Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cyprus Avenue Christmas II

No, folks, I have not given up on this blog. I sincerely apologize for not living up to this blog's name this year. You'd think at least one post a month would be easy enough. For various reasons that I won't bore you with, I just wasn't able to. My second job has taken up so much more time this year than it did last year. Which is a good thing...extra money is always good. It seems in today's economy you either are out of work or you are working more for the same or less pay. Yeah, it's been a while since a raise for me, but at least I am still working and able to work more hours. But, as a result, this blog has suffered. "I will post next week," I'd say. Next week suddenly bleeds over into next month and the month after that and I sit there looking at the calendar dismayed at where the time goes.

Where does the time go? Well, not in reading excuses of a blogger, that's for sure. You didn't come here for that. I will attempt to post more here...I am coming into some down time now as hours are cut at my second job but I suspect once the holidays kick in I will be working more. It should make things a bit hard keeping up on here, but I will do my best.

So onward and upward with the music. Now that's what you came here for.

Last year I mentioned I had contacted some local DJs about playing Christmas music on their programs. Two of the DJs agreed to let me submit music to them and are open to new stuff. One of those DJs is Bill Shapiro of KCUR. He hosts a weekly radio program called Cyprus Avenue and the show started out as an intelligent look at rock and roll music, but he plays a wide variety of music. Mainly older stuff, but sometimes some new stuff sneaks it's way in there.

As a Christmas music fan, I highly anticipated his annual Christmas show. The first year I heard it it was OK. Nothing too out of the ordinary...nothing too far off the beaten path. And his show certainly digs up some great songs that are off the beaten path on a regular basis. So next year I tuned in...and it was the exact same play list. I looked at the archives of his play lists online and, sure enough, he's been repeating the same Christmas show for quite a while now.

Needless to say, I had to rectify that. KCUR is a public radio station, so perhaps not a lot of money is flying around to buy music to play one day out of the year. I understand. So I decided to intervene and offer my services and choices from my personal collection. I made a custom CD (complete with jewel case and full color cover) for him and another CD of off the beaten path Christmas songs that he may or may not play and sent them to him. He emailed me back and was very grateful to receive the music. He said the producers of his show were wanting him to do a full two hour special this year. So I thought I would send him a second collection. First, the cover art:

I tried to select songs that would fit in his format. The first collection I sent him mainly focused on artists I knew he liked and would be likely to play. For this collection, I decided to be a bit more adventurous and offer him songs by artists he never played before but would fit in well with his format.

01_Harley Fine-Same Old Christmas Song

This first song I chose because of the message and I felt it really spoke of what is to come on this collection: These are NOT the same old Christmas songs! I don't know if he'd play this song...it's a bit off from the style of music he normally plays, if that's possible to say on a show where I've heard everything from the Pogues to Tom Waits to African music and everything else in between. But like I said...it sets the theme of the collection.

02_The Fireman-Dance 'Til We're High

This song was a real nice surprise for me. I discovered this album earlier in the year and did a double take when this song came up on my MP3 player. They may not use the word Christmas, but this is a Christmas song if I ever heard it. The Fireman, if you don't know, is perhaps the best band Paul McCartney has been involved with since Wings (and since 1993.) Arguably a MUCH better song than "Wonderful Christmastime." I am sure there will be those who disagree with me (what? Really???) but I am so glad we got a new Christmas song out of Paul after all this time, and a great song at that.

03_The Spirit of Christmas-Christmas Is My Time of Year

04_The Spirit of Christmas-Will You Still Believe in Me

True 1960's Christmas rock/pop classics that rarely get heard, let alone on the radio. I really hope that Mr. Shapiro chooses to play one or both of these songs. I know I shared them on this blog before, but they are always worth bringing out again.

05_The Neighborhood Kids-The Christmas Party of the Eight Reindeer

This is from a Christmas 45 that I got early in the year and one of the first songs I put in my 2009 folder. I never heard of the band before and really don't know much about them (and Google doesn't dig up too much) but the sound of the song really reminded me of the Spirit of Christmas tracks in a way. And it's a nice, fun obscure song that needed to be heard again by more people. It may be a bit kiddified for Cyprus Avenue, but you never know what kind of mood Mr. Shapiro will be in when he's trying to fill those two hours.

06_Sugar Minott - Christmas Jamboree

Bill likes to play reggae and Jamaican music and I wish I had more to share with him. I do have a handful of songs, but this was the best among the bunch in my book. (I am still trying to locate my Trojan box set of Reggae Christmas music I bought a few years back. You know I haven't been able to find that for a couple years now? I wonder where it could be!)

07_The Cadillacs-Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
08_Brook Benton-You're All I Want For Christmas
09_The Miracles-Christmas Everyday
10_Ella Fitzgerald-Frosty the Snowman
11_Carla Thomas-Gee Whiz, It's Christmas
12_Charles Brown-Christmas in Heaven
13_Bunny & Skully-White Christmas

I don't have much to say about the songs individually...I basically chose this group of songs for the collection because it struck me that this was the period of music Bill likes to play the most. I tried to pick a select few songs from that time period that don't seem to make it on the radio much these days, if at all. A few familiar ones were also tossed in, not just arbitrarily, however, but because I really felt the versions of these standards were actually quite good compared to the familiar versions we often hear at this time of year.

14_Binky Griptite-World of Love

When I was contemplating songs for this collection, I made a list at my day job and saved the email as a draft. Some of the songs in that list made the cut, some did not. Some were just a bit too obscure and there was some great new stuff that I really wanted to include on this collection. But there was one song that was just singular to me in it's sheer beauty and had such an impact on me when I heard it and it was this one. So much horrible stuff is going on in the world today...both in our own areas that never make the news and such horrific stuff on the news these days...stories like a little girl being found dead in a city landfill. Abuse of children and animals, people killing their own children... sometimes it's overwhelming. When I heard this song, my mind was already occupied with a couple horrible things that happened recently and I just wish more people would experience that world of love on more than just one day. It never really seems to last all year around and the children get let down. But I still hope for the world of love.

15_Meditation Singers-Spirit of Christmas

This was also on my short list of songs to include on this compilation but it almost was not included then I came across "World of Love." This seemed like a good follow up to the previous song and now this song had a place on the compilation. These two songs also fit into the time period of the block of songs that already came before.

16_Simon & Garfunkel-7 O'Clock News, Silent Night

Speaking of bad news...There's something just very stark and gripping about the reading of the news stories in this song. I was trying to come up with a cover version of this to do with Ken Clinger but it's hard to find news clips these days that doesn't have loud music and sounds played during it.

17_Sam Baker-Angel Hair

I mentioned a few obscure songs that didn't make the cut in lieu of some new music. This is one of the new songs that I just discovered last week that really struck me and left an impression. I know Sam Baker is an artist that Bill Shapiro has played before, so I hope he plays this one as well. This is a beautiful song that shows that Christmas music just doesn't have to be about Santa, reindeer or Jesus.

18_Felice Brothers-Murder By Mistletoe

I shouldn't have included this one, I really shouldn't have. I actually included it on the first compilation I sent Bill and I know I shared it before with you all. But, at the end of the day, this is one of my favorite off the beaten path Christmas songs I have found. I have listened to this one so many times since I first came across it and often listen to it two or three times in a row...the imagery in this song is just so well brought out and so beautiful to me. And Bill needs to just play more of the Felice Brothers!

19_Jim Croce-It Doesn't Have to Be That Way

Not a new song, but new to me. I suspect this song got some air play back in the day, but for some reason it's been cast off to the side. Here is hoping it gets played again.

20_Elvis-Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees

Elvis (and Paul McCartney, for that matter) isn't exactly an artist that needs exposure. But this isn't exactly one of his most played Christmas songs and this is up there to me with some of his more beautiful recordings, such as "In the Ghetto." It's not just a good Christmas song, it's a good song!

21_Bill Mallonee-Every Father Knows

Speaking of somebody who writes good songs (and somebody whom Bill should play more of on his show!) is this guy. Some of you may recall that I shared the Vigilantes of Love song "My Heart's Electric (On To Bethlehem)" early on in the beginning days of this blog. Bill has released a Christmas album on line and this is perhaps my most favorite Christmas song he recoded since "My Heart's Electric (On To Bethlehem)."

22_Bigton Gulch Town Orchestra-Santa's Coming

A little off the beaten path, a little bit more strange than most Christmas songs, but considering the strange stuff I have heard on the Cyprus Avenue radio program before, this seems to be ripe for playing!

23_C.W. Stoneking-On A Christmas Day

Another personal all time favorite and I never tire of hearing this song. I believe I shared this song on here before, but not positive. The sound C.W. brings recalls the early days of American music. It sounds like something straight out of the Depression era recordings, but it's neither from the Depression era or America. C.W. Stoneking is from Australia and was born in 1974. This is a new song, folks. C.W. certainly offers something to music today that nobody else is really offering, and that makes him a must play in my book.

24_The Neighborhood Kids-Christmas is for Everyone

The B-Side of the track I previously shared on track five. I thought it was a good way to close the collection out.

In closing, I just wanted to say that it wasn't just this blog that I neglected of late. I haven't checked my email in a long time either, and when I went to check it recently I see I have a back log of unread emails. I apologize to each and every one of you who emailed me and expected a reply. Needless to say, your email has been read or will be read and you will get a reply. There are quite a few requests out there for me to bring back some old stuff that I deleted. I very well may post a "back by popular request" posting in the near future.

Fingers crossed, I will be back with my Halloween post. No podcast this year (sorry...I really didn't have time for that!) but I have a handful of some interesting songs to share.

One last thing, I mentioned in one of my last posts before the long delay that my computer crashed. I am actually still trying to recover from that. Thankfully, I had just sent my mom a flash drive full of a lot of my Christmas music (16 GB worth!) and I had a lot of it backed up on an external drive, but there's still work to be done to recover some of the lost tracks. One thing I lost that I REALLY would appreciate somebody out there in helping me recover are the Andy Cirzan annual compilations. I believe I had them going back for the past decade or so. Losing tracks I recorded from LPs and 45s is one thing...when time allows I can make MP3s of those songs again. But I hated losing the Cirzan tracks. Let me know if you can help a brother out!

Thank you SO much for reading and listening.


Quixotience said...

Great stuff this post. Thanks so much.

I've collected Andy Cirzan's compilations for the past several years. I have:
The Cassette Years: Part 1
Off in the Christmas Cosmos
Seance With Santa
Twighlight Zone Xmas: Into the Yule Vortex Mix

Having just gone through a hard drive meltdown, I feel for you. Let me know if and how you'd like me to share these with you. I don't have a filesharing account (I do generally get one for a month or two starting late November), but I can upload to box.net or burn a CD/DVD and mail it to you.

take care,

Anonymous said...

I just recently discovered this blog -- I'm a Xmas music freak as well. Great to have you posting again.

Do you have Kay Martin's Christmas album? I heard "I Want A Casting Couch for Christmas" and knew I had to hear the rest.

¡Mateo es así! said...

There are some real treasures in here, thank you. Love that Meditation Singers song!