I can highly
recommend the following CDs - they have all withstood the test of
time. Not all will be to everyone's taste. But I will try to point
that out below. And anyway you can always go to a music site and check
them out before buying. As of Nov 2008 I guess Amazon.ca is as good a site
as any to buy CDs. . Mymusic.com is
still in business but I haven't bought from them in some time. They lost
me when they eliminated the opportunity to preview the music. I told them
it was a stupid idea but maybe I was wrong as they are still in business.Sam
the Record Man is long gone as a web presence although we still have a
Sam's store here in Belleville. In the US you can try Oldies.com or allegro-music.com
. Allegro has
a very good selection and reasonable shipping rates to Canada. Oldies has
lots of good old stuff but I have found their shipping more expensive.
there is now a very economical alternative. There is
a legitimate subscription download site EMusic where many of these albums
can be downloaded in MP3 format. At 30 cents or 40 cents a track this is
quite an attractive alternative. I have the $12 per month subscription
that gets you either 30 or 40 tracks. I was upgraded to 40 tracks per month
to persuade me to continue my subscription. The tracks are blessedly free
of any digital rights control. They do not expire after you unsubscribe.
And the quality is generally very good (not quite as good as the original
wafe file of course but quite satisfactory). If you wish they can be easily
converted to regular CD format. With recordable CD blanks at about 30 cents
apiece this is an attractive alternative. There are many software packages
that will do this. I tend to use Magix Audio Cleaning 10 which I also use
for converting my old vinyl albums to CD. EMusic do not have the big labels
like Sony and MCA but they do have millions of wonderful tracks of all genres.
If you think you might be interested you can have a look at the Emusic Browse page.
If that looks interesting you can sign up for a subscription and receive
50 free tracks. But if you are interested why not contact me and I will
have Emusic send you an invitation to join. Either way you get 50 free tracks
but if I invite you and you join I can also receive up to 50 free tracks.
email me Please remember to change the reply to address
if you wish a reply.
It may take Emusic a day or so to get your invitation out.
I have marked all the recommended albums that are available on Emusic
and linked them. Just click on the blue-outlined graphic of the cover.
Then you can check out and audition the tracks. It is a bit frustrating
that for some reason a few of the tracks are not available for download.
In fact most titles are linked to a source.
Some of the recommendations may no longer be available.
But it is encouraging that several of the really good ones have been re-released
in the past few years. So here they are in no particular order:
Note: Nov 28/03 I stopped by Walmart last week to see if they still
had the bargain CDs I recommend below. I am sorry to say I only found one
copy of one title. Sorry if I made you suffer a trip to Walmart. If I
see some more bargains I will let you know.
"Belafonte - to wish you a Merry Christmas" Harry
Belafonte - RCA 2626-2-R
Originally recorded back in
There may be more than one reissue format. Make sure
it has "Mary's Boy Child" - surprisingly the original Christmas album
didn't. I see there is a new compilation just out recently (red cover).
It has some extra tracks from other albums. But I think this one is
the better buy. Some of the extra tracks are from his "Jump Up Calypso"
album which is worth getting anyway. Available
"This is Christmas - A complete collection of the Alfred S.
Burt Carols" The Voices of Jimmy Joyce - TRO Hollis Music 422B (that
might only be for the sheet music) 16
voice A Cappella Choir If
asking yourself who is Alfred S. Burt; he is the
man who wrote Come, Dear Children, Some Children See Him, The Star Carol
etc. And no, he did not
die in the 1800's. Although these carols now seem timeless
they were written between 1943 an 1954. This CD is a must have
Oh, and if you were wondering how many voices Jimmy Joyce had - it
appears to be 16. But this is no harder to believe than the fact there
were 16 guys all with the same name Harry Christopher (but I digress).
See the official Alfred S.
website. It has the history and all the lyrics.
Sorry I can't find a source for this. I did find some reviews that do not
think quite so highly of it as I do.
"A Charlie Brown Christmas" Vince
Guaraldi Trio - Fantasy FCD-8431-2 piano
know you have heard this one. And I have heard some jaded, Christmas
weary people who claim to be sick of it.
But don't listen to it in the supermarket or elevator.
Sit down quietly at home with a glass of port and the tree lights
twinkling and listen to it there. Vince Guaraldi's arrangements may
seem rather simple and straight forward today but I'll bet he introduced
more people to jazz than anyone else around at that time or since. Alas
neither Vince Guaraldi or Charles Shultz are still with us but they will
be long remembered. Available on EMusic
"The Christmas Album (originally
Christmas Carousel)" Peggy Lee - EMI MFP 724383106721 (originally
Capitol Records) vocals with orchestra and children's
album may exist in other formats, in fact I think I have seen the
original orangey cover of the original LP. Peggy Lee was a very fine
pop singer from the days when we really did have pop singers. What
set this album apart at the time was that it had some lesser known songs
on it including several of the Alfred S.Burt carols. Most of the arrangements
are by Billy May and are terrific.
And Jimmy Joyce (see above) gathered the children's chorus
and directed it. The kids are terrific too: they actually sound like
real kids. My CD reissue has some extra tracks that aren't quite
up to the original album but they are all at the end so you could cut
them off after the original 12 and the CD is still well worth the
price. NOTE: There seems to be a stripped down version out there with only
11 songs. Although it is cheap it misses some of the songs from the original
album. Here is the list of songs that are on the original plus the extras
on my CD version. Alas a cover photo does not seem to be available.
|I Like A Sleighride (Jingle Bells)
||Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You), The
||Don't Forget To Feed The Reindeer
||Star Carol, The
||Christmas List, The
||Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town
||Christmas Waltz, The
||Christmas Riddle, The
||Deck The Halls
||Little Drummer Boy
||Christmas Spell, The
||Toys For Tots
<---these are the unnecessary extras-------------------------------------------->
"Christmas with Peggy Lee" album has most of the original
12 tracks. But the "Christmas List" seems to be missing. Too Bad.
"The Charlie Byrd Christmas Album" Charlie Byrd - Concord
Concerto CCD-42004 Solo acoustic
It is interesting that
this CD includes the words for most of the songs: it is not a sing-along
album. It also isn't a party album but
another quiet time, by-the-fire type of album. The arrangements are
exquisite and the playing of course is exemplary.
I just gave this a good listen again last week and it sounds even better
than I remembered it. Available on EMusic
"The Last Month of the Year" The
Kingston Trio - Collectors' Choice Music CCM- 117-2
(aka EMI Capitol Music Special Markets 72435-23524-2-5)
augmented folk trio
This album was done very early in the career of the
original Kingston Trio and may just be the best thing they ever did.
It still sounds good after all these years. The songs might not sound
quite as authentic as they would performed by Jean Ritchie, or Peggy
Seeger etc. but they are most enjoyable. The addition of the
bouzouki gives a more ancient sound and is quite different from
any other Kingston Trio album. By the way look at those numbers for
the EMI records. You would almost think that someone from Stations Design
(in joke for Hydro alumni) came up with the numbering system wouldn't
you! Available at Oldies.com
"Bright Day Star" The Baltimore
Consort - Dorian DOR-90198 sort of
an Elizabethan Minstrel group comprising lute, flute, viols and cittern
and vocals It's a
bit hard to describe this group
but go to a music site where you can check
them out if you are not already familiar with them. The
songs span from 1561 to 1932. A delightful album. And as always
the Dorian sound is impeccable. Sorry: the Dorian Website says
this is out of print.
But now Available on EMusic
"Christmas Party - Holiday Piano
Spiked with Swing" Dave McKenna - Concord Jazz CCD 4923-2
This is exactly the same album as "Dave McKenna Christmas Ivory"
Concord CCD-4772-2 except cheaper, so get this one. If
you are not familiar with Dave McKenna this will be a great
introduction. Dave doesn't need a rhythm section. He is definitely
one of the swingingest pianists around today. At only $8.98 Cdn at
Mymusic.com this is definitely a best buy. A BEST BUY !
Available on EMusic
and an even
"Please Come Home for Christmas"
Charles Brown with special guest artist Bill Doggett - King K-5019X
blues vocal with piano combos
This may be
a bit hard to find but well worth looking for. I got mine at Kop's/Vortex
Kollectibles on Queen Street West Toronto (your one stop shopping area,
with Atlas Machinery and Active Electronics nearby). And even if
you can't get this exact recording there are others out
there by Charles Brown that will do quite nicely. Charles is not to
be confused with Shultz's Charlie. Charles Brown is one of the most
erudite blues singers around. The persistent piano accompaniment might
not be to everyone's liking. All of us have suffered the blues sometime
at Christmas. This album is the perfect antidote. There are a couple
of instrumental tracks with Bill Doggett on the (Hammond) organ. Available at Oldies.com
"The John Fahey Christmas Album"
John Fahey - Attic ACD 1362 acoustic guitar
some with piano and/or flute and/or cello accompaniment
I don't know if this Attic release is still available.
It also says Burnside Records on the back. I had the original LP "The
New Possibility" recorded in 1968. The CD contains newer (ca 1990)
recordings with additional material. Some of John's other recordings
are a bit quirky but the playing and arrangements here are beautiful.
Available on EMusic
as A New Possibility - John Fahey's Christmas Album Volumes
1 And 2
- the buff coloured cover.
Tish Hinojosa - Watermelon Records CD1006 tex-mex
folk vocals with accompaniment
This CD was also discovered at Kop's/Vortex Kollectibles
I think. This is the one with the silver cover. But I have seen another
version on a different label with additional songs. This is a rather
short Cd but delightful; "Arbolito" is included in both
Spanish and English versions. Tish is one of the better singer/songwriters
today. All her songs on this CD are well worth listening to. Tish
has a pleasant soprano voice and clear articulation and the backing
musicians are top-notch.
I see there is a new release about to come out titled From
Texas for a Christmas Night
. I couldn't find a cover picture for
But it has additional material and might be worth giving
a listen to. Both are available at CDUniverse
"Joy To the World - Christmas
Music for Pan Pipes and Organ" Georges Schmitt - Saydisc CD-SDL 357
pan pipes and organ
Who would have imagined me recommending a pan-pipes recording?
But when you think about it, the combination of panpipes and organ
make perfect sense. For what are pan pipes but the poor man's portable
pipe organ. For you church organ fans - this
was recorded with the Schwendekel organ in Ribeauville, Alsace
and produced by the Saydisc in England (with the quintessentially
English address of Chipping Manor, The Chipping, Wotton-Under-Edge,
Gloucester).The sound is glorious. A websearch seems to indicate that
Saydisc is out of business - so good luck - this means you should find
it as a bargain or perhaps not at all. There are several albums by Georges
Schmitt Available on EMusic
I am not sure if this one is.
"Celebration - Christmas Fanfares
and Carols" BBC Welsh Chorus, Fanfare Trumpeters of the Welsh Guard
and readings by Aled Jones, Huw Tregelles organ - Nimbus
records NI 5310
An eclectic collection of mostly choir and organ
but with some readings by Aled Jones include (perhaps Aled's voice
was already changing when this was recorded ca 1991). A beautifully
recorded album, as expected from Nimbus Records.
Now Available on EMusic
"A Jazz Christmas - Hot Jazz for
a Cool Night" collection including Dave Brubeck, Stanley Turrentine,
Benny Carter, Louis Bellson, Jim Hall, Dick Hyman, Kenny Davern
and others - Musicmasters Jazz 01612-65089-2
There are lots of jazz Christmas collections out there
now, good bad and indifferent. As you can see, the musicians included
in this collection are a stellar lot. These cuts were all recorded from
1990 to 1992 so the recording quality is good.
And the list of sidemen is just as impressive, including
Cedar Walton, Ron Carter, Terry Clarke, Howard Alden, John Chiodini
and Jay Leonhart. But don't hold your breath for Toots Thielemans'
harmonica; he is a no-show even though indicated in the notes. My favourite
tracks are "The Christmas Song" played by Marvin Stamm on flugelhorn,
A "Child is Born" by the venerable Benny Carter on alto sax accompanied
by Hank Jones on piano, and "The Little Drummer Boy" played by the also
venerable drummer Louis Bellson. No wonder they call the label Music
. Marvin Stamm shows up again on this one. I see it was
recorded the same day as the Christmas Song. I would say Mr. Stamm was
really in fine form on that day. Also Dick Hyman's inventive solo piano
rendering of Irving Berlin's White Christmas (all 5 minutes and 14 seconds)
is a delight. Even a little clattering of cutlery at Toronto's Montreal
Bistro could not detract from this gem. These are all instrumentals except
for the one vocal track by Rebecca Paris. Also Available
but with a different cover.
"Christmas Concertos - Corelli, Manfredini,
Torelli, and Vivaldi" Il Giardino Armonico - Teldec Das Alte Werk 2292-46013-2
mostly string baroque concertos played with original instruments
I am always a sucker for Vivaldi's music and I especially
like the sound of original instruments for music of this period. The
sound of this Milan ensemble is both rich and gutsy. A beautiful baroque
album. Available at CDUniverse
Christmas CD's All of
these except the Canadian Singers
can likely be found at Walmart
for less than $5. But beware - these budget CDs have a habit of changing
the cover art frequently.
"It's Christmas Time" The Canadian Singers
with special guests Johnny Cowell, Richard Fortin, Ralph Fraser and Haygood
Hardy - CS200 probably a custom produced CD 8 piece
vocal ensemble with instrumental soloists and synthesized
I am not sure where I got this - sam the Record Man I would guess.
I remember it was quite cheap. The only clue on how to find it is to
contact the Canadian Singers Box 38039, Castlewood Postal Outlet, 550
Eglington Ave., Toronto, ON M5N 3A8,
Telephone (416) 239-5891. This Cd has a nice selection of songs,
several of which you are unlikely to find on other Cds. It appears to
me that all or most of the songs are either composed or arranged by Canadians
and cover a wide range from Gene MacClellan's "Snowbird" to the Cherry
Tree Carol arranged by Louis Applebaum to Our Winter Love written and
and performed by Toronto's famous trumpeter Johnny Cowell. I do have some
about this one. Many tracks would have been improved without
the synthesized accompaniment; either with piano or just a cappella. 2008
sorry I can't find this anywhere.
"The Christmas Album - The Royal Philharmonic
Collection - A Collection of Contemporary and Traditional Christmas Music"
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Chamber Choir of the Arts Educational School
Tring Park, The Am
brosian Singers - Tring
TRPG083 A BEST BUY !
As the title indicates, this is a nice
mixture of traditional and more recent carols including several
of the fine John Rutter compositions; Nativity Carol, Candlelight Carol, Shepherd's
Pipe Carol and the Donkey Carol. The orchestra and choirs are excellent
and the sound recording (1995 - all digital) is just fine too. 2008
I have no idea where you might find this.
" Christmas with Solid Brass - Christmas
Favorites Arranged for Brass and Percussion" the Solid Brass - Season's
A BEST BUY !
Check the fine print on the back -
it should say "Manufactured under license from Dorian Group".
This is your seal of approval.
You know that if it was originally produced by Dorian
Records it will be a quality production. The cover may be quite different
but the VMK-1088 will likely remain the same. The label may show "Columbia
River Entertainment Group" instead of "Season's Best". Now Available on EMusic
with original Dorian
"Classical Christmas Instrumental"
Hugh McLean - organ, Judy Loman - Harp, Goliard Brass quintet -
Season's Best VMK-1085 or Columbia River Entertainment VMK-1085 A BEST BUY !
This one should indicate "Manufactured under license
from CBC Recordings". The cover on the left seems to be the 1997 (Season's
Best incarnation): that on the right is the 1998 Columbia River/Allegro
version. Both carry the same number but in
some respects are different. The cover on the 1997 version
is nicer but the notes on the back are more misleading. I am still waiting
for Guido Basso's version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. But what we
lose on Basso's flugelhorn we make up for with Hugh McLean's organ. The
solo organ and solo harp tracks are all excellent. My older version shows
3 tracks by Milan Kymlicka (small instrumental ensemble). I think in fact
that this group appears with the Goliard Brass Quintet. But whatever
the case it is a great album. If you blew your wad on a new subwoofer then
you should at least spend $3 or $4 for these fine organ tracks to try it
out! Available on EMusic
worthwhile at this price and apparently from the same series:
"Holiday Favorites On Guitar" arranged
and performed on classical guitar by James Wilson - Season's Best VMK-1087
or Columbia River Entertainment VMK-1087 solo guitar
Manufactured under license from Ode Record Company A BEST BUY !
Some of the intros seem a bit gimmicky but the playing and sound
are very good and some of the arrangements are every bit as good as those
on Charlie Byrd's CD. Some tracks such as the first one (Sleigh Ride)
sound like they are overdubbed or else Mr. Wilson is even better than
I think. Easily recommended. Still available at Allegro
Cybermusicsurplus.com for $3.49 . So it might be available
"Dickens Christmas" Ed Sweeney - Season's
Best or Columbia River VMK-1080 banjo, guitars, hammer
dulcimer etc. Manufactured under license from Old Harbor
Music A BEST BUY !
Did they really have banjos in Dickens' England? I thought
George Formby came along somewhat later. I would have likely titled
this CD as "New Age Appalachian Dickensy Christmas" , but whatever. This
might not be everyone's cup of tea but I got a get kick out of it. The
banjo version of Jesu, Joy of man's Desiring could be subtitled "Dueling
Banjos versus J. S. Bach. A strange assortment of other instruments are
sprinkled here and there throughout; Melodian, bones, spoons, fiddle,
concertina, handbells etc. I assume from the meager notes that Mr. Sweeney
plays all these instruments. They are all played exceedingly well.
For example Mr. Sweeney's rendition of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring"
is superior to Pete Seeger's. The 2 tracks on the 12 string guitar are
quite beautiful. Available on EMusic
would say get all the above 4 CDs. It will still cost you less than
the price of one CD at Sam's.
Yes that's my final answer!
Some Recent additions from the Emusic site. Just click on the cover to
preview the tracks on the Emusic site.
"Oy To The World -
A Klezmer Christmas" The
Who would have thunk that Christmas music in Klezmer style could
be so much fun.
I think this will be enjoyed for Christmases to come.
"Christmas Spirituals" Odetta
Odetta's powerful voice
with the simplest of accompaniment.
"A Reggae Christmas (Mafia
and Fluxy presents)" various artists
An other fun alternative Christmas album. There are many terrific
Start at the top - A Wonderful Christmas, Last Christmas, Driving Home
for Christmas and This Christmas.
There are also nice versions of other better known Christmas favourites
such as the Christmas Song and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.
And they are all infused with that infectious reggae beat.
"A Cozy Christmas" and " Let it Snow"
Two very pleasant piano albums suitable for all your Christmas entertaining.
The first is piano solo. On the second bass and percussion is added.
Merry Christmas! JRM
back to the main music page
Revised Nov 11, 2008 by John R. Meale