24 December: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: I Believe In Christmas Eve

Published December 24, 2019

Today marks the final post of the Advent Calendar, featuring Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and 'I Believe In Christmas Eve', written by Smokey and first heard on the group's 1970 album The Season For Miracles.

My own relationship to Christmas has had its ups and downs. I have fond childhood memories of the scent of the Christmas tree, presents lying underneath it, the sense of togetherness, and all the rest of it. But sometimes it was also the scene of a lot of family tension.

I've never quite lost my fondness for Christmas though, and I decided in my early twenties that it could be fun as long as I was allowed to celebrate it my way, without any unnecessary obligations, yet there were a few years in adulthood when I just didn't want to know about it. These days, however, I embrace the holiday season wholeheartedly.

So, at the end of the day, and in my own way, I'd like to echo the sentiment put forward in today's song: I Believe In Christmas Eve.

Thanks for following the Advent Calendar. I've enjoyed it and I hope you have too.

Merry Christmas!

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23 December: Lionel Bart: Give Us A Kiss For Christmas

Published December 23, 2019

This delightful single was released in 1961, but, shamefully, failed to become a hit. Lionel Bart is mainly known as the writer of the previous year's hit musical Oliver!, based on Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, and was one of the prominent scenesters in 1960s Swinging London. Sadly, though, his life later deteriorated into flops, disastrous business deals, and drink and drug abuse.

Let's remember him this way.

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22 December: Julie London: I'd Like You For Christmas

Published December 22, 2019

Time to get a little romantic again, this time courtesy of the great Julie London. Her 1957 single 'I'd Like You For Christmas' was written by Bobby Troup, whose most famous song was 'Route 66'.

If it was Bobby that Julie wanted for Christmas, I guess he was already in the bag by then (they had both been divorced from their previous spouses for a few years when this song was released), although they didn't marry until 1959. The marriage lasted until Troup's death in 1999.

But that's enough information from your gossip columnist. Let's hear the song instead.

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21 December: Steeleye Span: Gaudete

Published December 21, 2019

I'm not sure my Latin teacher would have approved of the pronunciation here ("Gow-day-tay"), but for that very reason, and, naturally, the lovely performance, Steeleye Span's 'Gaudete' has become one of my Christmas favourites in recent years.

Apparently, the single was released in 1972 but didn't become a hit until 1973, when it reached number 14 on the UK charts. Steeleye Span, of course, was one of the most popular UK folk music bands of the 1970s.

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20 December: Jiminy Cricket: Kris Kringle

Published December 20, 2019

I suppose 'When You Wish Upon A Star' will always be Jiminy Cricket's biggest hit (it's been a staple of Swedish Christmas TV for almost 60 years now), but here's another gem from Mr Cricket's catalogue.

'Kris Kringle' was released as a single A-side on Disneyland Records in 1956. The voice of Jiminy Cricket (he wasn't real, you know) belonged to Cliff Edwards, who I believe also wrote the lyrics for this song. I only discovered 'Kris Kringle' quite recently, but there's something oddly comforting about Edwards' - sorry, Cricket's - conversational delivery, don't you agree?

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19 December: The Everly Brothers: Christmas Eve Can Kill You

Published December 19, 2019

You will rarely go wrong with an Everly Brothers recording, and this is no exception. Written by Dennis Linde (who penned Elvis Presley's fab 1972 hit, 'Burning Love'), I'm afraid 'Christmas Eve Can Kill You' takes a rather sombre view of the holidays, but it's still a great track. Originally released on the brothers' 1973 album Stories We Could Tell (and isn't that a hopelessly murky sleeve?), it was never a hit.

Too dark for you? Don't worry, things will perk up again in tomorrow's post.

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18 December: The Three Suns: Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town

Published December 18, 2019

I love that there once was a time that a major label such as RCA Victor felt it worthwhile to release an album like The Three Suns' A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas. I also love that there are people today that seek out and rip these forgotten albums and put them on blogs so that people like me can access them, and then share selected tracks with the followers of my Advent Calendar blog.

The Three Suns, an American instrumental trio, were founded in 1939 and achieved a number of major hits in the 1940s, including their 1947 version of 'Peg O' My Heart', which was number one for three weeks. In the 1950s, they scored two Top 20 albums.

One of the members was Al Nevins, who went on to form the publishing company Aldon together with Don Kirshner. Aldon was the main player in the so-called Brill Building era of the early-to-mid 1960s, featuring now legendary songwriting teams such as Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, and Jeff Barry & Ellie Greenwich.

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17 December: Loretta Lynn: I Won't Decorate Your Christmas Tree

Published December 17, 2019

While the majority of Christmas songs celebrate the wonders of the holidays, there are quite a few that add a touch of bitterness to the mix. Here's one example: Loretta Lynn's 'I Won't Decorate Your Christmas Three' from her 1966 album Country Christmas.

It has to be said, though that with Lynn's feisty performance, the message is perhaps one of defiance rather than bitterness. Judge for yourselves.

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16 December: The Glad Singers: Ox And Donkey

Published December 16, 2019

The Glad Singers have featured in three previous Advent Calendars, and it's my pleasure to bring them back for this one as well. The song 'Ox And Donkey', as the liner notes of their 1965 Swing Bells! album reveal, was written by the group's arranger, Donald Walker, after hearing "some Caribbean natives sing a carol". He forgot the tune and the lyrics, only remembering the mood of the song, so decided to write a completely new carol based on that memory, "to bring the warmth of the Haititian rhythms to our northern Christmas".

I dedicate this post to the memory of my friend Brady Benton, who passed away a couple of months ago. He first introduced me to The Glad Singers' album - thank you, Brady!

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15 December: Sugar Chile Robinson: Christmas Boogie

Published December 15, 2019

I was going to post one of my bizarre Christmas offerings today, but I thought better of it. "It's Sunday, after all, so give the people something that's good-good instead of bad-good." Ergo, 'Christmas Boogie' by Sugar Chile Robinson.

Eleven years old when this was recorded in 1950, Frank "Sugar Chile Robinson" was, despite his tender age, an accomplished singer and pianist who won a talent contest at age three and scored a number 4 R&B hit with 'Numbers Boogie' in 1949. He is still around today.

This recording always brings a smile to my face. 10 out of 10 for energy and charm.

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14 December: Booker T. & The MG's: Winter Wonderland

Published December 14, 2019

The Advent Calendar continues down the instrumental path. Today's song is Booker T. & The MG's' ultra-cool version of 'Winter Wonderland': you can never get too much Hammond organ on your Christmas songs! This recording was a single, but also included on the band's 1966 album In The Christmas Spirit, which reached number 13 on Billboard's Christmas Albums chart.

The band itself, of course, were more or less the Stax Records houseband, playing on numerous legendary soul recordings, in addition to scoring a number of hits in their own right (Booker T. himself was barely 18 when they had their first hit with 'Green Onions' in 1962).

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13 December: Jerry Murad's Harmonicats: Nutcracker Suite

Published December 13, 2019

We like to investigate the somewhat unusual in this Advent Calendar, and what could be more unexpected than Tchaikovsky's 'Nutcracker Suite' performed on harmonica? Jerry Murad's Harmonicats were originally a quartet, formed in 1947; an immediate success, they were number one for eight weeks in the US with their recording of 'Peg O' My Heart'. They also had a Top 20 album in 1961.

This is four years later, in 1965, and I'm not sure how commercially successful their Harmonica Rhapsody album of interpretations of classical music pieces was. Nevertheless, we can still marvel at its existence today.

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12 December: Jørgen Ingmann: Mary's Boy Child/White Christmas

Published December 12, 2019

Today, Danish guitarist Jørgen Ingmann is probably mostly known for scoring an international hit with his 1960 version of 'Apache' (The Shadows had the hit in the UK), and for winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1963 with 'Dansevise', together with his then wife Grethe Ingmann.

But in 1971 he also recorded a Christmas album that I find irresistibly bizarre in its combination of Ingmann's guitars, formulaic easy listening arrangements and echo-laden backing choirs. I've selected his medley of 'Mary's Boy Child' and 'White Christmas' for your listening pleasure.

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11 December: Tom Odell: Spending All My Christmas With You (Next Year)

Published December 11, 2019

Let's rock it up a bit and - yikes! - even go a bit modern with Tom Odell. 'Spending All My Christmas With You (Next Year)' was recorded live at a BBC Radio One session in 2016, which is why the YouTube link below is the original live performance.

I don't know so much about Tom Odell, except he's British, is highly regarded by music journalists and has enjoyed high-charting albums in the UK and elsewhere. I really like this song, though, especially when the backing vocalists come in at circa 01:15.

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10 December: Nancy Wilson: That's What I Want For Christmas

Published December 10, 2019

We haven't had much romance so far in this year's Advent Calendar, but let's change that with the aid of Nancy Wilson. 'That's What I Want For Christmas' was originally released as a single in 1963, but doesn't seem to have become much of a hit at the time. A shame, for the song is great.

It has gained a little more prominence in recent decades, thanks to its inclusion on Capitol's Christmas Cocktails compilations. Which, of course, is where I heard it.

Listen here.

09 December: Elaine & Derek: It's Christmas

Published December 09, 2019

Children singing on popular music records: some will feel that it's very nice and sweet indeed, others will run screaming in the other direction. I may often find myself in the latter camp, but I make exceptions for acts such as Elaine & Derek and 'It's Christmas'. There is something so genuinely earnest and somehow vulnerable in their singing here, that it just tugs at my heart strings.

Hailing from Northern Ireland, the male half of this sibling act is Derek Thompson, who later gained fame as a character in a long-running BBC hospital drama series, entitled Casualty. I've never seen it, but I'm sure British Advent Calendar followers will be familiar.

Listen here. Or here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

08 December: The J's With Jamie: Cool Yule

Published December 08, 2019

From yesterday's well-known Advent Calendar recording, we move on to something decidedly more obscure.

According to Wikipedia, The J's With Jamie were "an American musical group specializing in commercial jingles in the 1950s and 1960s". The story behind their Christmas EP Season's Greetings, from which 'Cool Yule' has been extracted, is quite interesting, as it was pressed by the group themselves and sent out in lieu of ordinary Christmas cards. This, apparently, led to a proper recording contract with Columbia Records.

'Cool Yule' was written by our friend Steve Allen (see 01 December Advent Calendar post) and introduced by Louis Armstrong in 1953. The version by The J's With Jamie does sound very much like a commercial of the times; perhaps they just couldn't help themselves from trying to "sell" something when they sang together.

Listen here.

07 December: Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters: Jingle Bells

Published December 07, 2019

I purposely try to avoid the most familiar Christmas recordings in this blog, so, for example, no 'Last Christmas' by Wham! or 'White Christmas' by Bing Crosby. But, by golly, with today's song I simply had to make an exception for Mr Crosby. This pairing with the Andrews Sisters on 'Jingle Bells' is just too good to be missed, and besides I'm not entirely certain to what extent it's heard today.

It was recorded and released in 1943, and was later included on Bing's classic Christmas album, of which there are many variations. The one pictured here, from 1955, is the one I'm familiar with.

As an aside, I was disappointed with the CD version of the album, which seems to be based on a "fake stereo" edition, with lots of superfluous echo added to every track (at least the version I've had access to). Fortunately, I was able to find 'Jingle Bells' on an Andrews Sisters compilation, as it originally sounded.

Which is exactly as it should be, as the Sisters (and, of course, Vic Schoen and his Orchestra) are the stars of this fab recording: the swing-o-meter just goes into the red. Go, Andrews Sisters!

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06 December: Honey and the Bees: Jing Jing A Ling

Published December 06, 2019

I don't know much about this soul-inflected recording, nor about the performers, Honey and the Bees. The writers and producers all seem to be based in Philadelphia, so maybe the group was too. Some of the members went on to join The Ritchie Family ('The Best Disco In Town').

This 'Jing Jing A Ling' single was released in 1969, apparently to little fanfare, but nothing is too obscure to be dug up by this Advent Calendar. Especially when it's this great.

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05 December: Los Straitjackets: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Published December 05, 2019

After yesterday's foray into "Swedish Traditional", let's venture into something a bit more modern - sort of. The American instrumental band Los Straitjackets released a Christmas album in 2002, from which I've plucked this early 1960s surf-style version of the traditional song 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen'. And they've thrown in the solo from Del Shannon's 'Runaway' for good measure as well.

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04 December: Postflickorna: Juldanser I

Published December 04, 2019

Postflickorna ("The Post Girls") was a Swedish vocal choir formed in the 1950s, the members all being employees at the bank branch of the Swedish post office. They became quite popular for a number of years.

The choir had a big fan in ABBA's Benny Andersson. "I love Postflickorna," he said in 1993. "I remember thinking even when I was a child that the sound they made was very special. I'm not quite sure if it was because of their spirit or if it was the way they harmonised, but I thought it was very uplifting and I still do." High-register female vocals were of course a feature of ABBA's recordings, so the influence was certainly there, and in 1987 Benny recorded a deliberate homage to the Postflickorna sound, on the vocal part of the song 'Klinga mina klockor', featuring an all-star Swedish female choir.

The track in today's Advent Calendar post is a medley of traditional Swedish Christmas songs, entitled 'Juldanser' ("Christmas Dances"), recorded in 1957 and included on the EP Jul med Postflickorna ("Christmas With Postflickorna").These are the type of songs you would hear when you were dancing around the Christmas tree. I'm not sure how many Swedes still do that - I know I never did when I was younger, at least not at home, as our living room wasn't big enough to allow dancing around a tree.

On the EP, the medley is actually two medleys. I've featured the first one here, maybe part two will be heard in a future Advent Calendar.

Listen here.

 

 

 

03 December: Dottie Evans With The Brigadiers Quartet: When Christmas Comes To Our House

Published December 03, 2019

It's hard to find Christmas songs that haven't been done to death, but I think this one has seldom been recorded after this original version, which I believe hails from the mid-1950s. Neither Dottie Evans nor The Brigadiers Quartet seems to have made much of an impression in the music industry, but this song is quite pleasant and its tone is mirrored by the "ideal family Christmas" image on the album sleeve pictured here.

'When Christmas Comes To Our House' was written by Enoch Light and one Kurzhene. Light went on to form the record company Project 3 Records, which released the recordings by The Free Design, whose song 'Close Your Mouth (It's Christmas)' was featured in the Advent Calendar back in 2012. You see - everything is connected.

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02 December: Nina & Frederik: Christmas Time In London Town

Published December 02, 2019

Wouldn't I want to spend Christmas Time In London Town some time? I would, and maybe I will some day. I guess this early 1960s recording symbolises what I would hope that Christmas would feel like, although I know that in the 21st Century it won't be quite like that (and maybe it wasn't back in 1961 either). But I can dream, can't I?

This recording was first released as the B-side of Danish duo Nina & Frederik's 1961 single 'Little Shepherd Boy'. It was also included on a Christmas compilation album issued in 1966 and pictured here. I have to say there's something quite desperate in Nina's countenance in the sleeve photo, as if she foresaw the gruesome end her then ex-husband Frederik would meet in the 1990s, when he got in to drug smuggling and was shot dead. Nina herself became an actress and you may have seen her in films such as American Gigolo.

But let's not think of any of that as we enter the world depicted in Christmas Time In London Town.

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01 December: Ricky Vera and Steve Allen: How Can Santa Come To Puerto Rico?

Published December 01, 2019

After a 2018 hiatus, the Carl Magnus Palm Advent Calendar is back. This year I have an interesting selection of tracks lined up, which I hope will entertain the brave souls who make it a habit to follow my Advent Calendar posts.

I usually kick off with a Latin-tinged track, and this year is no different. First out is the 1953 recording 'How Can Santa Come To Puerto Rico?' as performed by Ricky Vera and Steve Allen. About Ricky Vera, I know absolutely nothing. A quick internet search provided this biography from Imdb: "Ricky Vera was born on February 1, 1943 in Los Angeles, California, USA. He is an actor, known for Playhouse 90 (1956), The Leather Saint (1956) and The Colgate Comedy Hour (1950)." So he would have been all of 10 years old when this song was recorded.

Steve Allen is more well-known: a musician, band leader and many other things, perhaps most well-known as the host of The Steve Allen Show in the 1950s and 1960s. Exactly how this collaboration came about, I do not know, but it's a fun track.

Listen here.

 

 

 

 

ADVENT CALENDAR 2019