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Monday, December 26, 2005

The Scratchy, Hissing Ghost of Christmas Past

A while back, Lileks posted a blurry (why?) photo of the 1966 Goodyear Christmas album, calling it the "ur-album".

Our family had that album, too, and now I have it in my collection of aging vinyl. I wish I had some sort of software to burn the thing to CD; I worry that the record will finally warp or melt or break and the songs will be lost forever. This is the comforting sound of the Sixties -- that is, that part of the Sixties which was the last remnant of the Forties and Fifties, the same sound that appears on the soundtrack for the Rankin-Bass "Rudolph" special. I can't hear that music without wanting to curl up on the couch and go to sleep.

This image from a Petula Clark site shows the 1969 edition of the album. I know it's not very large, but you can see from the ugly avocado green and the font that the rot that would be the Seventies had already set in. Sad, really.

Here's an article from the December, 2003 issue of Modern Tire Dealer, noting these releases, and the similar ones by Firestone.

Just because I can, because this is information I actually have, and because Lileks didn't do it, here's the track listing:

Side One
O Holy Night -- Andy Wiliams
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear -- Andre Kostelanetz*
Caroling, Caroling -- Anna Maria Alberghetti*
Jolly Old St. Nicholas -- Maurice Chevalier*
Little Drummer Boy -- Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra
Star Carol -- Anna Maria Alberghetti*
We Three Kings of Orient Are -- Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing/Angels We Have Heard on High -- Andre Kostelanetz*
Silent Night -- Maurice Chevalier*
The Lord's Prayer -- Richard Tucker*

Side Two
Sleigh Ride -- Steve Lawrence/Eydie Gorme
The Twelve Days of Christmas -- Dinah Shore*
O Little Town of Bethlehem -- Richard Tucker
Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming -- Diahann Caroll*
Some Children See Him -- Diahann Caroll
O Come, All Ye Faithful/The First Noel -- Danny Kaye*
Silver Bells -- Doris Day
Jingle Bells -- Sammy Davis, Jr.
It's Christmas Time All Over the World -- Sammy Davis, Jr.*

Tracks marked with * were recorded especially for the album according to the album cover.

Richard Tucker, whom I've never heard of, was apparently a star of the Metropolitan Opera.

"O Holy Night" is beautifully done here. When Williams gets to "fall on your knees", it's all I can do to stay off mine.

"We Three Kings" is another favorite, even though there are no lyrics.

Danny Kaye is usually remembered nowadays (when he's remembered) as a comic actor. I caught him the other night in the last part of The Court Jester. I keep forgetting he was a singer, too.

The back of the album gives details about the songs' provenance -- what was written by so-and-so in 18-whatever, and what was written down by monks in the Middle Ages.

"It's Christmas Time All Over the World" was especially written for the album.

It's been at least six years since I actually listened to this. My turntable is packed away somewhere because we don't have room to set it up. Lileks played part of Maurice Chevalier's "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" in his Bleat podcast on the sixteenth, and he says he remembered all the places where Chevalier throws in a gratiutous "Yes!" even after a couple of decades.

I never liked Chevalier's songs on this album, and when I grew up, I came to regard his "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" as positively creepy. You see, he iss so Franch on zis song, eet's as eef he iss saying, "You stupid Americans, you want ze outrageous Franch accent, I give you ze outrageous Franch accent. What do you know about it anyway, peeg-dogs? And anyone who sinks zis song, narrated by a leetle boy, should not be sung by a septuagenarian, will show zemselves to be an unsophisticated Yankee barbarian. How do you like zose apples, eh?"

And he doesn't do "Silent Night" any good, either.