Three under the tree, Vol. 25

That Ella Fitzgerald tune was put under the tree last night to fulfill a request. As are tonight’s tunes.

Someone asked whether I had “The 12 Days of Christmas.” I do. Exactly three versions, each distinctly different, so they fit nicely under the tree.


“The 12 Days of Christmas,” Harry Belafonte, from “To Wish You a Merry Christmas,” 1962.

No calypso here, just a nice, rather traditionally orchestrated version. It’s highlighted, of course, by Belafonte’s smooth, high tenor. Belafonte, who turned 80 this year, was just 35 when he cut this record in Hollywood.

I found this album in the $1 bin at my friendly neighborhood used record store the other day. This 45-year-old vinyl has almost pristine sound.


“The 12 Days of Christmas,” the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble, from “A Festival of Carols in Brass,” 1967. (This is a CD rip. My vinyl has a nice big skip right at the beginning of this song.)

This was the second Christmas record I ever bought. I didn’t buy Christmas records until after I left home for college. I bought it at Prange’s, a big department store in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, in December of 1977 or 1978.

I bought “A Motown Christmas” at the same time, and I remember thinking I needed to get something traditional to go along with it, something like the Christmas albums we had at home.

“A Festival of Carols in Brass” consists of 25 traditional Christmas carols, most of them fairly short cuts, “played by the first-chair virtuosos of the Philadelphia Orchestra.”

The liner notes on the original vinyl album also say this:

“Maybe it’s the influence of the Salvation Army, or maybe it’s just a special kind of inherent affinity. Whatever the cause, it’s a fact that practically everyone associates the sound of brass instruments with the music of Christmas.”

When this was re-released on CD in 1991, those liner notes had disappeared, as had all the credits for the performers. The producer’s name survived, but not the names of those who played all that elegant brass.

So, for the record, here is the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble, circa 1967: Gilbert Johnson, first trumpet; Seymour Rosenfeld, second trumpet; Mason Jones, French horn; Henry Charles Smith, trombone; M. Dee Stewart, euphonium; and Abe Torchinsky, tuba.


“The 12 Days of Christmas,” from “Christmas Party Dancing.”

These upbeat performers sound a little like the Salsoul Orchestra, but aren’t them, obviously. I’m guessing this is something from the ’80s or ’90s. It’s a budget CD with no credits or copyright dates. All I know is that it was made and distributed by LDMI, a Canadian company.

And that it has a nice cover.

Enjoy. More to come.


Filed under Christmas music, December 2007, Sounds

6 responses to “Three under the tree, Vol. 25

  1. Tommy Shaw of Styx also did a version of “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

  2. Weird. I was just listening to that Philadelphia Brass Ensemble record while looking for post material.

    I’m really enjoying the holiday-themed material here, BTW.

  3. Tom

    We’re listening right now to all three versions. (Well, not all simultaneously!) It’s especially nice to have a couple of instrumental versions to sing along to. (We do love to sing over here, we do.) Thank you so much!

  4. Hmm…

    I know this is about The 12 Days of Christmas, but does the Harry Belafonte album have the original version of Mary’s Boy Child?

    He did a slightly faster (but nowhere near as upbeat as the one done by Boney M) version of the song originally, but on every collection I’ve found since, he’s done the slower, more melodic version.

    I’m trying to find the original. Always did like that one best. Thanks!

  5. Dan

    Thanks for the brass, man! I’ve picked up some Canadian Brass Christmas cds, but, I don’t know. They are surprisingly lifeless. And not sufficiently brassy.

  6. This has nothing to do with Christmas but since you do seem to have a focus on rare/out of print material. I was wondering if you’ve ever posted anything about the late Beach Boy, Carl Wilson’s 2 long out of print solo albums (s/t and “Youngblood”) or his late brother Dennis’s long out of print “Pacific Ocean Blue” (the latter of which was rather well received by critics when it was released).

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