Wild in the Country (1961)

 

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Just over a week after recording the His Hand in Mine gospel LP, Elvis was back in the studio to record the soundtrack for his next movie, Wild in the Country. The film featured Elvis as a troubled youth who discovers that he has a talent for writing. In many respects, this is Elvis’s biggest disappointment when it comes to his film career. The film was based on a decent source novel by J R Salamanca, and the screenplay was written by the fine playwright Clifford Odets, most famous for having written the boxing drama Golden Boy. What’s more, Elvis was to star alongside Hope Lange, Tuesday Weld and John Ireland, all respected actors and actresses. But somewhere it all went wrong.

In many respects the fault lies with screenplay. What should have turned out to be a James Dean-like role for Elvis ended up as a hackneyed, over-ripe and over-long melodrama which is one of the worst things Odets ever wrote. The dialogue is at times so riddled with clichés that one could be forgiven for assuming it was intended as a parody. The director, Philip Dunne, had been nominated for two Academy Awards, but both were for writing and not for directing. He had, in fact, only directed seven films prior to Wild in the Country, and none of them particularly remarkable. He therefore didn’t have the skills to turn the film around or to get a good performance out of Elvis himself – who looks nearly as uncomfortable on screen here as he did in his debut movie four years earlier.

In other words, Wild in the Country was a mess, and was poorly received by critics. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times called it it a “seamy, sentimental lot of nonsense,” and even questioned whether Odets had been involved in the scriptwriting at all. Less than a week later, Crowther wrote a second column in which he highlighted Wild in the Country as an example of everything that was wrong with Hollywood films of 1961. Here, he writes that “here is a costly picture that was written by Clifford Odets and directed by the experienced and literate Philip Dunne. By all the theatrical criteria, and even with Mr Presley in the cast, it should have been, at least, an honest drama, if not a particularly brilliant one.” Instead, he refers to it as a “hackneyed fabrication.” It’s difficult to disagree with that assessment. It appears that Crowther was also correct in questioning the contribution of Clifford Odets. Peter Guralnick states the writer was fired just before filming began, leaving Dunne to finish/edit the script and direct the movie.

Luckily, the songs recorded for the soundtrack were considerably better than the film they appeared in (or were cut from). All but one of the five songs were ballads. I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell was the sole rocker which, rather bizarrely, found its way on to Elvis’s next studio album of non-soundtrack songs, Something for Everybody. To be fair, it’s no better or worse than the rocking side of that album, but it does seem slightly under-cooked. While there are elements of novelty within the lyrical content as it continually plays on the title, it did deserve a somewhat edgier performance from Elvis that it actually gets. Perhaps it was just difficult for the singer to switch styles after spending six hours the previous evening taping some of the most understated singing of his career.

Lonely Man is a lovely ballad with a slight western feel that was created in part by the addition of Jimmie Haskell on accordion. As was becoming more and more common, Elvis utilised his higher register for much of the song, singing softly throughout. Although this “full” version of the song is pleasant enough, many believe that the so-called “solo” version, released three decades later, is better. Here Elvis is accompanied just by acoustic guitar, thus giving a more intimate feel, and allowing Elvis to tell the story of the lyrics more convincingly.

Similar in style to the solo version of Lonely Man were two other ballads, In My Way and Forget Me Never. The latter may well have been based on the folk song Lorena, which had been recorded by Johnny Cash just a year before. The similarities may, of course, have been coincidental, but this seems unlikely. No matter what the origin, the melody, together with the sparse accompaniment of just a single guitar, somehow is reminiscent of the sound created by an eighteen year old Elvis at Sun Studios recording his first demos in the summer of 1953. In My Way is even more restrained, and almost has a stark quality – not least due to the lyrics which can be read as either being about the likely end of an affair or, more pessimistically, the impending death of the singer. There are just two short verses, sung simply by Elvis (there are no signs of mannerisms or theatrics here), and it’s all over within eighty seconds.

These two songs might seem unimportant when it comes to the Elvis legacy, but in many ways they reflect what Elvis sounded like on the private tapes that have emerged since his death. The difference here is that they are obviously recorded in studio quality. It’s refreshing to hear Elvis sing a quiet, reflective ballad without any paraphernalia, other instruments or backing vocals – and even without a desire to create something even remotely commercial. Other than the private recordings, the only time we get to hear Elvis in this setting is with these recordings and those made over a decade later in what have become known as the “piano songs” recorded in May 1971.

The title song of the film gets the same treatment as the original full band version of Lonely Man. It’s a pity in many ways, as it would probably have worked better in a solo arrangement. For once, The Jordanaires seem intrusive and get in the way of Elvis’s delicate vocal. The song was released as a B-side in the USA, but as a double A-side in the UK, getting more exposure than the flip, I Feel So Bad.

These sessions were the last in what had been a busy year for Elvis. He had returned from the army, recorded the Elvis is Back and His Hand in Mine LPs (both of which were artistic triumphs), and starred in three films, all of which were quite different to each other in nature. The following year would be the start of the long artistic decline that Elvis would eventually only dig himself out of with the taping of the 1968 TV special.

Warehouse 13

 

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One of the ways in which our viewing habits have changed in recent years is that we can sit down and watch an entire run of a TV series in just a few days thanks to DVD boxed sets and on demand services.  This is exactly what I did with Warehouse 13.  I wanted something light and fun, gave the pilot a whirl and then woke up three weeks later having consumed 58 episodes.

Warehouse 13  isn’t, and was never intended to be, groundbreaking TV – and it’s not even original. Elements of it are stolen from the likes of Moonlighting, Supernatural and The X-Files.  The basic premise is that a secret organization exists that retrieve supernatural artifacts from across the globe and stores them in a huge warehouse where they can’t do anyone any harm. 

The stand alone episodes follow a basic police procedural drama format – something weird is going on, the agents go out and find out what it is and retrieve the object.   These episodes are great fun – the programme doesn’t take itself seriously, the scripts are amusing, and the characters are appealing. 

Where it falls down is with the over-arching, long-running storylines which tend to take over the series in the final weeks of each season.  Here, a relatively anonymous cardboard cut-out baddy tries to bring down the warehouse and those who run it.  This is OK in season 1, and even season 2, but then it all gets a bit repetitive and, more importantly, the overarching narratives tend to start taking over and then viewers are lost as each and every episode becomes important.   

This reliance on multi-episode arcs has caused the downfall of series such as The X-Files and, more recently, Supernatural  - the latter is still being made, but I’m not sure even the writers understand what it’s about anymore, the mythology has become so convoluted.  It appears that Warehouse 13 suffered a similar fate – audience numbers dwindled during season 4, and season 5 is going to be the last and just 6 episodes.  This is a shame, as if the series had concentrated on the stand alone episodes instead, it would no doubt have survived another few seasons. 

The chemistry between the various agents at the centre of the story is actually quite remarkable, and even when new characters have been brought in as the series progressed the chemistry seems to have been important.  A surprise for me was the introduction of “Jinksy” in season three.  A gay character in an action role is still a very rare occurrence on TV and in film.  That Jinksy is that rarity and is a gay man who doesn’t jump into bed every five minutes and keeps his clothes on and doesn’t talk with a lisp shows just how far American TV has come in recent years. 

Warehouse 13, therefore, is one of the programmes that slipped through the net.  Well-written and well-acted, it has fallen foul of being too formulaic and not coming up with a more original multi-episode arc in the later season.  Tucked away on the Syfy channel, it may never have got the audience it deserved, which is a shame for all concerned.

Bipolar and Work

Someone said something interesting to me online a week or two ago.  They said they thought that it was strange (I think that was a polite way of saying “stupid”) that I had mentioned in my blog and on my twitter feed that I have bipolar at a time when I was also looking for a job.  It’s not something that had really crossed my mind until that point and, as you can see, the comment obviously hasn’t put me off talking about it again.  What it did reiterate, however, was the public’s perception of mental health issues.  I’ve already discussed this before in relation to depictions of mental health problems in film and TV – and, since that post, I have since seen the fourth series of Canadian cop show Rookie Blue, which really should be ashamed of itself in its depiction of someone with bipolar as an obsessive stalker who puts people’s lives at risks through her actions.  We appear to take two steps forward but then one step back.  (That said, I still have a soft spot for Rookie Blue).

Now, all of that isn’t to say that bipolar makes a career or a job an easy thing, and I’m the first to admit that choosing a profession carefully so that you can somehow accommodate your highs and lows is a priority.  However, we don’t live in a time where people can pick and choose where they work or what they do.  Six years after the banking crisis, a job is a job and many need to grab whatever they can find.  Despite that, allowances need to be made and realism has to play a part because bipolar or depression or any other mental health condition is likely to cause issues at some point.

Let’s take, for an example, a job in an office in which the employee is expected sit at their desk and process 100 forms per day.   The chances of me, with bipolar, being able to perform at the same level constantly day after day, week after week, is highly unlikely.  By the very definition of the condition, one day might result in 200 forms being processed, and yet on another I might struggle to get 30 done.  A daily deadline of this kind is therefore not really feasible; during a depressive phase everything I do is almost in slow motion. However, a weekly or monthly target is certainly possible.  So, if instead of 100 forms a day, I was told I needed to 500 per week or 2000 per month, that would be fine, as I could make the most of the times when I was feeling OK and therefore give myself breathing space for when the inevitable down periods came along.

I’ve been studying for the best part of eight years, through my BA, MA and then PhD, but I did work full time for nine years before I started studying.  I hope things have changed in the workplace since then, and there is more understanding of conditions such as bipolar and depression.  I remember having a particularly bad spell back in 1998 and having some time off work because of it.  Most colleagues tried to be understanding, although the truth is that they didn’t understand because people were less educated about these conditions back then.  On my return to work, I was constantly asked if I was “OK”, and my line manager at the time told me my work needed to be checked thoroughly by her because of my “mental instability”.  The truth was that my work was fine, it was just me who wasn’t.  However, I got to the stage where I realised pretending I was fine was the way forward.  So I started going to work each day, assuming a bright and breezy cheerful persona for eight hours in order to stop all the questions, and then arrived home knackered each night because I had been putting in an eight hour acting performance of which Laurence Olivier would have been proud.

As it happens, the coping mechanisms that many of us have in place after having these conditions for so long probably make us more reliable workers than many others.  I knew I had to work around the bipolar while I was studying, and so would get coursework done a week or two in advance of the deadline in order to give myself a breathing space in case a bad patch came along.  I did the same with my PhD, finishing it within the three year period and writing a 70,000 word novel alongside it.  That’s not intended  to be a boast, but a sign to potential employers reading this that we are as reliable as anyone else, and to those with the condition it’s a message that it can be worked around if we put out mind to it.

There are shit periods, though, and last week was one of them for me – probably the worst I have been for a couple of years.  Luckily it was short-lived and I seem to be back to “normal” now.  But, even then, the marking of essays still got done on time, and the seminar still got prepared and delivered in the same fashion as any other week.  And no, I didn’t sit at the front of the seminar group rocking back and forth crying and screaming.  At least, if I did, no-one mentioned it afterwards (I jest).

What I’m trying to say here is that the prejudices towards (and misinformation about) those with bipolar and other mental health issues still continue.  Slowly but surely we are hearing of people who have turned their lives around and who are not only living a “normal” life but achieving more than many without the condition.  Determination is a wonderful thing.  Yes, allowances will have to be made at some point – not just by employers, but by friends and family too.  Bipolar isn’t just a pain for the person who has it, but it can be a bastard for the people who have to live with it as well.

And attitudes are changing, especially among the young.  The support amongst the younger generation on social media of campaigns to stamp out mental health stigma is staggering…and beautiful (and the same is true of campaigns to stamp out homophobia and bullying, too).   And a difference is slowly but surely being made.

But there is a long way to go.  If sufferers are going to do their best to live a normal life with their condition, then there needs to be more understanding (or, more accurately, flexibility) amongst employers as well.  Just because mental health issues aren’t always visible doesn’t mean they don’t exist or that there shouldn’t be a certain degree of allowances made within the workplace to accommodate the various ups and downs that come with these conditions.   We’re trying our best, and all that we ask for is that we are met halfway.

Guilty Pleasures #2: The Flaming Urge (1953)

 

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The Flaming Urge is an odd little film for a number of reasons.  Perhaps its biggest appeal is the chance to see Harold Lloyd Jr in the first of his two leading roles in feature films – the other would come a decade later in Married Too Young.

The narrative would have us believe that the film is about a young man called Tom Smith who is a “fire-chaser”.  In other words, he likes to watch fires.  However, this goes beyond a liking on his part, for this is an urge, an addiction.  Tom becomes known as a fire-chaser in the town he has chosen to make his home and is the major suspect when an arsonist goes on the rampage.  Tom knows that he has to find out who the real “fire bug” is in order to clear his name.

The film seems to be coded in order to be read as about something other than fires, however.   Firstly we have the title, The Flaming Urge, with the word “flaming” synonymous with homosexuality.  Furthermore, Tom is not the only “fire-chaser” in town – in fact they seem to crop up with alarming regularity.  What’s more, we’re even told at one point that the “fire-chaser” can be cured by the love of a good woman, which is rather convenient.  Finally, we have the fact that Harold Lloyd Jr was a homosexual himself (and led a rather short, tragic life by all accounts).  Bearing all of this in mind, and the brief whodunit element aside, this little poverty row movie seems to be a film about homosexual urges rather than about urges to chase fires.

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This sounds like a clumsy, pretty awful little film.  However, it’s actually rather enjoyable whether you choose to believe it’s about fires or being gay.   The script is really quite good compared to other cheapies of the period, and even the direction has some interesting touches, and it’s rather a pity that Harold Ericson (whoever he is) didn’t direct more.    The major surprise, though, is Lloyd Jr himself, who acquits himself remarkably well, putting in a believable and rather charismatic performance.  It’s certainly a shame that he didn’t get the chance to act in more prestigious movies over the following decade.

This little curio is available from Alpha Video in a perfectly watchable print, but is also available in full on YouTube.  At just over an hour, it moves along at a fair lick, and is certainly worth seeking out if you fancy a cheap and cheerful undemanding little movie that is either about fires or being gay.  Or both.   And it’s got a cute dog.  What more could you want?

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1913)

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It’s safe to say that cinema was obsessed with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde during the 1910s and early 1920s, with multiple versions being produced on both sides of the Atlantic.  Most famous of these is the version starring John Barrymore, produced in 1920.  However, Grapevine Video has pulled together four silent versions (including the Barrymore film), a few silent comedy shorts, and a number of sound adaptations for their Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Collection, which is a three-disc set.   Do you need this many Jekyll and Hydes in your collection? Maybe not, but the price is good at $17, and it’s interesting to see how film adaptations changed as cinema became more sophisticated during the 1910s, and there is a vast difference between the 1912 version and the ones from 1920.

The 1913 version, starring the wonderfully-named King Baggot, is certainly not the best of the surviving silent films, but it is particularly interesting in that it was made at a time when Hollywood was making its first tentative steps towards feature-length films.  This may run at just under half an hour, but that was almost an epic in American film at this point, and it was well received.  Two years after the film’s release, The Moving Picture World wrote: “King Baggot played the name parts, and his work in the two roles ranked as the equal of the best he has done. …It was a strong picture.”.

For those people new to silent film, the benefit with this version is that there is no hanging around when it comes to telling the story.  Meanwhile, for fans of classic horror coming to this film, there will be special significance because this is the very first horror film to be produced by Universal studios, who would go on to make the classic horror cycle of the 1930s which included Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

This, and all subsequent silent and early sound film adaptations that are known to survive, include a love interest for Jekyll – something which is not present in the novella, which contains only male characters.  One can only surmise at the motives for introducing extra characters and subplots in an adaptation of a novel which runs for under thirty minutes.  Perhaps it was simply a case that American film by this point had a set of conventions which had become popular with audiences, and one of them was a female love interest for a male protagonist and vice versa. It should also be remembered that the first big stars of the movies were female, so the making of a film with an all-male cast may have been looked down upon by studio bosses.  It could also be that the story left too much open to interpretation if Jekyll was left as a single man – both Benschoff and Showalter have written about what Jekyll and Hyde might really be about.  However, the most likely reason for the addition of a love interest was that the 1887 stage adaptation of the story, dramatised by Thomas Russell Sullivan, included such a character, and it was common for many years to base film versions of novels on stage adaptations, particularly within the horror genre.  For example, both Dracula (1931) and The Innocents (1961) are based on the stage versions of Dracula and The Turn of the Screw respectively.  We can only surmise as to why the playright, Sullivan, included a love interest in the stage version, but presumably it was simply to make the narrative more conventional. 

A few words on the other silent versions included in the Grapevine set.  The 1912 version runs for around ten minutes, and is simply is a series of short scenes giving the basic elements of the narrative within its restricted timeframe, and thus is rather lacking when it comes to the thriller element.  This form of screen condensation of full- length novels was a common practice by this time – earlier examples include ten minute versions of Ben Hur (Sidney Olcott et al, 1907) and Frankenstein (J Searle Dawley, 1910).  It was only during the early 1910s, as the popularity of longer films started to increase, that film adaptations of novels could begin to give a faithful  and complex rendering of the source text other than simple representations of key scenes.  The 1920 version starring John Barrymore is the most highly-regarded of the silent adaptations that survives, and is certainly the most accomplished film.  However, for pure entertainment value, the other version from 1920, starring Sheldon Lewis, is thoroughly recommended for it is one of those films we like to label “so bad it’s good”.  Lewis is outrageous as Hyde, and the film’s budget restraints result in a series of continuity errors and sequences that really don’t make much sense.  Near the end of the film, Lewis is seen changing from Jekyll to Hyde and back about every thirty seconds!  It’s a real hoot (but for all the wrong reasons)!

Max Takes a Bath (1910)

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Max Linder is a name not as familiar today as that of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton or even Harold Lloyd, and yet his contribution to silent film comedy was enormous; he was the first big comedy film star.  He began making films in 1905, but it wasn’t until 1907 that he took the lead role in what turned out to be a long series of comedy shorts.  For these he adopted for himself the persona of “Max”, a dapper man-about-town with a liking for the good life and women.  This adoption of a screen persona was hugely influential and no doubt prompted Charlie Chaplin to find his own recurring character, The Tramp, nearly a decade later.

He was successful both at home in France and internationally at the time of the outbreak of World War I.  He stopped making films and became a dispatch driver as part of the war effort, and it was at this time that he started suffering from bouts of depression.  By 1916, he had been relieved of his duties, and made the move to America to make films for Essanay studios, but the American films did not have the success of those he had made in his native France, and he returned home after his contract was cancelled.

Ill health prevented him from working, but he returned to America in 1921 to make three feature films but, despite now being considered some of his best work, they were not hugely popular at the time.  He married in 1923 but, still suffering from bouts of chronic depression, he and his wife committed suicide in 1925.  Linder was 41.

Max Takes a Bath is a typical Linder short film, with differing sources giving the film a date as 1908 and 1910.  The premise is straightforward: Max buys a bath, struggles to get it back to his apartment only to find that the only way he can fill it is by using the tap in the hall outside his room.  He drags the bath into the hallway in order to fill it, but then finds the bath is too heavy to drag back into his room and so he proceeds to take his bath there.  However, this rather shocks others living in the apartment block and the police and firemen are called in order to remove Linder and his bath from the premises.

It is of great credit to Linder that such a basic narrative still provides laughs today, over a hundred years after the film was made.  Even in 1952, when Linder was an all but forgotten figure, Bela Bálazs wrote that “this bit of fun is most filmic, not only because a number of things are made visible in it which cannot be shown on the real stage, but also because these new motifs represent a type of grotesque psychological reaction which could not have been shown in the past” (Balázs, 1952: 27-28).*

Many of Linder’s shorts have only been issued on French DVDs and without English subtitles, but Max Takes a Bath uses no intertitles at all to tell its story.  It is available for all to enjoy on Youtube.  The genius of Linder is finally being rediscovered, although there is always a sense of sadness that this most likeable and jovial of comedians also ended up as one of the most tragic.

*Balázs, B., 1952.  The Theory of Film (Character and Growth of a New Art).  London: Dobson.

Ten Favourite Christmas Albums

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A festive entry in my little series of “ten favourite” posts.  This time I turn my attention to music and Christmas albums.  So, in no particular order…

White Christmas with Nat & Dean (LP version)

Back in the 1970s, Music for Pleasure released a lovely 12 track LP alternating songs by Nat King Cole and Dean Martin.  It was a favourite in our house while I was growing up, and featured some fine performances and, rather strangely, the split album idea worked very well.  What’s more, it was one of the few places to find Dean Martin’s “The Christmas Blues” at the time.  It all went to pieces on the CD issue though.  Extra tracks were added, but only from Nat King Cole, thus upsetting the balance and the magic was gone.   The original album is superb though, and worth grabbing just to hear Nat King Cole tell us that he’s the “Happiest Christmas Tree” (Ho ho ho, he he he).

Seasons Greetings from Perry Como

This is Como’s Christmas album from 1958 and is one of the warmest Christmas albums you will ever find.  The first side features secular festive favourites, while the second side features Como singing carols, leading to the concluding lengthy track in which he narrates the story of the first Christmas, with his narrative interspersed by snatches of carols (this was something he started doing on TV in the early 1950s).  Como’s version of “Home for the Holidays” and “Oh Holy Night” make this a must – and the final track makes it a great one for the kids. 

Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas

If ever there was an unjustly neglected Christmas album, this might be it.  Ella forgets jazz for thirty-five minutes as she leads a choir through a series of Christmas hymns and carols.  A very different affair from her Christmas album for Verve, this was her second release for Capitol in 1967, and was either ignored by critics or ravaged by them.  In reality, Ella is probably in the best voice of her career and her warmth and sincerity oozes out of every groove.

A Dave Brubeck Christmas

Jazz Christmas albums are a little hit and miss, but this one is both delightful and unusual in that it finds Dave Brubeck playing solo piano rather than as part of a trio or quartet.   This is great stuff, with Brubeck still in great form despite being in his late seventies when it was recorded.  He might be best known for his  cool/bop jazz recordings, but perhaps the most enjoyable track here is “Winter Wonderland”, which finds him playing good old-fashioned stride piano. 

Michael Buble’s Christmas

It’s not very often a modern Christmas album becomes an instant favourite, but this one seems to be the exception.  Buble presents us with an album of mostly traditional Christmas fare, but a number of tracks have a twist – such as the wonderful Dixieland take on “Blue Christmas” – and others are just so well sung and arranged that it’s hard not to fall in love with the album.

Elvis’ Christmas Album

No, not the original 1957 version, but the 1970 issue which ditches the gospel material and adds “If Every Day Was Like Christmas” (a single from 1966) and the non-festive “Mama Liked the Roses”.  The 1966 track oddly fits snugly amongst the raw sounds of those recorded nearly a decade earlier in which songs range from the dirty innuendo-ridden blues of “Santa Claus is Back in Town” (Hang up your stockings/Turn down the lights/Santa Claus is coming down your chimney tonight) to the reverent take on “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”.   Elvis went on to record a second Christmas album in 1971, one which finds him in poor voice and singing a batch of mostly depressing, uninspired new songs.  It has to rank as one of the most disappointing sequels in history.

Harry Connick Jr: Harry for the Holidays

Harry Connick Jr’s Christmas albums are a mixed bag.  The first one, “When My Heart Finds Christmas” was so awful that ever after in our household he was known as “Harry Chronic”.   “Harry for the Holidays” is much better, and catches Harry during one of his better periods, following hot on the heels of his great “Come By Me”,“30” and “Songs I Heard” albums.  So this album features slightly left-field, whacky big band arrangements of mostly well-known Christmas songs.  “Frosty the Snowman”, which opens the album is typical of this, given a noisy makeover that makes it sound like something out of a New Orleans Mardi Gras.  It all runs a little out of steam by the end of the 65 minute album, but “Silent Night”, which closes the album, is given a lovely arrangement, mixing traditional jazz and gospel sounds. 

The Sinatra Family Wishes You a Merry Christmas

I wrote about this one a few days back in a separate post, but this is a fun album featuring Sinatra and his three kids.  Nancy Sinatra never sounded better.

Christmas with Chet Atkins

This is a lovely warm album of instrumentals from country-styled guitarist Chet Atkins, and features fourteen tracks and is ideal for non-obtrusive music while hanging up those decorations.  The original CD issue was rather botched for some reason, but it’s now available under the title “Songs for Christmas” in better sound – it couldn’t be worse than Mum and Dad’s copy of the album, though, which was bought in 1961 and regularly got stuck as the needle tried to avoid the scratches!

The Andy Williams Christmas Album

The BBC recently showed a couple of clip shows from the Andy Williams Show that ran from the early 1960s until the mid-70s (shame on the BBC for cropping the picture!).  Watching it reminds us of how talented Williams was in his prime, with vocal performances that saw him singing jazz with Ella Fitzgerald and folk with Simon and Garfunkel.   His Christmas album was released in 1963 and contains a relatively predictable set of festive favourites.   If the vocals are sometimes just a little too laid back at times, and the arrangements a little saccharine, there are still gorgeous performances of “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, “Happy Holidays” and “The Little Drummer Boy”.

This is my last post before Christmas, so have a great Christmas and we’ll gather here again in that strange lull between Christmas and New Year!