24 December: Johnny Cash: Silent Night

Published December 24, 2017

We close this year's Advent Calendar with the craggy-voiced legend that is Johnny Cash and his rendition of Silent Night, from his 1963 album The Christmas Spirit. Thanks for listening - it's been fun, and I hope to be back with another Advent Calendar in 2018.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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23 December: Dick Leibert: White Christmas

Published December 23, 2017

As we near the end of this year's Advent Calendar I can report that we're very far from a White Christmas here in Stockholm, where it's raining at the moment. This eerie version of that old chestnut comes from Dick Leibert's 1959 album A Merry Wurlitzer Christmas.

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22 December: Charles Brown: Please Come Home For Christmas

Published December 22, 2017

These days, this song is more familiar in the cover version released by the Eagles in 1978 and perhaps also the Jon Bon Jovi version from 1992. None of those are a patch on Charles Brown's soulful original interpretation, released on a 1960 single.

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21 December: Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass: The Bell That Couldn't Jingle

Published December 21, 2017

In 1968, Herb Alpert enjoyed a US number one with Burt Bacharach & Hal David's This Guy's In Love With You, so it was only natural that he should look for further Bacharach songs to record. His Christmas Album, released later the same year, featured this version of The Bell That Couldn't Jingle (lyrics by Larry Kusik), which I believe was originally recorded by Burt himself back in 1963. Herb's version is quite cute.

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20 December: Elvis Presley: If Every Day Was Like Christmas

Published December 20, 2017

The mid-1960s is often held up as the nadir of Elvis Presley's recording career, with lame films and lame soundtrack songs obscuring everything else. But he did record other material as well during this period, and when you listen to the recordings chronologically, it becomes evident that he perks up when he gets to perform songs that actually mean something to him. He sounds as if he believes what he's singing, which was always the key to his appeal. If Every Day Was Like Christmas, released in 1966, is a fine example of gold among the dross.

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19 December: The New Christy Minstrels: Sleigh Ride

Published December 19, 2017

1966 was a good year for pop music. We had The Beatles' Revolver, The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds - and The New Christy Minstrels' Christmas With The Christies. Their version of Sleigh Ride swings like crazy, making it impossible not to tap your foot or at least nod your head to the rhythm.

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18 December: Squeeze: Christmas Day

Published December 18, 2017

Although Squeeze had had a very big year in the UK in 1979, with two number 2 hits, this Christmas single failed to chart. Perhaps it was just a little too quirky, even for Squeeze. No matter - I like it.

(As a bonus, here's a review of the single from UK music journal Sounds, November 1979.)

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17 December: Dora Bryan: All I Want For Christmas Is A Beatle

Published December 17, 2017

This 1963 single by the British actress Dora Bryan sometimes shows up on lists of all-time worst Christmas records, which a part of me can understand. But another part of me is charmed by the record as an artefact of its times: items like this often do a better job than millions of words in showing how quickly The Beatles became a national treasure - or at least a concept that everyone related to in some way - in the UK. They had barely been famous for a year, and already there were Christmas songs written about them.

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16 December: Dick Schory's New Percussion Ensemble: Holiday In A Hurry

Published December 16, 2017

Only a little over a week before Christmas, and while the Bah! Humbug! crowd won't care, I bet many of you feel that you still have tons of stuff to do: getting all your presents ready, making sure you have the food, and all the rest of it. Today's Advent Calendar entry, taken from Dick Schory's 1958 album Music For Bang, Baaroom, And Harp, makes being in a hurry in the holiday season sound positively glamorous.

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ADVENT CALENDAR 2017