The first day of autumn is almost here, but Real Gone Music is looking ahead to winter – and the most spectacular line-up of holiday music we’ve seen since The Second Disc started up nearly five years ago! The label has just unveiled its release slate for November 4, with a whopping seven Christmas titles, two contemporary Christian albums from a classic pop legend that make a perfect seasonal complement, and – just to keep things rocking – a hotly-anticipated CD from a classic rock great.
I’m doubly proud to announce that four of the titles in this batch are extra-special to us here at Second Disc HQ. I’ve compiled and annotated the first-ever collection of The Complete Columbia Christmas Recordings of the one and only Mr. Robert Goulet! That means both of Mr. Goulet’s sparkling holiday LPs (This Christmas I Spend with You and Robert Goulet’s Wonderful World of Christmas), of course, but we’re also adding a little extra under the Christmas tree with both sides of a rare mono 45 and all three duets recorded by Goulet and his then-wife Carol Lawrence – including “The Christmas Waltz,” never before on CD! Spectacularly remastered at Sony’s Battery Studios, these long out-of-print Christmas classics from one of the most distinctive vocalists of all time have never sounded better!
I’ve also written the liner notes for another true labor of love for the Real Gone team: the first-ever wide-release CD issue of 1970’s The Williams Brothers Christmas Album – the only full-length album featuring Andy Williams and his brothers Bob, Dick and Don! With some of the most spectacular harmony singing ever put on a Christmas record, the album is highlighted by an amazing side-long medley of holiday favorites and the Williams Brothers’ renditions of Kay Thompson’s “The Holiday Season” and “Jingle Bells,” this original Barnaby Records release – freshly remastered from the original tapes for the first time by Mike Milchner at SonicVision – finally can take its place among Andy Williams’ Christmas treasures on compact disc. This reissue of The Williams Brothers Christmas Album follows last year’s comprehensive, 2-CD release from Real Gone of Andy’s complete Columbia Christmas recordings!
Real Gone is also chronicling a key chapter in the career of B.J. Thomas with two new releases. In the mid-1970s, Thomas became one of the most successful artists ever in the field of contemporary Christian music, recording a series of record-breaking, Grammy Award-winning albums for the Myrrh label that reflected the style and high production values of his pop material but with a spiritual emphasis. Featuring key players from Muscle Shoals and the Nashville A-Team and songs by Hal David, Chris Christian, Archie Jordan, Pete Drake, and B.J. and his wife Gloria, these albums have never received their due on CD – until now! Home Where I Belong/Happy Man and You Gave Me Love/Miracle, with two albums on each CD, reveal a major chapter in the career of B.J. Thomas – and these amazing, heartfelt and incredibly catchy records aren’t just for Christian music fans! Best of all, B.J. was kind enough to contribute to my liner notes for both releases, illuminating this often-misunderstood period of his remarkable, and still-thriving, career.
These four titles are joined by other must-have stocking stuffers from The Statler Brothers, The Brothers Four, The Kingston Trio, Frank DeVol and Rosemary Clooney – plus Real Gone has the long-lost solo album from Alice Cooper and Lou Reed’s frequent collaborator Dick Wagner on CD! After the jump, we have the label’s press release and pre-order links!
LOS ANGELES, CA – The Statler Brothers’ patented country gospel sound and Christmas music were a marriage made in, well, heaven…and so both of the albums,Christmas Card and Christmas Present, that comprise this collection of their complete Christmas recordings for the Mercury label hit the country charts and remain favorites of holiday listeners young and old. In fact, 1978’s Christmas Card went platinum; it’s made up of mostly well-known Christmas favorites while 1985’s Christmas Present, recorded with new member Jimmy Fortune, who had replaced Lew DeWitt due to illness, brought more originals to the mix. Both albums remain a big part of the country Christmas canon, and though they’ve been sliced and diced for various collections over the years, the original albums themselves have been out of print for years. The Complete Mercury Christmas Recordings Featuring the Albums “Christmas Card” & “Christmas Present” sets things right by offering both albums in their entirety with original album art included inside the CD booklet, with liner notes by long-time Statlers fan and follower John Alexander.
Deemed by Brothers Four leader Bob Flick himself as one of his favorite recordings released by the long-lived folk group, 1966’s Merry Christmas brought together a truly extraordinary collection of talent. Besides the Brothers themselves—arguably one of the top five groups of the folk era—the album featured vocal arrangements by the legendary Milt Okun, who had worked with such giants as Harry Belafonte, the Chad Mitchell Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary. Orchestrations were provided by Peter Matz, fresh from his work with Barbra Streisand, and behind the board at Columbia Records’ hallowed 30th Street Studio was renowned engineer Frank Laico. And weaving it all together was the great producer Teo Macero, best known for his work with Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck and Tony Bennett! Little wonder, then, that Merry Christmas is acknowledged as a pop-folk classic, here reissued in an Expanded Edition including the Brothers’ 1961 single “Christmas Bells” b/w “What Child Is This” plus two unreleased tracks, “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” and a completely different take on “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” With notes by folk guru Tom Pickles featuring quotes from all four Brothers, added photos and a beautiful remastering job by Maria Triana at Sony’s Battery Studios in New York, this Real Gone release of The Brothers Four: Merry Christmas (Expanded Edition) will make your holiday merry indeed.
You know you’re a successful act in the music business when you’re disappointed that an album “only” hits #11 on the charts! But that’s how big The Kingston Trio were in 1960; ALL of their previous albums had hit #1, and they accounted for 20% of Capitol Records’ profits that year even at a time when the label’s roster included such superstars as Frank Sinatra and Nat “King” Cole. The reason for this “disappointing” showing? The Last Month of the Year was, contrary to the typical Christmas release, arguably the most ambitious album the Trio had released to date and maybe even the most ambitious album of their career. Dave Guard, Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane wove together a rich tapestry of European legends and scripture, lullabies, and spirituals from the American deep South and gave them the unique Kingston Trio stamp, complete with unusual instrumentation (like the bouzouki pictured on the back cover) and, in Nick Reynolds’ words, “really tricky harmonies, really tricky arrangements.” Plus, there were no popular Christmas favorites to be found; instead, some of the material was downright dark, such as the opening track, “Bye Bye Thou Tiny Little Child,” which refers to King Herod’s massacre of the innocents. But make no mistake—The Last Month of the Year captures all the joy of the Christmas season, and remains truer to the holiday’s real origins than just about any album of a similar ilk made by a major recording artist. It’s a true Christmas classic, here with added photos and great liner notes by folk music expert Tom Pickles.
It didn’t take long for Columbia Records to snap up the young star playing Sir Lancelot in the smash Broadway musical Camelot; Robert Goulet was still treading the floorboards eight times a week for the show when the label released his first album, Always You, in October 1961. Goulet went on to record over 20 albums for Columbia over the next decade, notching three Pop hits and 15 Easy Listening smashes, but among his most beloved recordings are the two Christmas albums he recorded for the label, which this 29-track, 79-minute collection presents along with five rare bonus tracks. The first, 1963’s This Christmas I Spend with You, was a blend of old and new Yuletide favorites that went Top 5 on the Christmas charts; produced by Jim Foglesong and arranged by Frank Hunter, it’s a true Christmas classic. The second, Robert Goulet’s Wonderful World of Christmas, came out five years later and was produced by the great Jimmy Wisner (“Asia Minor”); in keeping with the late-‘60s spirit, it had some more socially conscious seasonal fare like “He’s Gonna Take Away Our Christmas” alongside such swinging, lighthearted songs as “Sleigh Ride” and “Hurry Home for Christmas.” Both albums have been out of print for years and command big bucks on the used market—they appear here in their entirety, with a fresh remastering from Sean Brennan at Battery Studios in New York. But that’s not all of the Christmas music that Goulet recorded for Columbia—when we say The Complete Columbia Christmas Recordings we mean it! Also here are three rare duets he recorded with his wife Carol Lawrence for a series of albums released by Columbia Special Products for such clients as Goodyear Tire and Beneficial Financial, plus both sides of a promotional-only single he recorded for the Christmas Seals charity. With liner notes by compiler Joe Marchese, and added photos, this jampacked collection is a long-overdue reminder of the magnitude of Robert Goulet’s talent, and an essential addition to any Christmas music collection.
There never was a proper soundtrack album released of Michael Curtiz’s classic 1954 musical White Christmas featuring Irving Berlin’s immortal score because Bing Crosby was under contract with Decca and Rosemary Clooney was under contract with Columbia. Decca didn’t want to promote a Columbia artist on their release so they brought in Peggy Lee for their version of the soundtrack album, and Columbia, in turn released Rosemary Clooney: In Songs from the Paramount Pictures Production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. But we got around all of the labels’ maneuvering on this first time ever standalone reissue of the Columbia version by adding a previously unreleased bonus duet between Rosie and Bing on “Silver Bells” pulled fromThe Bing Crosby for General Electric radio show to our Expanded Edition! Not to mention six other Yuletide-flavored bonus tracks taken from Rosie’s appearances on various CBS radio shows, all but one never before released, and all beautifully remastered by Maria Triana at Battery Studios in New York. Liner notes are by Clooney expert Tom Pickles, and we’ve added some great photos.
For those lucky enough to have discovered it, Andy Williams & the Williams Brothers:The Williams Brothers Christmas Album, originally—and briefly—released in 1970 on Barnaby Records, is a long-lost seasonal gem that ranks up there with other treasured Christmas albums by artists such as the Ray Conniff Singers and the Carpenters. For decades, beloved crooner Andy Williams hosted his annual Christmas television specials that would feature musical appearances with his singing brothers Bob, Dick and Don. And they put that practice to use on this record—the first side of the LP showcases the Beach Boys-style harmonies of the Brothers on such Christmas classics such as “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” and “White Christmas.” The second side, meanwhile, contains an incredible 17-minute Christmas medley that begins and ends with “Caroling, Caroling” and includes such tunes as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Sleep Well, Little Children,” and “It’s Christmas Time.” Produced by Andy and conducted by Al Capps, this rare album has never come out on in its entirety on CD other than an extremely limited Branson theatre edition—and this is also the first time the album has been remastered from the original stereo master tapes (by Mike Milchner) and reissued with original artwork. Notes by Joe Marchese place this release in the context of Andy’s incredible career and that of his brothers, with whom he started singing way back in 1938!
What do the soundtracks to Kiss Me Deadly, The Longest Yard, The Dirty Dozen, Pillow Talk and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, the theme songs to the TV shows My Three Sons, The Brady Bunch and Family Affair, and the arrangement to Nat “King” Cole’s “Nature Boy” have in common? They were all composed and/or arranged by Frank DeVol, one of the most prolific and successful behind-the-scenes maestros in the history of the music industry. Save for the occasional acting gig (most notably as fictional bandleader Happy Kyne on Fernwood 2-Night), rarely did DeVol step out from the studio to take his rightful place in the spotlight. In fact, the only charting album released under his own name is this one, The Old Sweet Songs of Christmas, which came out in 1960 and quickly became a favorite of Christmas music lovers everywhere as one of the truly great holiday-themed orchestral records ever made. It’s unique in its simplicity—there are no brass or woodwinds here, just string punctuated by occasional percussion or piano, and the fact that every song is a medley allows DeVol and his orchestra the Rainbow Strings to cover a remarkable amount of Christmas repertoire. Gorgeously remastered by Maria Triana at Battery Studios in New York, and featuring liner notes by Chip Arcuri, webmaster at The Yule Log.com, the reissue of Frank DeVol and the Rainbow Strings: The Old Sweet Songs of Christmas—courtesy of the Christmas elves at Real Gone Music—is a long-awaited gift for holiday music lovers everywhere.
In between his late ‘60s/early ‘70s reign at the top of the pop charts and his early ‘80s reign at the top of the country charts, B.J. Thomas recorded a series of Christian pop/inspirational albums for the Myrrh label that made him the first platinum-selling superstar in the genre. In fact, during a three-year run in the late ‘70s these recordings earned B.J. three Grammy Awards for Best Inspirational Performance and a Gospel Music Association Dove Award for Best Album By a Secular Artist. Nevertheless, none of the four albums featured in these two twofers (Home Where I Belong/Happy Man from 1976 and 1978 and You Gave Me Love/Miracle from 1979 and 1982) have been on CD before, and we’ve added bonus tracks and liner notes by Joe Marchese offering fresh quotes from B.J. himself! A hitherto overlooked chapter in the career of one of our greatest interpreters of song.
He was one of the greatest guitar sidemen of all time, a mainstay in the bands of Lou Reed (Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal) and Alice Cooper. And this album was his best shot at the big time. But solo stardom was not meant to be for the late, great Dick Wagner, even though the music on his 1978 self-titled debut was worthy of wide recognition. The record actually had a lot going for it; long-time Reed and Cooper band-mates Prakash John, Whitey Glan and Steve Hunter played on it, and overseeing the whole affair was producer/mastermind Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Peter Gabriel, Kiss, Pink Floyd). But Atlantic Records, the label, made an inexplicable marketing error and entitled the album “Richard Wagner,” which led many record store clerks to stock the release in their classical section (we’ve rectified this mistake some 45 years later by changing the title and cover art to Dick Wagner). Hence, the record never found its proper audience and is only now seeing a legitimate reissue on CD. Which is really too bad…it’s a surprisingly personal record that showcases a number of songwriting styles along with the hot guitar solos you’d expect from Wagner, all presented with Ezrin’s trademark widescreen production values. Our Real Gone reissue includes new liner notes by Gene Sculatti. Truly one that got away from one of rock music’s unsung greats.
November 4 Releases from Real Gone Music
The Statler Brothers: The Complete Mercury Christmas Recordings Featuring the Albums “Christmas Card” & “Christmas Present” (Amazon U.S. /Amazon U.K. )
The Brothers Four: Merry Christmas (Expanded Edition) (Amazon U.S. /Amazon U.K. )
The Kingston Trio: The Last Month of the Year (Amazon U.S. /Amazon U.K. )
Robert Goulet: The Complete Columbia Christmas Recordings (Amazon U.S. /Amazon U.K.)
Rosemary Clooney: In Songs from the Paramount Pictures Production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (Expanded Edition) (Amazon U.S. /Amazon U.K.)
Andy Williams and the Williams Brothers: The Williams Brothers Christmas Album (Amazon U.S. /Amazon U.K.)
Frank DeVol and the Rainbow Strings: The Old Sweet Songs of Christmas (Amazon U.S. /Amazon U.K.)
B.J. Thomas: Home Where I Belong/Happy Man (Amazon U.S. /Amazon U.K.)
B.J. Thomas: You Gave Me Love/Miracle (Amazon U.S. /Amazon U.K. )
Dick Wagner: Dick Wagner (Amazon U.S. /Amazon U.K.)