Welcome to this week’s Release Round-Up, featuring a host of holiday offerings (including three new titles from Second Disc Records and Real Gone Music!) and much, much more!
Second Disc Records and Real Gone Music proudly bring Jack Jones’ 1964 Kapp Records classic to CD for the very first time! The Jack Jones Christmas Album features lush renditions of “White Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” plus swinging takes on “Sleigh Ride,” “My Favorite Things,” and Frank Sinatra’s “Mistletoe and Holly.” Our reissue has been remastered by Mike Milchner from the original stereo tapes and features original album artwork as well as my liner notes. This is truly one Christmas album that belongs in every family’s collection!
The music of Christmas was near and dear to country legend Eddy Arnold’s heart, and between 1949 and 1967, he recorded two dozen holiday favorites for the RCA Victor label. Second Disc Records and Real Gone Music have compiled every one of those seasonal sides on The Complete RCA Victor Christmas Recordings, including the complete Christmas with Eddy Arnold album produced by Chet Atkins and featuring Nashville’s finest musicians. This first-ever compendium of Eddy Arnold’s yuletide music boasts his own “C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S” and “Will Santy Come to Shanty Town,” along with Boudleaux Bryant’s “Christmas Can’t Be Far Away” and family favorites such as “Up on the Housetop,” “Winter Wonderland,” “White Christmas” and “Jingle Bell Rock” – all rendered in the timeless, smooth Arnold style. Rare, never-before-on-CD singles and special holiday greetings from Eddy himself round out this definitive, newly-remastered collection with never-before-seen photographs from the Sony Music Archives and my liner notes.
In 1958, Mitch Miller & The Gang released one of their most enduring albums: the original Christmas Sing-Along with Mitch featuring rousing renditions of beloved carols including “Silent Night,” “Deck the Halls,” “The First Noel” and “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.” Surprisingly, this classic LP-which went to No. 1 on the charts and hit the Top Ten for three straight years after that—has never seen a complete, authorized reissue on CD anywhere in the world. Now, this family sing-along gem is finally arriving on CD from Second Disc Records and Real Gone Music in a deluxe, expanded reissue sporting the original, classic cover art! And that’s not all. Eight rare bonus tracks, many appearing for the first time on CD, have been added to Christmas Sing-Along with Mitch. This newly-remastered deluxe edition has my new liner notes as well as those from the original LP, rare photos from the Sony Music Archives, and of course, the lyrics for you to sing along!
Stevie Nicks, Bella Donna / The Wild Heart: Deluxe Editions (Rhino)
Stevie Nicks’ first two albums get the deluxe, expanded treatment from Rhino! The 3-CD Bella Donna gains 11 bonus tracks (nine previously unreleased) on Disc 2 plus a concert on Disc 3, while The Wild Heart adds nine bonus cuts (seven previously unreleased) on its second disc! You’ll find full details here!
Queen, Queen on Air: The Complete BBC Recordings (Hollywood)
Queen On Air: The Complete BBC Sessions will be available in a variety of formats (2 CDs, 6 CDs or 3 LPs) collecting just about every note by the band ever transmitted over the airwaves in their native country. Only a small handful of these performances have ever been released, and their place in the band’s history is hard to dispute, predating their first studio album. Read more here!
Frank Zappa, Meat Light: The Uncle Meat Project/Object / Little Dots / Chicago ’78 (Zappa/UMe)
Three archive releases are due today from the late iconoclast Frank Zappa! Meat Light: The Uncle Meat Project/Object sheds new light on Zappa’s seminal ’69 masterpiece, while Little Dots draws on the 1972 Petit Wazoo tour and Chicago ’78 premieres the late show recorded at Chicago’s Uptown Theater on September 29, 1978.
As a conductor and arranger, Ray 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 this 2-CD set together with Conniff’s version of “My Favorite Things” from a 1965 album featuring songs from The Sound of Music. I’ve written the new liner notes!
Bandleader Sammy Kaye got his start in the 1930s and he became popular for his “Swing and Sway” style of music. This 1957 Christmas classic presents him at three different times during his 1950s Columbia tenure, as it was assembled from several releases and sessions throughout the decade. Kaye would leave Columbia for Decca where he would record another Christmas album in 1960: Christmas Day with Sammy Kaye. I’ve written the liner notes for this first-time-on-CD reissue!
I’ve written the liner notes to a twofer featuring vintage Christmas music from The Living Guitars and The Living Strings. Last year, Real Gone released a compilation featuring two holiday albums by The Living Voices and the label continues 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.
Founded in 1958, The Ventures 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 Robert Shaw Chorale’s Christmas Hymns and Carols Vol. 1 got its first release 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 in expanded form. Two tracks have been added from the original mono version (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.
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 this Christmas classic back in print with photos and notes by Kim Cooper.
Norman Luboff was a prolific composer for film and television and began recording with his own Choir as backing for other artists in the early 1950s for Columbia. The popular group eventually moved to releasing their own albums. On this new two-fer are two beloved holiday classics: 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.
53 never-before-released recordings (originally aired on radio broadcasts) from the late, great vocalist Margaret Whiting are available for the first time on this beautiful new release on the Sepia label! You’ll hear her tackle songs she never recorded commercially including standards such as “Skylark,” “And the Angels Sing,” “Embraceable You,” “Georgia on My Mind,” and many more! Watch this space for a full review soon!
The 3-LP or 3-CD/1-DVD release On Earth As It Is: The Complete Works is the definitive collection from Mother Love Bone, the first band of Seattle’s burgeoning late ’80s/early ’90s rock scene to secure a major label deal. Read here for complete specs on both sets!
The Blind Boys of Alabama, Go Tell It on the Mountain / Atom Bomb: Expanded Editions (Omnivore)
Omnivore has two expanded editions from gospel legends The Blind Boys of Alabama, both incorporating diverse sounds and repertoire into the group’s playbook. The stirring 2003 holiday album Go Tell It on the Mountain blends the spiritual and the secular, featuring turns from Tom Waits, Mavis Staples, Aaron Neville, George Clinton, Shelby Lynne, Les McCann (one of the album’s inspirations) and Solomon Burke, gains three additional tracks: “My Lord What a Morning” (first issued in 2004) and previously unreleased 2003 live recordings of “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and “Amazing Grace.” Atom Bomb features traditional gospel melodies along with surprises such as Eric Clapton’s “Presence of the Lord” and Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky,” all rendered in the group’s stirring style incorporating flourishes of R&B, jazz and even rap and rock. Billy Preston and David Hidalgo are among the guests on this sublime record, newly expanded with seven previously unreleased instrumental cuts of the album’s tracks.
Yes, there’s more Mitch this week! Here’s a coincidental complement to Second Disc Records and Real Gone Music’s first-time-on-CD complete, expanded edition of Mitch Miller and The Gang’s Christmas Sing-Along with Mitch. BMG Rights Management brings back to CD this Golden Records holiday set aimed at children and overseen by Miller. It features unique material to that of his Columbia Christmas recordings. Lastly, Sepia Records also has a two-fer out this week of Miller and the Gang’s Memories and Saturday Night Sing-Alongs (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.). This pair is released in accordance with current E.U. public domain laws. (The Golden Records title, like our Second Disc/Real Gone release, is fully licensed from the rights-holders.)
BMG reissues the original Golden Records release of Bing Crosby’s A Christmas Story. Bing sings and narrates “An Axe, An Apple and a Buckskin Jacket,” a musical-in-miniature by composer Alec Wilder and lyricist-librettist Arnold Sundgaard.