My latest mix for 2013 is titled C'est Noel!, and, like my previous efforts, it's an eclectic mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. It starts off with a moving and apparently heartfelt introduction by the Great Communicator himself -- former President Ronald Reagan -- recorded nearly 60 years ago, when "the Gipper" was a paid spokesperson for General Electric. I didn't always agree with Mr. Reagan's politics, but I surely agree with the sentiment he expresses here -- namely, that there's "no better way to celebrate the spirit of Christmas than with music." Mr. Reagan's remarks were originally recorded in 1954 to introduce Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians on a special holiday episode of the GE Playhouse, but I've chosen to bring the former President (slightly) closer to the present day by having him pass the microphone to former teen idol Bobby Sherman for a slightly overwrought version of "Goin' Home (Sing a Song of Christmas Cheer)". That's pretty much when things start to ride right off the tracks.
OK, perhaps that's overstating it just a bit. Actually, the tracks in this year's mix are weighted more heavily than usual toward the cool and the nice as opposed to the wretched and the bizarre, although Lord knows that latter category is well represented, too. Among the good ones are "Christmas City," by the late Merv Griffin; Little Jackie's "Mrs. Claus Ain't Got Nothing on Me," which you may remember from a recent holiday ad campaign from the Target chain; and two 1960s-style soul gems that I especially love -- "Just a Sad Christmas," by The Soul Duo, and "Purple Snowflakes," a little-known track recorded in 1964 by the late great Marvin Gaye. The title track is another cool song that was also recorded in 1964, by the French group Les Intimes. See if it reminds you of any other tunes from that same era. (See the bottom of this page for my suggestion.)
As has become the custom, this year's mix includes a handful of tracks in honor of several popular entertainers we lost during the past 12 months. These include the incomparable singer/songwriter Lou Reed, actress Jean Stapleton, former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello, actor James Gandolfini, country singer George Jones, talk show host David Frost, singer Eydie Gormé, and jazz legend Donald Byrd. Each of these folks left their mark on our popular culture, and they will be missed.
C'est Noel! includes 35 tracks and runs for just under 80 minutes. You can listen to the first few tracks or the entire mix by clicking on the appropriate button, below. The complete CD track list is also available, along with artwork for a disc label and jewel box insert. For those who'd like additional information about any or all of the 35 tracks, chek out my "Bells Will Be Ringing" holiday music blog starting on "Black Friday," November 29 and running through Christmas Eve.
I hope you enjoy my latest project, and be sure to check back sometime around December 1, 2014 for my next holiday mix.
PRESS THE ORANGE BUTTON ON THE FOLLOWING SOUNDCLOUD BOX TO HEAR THE FIRST SEVERAL TRACKS:
C'est Noel! Offers a Freewheeling Mix of Unusual Holiday Tunes and Features
SPECIAL BONUS MIX FOR 2013
Celebrate the Season to a Groovy '60s Beat with "The NOW Sound of Christmas"
In addition to this year's regular holiday mix (see above), I've put together a special bonus mix called The NOW Sound of Christmas for those who'd like to enjoy the season to the groovy sounds of peace and love. This unique blend of pop music from the late 1960s was inspired by a couple of promotional holiday albums produced by the U.S. Air Force in 1968 in support of its ongoing recruiting campaign. The first featured a series of holiday classics performed by the popular duo of Tony Sandler and Ralph Young. But it's the second disc that's especially noteworthy -- and when I first ran across it a couple of years ago, I knew it was something special. Most of the music was performed by the official Air Force Dance Band along with special guests The Free Design, a pleasant sounding soft rock group from Canada whose music was imbued with the spirit of the counterculture. So what we have here is a record produced and paid for by the U.S. Air Force that features a bunch of hippies from Canada urging listeners to reject commercialism and embrace the politics of peace and love! This is so groovy it blows my mind, and you just have to wonder -- did General LeMay know about this blasphemy?
Politics aside, the music of The Free Design is an awesome trip of its own. They played the kind of soft rock that was big during the Summer of Love, when everything really was groovy -- before the assassinations of Dr. King and RFK, the deaths of Hendrix and Joplin, the election of Richard Nixon, and the tragedy at the Altamont Raceway. Theirs is the style of The Fifth Dimension, The Association, Herb Alpert and The Byrds. It's a hopeful, peaceful and loving sound, and it's one that many of us thirst for today.
The NOW Sound of Christmas consists of 24 tracks and runs just a little over 50 minutes. Five original songs by the Free Design set the tone for this collection, and I've added a lively group of similar tunes to keep things rolling. The result is a psychadelic trip that will bring you right back to the '60s -- just watch out for the brown acid. It's suggested that you stay away from that.
Of course, it's your own trip . . .
*The song "C'est Noel" reminds me of the Beatles' classic "All My Loving." What do you think?