As we are still over a month away from Halloween, it may seem a bit early to be thinking about Christmas. But stores have already bringing out small bits of Christmas merchandise and the merriest season seems to start a little earlier each year. Real Gone Music is ready to get in the holiday mood with the announcement of their Christmas-related November 4 line-up, which has become a yearly tradition for the label!
We’ve already told you about the three Second Disc Records releases: Jack Jones’ 1964 The Jack Jones Christmas Album, Mitch Miller & The Gang’s expanded 1958 Christmas Sing-Along With Mitch and The Complete RCA Victor Christmas Recordings from Eddy Arnold. Joe has also written the liner notes for three other of Real Gone’s November titles. The largest is the 2-disc The Complete Columbia Christmas Recordings from Ray Conniff. As a conductor and arranger, Conniff led his orchestra and chorus on dozens of albums from the 1950s into the 1980s on Columbia. While not beginning that way, his albums would eventually come to be known for their covers of contemporary pop and rock hits of day. There were many conductors and artists doing much the same, but Ray Conniff was among the best-selling and certainly longest-lasting of the bunch. He recorded three very popular Christmas albums during his Columbia tenure: 1959’s Christmas With Conniff, 1962’s We Wish You A Merry Christmas and 1965’s Here We Come A-Caroling. All three are collected on the set together with Conniff’s version of “My Favorite Things” from a 1965 album featuring songs from The Sound of Music.
Next, Joe wrote the notes for Real Gone’s reissue of Sammy Kaye and His Orchestra’s 1957 I Want To Wish You A Merry Christmas. Kaye got his start in the 1930s and he became popular for his “Swing and Sway” style of music. This Christmas album shows him at three different times during his 1950s Columbia tenure as it is made of several releases from earlier in the decade. Kaye would leave Columbia for Decca where he would record another Christmas album in 1960: Christmas Day with Sammy Kaye. He would remain on Decca through the late 1960’s. Also in the instrumental vein, Joe has contributed the notes to a twofer featuring Christmas music from The Living Guitars and The Living Strings. Last year, Real Gone released a compilation featuring two holiday albums The Living Voices and they continue that this year with this CD including The Living Guitars’ The Joy of Christmas from 1969 and The Living Strings’ The Sound of Christmas from 1970. The “Living” series of albums, the brainchild of RCA Camden producer Ethel Gabriel, consisted of budget-minded albums from a variety of groups (who never had a consistent line-up) who would record in mix of genres to highlight RCA’s “Living Stereo” format. The series lasted from the very late 1950s all the way until the early 1980s.
Two other choral-related titles are being issued by Real Gone. The Robert Shaw Chorale’s Christmas Hymns and Carols Vol. 1 got its start in 1949, just one year after Shaw formed the Chorale. It was re-released in 1957 and then re-recorded in stereo in 1958, which is the version Real Gone is presenting. Two tracks have been added from the mono recording (one actually in stereo) which were excluded from the re-recording. The Chorale, while having an intermittent existence, finally disbanded permanently in 1965 when Shaw became the musical director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. The other group being reissued in The Norman Luboff Choir. Luboff was a prolific composer for film and television and began recording with the Choir as backing for other artists in the early 1950s for Columbia and eventually moved to releasing their own albums. On this new compilation are the mono 1956 Songs of Christmas and the stereo 1964 Christmas with the Norman Luboff Choir. The Norman Luboff Choir recorded over 75 albums and toured up until Luboff’s death in 1987.
The final two Christmas reissues from Real Gone are of the instrumental variety. Mantovani’s 1958 stereo re-recording of Christmas Carols has been on CD before from Collectors’ Choice, but it is long out of print and commanding high prices on the secondary market. Real Gone is putting it back in print with photos and notes by Kim Cooper. The other title is from The Ventures, the iconic rock instrumental group. Founded in 1958, they have released over 200 albums and still tour today. The group had their biggest single in 1960 with “Walk Don’t Run” and their biggest album in 1963 with The Ventures Play Telstar and The Lonely Bull. In 1965, they recorded The Ventures’ Christmas Album, featuring some pop instrumental hits melded to Christmas tunes. Real Gone’s CD reissue features both the stereo and mono editions of the album.
The last item on Real Gone’s November slate is not related to Christmas: a vinyl reissue of the 1981 self-titled debut of Tom Tom Club. The husband and wife duo of Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz formed the group as a side project to the Talking Heads, of whom they were members. This debut album contains the hits “Genius of Love” and “Wordy Rappinghood.” Real Gone’s vinyl is translucent green and limited to 800 copies.
If you want to get into the Christmas spirit with Real Gone this year, we’ve got their press release below with more information and the preorder links.
LOS ANGELES – There are some albums that should NEVER go out of print. And by the beard of St. Nick, the greatest instrumental rock ‘n’ roll Christmas record of all time is one of them! 1965’s The Ventures’ Christmas Album was and is an absolute marvel, setting the group’s trademark Mosrite guitar twang loose on wildly inventive arrangements that start out with then-current hit melodies and then morph into Christmas chestnuts. So, for instance, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” opens with “Wooly Bully,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” opens with “I Feel Fine,” and “Frosty the Snowman” opens with “Tequila” (Frosty is evidently feeling no pain)! But we at Real Gone Music aren’t content with merely copying previous reissues of this essential holiday platter; we’re including both the stereo version and, for the first time ever on CD, mono version of this album on a single disc, so you can hear it the way most people have heard it in the “modern” era and also hear it the way most people heard it when it first came out! What’s more, liner note writer Bill Kopp tracked down original Ventures rhythm guitarist Don Wilson for quotes (and got a testimonial from Danny Amis a.k.a. Daddy-O Grande of Los Straitjackets). Throw in some vintage photos and you have a package everybody’s going to want to spin
Ray Conniff sold more records than any other arranger/conductor in the history of pop music. So it’s no surprise that his three Christmas albums were smash hits, charting a total of 16 times between them. Leading off was 1959’s Christmas with Conniff, which went to #14 on the charts, the first of five chart appearances; then came 1962’s We Wish You a Merry Christmas, which went to #15 for the first of its eight turns atop the charts; and, finally, 1965’s Here We Come A-Caroling, which also went to #15 atop the Christmas charts for the first of its three appearances. Now, Real Gone Music has put together all three of these albums–plus a bonus track, Conniff’s 1965 version of “My Favorite Things”–into The Complete Columbia Christmas Recordings, a bargain-priced 2-CD set comprising every Christmas track Ray recorded during his historic run at Columbia Records. The 31-track collection includes photos from the Columbia vaults, new liner notes by Joe Marchese, and a fresh remastering at Sony’s Battery Studios in New York. Some of the most beloved holiday recordings of all time all in one place, presented with panache.
Robert Shaw was a Fred Waring protégé who, by the end of his 17-year tenure heading The Robert Shaw Chorale, had fashioned arguably the most widely-known and respected professional choral organization in the United States. The Chorale recorded a number of charting albums, all for RCA Victor, but the one that will always be considered their definitive recording is this Christmas album, presented here in its 1958 re-recorded stereo version (like a lot of popular Christmas albums of the day, Christmas Hymns and Carols Vol. One had several incarnations, first appearing in the ’40s as a box of four 78 rpm discs). The album went to #5 on the charts in 1949 and 1957, then hit the charts another three times during the ’60s; one could argue that, with its seamless medleys and majestic harmonies, it is to this day the gold standard for choral Christmas recordings. Not only does our Real Gone reissue boast a fresh remastering by Maria Triana at Battery Studios in New York and new liner notes by Gene Sculatti, but we have also added two songs that appeared on the mono version of the album but somehow got left off the stereo: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” (for which we actually did find a stereo master) and “I Sing of a Maiden.” Merry Christmas!
For holiday music lovers, it doesn’t get any better than this: two of the greatest choral Christmas albums ever recorded, one making its CD debut, the other long out of print, on a single, 75-minute CD! Norman Luboff, was, of course, a mainstay artist on both the Columbia and RCA Victor labels for close to two decades; he and his Choir recorded everything from cowboy to calypso tunes, always with pure, powerful vocal arrangements that brought out the intrinsic flavor of the material. Here we have two of his greatest triumphs: the original mono version (not the later, reprehensible re-processed stereo version) of 1956’s Songs of Christmas, which actually included among its six medleys the earliest (1952) recordings of The Norman Luboff Choir and went to #22 on the charts, and 1964’s Christmas with the Norman Luboff Choir, which brought stereophonic sound and a more modern repertoire to the Luboff sound. The result was what is generally considered to be one of the best Christmas albums ever recorded in any genre, and another charting record for Luboff. Our Real Gone twofer includes detailed liner notes by Tom Pickles that feature quotes from Luboff scholar Dr. Julie Lane Carter, with photos from the Sony vaults and remastering by Mike Piacentini at Battery Studios in New York. Sure to be a Christmas staple on your stereo for years to come.
Ready for another seasonal stereophonic spectacular? We at Real Gone Music are finally making available another highly coveted pair of holiday releases from the “Living” family of artists! These ensembles were the brainchild of RCA’s groundbreaking producer Ethel Gabriel, who promoted the label’s highly successful Living Stereo series with a series of sumptuous, pristinely recorded albums–each credited to a group with “Living” in its name–aimed at a middle class eager to give their newly acquired stereo systems a workout. Having released two albums by The Living Voices, now we’re turning to the other two big names in the series, Living Guitars and Living Strings, for a pair of Christmas classics that will put even 21st century stereos through their paces! The Joy of Christmas, the 1969 album by Living Guitars, features some sizzling fretwork over drums and bass on a series of Yuletide medleys; it fits right into that late-’60s easy listening-meets-jazz niche of Henry Mancini, Herb Alpert, etc. And The Sound of Christmas, the 1970 album from Living Strings, is just a flat-out orchestral Christmas masterpiece, with some electric bass and an occasional chorus subtly modernizing the lush sound of the strings. CD debuts on both albums, with liner notes by Joe Marchese and remastering by Maria Triana at Sony’s Battery Studios.
Mantovani’s Christmas Carols is one of the select Christmas albums (or albums, period) that had two bites of the bestsellling apple in two different incarnations. In its original mono version released in 1953, the album charted in two different years; then, with the advent of stereo technology, Mantovani re-recorded it in stereo in 1958, and THAT version of the album went on to chart four more times! Yet, that later stereo version (and when you think about it, how can you listen to the sweeping sound of Mantovani in anything but stereo?) has only briefly been available on CD (used copies sell for enough dough to keep Santa’s sleigh in gold-plated runners), and the mono version has only been on CD overseas in an inferior-sounding version. So, we are really restoring a perennial holiday favorite here; liner notes by Kim Cooper and vintage photos accompany.
Families have sweetly swung and swayed to Sammy Kaye and His Orchestra’s 1957 Christmas classic for decades, and now it’s finally coming out on CD for a whole new generation to discover (and older generations to savor)! Sammy Kaye was, of course, probably the most popular “sweet” band leader of all time, and I Want to Wish You a Merry Christmas captures him conducting his orchestra in 1951, 1952, and 1957, as the album was composed of the 1951 8-song EP Christmas Serenade, two single sides from a year later, and the title track plus “The Christmas Song” recorded in 1957 especially for the release of this LP. Some of the songs feature the fondly remembered Kaydets, too…just a great Christmas record! Features notes by Joe Marchese, rare photos from the RCA vaults, and–most importantly–a beautiful remastering job by Mark Wilder at Battery Studio in New York.
The Talking Heads spawned a number of worthy side projects and spinoffs–David Byrne & Brian Eno’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Jerry Harrison’s The Red and the Black–but none were as funky, danceable, and flat-out fun as Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth’s Tom Tom Club. Conceived as something of a larkish break from the grandly realized intellectual and artistic pretensions of the Heads’ Remain in Light record, the duo’s self-titled 1981 debut was recorded in Barbados with Weymouth’s sisters and Adrian Belew and Steven Stanley from the Remain in Light band, and not only spawned a couple of hit singles in “Genius of Love” and “Wordy Rappinghood” but also became, in its own way, enormously influential. This was the sound of downtown New York talking, listening, and rapping to the burgeoning hip hop movement, a hybrid heard in a whole host of acts in the ’80s and ’90s, from Madonna to Mariah Carey to the Beastie Boys and beyond. Weymouth and Frantz went on to record several more albums under the Tom Tom Club moniker, but this remains the classic; Real Gone Music is proud to offer Tom Tom Club in a translucent green vinyl edition limited to 800 copies. Fun, natural fun!
NOVEMBER 4, 2016 RELEASES FROM REAL GONE MUSIC
Tom Tom Club, Tom Tom Club (Limited Translucent Green Vinyl Edition) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada Links TBD)