.” Those are indeed his three daughters singing with him on the recording! (And fancy this: Shirley Foley later married Pat Boone, and one of their children also went on to musical fame – Debby Boone.)

There are several up-tempo numbers on this record, but a couple of them are fairly slow and plodding and have begun to show their age a bit. They are relics of a bygone era, that’s for sure. Some of the original recordings are not of the highest quality, but that’s all part of their charm. It’s almost like hearing them from some long lost radio waves.

Take a listen to a selection of these mighty fine country tunes here:

Loretta Lynn – “Silver Bells”

The Maddox Brothers and Rose – “Silent Night”

Red Foley and the Little Foleys (Shirley, Julie and Jenny) – “Frosty the Snowman”

Lonzo and Oscar – “Jangle Bells”

Yee haw!

(A quick personal note: I will undergo a minor foot surgery on December 19, so I may have to keep the posts relatively brief after this while I’m somewhat laid up during my recovery. I’ll see how it goes. I can’t believe we’re nearly one week away from Christmas Day! Thanks for following along so far…)