Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.
As a writer I love good writing. OK, that wasn’t the greatest writing, but you get my point.
Before we get to the music some really, really good writing. It comes from freelance writer Alcestis “Cooky” Oberg and a piece she wrote for USA TODAY posted on December 22, 2015. Here’s a portion to serve as an intro to this week’s music:
I recently went through an old closet and came across some forgotten photo albums. There was Christmas in every single one. In the old albums, there were my grandparents, my parents and me as a child in front of a tinseled tree. In more recent albums, there were the pictures of my own children and grandchildren — their glee with their new toys.
I ached. These were times I wanted to return to — places where there was so much love, captured briefly and vividly in those out-of-focus pictures, from long ago and far away.
Perhaps we should all spend some time with our old albums, movies or slides this season and revisit those ephemeral places in our emotional to take a nostalgic Christmas journey through our own lives. There, we might relive those days that were distilled to a kind of purity, innocence and joy, far from today’s troubles and ugliness, a place evil can never reach.
This week, Christmases past, from a musical point of view.
We begin with this appropriate song. It’s from the brother-sister combo that put out in my view the two best Christmas albums ever, period. Karen and Richard…
The album that was released in 1984 after Karen Carpenter died featured tracks that were not on the Carpenters’ first Christmas album.
Don’t have these albums? Go out and get them. I’m serious. They’re the absolute best in so many ways. Great orchestrations, arrangements, and of course, that angelic, irreplaceable voice.
Back to that wonderful column by Alcestis “Cooky” Oberg:
In fact, with my foray into the back closet, I discovered there were no bad Christmases in those albums. We didn’t take pictures of them. Holidays that were blighted by difficult circumstances or traumatic times had gone into oblivion. I smiled at the thought that when my heirs go through this closet again someday, they will find only the true heart and soul of my Christmases: the tug-at-the-heart memories of perfect togetherness, enveloping love, immortalized fun, thrilling gifts, meticulously prepared feasts and endearingly decorated places.
Much of the focus this week will be on music from childhoods of decades ago, music you won’t hear on FM Radio stations.
Next up, this ensemble was a group of studio musicians who recorded a series of easy listening instrumental albums for Capitol Records at the peak of the British Invasion era. This band of musicians covered tunes from just about anybody who was big.
Let’s put it this way. My dad didn’t buy a Beatles album. But he bought the Hollyridge Strings’ albums of Beatles hits.
The producers of the Christmas Cocktails CD series put together a medley of two hits from a 1960’s album by the Hollyridge Strings. Tell me you haven’t heard these in ages, and if you haven’t, do they bring back classic memories? Listen to this blog, then immediately order the Hollyridge Strings CD. It’s in my wife’s car right now for her and Kyla to enjoy.
This next one is tough to find. As a kid you heard it a gazillion times. Alas, you’ll never hear it on the radio stations doing the same 15 songs over and over and over again.
The artist is David Rose.
Certainly you remember David Rose.
Hard to imagine that the orchestra leader who is most famous for the bump and grind anthem “The Stripper” also gave us a beloved compilation of Christmas music. This is a track from a 1968 album you’ll definitely hear if you walk along Main Street in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World this time of year.
Kyla Fischer at the 2013 Pfister Hotel Tree Lighting ceremony in Milwaukee
A Sunday night tradition in our house when I was growing up was to gather as a family in the living room and watch the Ed Sullivan Show. Sullivan worked as a journalist before hosting variety shows in the 1930s and ’40s. His Sunday night program was the longest-running TV variety show in history, that had great guest stars like the Supremes, the Beatles, Jerry Lewis, Elvis Presley and many more. Sullivan died on October 13, 1974.
This album was released in 1960.
The Ed Sullivan Show Dancers, 1955
Speaking of the Beatles and Elvis, when kids were buying their records it was the parents who were spending money on recordings by Bert Kaempfert, a composer of light, very popular melodies who hailed from Hamburg.
Kaempfert met Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Pete Best at the Top Ten Club on the Reeperbahn. They called themselves the “Beat Brothers” and did backup for British singer and guitarist Tony Sheridan. Kaempfert produced their single, “My Bonnie,” the first official recording ever made by the Fab Four.
On March 20, 1965, the Top Ten of the Billboard chart included artists like the Beatles, the Supremes, Roger Miller, Herman’s Hermits, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Temptations, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. Kaempfert was good enough to reach #11 with “Red Roses for a Blue Lady.”
His only Christmas album released in 1963 has the usual batch of Christmas tunes, and this original written by Kaempfert. The album notes predicted this would become a lasting favorite.
We’re now passing this music down to Kyla who loves these classics.
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend.
Here’s one last excerpt from that Alcestis “Cooky” Oberg column.
Which picture or Christmas album is dearest to you? Which photos summon up remembrance of Christmases past and let you move there again? Is it the one of the 5-year-old before an old-fashioned Christmas tree? Is it the kiss of newlyweds under the mistletoe? Or is it of the beloved old folks from a bygone era, solemnly gathered around the table, praying in gratitude?
We close with dueling pianists Ferrante and Teicher and bandleader Les Baxter.