As a heat wave grips a large portion of the U.S. and the news seems to be lacking in upbeat stories, Real Gone is looking to Christmas to brighten some spirits. The label has started a “Christmas in July” sale, and its centerpiece is a new-to-CD reissue of 1961’s Seasons Greetings by The Fantastic Strings of Felix Slatkin.
Slatkin, born right before Christmas on December 22, 1915, studied the violin at an early age and joined the St. Louis Symphony at 17. He eventually moved to Los Angeles and became the concertmaster for Twentieth Century Fox in Hollywood. In 1939, he married cellist Eleanor Aller and together they formed the nucleus of the Hollywood String Quartet. The acclaimed group had several other members joining the pair over the years. In 1949, the Quartet began recording a series of classical albums for Capitol which brought them to prominence. Slatkin also founded the Concert Arts Orchestra and worked with the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra. He conducted albums for both groups on Capitol. Felix Slatkin’s services were also popular with Capitol artists on the pop side of things. He worked with Nat King Cole and, most notably, Frank Sinatra. Slatkin served as his concertmaster on recording sessions and even conducted dates for the future Chairman of the Board on both Capitol and Reprise. The Hollywood String Quartet famously accompanied Sinatra on his intimate 1956 Capitol album Close to You.
In 1960, Slatkin formed The Fantastic Strings of Felix Slatkin and the group began appearing on Liberty Records. Their Paradise Found album of Hawaiian music was the inaugural entry in Liberty’s Premier series of stereo records. Like RCA’s Stereo Action Series, the albums featured a die-cut cover showing part of another image in the gatefold. The Fantastic Strings recorded several albums over the next few years for Liberty, including 1961’s Seasons Greetings. For this album of 12 Christmas classics, Slatkin employed two string sections, one in the left channel and one in the right channel. Felix Slatkin would continue to record with all of his various groups until he passed away in 1963 from a heart attack.
For this new reissue, Real Gone has commissioned Felix Slatkin’s son, famed maestro Leonard Slatkin, to write new liner notes. Under his tenure, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra rose in profile and he has conducted numerous other orchestras, garnering many awards over the years. A six-time Grammy Award winner, he is the Music Director Laureate of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Directeur Musical Honoraire of the Orchestre National de Lyon. Felix Slatkin’s other son, Frederick Zlotkin, is primary cellist for the New York City Ballet. He has contributed family photos for the booklet. Mike Milchner has done the remastering at SonicVision. And note that the original LP sleeve listed track 10 as “I Heard the Christmas Bells on Christmas Day” but it was actually “O Come Little Children.” This has been corrected on this new reissue.
Real Gone’s reissue of Seasons Greetings is part of the label’s “Christmas in July” sale. It is available now exclusively from Real Gone’s website (but will be available to general retail in November). The sale, on now through the end of the month, marks 25% off of Real Gone’s in-stock Christmas titles. Among those are numerous titles from Second Disc Records (from artists like Andre Kostelanetz, Jim Nabors, Lynn Anderson, and The Supremes) and many additional reissues featuring liner notes by our very own Joe Marchese (from such luminaries as The Williams Brothers, Glen Campbell, Johnny Mathis, and The Three Suns). If you’d like to get into the holiday spirit and miss out on any of the great yuletide releases from Real Gone Music and Second Disc Records, check out the sale right here! We’ve also got the complete track listing for Seasons Greetings, available now at the link below.
The Fantastic Strings of Felix Slatkin, Seasons Greetings (Originally issued on Liberty LSS 14013, 1961 – reissued Real Gone Music, 2020)
- White Christmas
- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
- Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
- Joy To the World
- O Holy Night
- Adeste Fideles
- Deck the Halls
- It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
- The First Noel
- O Come Little Children
- Away In A Manger
- Silent Night