Country roads

Day 15, Christmas music
I wonder what Karen Carpenter would be singing now had she lived.

Yesterday we were in the city; today we’re going to the country.

Take a ride on the Reading one-horse sleigh
Posted by linkmeister on 20 December 2018, 8:00 am

The Carpenters perform “Sleigh Ride.” The song was originally written for orchestra by Leroy Anderson, who conceived of it in 1946 and completed it in 1948. The lyrics were composed in 1950 by Mitchell Parrish. The original recording was by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops in 1949. According to ASCAP, it consistently ranks as one of the top 10 most-performed songs of all songs that have been written by the organization’s members.

Chapin Carpenter’s beautiful city song

Day 14, Christmas music
Christmastime in the City
Posted by linkmeister on 17 December 2018, 8:00 am

Mary Chapin Carpenter sings “Christmas Time in the City,” from her “Come Darkness, Come Light” album. It was released in 2008, so I’ve been promoting it for 10 years and will probably do so another ten, if I live that long. It’s a beautiful album, half original compositions by Carpenter, some with guitarist and co-producer John Jennings. The other six cuts are traditional but seldom heard on commercial radio or Muzak.

Christmas in the Air by Carole King

Back in 2011 Carole King released her first studio album in a decade. Her daughter produced it and also co-wrote this song. It’s vintage Carole — bouncy and cheerful.

A Holiday Carole
Posted by linkmeister on 14 December 2015, 8:51 pm

That’s the clever title of a now four-year-old album produced by Louise Goffin and sung by her rather more-famous mother Carole King.

This is one of three original songs mixed in with more familiar holiday pieces. It was written by Ms. Goffin with Jodi Marr.

The tree isn’t the only thing needing decorations

Day 12, Christmas music

Tree up, decorations next.

Halls, Bedecked
Posted by linkmeister on 10 December 2014, 8:26 pm

This is Mannheim Steamroller, from their very first Christmas album in 1984. I remember my Dad bringing home this CD (I don’t have a clue where he got it) and us playing it for the first time. We were stunned by the way this guy Chip Davis and a…band? Orchestra? What? made these old classic Christmas carols sound. It was so different!

German tree

Day 11, Christmas music

Our tree is up, although not yet decorated
Posted by linkmeister on 12 December 2016, 9:01 pm

We’ve established it’s Christmastime, so now it’s time to put up a tree.

To celebrate trees let’s hear Nat King Cole sing “O Tannenbaum” in German. As far as I can tell his accent is pretty good. It’s from his album “The Christmas Song”, first released in 1960 as “The Magic of Christmas.”

Blues Christmas

Posted by linkmeister on 11 December 2018, 8:00 am
No snow out here, but I can dream

I know my East Coast and Southern friends are digging out from under, so I hope they don’t hate me for this. Eric Clapton plays and sings “White Christmas” in a way you’ve never heard before.

The song has a fascinating history: Irving Berlin wrote it in either 1940 or 1941. The first public performance of it was by Bing Crosby on his Christmas Day radio show in 1941. Crosby recorded it in May of 1942 and it was released as part of a 78-rpm six-disc collection of songs from the movie “Holiday Inn.” Among the songs from that film it was initially outshone by “Be Careful, It’s My Heart,” but by the end of October of ’42 it was at the top of the Your Hit Parade charts and stayed there until after the New Year. It won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1942 and was later given the ultimate accolade: an entire movie, 1954’s “White Christmas,” was built around it. 

PBS’s The News Hour noted in a 2015 segment:

…the whole idea of secular Christmas songs really didn’t exist before Berlin. No one was actually dreaming of white Christmases before him.

Composers and publishers thought, why write a Christmas song? They will only play it once a year. But, in fact, the success of this actually launched a whole genre of secular Christmas songs. And all of a sudden, we invented an American Christmas based on a mythic golden past that never existed in this rural New England that came purely out of his imagination.

I recommend watching all six minutes of that segment if you’re interested in how composers work.

What do we know from snow out here, you ask

Honestly, not much. But back in 2000 some slack-key guitarists released an album of holiday songs, and one of the tracks was this beautiful instrumental version of “Winter Wonderland.”

Winter Wonderland
Posted by linkmeister on 19 December 2018, 8:00 am
I haven’t lived where it snowed since 1968. Even in Japan I was too close to Tokyo Bay for snow to stick even if it fell, and I don’t remember it doing so in the two winters I spent there. I still remember the incredible silence of a snowfall, though.

Cindy Combs plays a slack key guitar instrumental version of “Winter Wonderland.” It comes from a compilation album called “A Slack Key Christmas,” released in 2000 on Dancing Cat Records. While Christmas shopping on Monday I found a copy of the album at a used book/music/dvd store and added it to my Christmas music collection (53 albums containing 625 songs and rising!).

James Taylor does Christmas

Day 8, Christmas music

JT’s Christmas hopes
Posted by linkmeister on 7 December 2015, 8:46 pm

This album has a weird history. It was originally issued and distributed by Hallmark Cards in 2004. In 2006 Taylor’s longtime label Columbia reissued it with a new title and a revised track listing; “Deck the Halls” was omitted, with two other songs (“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River”) added. Six years after that Universal’s label reissued it with two more tracks, “Mon Beau Sapin”, a French translation of “O Christmas Tree”, and a cover of George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” with cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

This song was written by Ralph Martin for the Judy Garland movie Meet Me in St. Louis, and it appeared on the 2006 album from Columbia. It was the last album Taylor has done for the label to date.

Fate strikes Guaraldi for second time

Day 7, Christmas music.

Jazzed-up Peanuts
Posted by linkmeister on 8 December 2012, 6:00 am

Vince Guaraldi had already won a Grammy for his 1962 composition “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” when television producer Lee Mendelsohn heard it and got the pianist’s phone number. Mendelsohn needed a pianist to compose and play a score for a documentary (!) about Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang. Guaraldi happily accepted the offer and wrote one. Ultimately the documentary never aired for lack of sponsorship, but when Mendelsohn got the go-ahead to do “A Charlie Brown Christmas” he used some of the already-written score Guaraldi had composed. There were eventually sixteen different Charlie Brown specials, all with music by Guaraldi.

Here’s the original.