Tag Archives: 2000

12 days of Christmas, Day 10

When we started these 12 days of Christmas, I noted that in writing the Three Under the Tree series for the last three years, I picked up a bunch of old Christmas vinyl and CDs, more for you than for me.

In so doing, there were a bunch of records that had more misses than hits. Most of them were used, so there wasn’t a lot of money wasted.

This year, I bought only one Christmas CD, one I’d been seeking for a while. I bought it new, and it turned out to be another one with more misses than hits. So it goes.

Rarely do I come across a Christmas record that doesn’t have something worth hearing. I can think of a couple, but there’s no need to name names.

We’re here to put some nice things in your Christmas stocking, so hope you will enjoy these tunes from records that had some nice moments.

“Christmas Time,” the Mighty Blue Kings, from “The Christmas Album,” 2000. This Chicago group covers a tune by West Coast bluesman Jimmy McCracklin.

“Christmas Is A Special Day,” Fats Domino, from “Christmas Gumbo,” 1993. It’s out of print as such, but is available as “Christmas Is A Special Day,” a 2006 CD re-release with a different cover. Fats wrote this charming little hymn and does it in — what else? — a laid-back New Orleans style.

“We Four Kings (Little Drummer Boy),” the Blue Hawaiians, from “Christmas On Big Island,” 1995. Let a little surf wash into your Christmas.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Shawn Colvin, from “A Different Kind of Christmas,” 1994. It’s out of print. A lovely, low-key version.

“Merry Christmas Darling,” Deana Carter, from “Father Christmas,” 2001. What makes this cover of the Carpenters song so remarkable is its acoustic arrangement with Carter’s father, veteran Nashville session man Fred Carter, on guitar. Deana Carter sings this in a higher register than did Karen Carpenter — and that may not be for everyone — but she nicely complements her dad. Fred Carter died earlier this year.

“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” the Whispers, from “Happy Holidays To You,” 1979. (The buy link is to a 2001 import CD.) Off the same album that delivered “Funky Christmas,” this is a smooth, jazzy arrangement clearly from the late ’70s.

“Joy To The World,” Aretha Franklin, 1994, from “Joy To The World,” 2006. This is an odd little compilation of Christmas songs, gospel songs and show tunes recorded over 30-plus years. This cut features Aretha backed by the Fame Freedom Choir, from the soundtrack to the 1994 remake of “Miracle on 34th Street.” That is about the only nice thing we have to say about any remake of the 1947 classic, long one of our favorite films.

“What Christmas Means To Me,” Darlene Love, from “It’s Christmas, Of Course,” 2007. A cover of the Motown song done first by Stevie Wonder.

“Christmas Is,” Lou Rawls, from “Merry Christmas Ho Ho Ho,” 1967. It’s out of print. This tune starts out with a swinging big-band arrangement, then has Lou channeling Santa Claus midway through before wrapping up with some smooth nightclub cheer. This Percy Faith tune never sounded so good.

“Merry Christmas Baby,” Melissa Etheridge, from “A New Thought For Christmas,” 2008. Etheridge lets it rip on this Charles Brown blues tune.

“Christmas Celebration,” Roomful of Blues, from “Roomful of Christmas,” 1997. The B.B. King version may be more familiar, but this take by the veteran East Coast group is pretty good.

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time,” Pete Jolly, from “Something Festive!” 1968. Long out of print. This is a Christmas sampler from A&M Records. It was sold at B.F. Goodrich tire dealers in 1968. This cut is a cool, stylish, upbeat rendition by the California jazz pianist. (You’ll also find it on “Cool Yule: The Swinging Sound of Christmas,” a UK compilation released in 2004.)

“Blue Christmas,” Ann and Nancy Wilson, from “A Very Special Christmas 2,” 1992. Not a big fan of this tune, which everyone associates with Elvis, but this is a pretty good version. Melissa Etheridge also does it justice.

“What Child Is This,” Reverend Horton Heat, from “We Three Kings,” 2005. An upbeat yet moody take — it feels a little like Morricone — on a song usually done with much reverence.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

The wish list

Every kid makes a wish list for Christmas, or for a birthday. Is that something you grow out of?

Our friends over at Analog Apartment ran a little contest earlier this month. Put at least five records in the wish list feature at My Analog Apartment, their sweet new app for record collectors, and they’d pick three users and give each of them one record from their list.

I’m always digging for records, hoping to find something interesting. I was out in the tents in my friend Jim’s back yard last Saturday morning, my fingers numb in the 40-degree cold. October in Wisconsin has been nasty. I brought home 13 LPs for $13, but nothing that blew me away. Some days, you just gotta support your local record dealer.

So why, then, was it so hard to come up with a wish list?

Maybe it’s this mantra, seen on a church message board some 20 years ago: “Strive to need less rather than want more.”

I saw it while running — not far from a record store, actually — and it has stuck with me all these years.

The Green Bay record show is tomorrow, and as usual, I’ll go without a wish list. What’s there is for me to dig through. What’s not there is to be sought another day, an adventure to be continued.

Most of the records on that contest wish list are old soul or R&B records that probably were hard to find in our corner of Wisconsin when they came out, if they came out here at all.

Maybe tomorrow.

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“Tomorrow Never Comes,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “Tomorrow Never Comes,” 2000.

I never find any records by this American treasure, either.

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Filed under October 2009, Sounds

Three under the tree, Day 16

Chuck Berry didn’t write “Run Rudolph Run,” though many think he did.

Rather, it was Johnny Marks and Marvin Brodie. Marks, of course, is the gent who wrote the original “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in 1948.

Berry turned it into a hit in 1958, and the rest is Christmas history. I have nine versions of “Run Rudolph Run.” A little piano here, a few horns there, but the riff remains the same. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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“Run Rudolph Run,” Dave Edmunds, 1982, from “A Different Kind of Christmas,” 1994. Released as Columbia single 38-03428.

Dave is one of our faves, as regular visitors know. This is a rather traditional rave-up, as you’d expect from DE. The link is to a CD compilation that’s gone out of print. Even so, lots of interesting acts on that CD — NRBQ, Bruce Cockburn, Fishbone and Shawn Colvin among them.

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“Run Run Rudolph,” Lynyrd Skynyrd, from “Christmas Time Again,” 2000.

Skynyrd is another of our faves. This record, though, not so much. This is the only cut I like. There’s some nice roadhouse piano by Billy Powell, with plenty of guitars wrapped around it.

If you’re looking for a Christmas record by a Southern rock band, go with .38 Special’s “A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night.” Way better.

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“Run Rudolph Run,” Roomful of Blues, from “Roomful of Christmas,” 1997.

The veteran R&B big band from New England complements some nice guitar work with a big horn chart and some rollicking piano.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2008, Sounds

Three under the tree, Day 9

I get the feeling you’re getting tired of all that old stuff, that you’d like to hear some tunes you can actually go out and buy.

So we’re gonna head into the weekend with three tunes from a couple of contemporary blues outfits.

We start with Roomful of Blues, a New England-based group that I’ve enjoyed since the early ’80s. I dig a big horn sound, and they certainly deliver on that score. In 1997, they put out “Roomful of Christmas,” and I haven’t heard a better R&B/blues Christmas album since.

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“Christmas Celebration” and “White Christmas,” Roomful of Blues, from “Roomful of Christmas,” 1997.

The first cut is a swinging cover of the tune written by West Coast bluesman Lloyd Glenn. You know “White Christmas,” of course, but this is one of the best versions I’ve heard. It opens with a falsetto vocal, then swings into a sassy New Orleans groove driven by Matt McCabe’s barrelhouse piano.

Our third cut comes from Chicago, where local faves the Mighty Blue Kings put out “The Christmas Album” in 2000. It isn’t as solid as “Roomful of Christmas,” but it has its moments.

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“Christmas Time,” Mighty Blue Kings, from “The Christmas Album,” 2000.

Matt Thompson lays down a solid bass line on this tune written by another West Coast bluesman, Jimmy McCracklin. It’s complemented by some nice Hammond B3 organ from Chris Foreman and — what else? — some big horns. Scott Burns delivers a sizzling alto sax solo halfway through.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2008, Sounds

Goin’ down Highway 51

We used to play a little game as we sat in The Hose’s living room, quaffing Hamm’s beer and watching basketball on a tiny black-and-white TV. We’d pick up the paper and check out the daily list of celebrity birthdays.

So let’s play “Who’s Older?” for June 21, shall we?

Ray Davies of the Kinks. I’ve never really been into the Kinks, but I do like this album:

“Apeman,” the Kinks, from “Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One,” 1970. (You’ve heard the fabulous “Lola” enough. Here’s the single that followed “Lola.” Its notion of fleeing modern society holds up pretty well almost 40 years later. Ray Davies wrote both tunes.)

Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer, who co-wrote this song (which Evan may find on Guitar Hero: Aerosmith some day).

“Pandora’s Box,” Aerosmith, from “Get Your Wings,” 1974.

Joe Molland of Badfinger, who played guitar on this, the terrific B side to the “Come and Get It” single, which I had when I was 12:

“Rock of All Ages,” Badfinger, from “Magic Christian Music,” 1970. (Thanks to the gents over at Popdose for posting this a couple of months ago.)

Lalo Schifrin, who composed several memorable TV themes, including this one:

“Mannix,” Lalo Schifrin, 1967, from “Crime Stoppers: TV’s Greatest P.I. Themes,” a 2000 CD compilation that’s out of print. (This is the long version, with an extra minute you may not have heard.)

Think you know who’s older?

Schifrin is 76. Davies is 64. Molland is 61. Kramer is 58.

And I am 51. I’ve driven quite a few miles on Highway 51, too.

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Filed under June 2008, Sounds

Dad, Dionne and me

As Dionne Warwick’s show drew near earlier today, I found myself with an extra ticket. I’d hoped to go with the lovely Janet, but she begged off because of too much work.

So I took my dad instead. I figured he’d enjoy it.

This is a man who watched virtually every TV variety show on the air in the ’60s and ’70s, when Dionne Warwick, by then an established pop star, was seen regularly on those shows. I know, because I remember seeing her. I was certain Dad knew who Dionne Warwick was. Apparently not. That, and it took him half the show to get his hearing aid adjusted to get the sound just right. Ah, well, so it goes.

Dionne Warwick is a lovely 67, and still in fine voice. Neither seems to have aged much, if at all. She is one of America’s pop icons, a national treasure, yet seems to be considerably underappreciated. (Even by me. I have exactly two Dionne Warwick tunes in my collection, yet I know a couple dozen.)

In a show that lasted little more than an hour, she sang almost everything you’d hope to hear. She reinterpreted two familiar tunes — “I Say A Little Prayer” and “Do You Know The Way To San Jose” — with new, Latin-flavored arrangements and new phrasing. They sounded just fine.

I would have liked to hear “Then Came You,” her 1974 hit with the Spinners. However, she reportedly didn’t care much for the tune when they cut it. As far as I’m concerned, though, everything that followed her second song was gravy. That song?

“Walk On By,” Dionne Warwick, 1964 single. Available on “Walk On By: The Definitive Dionne Warwick Collection,” a two-CD, 40-track import released in 2000.

Why I dig it so much is not so much about Warwick as it is about an album that once belonged to Dad and now belongs to me. As I’ve written before, I played the bejeezus out of the following LP when I was a kid. This instrumental was my introduction to “Walk On By.”

“Walk On By,” the Baja Marimba Band, from “Baja Marimba Band Rides Again,” 1965. Out of print. (Happily, I found another copy of the album last month.)

Here’s another take, one I only recently came across. Burt Bacharach and Hal David interpreted by Motown producer Norman Whitfield.

“Walk On By,” Undisputed Truth, from “Law of the Land,” 1973. Out of print.

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Filed under May 2008, Sounds

I hear your mom has an iPod

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That’s how I started my e-mail to a girl I’ve never met. Rachel’s first thought was that it was junk mail. But thankfully, she kept reading.

Rachel’s mom is my cousin Jenny, who’s a year older than I am.

(Jenny and I are in the photo above, dated March 1963. Twelve of what eventually would be 17 cousins sit on the stairs at Grandpa and Grandma’s house in Wausau, Wisconsin.)

These days, Jenny is dealing with a fairly serious medical issue.

When I was with some of my cousins at a family gathering last week, I heard Jenny had gotten an iPod.

So I got Rachel’s e-mail address from the web site Jenny’s husband set up to keep us updated. I asked her what kinds of tunes her mom likes.

Rachel listed 25 singers and bands, then added 11 more, saying “Here are some that I think she’d like (but doesn’t listen to now).” Stopping at 36, she said, “Well, that’s all that I can think of off the top of my head!”

Rachel says her mom “really likes acoustic sounding music with male voices” and “women who can really belt it out,” not to mention “fun 60’s music.” Yeah, I think we can do that.

Here are some of the songs that’ll be going on Jenny’s CDs for her iPod. A couple of acoustic ones, a couple of belters and a couple from the ’60s.

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“Back in the High Life Again,” Warren Zevon, from “Life’ll Kill Ya,” 2000.

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“Beautiful World,” Colin Hay, from “Man at Work,” 2003.

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“Picking Daisies,” Shelly Bhushan, from “Picking Daisies,” 2007.

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“I Want to Take You Higher,” Ike and Tina Turner, from “Come Together,” 1970. Out of print. Also available on this greatest-hits CD.

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“Lovin’ Things,” the Grass Roots, 1969, from “Their 16 Greatest Hits,” 1971. Out of print. Also available on this greatest-hits CD.

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“Happy Together,” the Turtles, 1967, from “The Turtles’ 20 Greatest Hits,” 1983. Also available on this greatest-hits CD.

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Filed under March 2008, Sounds