Do you lament the lack of surf/Christmas music on your playlist? Are your instrumental Christmas albums just a little too staid? Did you know the Ventures put out a Christmas album in 1965? Did you know that it was called The Ventures’ Christmas Album and that Real Gone Records is reissuing it on CD? Did you also know that it is enormously, utterly fun?
Real Gone Music is here to save Christmas from oversinging, too-shiny production, and weird warbles with their reissues of classic Christmas albums. One of these? Ray Conniff and the Ray Conniff Singers’ The Complete Columbia Christmas Recordings. Collecting best-selling choral albums We Wish You A Merry Christmas (1962) and Here We Come A-Caroling (1965), The Complete Columbia Recordings has all of the classic Christmas songs you could possibly need, done with inspired choral arrangements and a tremendous amount of charm. It’s a retro trip back to the days of silver Christmas trees and really big record player cabinets, and it’s utterly enjoyable.
By Emily Carney
The biography supplied with this reissue of John Cale’s 1992 stripped-down live album, recorded at various venues, states: “Fragments gives us Cale at his most melodic and moving, a mellowed and certainly a soberer man in a Yamamoto jacket and a lopsided haircut running through a selection of his prettiest songs.” While there’s no doubt that Cale was soberer at that time (having cleaned up his act following the birth of his daughter in 1985), this reviewer will disagree slightly with the bio, only in that not all of the songs on this offering are prettier. It’s also possible that Cale has never truly sonically mellowed out.
Once again, Omnivore Recordings gives us the Christmas gift we need: a new Buck Owens and the Buckaroos compilation. The Complete Capitol Singles 1957-1966 covers a particularly creatively fecund phase in Buck Owens’s career: the early days at Capitol, his partnership with the brilliant Don Rich, and a string of hits that defined the influential Bakersfield Sound. The Complete Capitol Singles 1957-1966 is gorgeously remastered and sounds stunningly good. Crisp, even, with that trebly production that Buck favored (so it would sound good on AM radio) sounding better than ever.
By John Lane
In the interest of immediate full disclosure, I have long been a fan (and in recent times, a friend) of Kevin Coral, the mastermind behind the band The Witch Hazel Sound. The 2001 release of the group’s This World, Then the Fireworks awoke me, and others, from what you might call a creative and inspirational torpor. If you felt like you came from Anywheres-ville, USA, as I felt like I did, then it was a beautiful discovery to note that sheer magic could be conjured in Akron, Ohio.
With her latest EP, Tender Warriors Club, the reliably wonderful Lady Lamb (a.k.a. Aly Spaltro), is consciously trying to keep an open heart. Her Tender Warriors Club website reads:
find the courage to be sensitive
be emotionally vulnerable
be comfortable with & embrace solitude
never compromise their integrity
practice self-acceptance & self-love
give an honest effort
As far as manifestos go, that’s a damn fine one. And one that is utterly prescient. And Tender Warriors Club is a welcome addition to Lady Lamb’s catalogue of delicate but fierce music. She wears her emotions on the outside, and causes us to do the same. I can’t count the times that I’ve been moved to tears by her without even realizing I’m crying. Damn.
The Blind Boys Of Alabama won a Dove Award for 2005’s Atom Bomb, but the album isn’t your typical gospel music. The songs are intended to capture the “deep and haunting feel of the Old Testament,” as executive producer Chris Goldsmith says, and they do, but as always, the Blind Boys put their own distinct spin on songs. On Atom Bomb, they are joined by a fantastic band who turn the traditional (and sometimes untraditional) tracks into swampy, bluesy explorations and canvases in which to showcase the Blind Boys luxuriant harmonies, as well as rapper The Gift Of Gab (from Blackalcious), who adds a whole other dimension.
It took until 2003 for The Blind Boys Of Alabama to release a Christmas album, but the wait was worth it. Now, Omnivore is reissuing Go Tell It On The Mountain with bonus material (as they do and do so well) in time for your holiday playlist, and it is a welcome addition.
Matt Tarka is a DC-based indie pop time warp. On his EP, Surely Late, he evokes the hazy, early days of college radio (remember that? What do they even call that now?) with powerful melodies, a bit of sugary sweetness, and a delightful propulsiveness that belies the heartache that provides the lyrical matter. It’s a four-song chunk of solid songwriting and catchiness, and an interesting introduction.
By Tim Murr
Singer/guitarist Annabelle Lee (ex-Mexican Slang) describes Peeling’s debut EP, Rats In Paradise, as being “about shedding past traumas, transcending pain and finding a way out,” she says. “It’s too easy to become disillusioned; I want to create catharsis and release.” Well, congratulations on succeeding. Rats In Paradise is a wonderfully realized collection. The four tracks, “Magic Eye,” “Leisure Life,” “In The Sun,” and “Wet Nurse” feel very similar to Las Vegas Story-era Gun Club. Even Lee’s vocals remind me of Jeffery Lee Pierce at his most reserved.