24 December: Elvis Presley: Silent Night

Published December 24, 2014

Another hectic day. As you may be aware, Christmas Eve is the Big Day of the holiday season in Sweden, as opposed to Christmas Day, which is the main day in many other countries.

So, I'm gearing up for watching Lassie Come Home on DVD with a good friend, while stuffing ourselves silly with sweets. After that I'll be dressing up as Santa Claus for the benefit of my five-year-old godson - please cross your fingers that he's still too young to see through the disguise. This will be followed by dinner and relaxation at another friend's place.

And by that time I will be good and ready for a Silent Night as described here by a performer who would have turned 80 in just a couple of weeks, had he still been with us.

All the best for the holidays, everybody!

Listen to Silent Night here.

23 December: Big Tiny Little: Here Comes Santa Claus

Published December 23, 2014

No time to write anything witty or intelligent today (stop smirking!), so I'm simply offering you this piece of Yuletide enthusiasm to ponder upon.

Listen to Here Comes Santa Claus here.

22 December: Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass: Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Published December 22, 2014

Caught up in the Christmas rush? Then look no further than Herb Alpert's ultra-relaxed take on 'Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!' Guaranteed to stop your heart racing, which can only be a good thing.

Listen to Let It Snow! Let It Snow! here.

21 December: Waldo de los Ríos: The First Noël

Published December 21, 2014

In the early Seventies, Argentine arranger Waldo de los Ríos had quite a bit of success with his pop versions of classical pieces, such as 'Mozart 40'. I seem to remember we had that particular track on a single when I was little, but listening to it today it sounds a little too pretentious-kitschy for my tastes.

In 1973 de los Ríos recorded a Christmas album, which includes a version of 'The First Noël' that certainly is no less kitschy, but in a fun way. Although he may of course have aimed for pretentious. Hmm... Well, you be the judge.

Listen to The First Noël here.

20 December: Adam Faith: Lonely Pup (In A Christmas Shop)

Published December 20, 2014

The late Adam Faith was quite a big star in the UK in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I have to confess that I've never investigated his recording career thoroughly, but I love this recording from 1960. And really, with a song about a lonely animal and an arrangement by the great John Barry, how could you go wrong?

Listen to Lonely Pup (In A Christmas Shop) here.

 

19 December: Bobby Goldsboro: A Christmas Wish

Published December 19, 2014

Stressful times at CMP quarters. In addition to worrying about the upcoming crowdfunding campaign for the revised and updated edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, I've just experienced an epic meringue failure in my endeavours to prepare tasty treats for tomorrow's glögg get-together with childhood friends and their significant others.

I need something soothing, such as the dulcet tones of Bobby Goldsboro performing 'A Christmas Wish'. Perhaps you do too.

Listen to A Christmas Wish here.

18 December: Ferrante & Teicher: Brazilian Sleigh Bells

Published December 18, 2014

I think it's been made pretty clear from earlier posts in the Advent Calendar that I'm a sucker for Christmas music recorded by easy listening artists. Today, I bring you another example of that, in the shape of the pianist duo Ferrante & Teicher.

'Brazilian Sleigh Bells' was originally released on their 1962 album 'Snowbound'. It's a bit mad but that's the way I like it. The link below will take you to a performance by the duo on The Dean Martin Show - to think that there was a time when this passed for television entertainment. Ferrante & Teicher come across as geekier versions of Liberace, completely lacking his flamboyance. I love it, of course. And I also like the reel-to-reel tape recorder that's visible throughout Dean's introduction. How very bachelor-pad-y.

Watch and listen to Brazilian Sleigh Bells here.

17 December: The Beach Boys: Little Saint Nick

Published December 17, 2014

From the early Sixties up until 1966, The Beach Boys were really on a roll. The ear for a catchy tune and general sense of creativity of Brian Wilson during this period is still hard to grasp - how was he able to churn out this never-ending string of masterpieces?

'Little Saint Nick', recorded and released in 1963, is perhaps not the best thing The Beach Boys ever did, but its fun, inventive and catchy. It's one of my favourite pop/rock Christmas recordings - so there.

Listen to Little Saint Nick here.

16 December: Rhys O'Brien: Christmas Morning

Published December 16, 2014

I know absolutely nothing about this track, nor about Rhys O'Brien, except that they're both great. By the sound of it, I guess it must be a late Sixties/early Seventies release. Apparently it was produced by Phil Ramone. And Mr O'Brien wrote it himself. That's it.

Listen to Christmas Morning here.

Update 22 December 2016:

I was contacted on Facebook and received the following info about Rhys O'Brien:

Mr O'Brien was a junior high music teacher (West Islip Junior High School---Udall Road in West Islip NY.) The record was released in the fall of 1967, the A side a somewhat anti-Vietnam Christmas song called "The Sound of Christmas", also featuring Mr O'Brien singing and playing his harpischord!

 

15 December: Kay Starr: (Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man With The Bag

Published December 15, 2014

One advantage of doing this Advent Calendar is that I learn a number of things about the songs and the artists. Looking up Kay Starr on Wikipedia, for instance, I learned that she's still out there performing at the age of 92. I had no idea.

But then my knowledge of Kay Starr would fit on the back of a stamp. I'm familiar with her 1955 number one hit '(The) Rock And Roll Waltz', which I love, but that's about it except for 'Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man With The Bag', a catchy find from the first volume of Capitol Records' Christmas Cocktails CD series. The booklet credits simply mention that the track was recorded in June 1950, without mentioning the catalogue number for any original issue, suggesting the track was previously unreleased when it was included on this CD in 1996. It also says, the orchestra was conducted by Frank DeVol, who would go on to write the theme song of The Brady Bunch. See, I told you I was learning things.

Listen to Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man With The Bag here.

14 December: Roy Orbison: Pretty Paper

Published December 14, 2014

After yesterday's upbeat and highly original take on Jingle Bells, today I thought we'd take a look at the sad side of the holiday season. Written by Willie Nelson, Pretty Paper was a 1963 hit single for the mighty Roy Orbison. I don't think I heard it until sometime in the late Eighties, when I bought a double-album Orbison compilation, but it's been a favourite of mine ever since. Orbison and his team at RCA Studio B in Nashville sure knew how to make an attractive package out of self-pity.

Listen to Pretty Paper here.

13 December: Dick Leibert: Jingle Bells

Published December 13, 2014

We've already had a version of Jingle Bells in the Advent Calendar this year, and although I'm loath to repeat myself, this Wurlitzer version by one Dick Leibert is simply too good to be missed.

On the cover of A Merry Wurlitzer Christmas, the 1959 album from which this track was taken, Leibert is described as "the leading theater organist of the country", the country being the United States Of America of course. On the evidence of this album, I don't see any reason to doubt that statement, although I wonder how much need there actually was for a theater organist in the late Fifties.

No matter, I'm glad this album was recorded (at the Byrd Theater in Richmond, Virginia, as it happens), since Leibert really goes to town on his interpretations, not least on Jingle Bells.

Listen to Jingle Bells here.

12 December: The Emotions: Black Christmas

Published December 12, 2014

The Emotions are obviously best-known for their U.S. number one The Best Of My Love and their collaboration with Earth, Wind & Fire on Boogie Wonderland, but they had been around for a long time before those late-Seventies high-marks came along.

Black Christmas was a 1970 single that went absolutely nowhere on any charts, apparently, which seems unfair somehow. The singing is absolutely impeccable, the tune is hummable enough and, of course, the theme of the lyrics are poignant - in my case especially since just the other day I watched a Civil Rights Movement-themed episode entitled A Long March to Freedom, in the brilliant 10-part series The Sixties (produced by Tom Hanks' Playtone company; check it out if you can). It's a subject that always makes me really upset, and I can never really get my head around the fact that as late as the 1960s a leading politician could have "Segregation Forever!" as a slogan.

Anyway: This is a great track, regardless of its historical setting.

Listen to Black Christmas here.

 

11 December: Family Four: Hej mitt vinterland

Published December 11, 2014

Time for the token Swedish-language track in the Advent Calendar. I don't believe Family Four are very well-known outside Scandinavia. They competed in the Eurovision Song Contest two years in a row - 1971 and 1972 - but that's about it. In Sweden, however, they had many hits in the Sixties and Seventies.

I was really happy when I learned about their Christmas album, Family Four's jul ("Family Four's Christmas") because except for traditional songs, most Christmas music recorded in Sweden is...well, let's just say it's not to my liking and leave it at that. But Family Four a) recorded their album in the early Seventies and b) were never known to over-emote anything, so what you get is just their beautiful harmony singing and a tasteful, well-arranged instrumental backing. That's all I want, no more no less.

'Hej mitt vinterland' ("Hello, My Winter Land"), was written by the late Britt Lindeborg (again, her international fame is probably limited to her contribution as lyricist to the 1984 Eurovision winner, 'Diggi-Loo, Diggi-Ley'). The song was first recorded by child star Lena Conradson in 1960 and quickly became something of a Christmas favourite in Sweden. I haven't heard every version recorded, of course, but I doubt any of them could be better than Family Four's interpretation.

Listen to Hej mitt vinterland here. (This is a Spotify link; the song is also available on Youtube, but you will need to raise the volume considerably in order to hear it.)

 

10 December: The Golddiggers: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Published December 10, 2014

You can almost imagine how satisfied with him- or herself whoever did the vocal arrangements for this version of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town must have been. "Look how clever I am!", the recording seems to be shouting. It has to be said, though, that the arrangement is somehow overdoing it - the "clever" interjection of "good morning" at 00:44 is a case in point, but, really, the entire vocal performance is slightly deranged.

However, this particular advent calendar has never shied away from "overdoing it" or "deranged", and with a  sleeve like that it would have been a crime not to feature a track from this particular album. 

By the way, The Golddiggers were brought to national fame when they began featuring regularly on The Dean Martin Show on TV in 1968; their Christmas album was released the following year.

Listen to Santa Claus Is Coming To Town here.

09 December: Dickie Valentine: Christmas Alphabet

Published December 09, 2014

Time for something smooth from the late Dickie Valentine, who died in 1971.

This was number one for three weeks in the UK in 1955, and, apparently, it was the first time a Christmas song topped the charts. I don't know to what extent it's still remembered today, but I heard it on some Christmas compilation or other and was instantly attracted to its carefree tone (I guess I need a bit more carefree in my life). Hopefully, you'll like it too.

Listen to Christmas Alphabet here.

08 December: The Ventures: Sleigh Ride

Published December 08, 2014

The fabulous guitar group The Ventures tackle Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride in today's Advent Calendar entry. The track is one of many rocked-up reworkings of Christmas songs on their 1965 LP The Ventures' Christmas Album, perfect for a mid-Sixties California Christmas beach party.

Another track you might enjoy is their take on Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. I bet they "felt fine" when they recorded the intro.

Listen to Sleigh Ride here.

07 December: Paul Revere & The Raiders: Macy's Window

Published December 07, 2014

We've featured a track from Paul Revere & The Raiders' Christmas album in the Advent Calendar before (it's here), but in honour of Paul Revere, who died just a couple of months ago, I thought it appropriate to include the brief but compelling Macy's Window in this year's calendar.

Listen to Macy's Window here.

06 December: Floral Pops 70: White Christmas

Published December 06, 2014

Is having the number 70 in your recording artiste moniker a sure-fire sign of quality? I'm beginning to think so. In previous years' advent calendars we've had The London Sound 70 Orchestra And Chorus (the entry for 2012 is here, and 2013 is here), and now we have Floral Pops 70 and their highly personal interpretation of White Christmas.

What the two acts have in common is that they seeem to have been active in the early Seventies (hence the "70", I suspect, to point out how ultra-modern they actually were), that they are both anonymous session-musicians-and-vocalists ensembles, and that their music is both groovy and insane - or, if you will, insanely groovy.

Listen to White Christmas here.

05 December: Joan Regan: Must Be Santa

Published December 05, 2014

I first became aware of Must Be Santa when I heard Bob Dylan's version a few years ago. If I recall correctly, he said in interviews at the time - or if it was the liner notes to his Christmas album - that he had first heard it in Mitch Miller and the Gang's 1960 version, which perhaps is the most famous one.

However, Dylan's version is not very attractive, and Miller's recording is nice but a little generic, so I'd like to pitch a version by British singer Joan Regan, also released in 1960. The joie-de-vivre in Regan's performance and the general atmosphere of the recording is truly infectious.

Click here to listen to Must Be Santa.

04 December: The Moonglows: Hey Santa Claus

Published December 04, 2014

Today we're letting the spotlight shine on one of the many delightful American doo-wop groups that were around in the Fifties. According to Wikipedia, they started recording in 1953, which would make this one of their very earliest records, since it was released that year.

So, without further ado, I give you 'Hey Santa Claus' by The Moonglows.

 

03 December: The Glad Singers: Gloria (Angels We Have Heard)

Published December 03, 2014

"Gloria was originally an old French song about the shepherds who watched their flocks by night. Through the years it has appeared in many forms; here, The Glad Singers treat it with a shuffle beat," the liner notes for the Swing Bells! album by The Glad Singers informs us. To which I can only add: well done, Glad Singers!

Very little is known about this vocal combo beyond the recording of this album, but the complete liner notes for their album are available here.

Click here to listen to Gloria (Angels We Have Heard).

Thanks to Brady L. Benton for introducing me to the wonders of The Glad Singers.

02 December: Stevie Wonder: What Christmas Means To Me

Published December 02, 2014

Motown artists did a number of really good Christmas recordings in the Sixties, out of which this is one of the very best. It's incredible to think that Stevie Wonder was only 17 years old when this was recorded in 1967, yet he is already such an accomplished singer - actually, he was an amazing singer even at age 12.

By the way, the album this was taken from - Someday At Christmas - also features his rendition of Ave Maria, which was actually banned by Swedish radio at the time. I think it had something to do with there being a regulation against the "desecration" of Christian music - or some such. Be that as it may, in my opinion a more valid reason for banning it is that it's quite an awful recording.

Listen to What Christmas Means To Me here.

01 December: Eddie Dunstedter: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus / Jingle Bells Bossa Nova

Published December 01, 2014

For the third year running, December means the Carl Magnus Palm.com Advent Calendar. If you want to acquaint or reacquaint yourselves with the fun and the horror of previous years' musical adventures, you may revisit the calendars for 2012 and 2013.

So, how does one kick off the 2014 Advent Calendar? Why, with a selection from Capitol Records' Christmas Cocktails CDs, of course, just like one did the previous years. Organist Eddie Dunstedter serves up his own takes on 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus' and 'Jingle Bells', which the good folk at Capitol have combined into one track.

Christmas music + electric organ + bossa nova rhythms = irresistable holiday season cheer.

Enjoy!

 

ADVENT CALENDAR 2014