Friday, July 21, 2006

Christmas In July-Part 21

Four more tracks on this, the 21st day of my Christmas in July share-a-bration. All four tracks today are covers of the well-known Claude Thornhill chesnut, Snowfall.

Version one is by Dick Hyman from Provocative Piano, Volume Two (Command RS 824 SD, 1961). That Command (and later Project 3) label is just a treasure trove of interesting stuff.

Version two is Pete Rugolo from Music For Hi-Fi Bugs (EmArcy MG-36082). I believe Pete recorded this track more than once, since I have an MP3 of it from his Music From Out of Space, but since I don't have that vinyl, I can't record it and see if it's the same recording. I suppose I could listen to the MP3 files side by side, but the other one is at work and I'm lazy...

Version three is by Steve Allen from Steve Allen Plays The Piano Greats (Hamilton HLP 12106). Steve Allen wrote thousands and thousands of songs, but few people remember him today as anything other than the original host of The Tonight Show. Lots of his tunes are dreck, but there's some good stuff in there if you search hard.

The fourth and final version is actually titled Snowfall-Cha-Cha and is by Billy May from Cha Cha! Billy May (Capitol ST1329). I hesitated before I put this one up as it's easily available on the excellent Capitol UltraLounge Christmas collections. But it's part of a medley on there, and I hate that. So here's the track all by itself, complete with clicks, pops & surface noise.

That wraps up this episode of Christmas In July. Please download this installment and listen during the next spare moment you get from your busy and hectic life. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Christmas In July-Part 20

Here we are at day 20, 2/3 of the way to the end of the month, and I've got some real treats for you today. Yep, it's actual Christmas songs! No songs that just happen to mention Christmas or winter or skating, but actual songs about the holiday, and, um, small furry mammals. So, let's see what we've got here:

Track one is The Christmas Tree by David Rose from David Rose Plays David Rose (MGM E3748, 1959). According to the liner notes, this festive track was used for years on Christmas specials by Red Skelton before it was committed to vinyl on this LP. I know you'll enjoy it.

Track two is Winter Wonderland by Eddie Layton from Better Layton Than Ever (Mercury MG 20377). I was so excited when I found this in the thrift store recently. I rushed home and played it just to make sure it really was Winter Wonderland. Then I noticed it was in mono, and started to wonder about the stereo version. I went trolling throught the archives here in the bat cave, err, I mean the condo, and sure enough, I already had the record. Still in mono, but there it was, with a slightly different cover even. I just hadn't noticed the Christmas track right there under my nose. So much for my being observant. But anyway, this is a really great version performed on the organ, with some vibes thrown in for good measure. It even breaks out into Jingle Bells for a few bars, if I remember correctly. Dig it!

Thirdly, you get The Chipmunk Song by Billy Vaughn from Golden Hits (Dot DLP 25201, 1959). Yep, it's a slightly swingin' orchestra performing music made famous by rodents! No vocals on this one, but it's still very reminiscent of Christmas. You'll love it, trust me.

And there you have it. Three of the best tracks I've dug up this holiday season. Here's the link, now go get 'em!

Over The Edge

When you round the last bend in the road before you actually see Hoover Dam, you are faced with these giant high-tension power pylons, leaning out over the canyon at a serious angle. Cables drop straight down from these pylons into the generator rooms at the bottom of the dam. I was just a little taken aback by the site, wondering how stable they could be. But they've been there for an awful long time now, so I'm sure they are fine.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Christmas In July-Part 19

What do you folks want for day 19? Well, I haven't seen a lot of comments lately, much less requests, so I guess you get what I give you. And today you get two tracks each from two different artists. I just have to find the records I recorded...

Here we go. Artist number one is the famous harmonica hooters, The Harmonicats, from their album Dolls, Dolls, Dolls (Mercury SR 60008). (The full LP was recently shared out at "These Records Are BenT", so if you like what I share, go over there and get the rest of the album. The cover of his is different from mine for some reason. Things like that bug me...) The two tracks I picked out for their holiday flavor are March Of The Toys and Parade Of The Wooden Soldiers. I guess I'm not very original, since I've already shared out multiple versions of these tracks, but these are pretty good nonetheless. (The back of my LP says 'Wacker Series' on it. Anyone out there know what that's all about?)

Artist two is Norma Zimmer, one of the many, many artists who got her big break from Lawrence Welk. Her album is called Norma Zimmer Sings True Love As Featured On The Lawrence Welk TV Show (Dot DLP 3404, 1962), just in case you didn't know the Lawrence Welk connection. The two tunes are Ave Maria and The Lord's Prayer. Both are good tracks, but I'm afraid the sound isn't quite up to par. Lots of noise in the louder parts of the tracks. I'm not sure what's causing it, but I couldn't do much to get rid of it. I was surprised to find I had shared a track from Ms. Zimmer last year, but I didn't know who she was. She had a lead vocal credit on a various artists LP I shared that featured a track from Thurl Ravenscroft. It's a small world, isn't it?

So, after all that exposition, here's the link. Stay tuned for more Christmas In July, the holiday that melts in your mouth, and in your hands!

Wings (Not The Beatles)

The visitor areas around the Hoover Dam are littered with monuments to this and that, or plaques to honor this or that group involved in the dam in some way. This winged figure is one of a pair of statues that honor something or other, I'm afraid I really don't remember and am too lazy to look it up. The ground around them is a giant map of the night sky showing the exact position of the stars on the night the dam was dedicated. So a million years from now, no doubt the dam will still be there in some form or another, but if there are no people around, space aliens will be able to figure out when it was built. Don't you wish the Egyptians had done that for us with their pyramids?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Christmas In July-Part 18

18 days into this experiment, and I've still got tracks to share. Hard to believe. And I haven't even shared out some of the obvious stuff. But today is, in my mind, a pretty easy track to find, and find often. Here are five different versions of My Favorite Things, from The Sound Of Music.

Cavallini from Quiet Nights (Mainstream MMS 702)
Dick Leibert from Dick Leibert At The Radio City Music Hall Organ (RCA Victor LSP-3406, 1965)
Jane Morgan from The Second Time Around (Kapp KL-1239, 1961)
The Hi-Lo's from Broadway Playbill (Columbia CS 8213)
Enoch Light And The Brass Menagerie from The Beauty Of Brass (Project 3 PR 6017/18 SD,1976)

I'm not sure when My Favorite Things turned into a Christmas song. I'm a little fuzzy on that part of the movie right now, but I don't remember it having much, if anything, to do with Christmas. Anyhow, here's the link, enjoy the tunes.

More Dam

Someone sent me some of their Vegas pictures recently, and asked why I hadn't taken photos like them. Well, I had. Almost exactly the same pictures. I just hadn't shared them out yet. So here's the first one. This is looking down into the valley beneath Hoover Dam. You can see the water from the turbines bubbling up in the center of the river. I couldn't figure out what was causing it to be aerated like it appears. I did learn that the green color of the water is due to algae. Before the creation of this and other dams upriver, the Colorado was colored red. The dams cause the silt to settle out of the water, and remove the color. So technically, the green is manmade.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Christmas In July-Part 17

Welcome to day 17, eh. I've got a little bit of noise for you today. All three tracks are from private pressings, one more private than the other two...

Track one is Hanover Winter Song by The Dartmouth College Glee Club from the album Reflections On Dartmouth (Campion OSS-2381). This record appears to be something recorded by Jim Campion, owner of the general store located closest to campus and sold to visiting parents and other proud relatives. I'd put it somewhere in the mid to late 50's.

Track two is actually the same song, only this time it's called Winter Song, and it's performed by The Al Stewart Singers from the album cleverly entitles Program No. 4 (Universal U-50317/8). Again, this is a private pressing, probably only for the members of Al's Singers, their friends and families. Both versions of this song are performed by loud male choruses and don't hold a lot of excitement for me. But I'm an equal opportunity offender, perhaps you'll enjoy it.

Track three is an instrumental called Christmas Music Of Puerto Rico by The Overtones, from the LP Memorial Album (BB-7-8-70). Don't ask me why I even picked this up in the thrift store, but I did, and now you have to hear a track from it. It's in a plain white sleeve with a photocopy taped to the front and the back. Evidently some group of steel drum players from Puerto Rico performed in the US Capitol building on July 8, 1970, and they recorded it for posterity. Nobody thought to properly mic the room so it sounds like mud soup, and someone actually brushes up against the tape machine causing the recording to slow down at one point! But as I mentioned above, I'm an equal opportunity offender. Maybe you'll like it...

Anyhow, here is the link. Please enjoy it as best you can...

Atlantis, Way Back When

I just happened to stumble across this shot on my PC, so I figured I'd throw it up here. This is the shuttle Atlantis as it sat on the pad a few years ago. I took a NASA tour before the shuttle program was halted several years back. I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance. You don't get particularly close to the launch pads, but you get close to everything else. I even touched a piece of the moon!

July Drags On Another Week

Here's a beautiful weekly calendar page for you. This is from Blue Spring, near Deland, Florida. To me, this is what Florida looks like.

Return To Earth

Congratulations to the astronauts of the space shuttle Discovery on their safe return to Earth this morning. I wasn't under the glide path of today's landing, but I have been before, and it gives off quite the pair of sonic booms. The photo above is another view of the show at the Fremont Street Experience back in Vegas. I'm just getting miles and miles of use out of those pictures, aren't I?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Christmas In July-Part 16

It's an all-Mancini day today for Christmas In July! Hank put out more than one full Christmas LP, but he also buried holiday music in plenty of his other albums, and today I have five tunes for you from three different albums.

White Christmas and Baby, It's Cold Outside, both from Henry Mancini Presents The Academy Award Songs (RCA Victor LSP-6013, 1966)

Joy and The Swingin' Shepherd Blues, both from Music From The TV Series "The Mancini Generation" (RCA Victor LSP-4689, 1972)

Latin Snowfall from Charade (RCA Victor LPM-2755, 1963)

Please download and enjoy the tracks. I'm afraid none of them are as good as anything from The Pink Panther or Breakfast At Tiffany's, but you'll get the general idea.

Dam Pictures

You may have thought the Las Vegas pictures were over, but you'd be wrong. On the last day, the two of us left rented a car and drove out to Hoover Dam. It's less than a half hour drive, and well worth the time. You're out in the desert for just a little while, then in some low mountains, then there it is, one of the largest structures built by mankind. It's so big that I didn't get many good pictures because we were so close. Shown above are the intake towers on the Nevada side that direct the water to the turbines. The dam sits on the Nevada-Arizona state line, but after seeing the lights of Vegas, I think I know where most of the power must go. The water is the most amazing green color for some reason I don't know. I'm used to green and blue water here in Florida, but it's not even close.