Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Car Boot Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 10

It's Day 10 of the 2016 Car Boot Christmas Countdown, which means it's also Christmas Eve, and today is the turn of the Christmas crooners.  Let's begin with the King Of Cool, and a record I nabbed for a pound at a car boot sale on this year's May Bank Holiday weekend.

The Dean Martin Christmas Album (1966)

The Dean Martin Christmas Album was Dino's second festive offering, the first being 1959's Winter Wonderland, which shares a few tracks including the tenuous inclusion of The Things We Did Last Summer.  Aside from this, many of the old chestnuts are here, such as a delightful Marshmallow World, a Blue Christmas to rival that of Elvis, and of course everyone's favourite, Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow, as so memorably used in Die Hard.

On the making of the album the sleeve notes state,
"'Twas the ninth of September, a very warm night, and we were in California.  And on this hot desert night, not a sleigh or a jingle bell in sight.... Dean Martin sauntered into his friendly neighbourhood recording studio and made himself an album of song. Christmas song."
His vocals must have been dubbed separately, as there are plenty of bells here, as well as tinkling xylophone, jaunty strings and sweet backing vocals.  The combination of these with Dino's laid back, nonchalant style results in a seemingly effortless, gently swinging, warm and breezy record that's completely uplifting and a joy from start to finish.

Less uplifting, despite the title, is A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra, which I bought for 50p in August 2015.

A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra (1957)

Alternative cover and title

First released in 1957, my copy is a slightly later US issue with Capitol's "rainbow" label.  Assisted by the "orchestra and chorus of Gordon Jenkins" (the chorus being the Ralph Brewster Singers), like many before and after him Frank brings us one side of popular Christmas songs and one of carols.

I found the album to be rather leaden and samey, and in particular Frank's delivery isn't suited to the carols, which for me fall flattest.  But as a nice bit of background music it's pleasant enough, and no doubt could act effectively as a soothing accompaniment to that post-Christmas dinner booze-snooze in the armchair.

In the '60s the album was briefly issued as "The Sinatra Christmas Album" with a different cover image.  When it was reissued on vinyl in 2010, the original title and artwork were restored.

Last but by no means least is A Jack Jones Christmas, which cost me a pound in March 2015.

A Jack Jones Christmas (1969)

Like Dean Martin, this RCA release was Jack's second Christmas album, coming after 1964's equally imaginatively titled "The Jack Jones Christmas Album" on Kapp Records. After Frank 'n' Dino's Burgundy baritones, Jack's easygoing tenor makes for a nice change, and as well as the usual parade of suspects he throws in some curveballs like gospel number Little Altar Boy, Bacharach and David's Christmas Day from the Broadway musical Promises Promises, and a look at the different ways Jesus is perceived around the world in Some Children See Him.  There's also the inexplicable inclusion of Oh Happy Day; an odd choice, but it fits in quite well.

The highlights for me are his a cappella version of Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, the aforementioned Little Altar Boy, and best of all his absolutely winning rendition of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, the latter making the perfect signing-off track for Car Boot Christmas 2016, which you can listen to using the player below.

Thanks for joining me; I hope you've enjoyed this year's countdown and the accompanying cloudcast, and I also hope you can pop back in the new year to see and hear what other records I've been liberating from car boot sales and charity shops here on the Suffolk coast.

Wishing you a happy and peaceful Christmas, whatever it is you're up to.

Minibreakfast xxx

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.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Car Boot Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 8

It's Day 8 of this year's Car Boot Christmas Countdown, and today it's the turn of the ladies of country.  Let's begin with the First Lady Of Country, Tammy Wynette, whose Christmas album I picked up for a pound at a car boot sale back in April.

Christmas With Tammy Wynette (this edition 1982, original release was 1970)

Like fellow pioneering country artist Charlie Pride, Tammy was also from Mississippi and a successful sportsperson before moving into music, having been a top basketball player in her high school year.  Like several of the Christmas albums covered in these pages, this one is split in to two distinct sides.  The first consists of reverently delivered carols including Gentle Shepherd and O Little Town Of Bethlehem, and with the Jordanaires swooning behind Tammy as she sings "no criyyb for his beyyd", Away In A Manger never sounded more Nashville.

Side 2 is my favourite, however, where backed by The Nashville Edition Tammy lets loose the heartache on popular songs such as Blue Christmas, before eventually perking up when her man returns home for the festivities on One Happy Christmas.  But he's dun left her agin by next song Lovely Christmas Call where she pleads with him to return for the sake of the children.  He doesn't, but the reverence does for final number Let's Put The Christ Back Into Christmas.

In October last year I spent 50p on a copy of Christmas Day With Kitty Wells.

Christmas Day With Kitty Wells (1962)

Also featuring backing vocals by The Jordanaires, this 1962 release by Nashville native Wells (born Ellen Muriel Deason) is a cheerier affair than Tammy's, opening with Dasher With The Light Upon His Tail, C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S and a sleigh bell laden Santa's On His Way.  As well as a great cover of Gene Autrey's Here Comes Santa Claus there are a couple of carols, plus the seemingly compulsory Blue Christmas and White Christmas. Wells throws in a little heartbreak with Christmas Ain't Like Christmas Anymore, but jollity is immediately restored with a chirpy cowgirl rendition of Jingle Bells.

As far as I can tell the album wasn't released outside the US, but these days UK folks can buy it as download.

On a freezing Sunday morning in February 2015 I splurged five pounds (now approximately half a Euro) on a copy of something I'd been hoping to spot in the wild for ages: Light Of The Stable by Emmylou Harris.

Emmylou Harris - Light of the Stable (1979)

This 1979 release was named after the title track, which had come out as a single four years earlier with Bluebird Wine on the b-side.  A prolific collaborator, Emmylou is joined on this song by Neil Young and Trio partners Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton on harmony vocals.  Other contributors include Willie Nelson and Ricky Skaggs providing vocals on Angel Eyes (Angel Eyes) and singer-songwriter Nancy Ahern duetting with Emmylou on Away In A Manger.  Among the musicians contributing to the largely acoustic backing are Rodney Crowell, Albert Lee and autoharpist Bryan Bowers (misspelled as 'Brian' on the sleeve notes).

Alternative cover art

Emmylou's incredible voice shines particularly brightly on the a cappella The First Noel, but my favourites are bluegrass opener Christmas Time's A-Coming, an absolutely beautiful Little Drummer Boy, and of course the title track.  The album has been reissued many times over the years on both CD and vinyl, with a few alternative covers.

You can hear tracks from many of the albums featured in the countdown, plus lots more, on the all-vinyl Car Boot Christmas 2016 cloudcast.  Use the player below or click the link to go to Mixcloud.  Do come back tomorrow, Friday the 23rd of December, for the penultimate day of the Car Boot Christmas Countdown and two great festive records from the 1950s and '60s.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Car Boot Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 7

Today's festive LPs were kindly sent to me as earlier this year by a dear chum; charity shop connoisseur and tat-magnet Beany.  The first has already become one of my favourite ever Christmas albums; The Swingalongs Present: Sing A Song Of Christmas.

The Swingalongs Present: Sing A Song Of Christmas (1973)

According to the notes on the back cover this MfP release was "Arranged and produced by the same team that made Tijuana Christmas", i.e the greatest ever Christmas album (billed as being by the Torero Band), so no surprise that it raced into my Top Ten so quickly.  Indeed, Alan Moorhouse is named as arranger and director, with Bill Wellings as producer.  The "20 non-stop Christmas songs" are in fact arranged into half a dozen medleys of the usual suspects, all carols except opener Jingle Bells.

The up-tempo stuff is totally groovy, with a swinging drummer, funky bassist, plus of course the other trademark instruments used by this set-up such as xylophone, organ and of course trumpet.  The vocals are great; harmonious and sweet with faux-American accents, these guys 'n' gals are square as hell, but hugely entertaining, although by the end of Side 2 their relentlessness can be a little wearing, especially on the slower carol medleys.

There are plenty of parts that put a grin on my face, including the bouncy percussion and farty brass of the opening medley, and a brief but sexy organ flourish between Ding Dong Merrily On High and We Three Kings.  Another album I now need to look out for is the only other one released under The Swingalongs' name; a double with Bert Shorthouse and his Glenlomond Band called "Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year".  It has Bert and co. on the second disc playing 20 non-stop New Year's party tunes, and presumably on the Christmas-themed first disc by The Swingalongs the same non-stop recordings as on my album, having an identical track list.

Also in the surprise package from Beany was The Julie Andrews Christmas Album.

The Julie Andrews Christmas Album (1983)

Here Julie is backed by a symphony orchestra as she makes her way through a clutch of familiar favourites plus a few more unusual songs such as French carol Patapan (the English translation rather than the Burgundian original), Christian folk hymn I Wonder As I Wander, and a goosebump-inducing version of Bing Crosby's The Secret Of Christmas.

Julie has several Christmas albums in her discography, but this particular set of songs has been issued more than once (this 1983 edition is a Reader's Digest release), firstly in 1975 (minus two tracks) as "The Secret Of Christmas", then in 1982 as "Christmas With Julie Andrews", and again in 1987 as "The Sound Of Christmas" complete with Sound Of Music rip-off cover art:

The lush, movie soundtrack-style orchestration suits her crystal clear soprano beautifully, and with Julie you can relax safe in the knowledge that she's never going to miss one of the high notes - and there are plenty of those here!

Join me again tomorrow, Thursday the 22nd of December (getting close now!), for Day 8 of the Car Boot Christmas Countdown with Yuletide albums from three ladies of country. Hear me playing over an hour of car boot and charity shop Christmas music using the player below or by following the link to Mixcloud.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Car Boot Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 6

Welcome to Day 6 of this year's Car Boot Christmas Countdown.  After yesterday's parp-fest it's time to look at a couple of different seasonal albums, starting with Merry Christmas Baby, bought in June 2015 for £2.

Various Artists - Merry Christmas Baby (1985)

Stanley Lewis worked as a record distributor and jukebox operator, until in 1963, encouraged by none other than Leonard Chess, he founded Jewel Records in Shreveport, Lousiana, recording gospel, blues and jazz.  Six artists in all are featured on this 1985 compilation.

Jazz pianist Ronnie Kole was born in Chicago and found success in New Orleans, eventually opening the now famous club Kole's Korner.  Here with his Trio he provides two great instrumentals in Winter Wonderland and Silent Night, Holy Night.  Louisiana-born singer and pianist Bobby Powell moved from playing gospel in the 1950s, through blues in the '60s to soul and R&B in the '70s.  Here he's represented by two versions of the same piece, a Deep Soul vocal ballad called The Bells, and the instrumental version called Bing Bong that graced the b-side of the 1971 single release.

Rear sleeve with tracklist

The star of the show is Charles Brown, a blues singer and pianist from Texas City whose hit Merry Christmas Baby lends its title to the album.  This R&B Christmas standard was first recorded in 1947 by Johnny Moore's The Blazes, and featured a young Charles Brown on piano.  Perhaps the best known version today is that by Bruce Springsteen, as heard on the 2014 Car Boot Christmas cloudcast.  
Brown's million-selling Please Come Home For Christmas is here too, as well as his sublime Christmas In Heaven.

Merry Christmas Baby has been reissued on CD in various guises since 1985 with later re-recordings and additional tracks, although I gather that they don't add much to the original US-only LP, which is all killer and no filler.

Costing £1 in October of 2015 was Noël by Joan Baez.

Joan Baez - Noël (1966)

Arranged by Peter Schickele a.k.a. PDQ Bach, here Joan delivers a dozen songs, her crystal clear soprano taking centre stage.  Rather than her usual folky style the orchestration is classical with a medieval feel in parts, thanks to instruments like harpsichord, recorder, lute, baroque organ and a "consort of viols".  With delicate enunciation she sings Ave Maria in German and an absolutely gorgeous Cantique de Noël in French, as well as the English translation of Catalan traditional Carol of the Birds.  Other seldom-heard traditionals include Down In Yon Forest and Mary's Wandering.  A handful of instrumentals are slotted in; three as short intervals, and Angels We Have Heard On High as a standalone piece.

The material suits her bell-like voice well, and though the album feels a little staid in places it's still very enjoyable, especially when compared to some other artists' more syrupy Christmas output.  It's quite a common sight at car boot sales and charity shops, and certainly worth picking up next time you see it.  You may also be able to find the 2001 CD remaster, issued in 2001 with 6 extra tracks.

You can hear picks from both of these albums and lots more on Car Boot Christmas 2016; listen to the cloudcast on the player below or click the link to go to the Mixcloud page.  Shares, comments and likes will be most welcome.  Be sure to come back tomorrow, Wednesday the 21st of December, where I'll be looking a couple of very special charity shop finds!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Car Boot Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 5

It's Day 5 of the Car Boot Christmas Countdown, which means that we're halfway to Christmas Eve already.  As promised, today we're going Totally Tijuana with a trio of budget label Yuletide parp-fests.

Let's start with this, bought at a car boot sale during the summer of 2015 for a pound.

The Border Brass & Singers - Tijuana Christmas (1968)

Released on Hallmark the same year as Herb Alpert's festive offering, Tijuana Christmas by The Border Brass & Singers is a fun collection of twelve familiar tunes in a pseudo-Mariachi style.  The title track that opens Side 1 is not especially Christmassy, but it's very jaunty, with clip-clop percussion, a neighing horse (obviously) and some breathy "pah-pah-pah" female vocals.  In fact the clean cut chorus of guys and girls provide a slew of pah-pah-pahs, da-da-das and even some bum-bum-bums to go with the fa-la-la-la-las; and with all the bells, chimes, maracas, and of course that twin trumpet sound, this record is a kitsch delight.  Deck The Halls features strident harpsichord, as does the rattling arrangement of We Wish You A Merry Christmas. Angels We Have Heard On High incorporates ringing barrelhouse piano, and the clip-clopping reappears for the one-horse open sleigh in Jingle Bells.

The album was released without the overlaid vocals as by just 'The Border Brass' in the US and 'La Nouvelle Génération' in Canada:

In addition, there are a couple of other versions the same as the UK release i.e. with vocals, but with variations of title, band name and cover art.  These are a US release called 'Tijuana Voices With Brass Sing Merry Christmas' and an Australian one named 'Jingle Bells Tijuana Style':

Bought last summer for 50p is another album called Tijuana Brass, this time by Louis Gomez Mexican Brass.

Louis Gomez Mexican Brass - Tijuana Christmas (1979)

It was released on Chevron Records, a UK budget label exclusively licensed to the Woolworth's chain.  There was no Loius Gomez of course; the arranger was one Pete Winslow, who also played trumpet, and he's accompanied here by session musicians on Hammond organ, marimba, twangy guitar and jazzy percussion.

Although the sleeve notes claim "Louis Gomez and his Mexican Brass play some of those songs that will always be associated with Christmas", there are quite a lot you wouldn't, including ones called Snowbird, Post Horn Rock, Londonderry Air a.k.a. 'Danny Boy', and There Is A Tavern In The Town which you'd most likely recognise as 'Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes'.

Some are perky and some mellow, but they're all groovesome and the jazziest of the Tijuana cohort, especially their arrangement of the perennial Winter Wonderland.  If you see it hanging around in a charity shop try not to let the cover put you off buying it, as it's a really fun, swingin' record.

Not quite as swingin' is the album by the genre's originator, Christmas With Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, sent to me last December by dear pal and fellow car boot botherer Beany.

Christmas With Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (1968)

This 1971 reissue of what was originally titled "Christmas Album" is on the Mayfair imprint, a budget series belonging to Herb's own label A&M.  It was distributed by Pye, and when held up to strong light the otherwise black-looking vinyl disc becomes red and translucent, like much of Pye's output in the 1970s.

Original US cover
The voice and string arrangements on this mixture of mostly secular standards are by Shorty Rogers, with brass arrangements by Alpert, and include Winter Wonderland, Sleigh Ride and Jingle Bells, along with Herb giving voice to The Bell That Couldn't Jingle and Christmas Song.  More unusual are Las Mañanitas (a traditional Mexican birthday song that translates as "The Little Mornings"), Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desire, and the rather odd choice of My Favourite Things from The Sound Of Music.
It's a pleasant enough record but a little too... well... tasteful for my tastes; far more restrained and even muted in comparison to his usual Tijuana Brass albums, and often not even very Christmassy.  But it still reached no.1 on the US album chart every year between 1968 and 1970, so it clearly hit the spot for many.

I'll be back tomorrow (Tuesday the 20th of December) with more festive car bootery, but until then you can listen to me introducing and playing over an hour of all-vinyl Christmas tunes on Car Boot Christmas 2016.   It's totally family-friendly, and you can use the player below or click the link to go directly to Mixcloud.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Car Boot Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 4

It's already Day 4 of this year's Car Boot Christmas Countdown, and after yesterday's trio of country gents it's time for something completely different.

Budget labels abound at car boot sales and charity shops, and Non-Stop Christmas Disco by The Roller Disco Orchestra is on Pickwick Records, a subsidiary of Pickwick International Inc. (GB) Ltd.

The Roller Disco Orchestra - Non-Stop Christmas Disco (1979)

I know that for some folks the words budget + disco + Christmas = nightmare, but in my world the sheen and glitter of disco go well with the joy and triumph of Christmas music, and are a match made in Greenland.  This two-disc set is all I'd hoped it would be, i.e. funky orchestral disco with the whiff of fromage and a liberal sprinkling of sleigh bells.  I'll let the slightly deranged sleeve notes explain more:
"A chance to whiz round the disco in your own living room!... Could you ever believe you'd be bopping to GOOD KING WENCELAS (sic) or WE THREE KINGS? 
THE ROLLER DISCO ORCHESTRA present 10 tracks to roll into your hearts and leave you steaming on the carpet. Hang on to your mistletoe lovers - this one's guaranteed to keep you floored!

Reissue cover image
The non-stop segued set is a mostly frantic affair aside from Deck The Halls with its reggae beat and fart-along Moog, plus a few chilled grooves like Little Drummer Boy with whispered "rum-pum-pum-pum", and a sort of bump 'n' grind We Three Kings.  It's largely instrumental apart from some occasional breathy vocals as decoration, and has become a firm favourite in the Car Boot Vinyl household, being one of the first records I reach for when December arrives.

It's now available on CD as well as to download or stream. The updated cover art is rather generic, but thankfully the music is untouched and just as batshit.

I picked up The Bells of Christmas by Eddie Dunstedter back in April of this year for a pound.

Eddie Dunstedter - The Bells of Christmas (1959)

American composer and organist Dunstedter was active through the 1930s to the 1960s, and The Bells of Christmas was recorded after he'd already established a career scoring and playing music for TV and film.  This version of the album was reissued in the UK in 1965 by Music For Pleasure.  Eddie presents 18 carols played on a "4-manual, 24-rank organ containing approximately two thousand separate pipes", accompanied by xylophone, glockenspiel, celeste, marimba and vibraharp.

Original US cover art
The sleeve notes claim "Any voice, even the thin wavering tones of a child, can give meaning to Christmas carols; but the majestic voices of a great pipe organ* give them the most fitting expression of all."

It's a curious recording, quite muffled and very slow-paced, except for a brief step up in tempo on second track March of the Three Kings, after which it returns to a ponderous plod for the remainder.  It might be quite good for lowering the blood pressure, but I find it far too samey to maintain my attention, and I'd say it's probably best enjoyed in small doses (and perhaps accompanied by large doses of cherry brandy).

Do swing by the blog tomorrow (Monday the 19th of December) for Day 5 of the Car Boot Christmas Countdown where we'll be going Totally Tijuana!  Until then you can hear me playing tunes from Eddie, The Roller Disco Orchestra and loads more on the 2016 cloudcast; use the player below or click the link to go to Mixcloud.


Saturday, 17 December 2016

Car Boot Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 3

It's Day 3 of the Car Boot Christmas Countdown, and today's albums are from three male country artists.  Let's start with this, bought in June of this year for £1.

Charley Pride - Christmas In My Home Town (1970)

Charley Pride was born in in Mississippi and enjoyed a successful career as a baseball player before moving on to one in singing, becoming huge in the 1970s, mainly with the nana crowd.  A pioneer in the world of African-American country, he remains one of only three black artists (all men) to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.

1998 CD cover
1970's Christmas In My Home Town opens with the tinkling of bells and the cheerful title track, which is among the handful of pop-country Christmas songs here, the others being Happy Christmas Day, and of course Santa And The Kids which featured on Car Boot Christmas 2014. More traditional country style tracks such as The First Christmas Morn and Christmas And Love benefit from the dreamy backing vocals of The Jordinaires, but the carols work less well, his renditions of Deck The Halls and Silent Night falling a bit flat.

The album was reissued on CD in the US in 1998 with a different cover and the title "Happy Christmas Day".  It was remastered in 2013 with three bonus tracks and the original cover image restored.  Charley is still going strong today at the grand old age of 82.

Sadly no longer with us is the legend that was Johnny Cash, and I picked up his 1963 LP The Christmas Spirit at a boot sale in May of 2015 in a 3-for-a-fiver deal.

Johnny Cash - The Christmas Spirit (1963)
Mother in law Maybelle Carter plays autoharp

This was Cash's first Christmas album and four of the twelve songs are written by the man himself, including the spoken-word title track where over piano and choir Johnny dreams of travelling the world.  His journey begins in London where he's greeted by a chestnut seller in Piccadilly, and here Johnny's cockney "Hello mate!" is priceless.

Poverty and Jesus always seem to have gone hand in hand in country music, and there's plenty of both here, the storytelling both sung and narrated in Cash' echoing boom.  The Ballad of the Harp Weaver, a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, is probably the most depressing track amongst a rather downbeat collection.  While this isn't exactly a party album, it's still full of Christmas spirit, just not the kind that comes decked in tinsel or slathered in sleigh bells.

I found a slightly battered copy of Gene Autry's Christmas Cracker at a car boot in August of last year, for the princely sum of 25p.

Gene Autry's Christmas Cracker (1966)
What a great cover!

Gene "The Singing Cowboy" Autry hailed from Texas and found fame singing on the radio after being refused a recording contract with RCA Victor in 1928.  He eventually signed with Columbia and his career spanned movies and TV as well as the music industry.  In all he made some 640 recordings, over 300 of which were self-penned or co-written.

Like many Christmas albums, one side of this consists of secular songs, with the other devoted to carols.  His 1949 US no.1 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer gets Side 1 off to a gallop, followed by other child-friendly favourites such as Up On The House Top written in 1864 by Benjamin Hanby, and an adaptation of the American rhyme 'Ten Little Indians' called Nine Little Reindeer.  Like Charley Pride, Autry's country style is better suited to these than the mostly solemn Side 2, at the end of which an uncredited male lead is joined by a choir for What Child Is This?, rounding things off quite nicely even though Autry's sudden disappearance is quite odd.  There are short spoken sections between some songs, and it's here that my 25p record really shows its age, but I just close my eyes and pretend the crackles are coming from a nice log fire.

You can hear Gene and a whole host of other artists on this year's Car Boot Christmas cloudcast below.  Join me again tomorrow, Sunday the 18th of December, for Day 4 of the Car Boot Christmas Countdown, where I'll be taking a look at two very different seasonal records.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Car Boot Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 2

Hello and welcome to Day 2 of the Car Boot Christmas Countdown, where I'm digging out some of the festive albums I've found at car boot sales and charity shops over the last couple of years.  If you missed the first installment yesterday you can find it here

Today's seasonal duo were both found in charity shops, beginning with the Scrooged Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, for which I paid 50p.

Scrooged - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1989)

Scrooged was a 1989 update of A Christmas Carol, and stars the wonderful Bill Murray as Frank Crass, a TV exec who's forgotten the true meaning of Christmas and who needs his icy heart warming up a touch.  The soundtrack features a couple of Yuletide standards in Natalie Cole's version of The Christmas Song and a cool-as-heck rendition of We Three Kings by Miles Davies, Larry Carlton, David Sanborn and Paul Shaffer, who also appear in the film as a group of street musicians insulted by Frank:

The rest is a mixture of pop covers and original material, the best being Annie Lennox and Al Green's feelgood Put A Little Love In Your Heart (as opposed to the also very good version sung by the cast as the credits roll, with Bill shouting "Feed me, Seymour!"), U2's The Sweetest Thing performed by gospel group New Voices of Freedom, and the lightweight but fun Get Up 'N' Dance from Kool Moe Dee.  Low points are Robbie Robertson's Christmas Must Be Tonight and Dan Hartman and Denise Lopez's The Love You Take, which both display the worst kind of eighties bland forgettability.

From rear sleeve

Even with the weaker tracks, if you're a fan of the film this LP is a must-have.  If you've never seen Scrooged before, for goodness sake go and watch it this Christmas!  It's guaranteed to appear somewhere on the schedules, usually on Film 4 in the UK.

For some reason I don't have this next record written in my car boot notebook, but I'm fairly certain that it cost a pound.

Christmas And James Last (1973)

Christmas And James Last is one of several Christmas LPs from this most prolific of easy listening bandleaders and composers, but the only one I've seen so far, despite the seemingly endless supply of J-La at car boots and chazzas.  It features mostly traditional tunes, plus four pieces written by "Hansi" himself, and is all instrumental except for the choir's charming but wordless contributions.  It isn't in his trademark "non-stop dancing" style, but many tracks segue into the next in a totally non-cheesy fashion, including a version of German folk song Heidschi Bumbeidschi known here as Cheidschi Bumbeidshi, which flows sweetly into German carol Tomorrow, Children Is The Day.

German cover art

The whole album is a thing of tinkling, swoonsome loveliness, stately in parts, but always giving off a warmth just perfect for December evenings by the fireside with a large Baileys.  Grab it if you see it, especially if it's only a pound!

Join me again tomorrow (Saturday the 17th of December) for Day 3 of the Car Boot Christmas Countdown 2016, this time for three albums by some country gents.  In the meantime you can hear me play over an hour's worth of all-vinyl Christmas music on the Car Boot Christmas cloudcast via the player below, or click the link to hear it on the Mixcloud page.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Car Boot Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 1

Welcome to Day 1 of the Car Boot Christmas Countdown 2016.  Over the next ten days, leading us up to Christmas Eve, we'll be looking at some of the seasonal records I've found at car boot sales and charity shops since the last countdown in December 2014.

We'll start with an absolute belter, The Ventures' Christmas Album, for which I paid an entire fiver (I know!) in April of this year.

The Ventures' Christmas Album (1965)

Don Wilson, Bob Fogle and the rest of the guys bring a touch of summertime to Christmas, packing twelve festive standards into under half an hour of glorious surf rock instrumentals.  Each one has a snippet of a 60s pop hit expertly melded to it, so Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer opens with the unmistakable riff from 'I Feel Fine', their wonderful rendition of Blue Christmas has the Searchers' 'When You Walk In The Room' lick applied, and one classic meets another on Sleigh Bells where their own 'Walk, Don't Run' appears throughout.

The sleeve notes talk about the adaptations the group made to these well known songs "to suit their own power-packed style".  This youthful power, the twang-tastic racket it produces, added to the sleigh bells a-go-go from start to finish, make this jingle bell rock an essential December listen.

Bought from a charity shop and sent to me by a dear chum (thanks Matt!) is Mary's Boy Child: The Christmas Album by Boney M.

Boney M - Mary's Boy Child: The Christmas Album (1981)

Known throughout the rest of the world simply as "Christmas Album", the extra bit in the title was added to the UK version due to the success of the single Mary's Boy Child/Oh My Lord, a medley of the Harry Belafonte song and and one written by BM mastermind and real male vocalist Frank Farian, which sat atop the chart for four weeks in 1978. 

International sleeve
The album is just how you'd expect it to sound: lightweight melodic Europop with a mildly Caribbean flavour.  Things are upbeat and feelgood for the most part (Jingle Bells, a reggae-lite White Christmas, José Feliciano's Feliz Navidad), with most of the second side given over to more solemn fayre such as the boldly named Christmas Medley, the much-covered When A Child Is Born, and a version of Handel's "Tochter Zion" translated to Zion's Daughter.  The solemnity doesn't last though; the album ends with the bouncy bubblegum of I'll Be Home For Christmas - no, not that one, but a song written by Farian, who also supplies the lead vocal (under Bobby Farrell's name of course).

An enjoyable record, its effect is probably best summed up by the following customer review on Amazon:
"I bought a Xmas (sic) vest and actually danced with my mom."

There can be no higher recommendation for a Christmas record!

You can hear tracks from both of these albums and much, much more on Car Boot Christmas 2016, over an hour's worth of vinyl-only car boot and chazza Christmas tunes introduced and played by yours truly.  Use the player below to stream, or click on the link to go directly to it on Mixcloud.  It's totally family-friendly (no swears), and your shares and likes will be much appreciated.

Don't forget to come back tomorrow (Friday the 16th of December) for Part 2 of the Car Boot Christmas Countdown and two more albums.