Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Friday, 23 December 2016

Car Boot Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 9

Welcome to Day 9 of the Car Boot Christmas Countdown 2016.  On this penultimate festive blog post we're looking at two LPs that are both over 50 years old.  Both are in remarkable condition despite their age and the fact that they were found languishing at car boot sales.

First up is Ray Conniff and the Ray Conniff Singers - We Wish You A Merry Christmas, which cost 50p last October.

Ray Conniff and the Ray Conniff Singers - We Wish You A Merry
Christmas (1962)

1970s reissue with cropped
image, also found last year.
Born Joseph Raymond Conniff in Massachusetts in 1916, Ray was a prolific bandleader and arranger, having 28 albums in the US Top 40 between 1957 and 1968.  His most successful output was that with his "Ray Conniff Singers", numbering 13 men and 12 women at any one time.

Here they present all the Yuletide favourites you'd expect, plus a couple of other less commonly covered numbers; for instance Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep) from the film White Christmas appears as part of a medley.  In fact the album is mainly composed of medleys, with just two standalone songs; Ring Christmas Bells (aka Carol of the Bells) and a surprisingly enjoyable version of the normally tedious The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Conniff was renowned for his vocal arrangements, and the harmonies here are unmatched, the highlight for me being O Holy Night, where the soaring layers of voice give me genuine tingles.  Unsurprisingly the album went gold in 1963, and it continued to chart year after year in the 1960s.  It remains a bona fide Christmas classic, and for those who grew up with it playing in their home, a veritable time machine.

Track list.

Side 1.
1. Medley: Jolly Old St. Nicholas; The Little Drummer Boy.
2. Medley: O Holy Night; We Three Kings of Orient Are; Deck The Halls With Boughs of Holly.
3. Ring Christmas Bells.

Side 2.
1. Medley: Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!; Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep); We Wish You A Merry Christmas.
2. The Twelve Days of Christmas.
3. Medley: The First Noel; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; O Come, All Ye Faithful; We Wish You A Merry Christmas.

I paid £1.50 for a copy of Harry Belafonte's To Wish You A Merry Christmas in April this year.

Harry Belafonte - To Wish You A Merry Christmas (1958)

Compared to the cheery sound of the Ray Conniff Singers this album comes as a bit of a downer.  Although Belafonte tackled all kinds of folk music, he's best known for hits such as Jump In The Line and Island In The Sun, but if you were expecting this album to deliver a calypso Christmas you'd be in for a disappointment.  That's not to say it has nothing to offer; if you like your carols delivered solemnly with traditional, sparse instrumentation, then you'll enjoy this low-key collection.  As well as the well-worn carols there are others less familiar, such as A Star In The East and Jehovah the Lord Will Provide.  Harry's soft voice is matched by the gentle playing of guitar virtuoso Laurindro Almeida, and the most upbeat the album gets is the marching pipe and drums on Christmas Is Coming.  Verdict: tender and mild.

Track list.

Side 1.
1. A Star In The East.
2. The Gifts They Gave.
3. The Son of Mary*.
4. The Twelve Days of Christmas.
5. Where The Little Jesus Sleeps.
6. Medley: The Joys of Christmas; O Little Town of Bethlehem; Deck The Halls; The First Noel.

Side 2.
1. Mary, Mary.
2. Jehovah the Lord Will Provide.
3. Silent Night.
4. Christmas Is Coming.
5. Medley: We Wish You A Merry Christmas; God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; O Come All Ye Faithful; Joy To The World.
6. I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day.

Be sure to come back tomorrow - Christmas Eve! - for the final installment of the Car Boot Christmas Countdown, with three great albums by some beloved crooners.  You can hear me playing the best selections from my festive record boxes on the family-friendly Car Boot Christmas 2016 cloudcast.  Use the player below or follow the link to Mixcloud.

1 comment:

  1. I listened to Ray Conniff's Here We Come A-Caroling tonight that's a pretty jolly but crackly affair (mine was obviously a well loved copy) . Sorry to hear Harry Belafonte didn't quite deliver - I'll keep an eye open for it on my travels though!