Even though Fall has just begun, we are already looking ahead to Christmas as several artists have already announced yuletide albums for this year. And, continuing their annual tradition, our friends at Real Gone Music are releasing selection of classic Christmas CDs this year, the first three of which they have just announced. All three of these are due on November 2.
First up is Season’s Greetings From the McGuire Sisters – The Complete Coral Christmas Recordings. The singing trio of real-life sisters (Christine, Dorothy and Phyllis) got their big break on the television program Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts in 1952. That same year, they signed with Coral Records. Often compared to The Andrews Sisters in their early days, the McGuire Sisters grew to be on the most popular vocal groups in the era and had two No. 1 hits with “Sincerely” in 1955 and “Sugartime” in 1957. The trio basically retired in 1968 (often attributed to the blacklisting the group received due to Phyllis’s relationship with mobster Sam Giancana). They reunited in the mid-1980s and continued performing until the early 2000s. Dorothy McGuire passed away in 2012.
Their first and only full-length Christmas album for Coral came in 1958 with Greetings From the McGuire Sisters. The LP was actually a collection of earlier holiday-related tracks. All but “Happy New Year” and “The Cactus Christmas Tree” were previously released as singles with “He” hitting No. 10 in Billboard and No. 4 in Cashbox in 1955. Real Gone has added three tracks (“Peace” and “Ave Maria” from 1959 and “Be A Santa” from 1961) to encompass the Sisters’ complete Christmas recordings at Coral. The set has been produced and annotated by Tom Pickles. This marks the first time that the whole Greetings album has been available on CD.
Next up is a twofer from John Klein of 1959’s A Christmas Sound Spectacular and 1964’s Let’s Ring The Bells All Around The Christmas Tree. Trained by Igor Stravinsky and Nadia Boulanger, Klein was a musical renaissance man who made several albums featuring carillons for Columbia and RCA Victor in the 1950s and 1960s. A Christmas Sound Spectacular was Klein’s second Christmas LP, after 1957’s Caroling on the Carillon for Columbia. Spectacular was part of RCA’s Living Stereo series and featured Klein performing on the Carillon Americana, consisting of 1500 bronze-cast bells ringing in tonal harmony. RCA was so convinced of the album’s unique sound, they offered a money-back guarantee.
Klein’s next Christmas LP was Let’s Ring the Bells All Around the Christmas Tree. The album was recorded at the 1964’s World’s Fair on a carillon built especially for the occasion. The arrangements were by Henri Rene, who had previously scored Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby.” Real Gone’s reissue features notes with personal recollections from R. Steve Harmon, whose father was President and Program Director of radio station XETRA (“the mighty 690”) in San Diego. Mike Piacentini at Sony’s Battery Studios has done the remastering. Both albums are making their stereo CD debuts.
The final CD announced by Real Gone is a reissue of Rod McKuen’s New Carols For Christmas – The Rod McKuen Christmas Album from 1971. Poet, singer, author, songwriter and actor McKuen rose to great fame and popularity in the late 1960s. He was one of the most successful poets of that decade, with his poetry books eventually selling over 60 million copies. McKuen found similar success in the field of music. He is credited with helping bringing Jacques Brel’s music to the English-speaking world (among his Brel adaptations were “If You Go Away” and “Seasons in the Sun”). McKuen wrote over 1500 songs and his works have been covered by a who’s-who of artists from Frank Sinatra to Johnny Cash, with numerous others in-between. One of his frequent collaborators was Anita Kerr. He also wrote music for films, scoring No. 1 hit with “Jean” performed by Oliver and an Academy Award nomination. And McKuen was also a prolific and successful performer, releasing numerous albums on Warner Bros. and his own Stanyan label. He passed away in 2015.
New Carols For Christmas hails from 1971 and is an album of original music written by McKuen and such collaborators as Anita Kerr, Art Podell of The New Christy Minstrels, and electronic music pioneer Mort Garson. It was recorded in December, 1970 in London with members of the Westminster Symphony Orchestra. The album was briefly available on CD in 1995 from Laserlight, but has fallen out of print. Real Gone has added McKuen’s duet with Petula Clark of Frank Loesser’s perennial “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” recorded in 1973 to the reissue. The booklet features liner notes by McKuen biographer Barry Alfonso and includes the album’s original gatefold artwork and rare photos of the artist.
If you’d like to celebrate the Christmas season with these Real Gone titles, we’ve got the preorder links and full tracklistings below. Watch this space for the official announcement of Second Disc Records’ upcoming yuletide releases!
- Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town
- Give Me Your Heart for Christmas
- Christmas Alphabet
- Honorable Congratulations
- Without Him
- The Littlest Angel
- The Cactus Christmas Tree
- If You Believe
- I’d Like to Trim a Tree with You
- He’s Got Time
- Happy New Year
- Be a Santa
- Ave Maria
Tracks 1-12 from Greetings From The McGuire Sisters, Coral LP CRL 57225, 1958
Track 13 from Subways Are For Sleeping, Coral LP CRL 57398, 1961
Track 14 from May You Always, Coral LP 57296, 1959
Track 15 from In Harmony With Him, Coral LP 57303, 1959
- White Christmas
- Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town
- I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day/Carol of the Bells
- Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
- Jingle Bells
- Ave Maria
- Silver Bells
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
- Christ Was Born on Christmas Day/Angels We Have Heard on High
- Frosty the Snowman
- Winter Wonderland
- Gesu Bambino (Pietro Yon)
- Silent Night/O Little Town of Bethlehem/We Wish You a Merry Christmas
- All Around the Christmas Tree
- Sleigh Ride
- Joy to the World/Adeste Fideles/Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
- The Little Drummer Boy
- O Holy Night
- God Rest You, Merry Gentlemen/O Christmas Tree/Deck the Halls
- I’ll Be Home for Christmas
- Away in a Manger/The First Noel/It Came upon a Midnight Clear
- The Christmas Song
- Ave Maria
Tracks 1-12 from A Christmas Sound Spectacular, RCA Victor LP LSP-2023, 1959
Tracks 13-24 from Let’s Ring the Bells All Around The Christmas Tree, RCA Victor LP LSP-2914, 1964
Rod McKuen, New Carols For Christmas – The Rod McKuen Christmas Album (Originally released on Stanyan Records LP SR 5045, 1971 – reissued Real Gone Music, 2018) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada Link TBD)
- The Carols of Christmas
- So My Sheep May Safely Graze
- Thank You for Christmas
- And to Each Season (A Fugue for Pachelbel’s Canon in G)
- Here He Comes Again
- The Snows of Amsterdam
- Spend This Holiday with Me
- The Day After Christmas
- When Winter Comes
- So Long, Stay Well
- Simple Gifts
- As We Traveled Through Vermont
- Bethlehem, B.C.
- A Hand to Hold at Christmas
- Who Knows Where We’re Going
- Baby, It’s Cold Outside (with Petula Clark)
Track 16 previously released, recorded 1973 London, Wembley Studios