Philadelphia Brass Ensemble – A Festival Of Carols In Brass (1967)

FrontCover1.jpgA Festival of Carols in Brass is the very definition of a Christmas “classic” — since it was first issued in 1967 it has never gone out of print, and the recording remains the number-one choice for brass-styled Christmas music played in shopping malls throughout the United States during the holiday season. This album by the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble contains 25 traditional carols that are arranged in a colorful but no-nonsense fashion. To vary the sound, the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble makes use of differing instrumental combinations between the various players, even within a carol, in addition to a sparing but tasteful application of mutes. As opposed to merely getting through a carol without mistakes and to everyone’s satisfaction, the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble takes the time to arrive at a blend of sound and work together on trying to make it as beautiful as possible, and it shows. CBS’ analog recording, though well nigh approaching the age of 40 years, is bright, spacious, clear, and not dated.


The Philadelphia Brass Ensemble was a leaderless group drawn from the brass section of the Philadelphia Orchestra. During this time conductor Eugene Ormandy had the Philadelphia Orchestra extremely busy in the recording studios, waxing practically the entire major orchestral literature for CBS Masterworks. Once in awhile the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble would get a chance to do something on its own, as long as Ormandy was aware of it and got a piece of the action. Ironically, A Festival of Carols in Brass has outsold practically all of the regular orchestral recordings made by the Philadelphia Orchestra in the 1960s. (by Uncle Dave Lewis)

What a great sound … one of the finest christmas albums this year !


Gilbert Johnson (trumpet)
Mason Jones (french horn)
Donald McComas (trumpet)
Peter James Krill (tuba)
Nolan Miller (french horn)
Seymour Rosenfeld (trumpet)
Joseph Scanella (trumpet)
Henry Charles Smith (trombone)
M. Dee Stewart (euphonium)
Abe Torchinsky (tuba)


01. Deck the Halls (Welsh) (Traditional) 1.06
02.  Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming (Traditional) 2.17
03. Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabella (Traditional) 0.47
04. The First Nowell (Traditional) 2.19
05. Angels We Have Heard On High (Traditional) 1.38
06. We Three Kings Of Orient Are (Hopkins, Jr.) 1.22
07. O Come, All Ye Faithful (Adeste fidelis) (Oakeley/Wade) 1.34
08. O Sanctissima (Traditional) 1.58
09. O Tannenbaum (Traditional) 1.18
10.  O come, O come, Emmanuel (Neale/Traditional) 1.40
11. Good King Wenceslas (Neale/Traditional) 1.16
12. Silent Night (Gruber) 2.26
13. Joy To The World (HändelMason/Watts) 1.12
14. The Twelve Days Of Christmas (Traditional) 3.48
15. Coventry Carol (Traditional) 1.21
16. God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen (Traditional) 1.09
17. Hark! the Herald Angels Sing (Cummings/Mendelssohn/Wesley) 1.37
18. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear (Sears/Willis) 1.25
19. Good Christian Men, Rejoice (Traditional) 0.41
20. O Holy Night (Adam) 2.36
21. What Child Is This? (Greensleeves) (Traditional) 1.46
22. Wassail Song (Traditional) 1.07
23. O Little Town Of Bethlehem (Brooks/Davies/Redner) 1.43
24. Away In A Manger (Traditional) 2.28
25. We Wish You a Merry Christmas (Traditional) 1.00



Etta James – 12 Songs Of Christmas (1998)

CDFrontCover112 Songs of Christmas is a holiday album by American singer Etta James, released in October 1998 through the record label Private Music. The album, produced by John Snyder, features standards arranged mostly by pianist Cedar Walton and solos by Walton, George Bohanon on trombone and Red Holloway on tenor saxophone. Critical reception of the album was positive overall. Following its release, 12 Songs reached a peak position of number five on Billboard’s Top Blues Albums chart.

12 Songs of Christmas consists of twelve standard holiday songs with arrangements mostly by pianist Cedar Walton and solos by Walton, George Bohanon on trombone and Red Holloway on tenor saxophone. The album combines James’ blues style with a jazz sound. 12 Songs, recorded during May and June 1998, was produced by John Snyder with Lupe DeLeon serving as executive producer.

The album opens with “Winter Wonderland”, originally by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith, followed by James Pierpont’s “Jingle Bells”. A “bluesy” rendition of Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore’s “Merry Christmas, Baby” trails “This Time of Year” (Hollis, Owens).[5] Other holiday standards appearing on the album include: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (Ralph Blane, Hugh Martin), John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”, and “White Christmas”, originally by Irving Berlin. “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)”, originally by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells, “The Little Drummer Boy (Carol of the Drum)” (Katherine Kennicott Davis, Henry Onorati, Harry Simeone), Franz Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr’s “Silent Night”, and “Joy to the World” (George Frideric Handel, Lowell Mason, Isaac Watts) follow. The album closes with a rendition of Adolphe Adam and John Sullivan Dwight’s “O Holy Night”.


Critical reception of the album was positive overall. Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote a positive review of the album, claiming that James turned standards into “suave after-hours jazz arrangements” that seemed “cozy and intimate”. He wrote that James was “surprisingly reverent” and sounded “downright devout” on “Joy to the World”.[3] Entertainment Weekly’s Matt Diehl felt that James’ performances brought both “sass and class” and “ooze[d] passionately with old-school soul”. David Hinckley of New York City’s Daily News awarded 12 Songs “two-and-a-half bells” out of four. Rolling Stone called 12 Songs a “tour de force of interpretive rethinking” with “scintillating, bluesy spins on Yuletide evergreens”. The Spartanburg Herald-Journal’s Dan DeLuca also complimented the set.

The album received some negative criticism. Larry Nager of The Cincinnati Enquirer awarded the album two out of four stars and wrote that James had the ability to make “the ultimate blue Christmas disc” but failed to do so. Nager complimented “Merry Christmas, Baby” but considered the performance to be a “rare bit of juke joint” among “supper club sounds” that left him “wanting more”. (by wikipedia)


George Bohanon (trombone)
Ronnie Buttacavoli (flugelhorn, trumpet)
John Clayton (bass)
Billy Higgins (drums)
Red Holloway (saxophone)
Etta James (vocals)
Sametto James (bass)
Josh Sklair (guitar)
John Snyder – producer
Cedar Walton (piano)


01. Winter Wonderland (Bernard/Smith) 4.27
02. Jingle Bells (Pierpont) 5.25
03. This Time Of Year (Hollis/Owens) 5.48
04. Merry Christmas, Baby (Baxter/Moore) 6.10
05. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (Blane/Martin) 4.45
06. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (Coots/Gillespie) 6.22
07. White Christmas (Berlin) 5.53
08. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) (Tormé/Wells) 4.24
09. The Little Drummer Boy (Carol Of The Drum) (Davis/Onorati/Simeone) 5.00
10. Silent Night (Gruber/Mohr) 4.50
11. Joy To The World (Händel/Mason/Watts) 5.31
12. O Holy Night (Adam/Dwight) 4.51




Helix – A Heavy Mental Christmas (2008)

FrontCover1.jpgA Heavy Mental Christmas is a CD released by heavy metal band Helix in 2008. It is Helix’ 11th full-length studio album and 20th album released overall. It is a Christmas album featuring both standards and original music. It was released in Walmart stores in Canada in October 2008 through Universal Music and GBS Records. /by wikipedia)

Ahh, Christmas albums by rock bands! To me, the current wave all started with Trans-Siberian Orchestra. However, it is undeniable that Twisted Sister’s version of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” also changed the playing field, giving them their biggest hit in decades. It meant that any metal band could record Christmas songs now.

So Helix’ Brian Vollmer, no stranger to Christmas music (check out his Raising The Roof on Mary Immaculate disc) decided to record some Helix versions in that hot summer of August 2008. Yes, Christmas music is often recorded in summertime — that’s how they get it on the shelves for December. The effect this has on the music is worth questioning. It must be hard getting inspired to go caroling when it’s beach weather.


A Heavy Mental Christmas is not a bad Christmas album if you’re a metal fan. I wouldn’t nessesarily play this for grandma, but for people who already enjoy metal versions of Christmas songs, it’s a good listen. It’s not really my thing, personally. I loathe Christmas music in general (too many years working retail) and metal versions are not something I really get into. Having said that, with Vollmer’s excellent delivery here, these songs do shine. They are enjoyable, the band is in top shape, and all the songs are classics or traditionals except one original, “Christmas Time Is Here Again” by Brian’s friend and collaborator Steve Georgakopoulos. (Obviously, this isn’t the Beatles song “Christmas Time Is Here Again”.) Like some other Helix albums, this one clocks in at under 30 minutes, so be aware. Only one song clocks in over 3 minutes.

The Helix band pictured on the sleeve is not entirely the band playing on the CD. Drummer Brent “Ned” Neimi, bassist Paul Fonseca, and guitarist Rick VanDyk (ex-Zero Option) are present, but long-timer guitarist Jim Lawson is not. (He lived in Sudbury, far from the London recording studio where this was made.) Instead you will find the wonderful guitar stylings of the aforementioned Steve Georgakopoulos (say that five times really fast), who played Ace Frehley in the London-based KISS tribute band Alive. Steve also played guitar on the previous Helix album, the excellent Power Of Rock And Roll, although he has never been an official member of the band. Either way, he’s a great writer and player, and he does have a Frehley-like vibe to his shredding.


Highlights: The slick metal blues of “A Wonderful Christmas Time”. The Lennon classic “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” which to me is kind of sacred territory. It’s hard to sing a song that John Lennon made famous, but Vollmer does so successfully. And then there’s the original tune, “Christmas Time Is Here Again” which is really just a vintage Helix rocker with Christmas lyrics. Musically it could have been on Long Way to Heaven, but there’s no mistaking the lyrics. “Santa’s coming to the show!” announces Brian.

So, to sum up:

I loathe Christmas music,
but I love Helix,
and this is still a pretty good album.

I think rock fans out there will like it a lot. The running time doesn’t bother me personally, as the album does not overstay its welcome and I have paid more money for less music before. If you’re a Helix fan, this album is a must to have. It’s just fun, and it has balls. It was somewhat of a landmark for them, while it is only their 11th studio album, it was their 20th official release overall, and certainly that is worth celebrating.

If you want more Helix Christmas tunes, check out their 7″ single for “All I Want For Christmas is the Leafs to Win the Cup”. (by

And I add this rare and very special christmas single as a bonus.


Rick van Dyk (guitar, background vocals)
Paul Fonseca (bass, background vocals)
Steve Georgakopoulos (guitar)
Brent “Ned” Neimi (drums, background vocals)
Brian Vollmer (lead vocals)
Aaron Murray (keyboards on 08.)
background vocals:
Doug Weir – Gord Prior


01. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (May/Marks) 2.37
02. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree (Marks) 1.59
03. Santa Claus Is Back In Town (Leiber/Stoller) 2.24
04. A Wonderful Christmas Time (McCartney) 2.36
05. Jingle Bell Rock (Beal/Boothe) 1.57
06. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (Lennon/Ono) 2.54
07. Sock It to Me Santa (Honaker/Lagassa) 2.18
08. Jingle Bells (Pierpoint) 2.38
09. Silent Night (Gruber/Mohr) 2.59
10. Christmas Time Is Here Again (Georgakopoulos/Prior/Vollmer) 3.08
11. All I Want For Christmas Is The Leafs To Win The Cup (Vollmer/Kelly) 2.38




Mighty Blue Kings – The Christmas Album (2000)

FrontCover1.jpgThe Mighty Blue Kings is a Chicago jump blues band, formed in 1995.

Ross Bon was part of the Chicago music scene beginning in 1992 as a harmonica player and vocalist. He recorded with artists such as Willie “Big” Smith, Buddy Scott, Pinetop Perkins, Junior Wells, Dave Specter, James Cotton and Kim Wilson.

In 1995, he joined with guitarist Gareth Best, bassist Jimmy Sutton, drummer Bob Carter, pianist Donny Nichilo and saxophonists Samuel Burckhardt and Jerry DeVivo to form the Mighty Blue Kings. They made their debut performance opening for the late Junior Wells at Buddy Guy’s legends in Chicago; and followed up with a weekly residence at Chicago jazz club The Green Mill. Later, the band toured the US.

The band’s lineup for their 1997 release, Come One, Come All, consisted of Bon, Best, DeVivo on drums, bassist Brett Simons, keyboardist Simon Sweet and saxophonists Jonathan Doyle and Mark Colby.

The band released two studio albums, Meet Me In Uptown (1995), and Come One, Come All (R-Jay Records). Together, they sold over 100,000 copies, with the latter having debuted in the top ten on Billboard’s Blues Album chart. They subsequently released three additional albums, Live From Chicago, (reaching #14 on Billboard’s Blues Album charts), the holiday record, The Christmas Album and Alive In The City.


The Mighty Blue Kings disbanded around 2001. In early 2010 Ross Bon formed a new band under the name, Ross Bon & The Mighty Blue Kings. (bby wikipedia)

This album was released at Christmas, 2000 (just around the time the lounge music scene was about dead in popularity). It focuses more on the blues than the lounge. What you get is a respectable Christmas CD that’s very good to listen to.

My favorite tracks on this album include “Christmas Time”, “Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday”, and “All I Ask For Christmas”. However, the standout track is their version of “White Christmas”. Irving Berlin never liked rock bands to perform his signature song (just ask Elvis). But if he heard this version (think a softer Otis Redding version), Berlin might have changed his mind. (by christmasyuleblog.blogspot)


Gareth Best (guitar)
Samuel Burckhardt (saxophone)
Ross Bon (vocals, harmonica)
Bob Carter (drums)
Mark Colby (saxophone)
Jonathan Doyle (saxophone)
Donny Nichilo (piano)
Brett Simons (bass)
Jimmy Sutton (bass)
Simon Sweet (keyboards)
Jerry DeVivo (saxophone, drums)


01. Christmas Time (Mendelson/Guaraldi) 2.32
02. Jingle Bells (Pierpont) 3.43
03. Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday (Jones/Bell) 3.41
04. Just To Be With You (Kalfin) 4.55
05. Good Morning Blues (Leadbelly) 3.21
06. White Christmas (Berlin) 3.24
07. All I Ask For Christmas (Bon) 2.55
08. Ole Santa (Otis) – 4:39
09. They Say It’s Christmas (Setzer) 3.18
10. I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm (Berlin) 3.46
11. Silent Night (Gruber/Mohr) 3.18



Oak Ridge Boys – Country Christmas Eve (1995)

FrontCover1.jpgThe Oak Ridge Boys are an American country and gospel vocal quartet. The group was founded in the 1940s as the Oak Ridge Quartet. They became popular in southern gospel during the 1950s. Their name was changed to the Oak Ridge Boys in the early 1960s, and they remained a gospel group until the mid-1970s, when they changed their image and concentrated on country music.

The lineup which produced their most well-known country and crossover hits (such as “Elvira” (1981), “Bobbie Sue” (1982), and “American Made” consists of Duane Allen (lead), Joe Bonsall (tenor), William Lee Golden (baritone), and Richard Sterban (bass). Golden and Allen joined the group in the mid-1960s, and Sterban and Bonsall joined in the early 1970s. Aside from an eight-year gap (1987–95) when Golden left the group and was replaced, this lineup has been together since 1973 and continues to tour and record. (by wikipedia)


The Oaks’ gospel roots come back into focus on Country Christmas Eve, a ho-hum collection of contemporary and traditional holiday songs both secular and spiritual in origin. In addition to renditions of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and the “Manger Medley” (which brings together “The First Noel,” “Joy to the World,” and “Angels We Have Heard on High”), the group also tackles more modern material like “Blue Christmas” and “Daddy’s Christmas Eve,” authored by Oak Ridge Boy Joe Bonsall. Country Christmas Eve also features their 1982 hit “Thank God for Kids.” (by Jason Ankeny)

And: Listen to “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” … one of the finest version of this old christmas tune, including a real hot saxophone solo !



Duane Allen (lead vocals)
Joe Bonsall (tenor)
William Lee Golden (baritone)
Richard Sterban (bass)
Larry Byrom (guitar)
Dewey Dorough (saxophone)
Mitch Humphries (piano)
David Hungate (bass)
Richard Landis (percussion)
Paul Leim (drums)
Carl Marsh (synthesizer)
Steve Nathan (keyboards)
Billy Joe Walker jr. (guitar)
background vocals:
Curtis Young – Dennis Wilson – Jim Ferguson


01. Pretty Litle Baby Child (B.Rice/Jarvis/S.Rice) 3.40
02. Blue Christmas (Hayes/Johnson) 2.52
03. Manger Medley (Traditional) 3.53
04. Mrs. Santa Claus (Ewing) 2.37
05. Daddy’s Christmas Eve (Bonsall) 2.24
06. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (Gillespie/Coots) 3.45
07. I’ll Be Home For Christmas (Ram/Gannon/Kent) 3.20
08. Thank God For Kids (Raven) 1.44
09. O Little Town Of Bethlehem (Traditional) 2.49
10. Jesus Is Born Today (Bunch) 3.44




The Oak Ridge Boys in 2018

Joe Bonamassa – Rockin’ Christmas Blues (2016)

FrontCover1.jpgThis is a very special christmas album. because it´s a self-released mp3 album by blue guitrplayer Joe Bonamassa, distrubted via facebook and his newsletter (# 51/2016):

I really look forward to the holiday season each year. The precious family time, the tightly wrapped presents, the glistening white snow – ok, no glistening white snow for me anymore, I’m in Florida now. And holiday time means holiday tunes, usually starting in about October these days. But if you’re like me, you’re just a little bit tired of hearing the same holiday jingles over and over again each year. Of course, there’s something fun about the first time you hear “Winter Wonderland” and “The Christmas Song” coming through that department store’s speakers. After all, who doesn’t love the holidays? And by Thanksgiving, I’m already pulling out my copy of Jewel’s first Christmas album – that can be our little secret, by the way. But you and me – deep down we’re blues fans, and after a few weeks of the novelty of Christmas music starts to wear off like yesterday’s aftershave, we’re ready to get back to our musical roots. (by Joe Bonamassa)

And so this is a nice addition to every serious Joe Bonamassa collection … christmas tunes in his very special way of playing the guitar !


Joe Bonamasse (guitar, vocals)
a bunch of unknown studio musicians


01. Merry Christmas, Baby (Baxter/Moore) 4.46
02. Bring Back My Cadillac (Bonamassa) 3.35
03. Christmas Boogie (One Little Kiss) (Bonamassa) 6.52
04. Christmas Date Blues (Turner) 2.31
05. O Holy Night (Adam) 4.05
06. Lonesome Christmas (Glenn) 3.27
07. Santa Claus Is Back In Town (Leiber/Stoller) 2.29



Odetta – Christmas Spirituals (1960)

FrontCover1.jpgChristmas Spirituals is the name of two albums recorded by the American folk singer Odetta. The first was released in 1960 on Vanguard Records.

Odetta’s husky voice is often stunning, both in her a cappella performances and her songs with accompaniment. She says these songs are traditional spirituals, neither purely African nor American, but songs that emerged from the sufferings of slavery. Powerful stuff. (by Dennis MacDonald)

Odetta is an artist whose career really thumbs its nose to all cultural essentialists out there. Born in the American South, grown up in California, yet with a fan base mosly in the North-East. Trained as a contralto opera singer in the Marian Anderson mould – that vibrato could come from nowhere else – yet ending up in folk music, a genre obsessed with vocal simplicity. A proud sophisticate in a movement where African-Americans were almost universally coerced into fake primitiveness. A world-wide star with a huge black middle-class fanbase (Rosa Parks was supposedly her “number one fan”) singing in a genre constructed afterwards as particularly white-oriented. Odetta, through sheer force of will, defied easy categorisation.

When she tackles the treasury of African-American Christmas spirituals it sounds nothing like anyone else, such is her power. At its best, it’s equally far from the musical theatre operatics of Marian Anderson as it from traditionally sung spiritual styles. Accompanied by nothing more than double bass – sometimes bowed – and on most songs by an acoustic guitar, her voice veers through an impressive range of pitches and expressions. She sounds like an opera singer one moment, a gospel singer the next, a folk-pop singer sometimes, conciously evading settling in either.


Consistently, Odetta has a distinct, distinguished calm. In a way, it’s easy to see why Martin Luther King praised her above almost all other artists; their vocal convictions are similar, though filtered though entirely different prosody. She delivers Christmas music as though it were a political speech. And perhaps these songs, once sung in covert resistence to oppression, are entirely suitable to being sung that way.

Odetta renders classics like “Go Tell it On The Mountain” entirely unlike anyone else. And yet, it all sounds completely natural, as if these songs were made to sound like this, through perfect conviction. It’s an exhilirating experience. (by Johan Palme)

Odetta Gordon recorded this collection of songs in 1960, and at the time it was touted as recordings of “traditional negro spirituals,” but in the liner notes she said that they were Christmas spirituals that “…could not have happened in Africa alone, or in the United States alone. They are the result of the experience of slavery.” Her throaty voice carries both the weight of oppression and the heavy, reverent love for the birth of Jesus Christ. Her rich and emotional vocals are accompanied by sparse bass and percussion. (by Eric Shea)

AlternateFrontCovers.jpgAlternate frontcovers

Bill Lee (bass)
Odetta (vocals, guitar)


01. Rise up, Shepherd, And Follow 1.42
02. What Month Was Jesus Born In? 2.25
03. Mary Had A Baby 1.50
04. Somebody Talking ‘Bout Jesus 2.03
05. Virgin Mary Had One Son 3.07
06. Go Tell It On The Mountain 2.30
07. Shout For Joy 1.57
08. Poor Little Jesus 2.49
09. O Jerusalem 3.15
10. Ain’t That A-Rockin’ 2.01
11. If Anybody Asks You 2.53
12. Beautiful Star 2.46
13. Children Go Where I Send Thee 1.59

All songs: Traditional



Odetta Holmes (December 31, 1930 – December 2, 2008)

The English Concert (Trevor Pinnock) – Baroque Christmas Concertos (1991)

FrontCover1.jpgFor people who just can’t bear to listen to another Christmas carol, this is the album. Completely instrumental, this is early music written with Christmas in mind, but it is in no way recognizable as Christmas music. These little heard pieces are brilliantly conducted and performed (as always) by Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert. I heard tracks 5 & 6 on the radio a few weeks before Christmas, when my spirits were suffering an uncharacteristic low, and found myself so completely moved by the beauty them, I had to have thos album. I didn’t know what the other pieces would be like, but they all turned out to be perfection. Each selection is just the right amount of colour and flourish, moving from lovely largos to vivd vivaces without ever leaving the listener reaching to turn the volume down or off. I found the entire “1 hour plus” album thoroughly uplifting and easy to get lost in. And best of all, I finally have an album that expresses musically how I feel about Christmas, that doesn’t irritate anyone (including me).  What more can you ask?! (by The Daily Prophet)

Trevor David Pinnock CBE (born 16 December 1946) is an English harpsichordist and conductor.

He is best known for his association with the period-performance orchestra The English Concert which he helped found and directed from the keyboard for over 30 years in baroque and early classical music. He is a former artistic director of Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra and founded The Classical Band in New York.


Since his resignation from The English Concert in 2003, Pinnock has continued his career as a conductor, appearing with major orchestras and opera companies around the world. He has also performed and recorded as a harpsichordist in solo and chamber music and conducted and otherwise trained student groups at conservatoires. Trevor Pinnock won a Gramophone Award for his recording of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos with the European Brandenburg Ensemble, an occasional orchestra formed to mark his 60th birthday. (by wikipedia)

Enjoy these Baroque Christmas Concertos, composed in long forgotten centuries !



The English Concert conducted by Trevor Pinnock):

Rupert Bawden (viola)
Mark Bennett (trumpet)
Julia Bishop (violin)
Mark Caudle (violin)
Paula Chateauneuf (theorbo)
Nicola Cleminson (violin)
Lisa Cochrane (viola)
Jane Coe (cello)
Micaela Comberti (violin)
Graham Cracknell (violin)
Richard Earle (oboe)
Miles Golding (violin)
Paul Goodwin (oboe)
Alberto Grazzi (bassoon)
Peter Hanson (violin)
Michael Harrison (trumpet)
Peter Holtslag (recorder)
Fiona Huggett (violin)
Trevor Jones (viola)
Timothy Kraemer (cello)
Catherine Latham (recorder)
Jaap ter Linden (cello)
Amanda MacNamara (bass)
Rebecca Miles (recorder)
Alastair Mitchell (bassoon)
Diane Moore (violin)
Pauline Nobes (violin)
Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord, organ)
Christopher Poffley (violin)
Walter Reiter (violin)
Anthony Robson (oboe)
Jane Rogers (viola)
Clare Salaman (violin)
Simon Standage (violin)
John Toll (organ)
Frances Turner (violin)
Richard Webb (cello)
Lorraine Wood (oboe)



Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704): Nońls sur instruments, H 531, 534:
01. Vous qui desirez sans fin 2.13
02. A la venue de Noel 0.59
03. Or nous dites, Marie 2.22
04. Ou s’en vont ces gais bergers? 1.33

Johann Melchior Molter (1695-1765): Concerto pastorale in G major
05. Larghetto. Allegro e forte (Larghetto) 4.48
06. Aria 2: Lento e sempre piano 2.01

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Concerto for 2 Trumpets in C major, RV 537:
07. Allegro 3.12
08. Largo 1.00
09. Allegro 3.13

Giuseppe Sammartini (1695-1750): 
10. Pastorale in G major from Concerto grosso op. 6 – Andante sostenuto 4.14

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767): Concerto polonois in G major
11. Dolce 2.00
12. Allegro 2.05
13. Largo 2.01
14. Allegro 1.34

Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759): Concerto a due cori in B flat major, HWV 332;
15. Ouverture 1.42
16. Allegro ma non troppo 2.22
17. Allegro 2.27
18. Largo 2.14
19. A tempo ordinario 1.36
20. Alla breve moderato 1.53
21. Minuet 2.47

Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713): Concerto grosso in G major, op. 6 no. 8 (“Christmas Concerto”):
22. Vivace Grave. Arcate, sostenuto e come sta 1.31
23. Allegro 2.01
24. Adagio – Allegro – Adagio 3.19
25. Vivace 1.00
26. Allegro 2.05
27. Largo. Pastorale ad libitum 4.07




The Gunter Kallmann Choir – Christmas Sing In (1970)

FrontCover1At first glance, the Gunter Kallmann Chorus looks like a German version of the Ray Conniff Singers, all clean cut and smiling as they heartily sing out their phonetically precise English lyrics to international pop hits (“Moore then the grate-hest laaf I giff to Hugh”). Then you notice something odd, some annoying, persistent ambient noise. Like some leftover from a bad dub. You check the stereo. Still there. What the hell is that? It never goes away. God, it’s irritating. So much for this record. As you slip it back into the sleeve your eye catches some fine print beneath the words, “Gunter Kallmann Chorus”: “with Orchestra and Bells.”

Yes, Gunter Kallmann has the bright idea to accompany his cheery singers with a string orchestra and an ensemble of bell ringers. Throughout every number, the bells tinkle away in harmony to the melody. They never go away. It is possibly the most consistently irritating sound in the archives of space age pop, like a mosquito buzzing in your ear. Thousands of listeners in Germany and America must have liked it, because Gunter and his gang had several Top 10 hits in Germany, most notably “Elizabeth Serenade,” also known as “Serenade for Elizabeth.”

Hot on the heels of Horst Jankowski’s international success with “A Walk in the Black Forest,” Kapp Records when looking for a Horst sound-alike and snatched up the next German choral/instrumental group that was lying around without an American distribution contract. They didn’t have quite the same level of success as Mercury did with Jankowski, but somebody must have bought the records, because Kapp went on to release at least nine albums between 1965 and 1970. (by


Frontcover from Spain

This album, in a nutshell, is an experience!

The chorus sings their heart out, complete with German accents and tones. In the middle of one medley, the chorus sings the soft, reverent tones of “Silent Night”, then burst into “Ding Dong Merrily On High” with all the force of an oompah band!

The orchestra swings, one moment lush and full of strings, then getting down and funky with the bassline coming across loud and clear. Throughout most of the album, the arrangements tend to favor the orchestra member on glockenspiel, chimes, or bells. It’s cute at times, annoying most of the time. By the end of the album, you want to shove those bells down someone throat.

The standout track is song number one – “We Wish You A Merry Christmas / Jingle Bells / Where Did My Snowman Go?”. “We Wish You” begins in a rather Teutonic way, then switches into smooth 70s mode. It then switches into a bells blazin’ version of “Jingle” only to be followed by a funky cover of “Where Did My Snowman”. It’s a mini opera and sets the tone for the rest of the album handsomely.

Other favorite tracks on this album include “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer / Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, “Once In Royal David’s City / The Holly And The Ivy” is an epic, “Happy Holiday / I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, and “Mistletoe And Holly / Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”. (by

And some tracks were arranged by Mike Vickers … oh yes, the guy who played for many years with Manfred Mann.


Alternate frontcover

The Gunter Kallmann Choir



01. Medley 01: (3:43)
01.1. We Wish You A Merry Christmas
01.2. Jingle Bells
01.3. Where Did My Snowman Go

02. Medley 02: (2:47)
02.1. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
02.2. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

03. Medley 03: (3:27)
03.01. The First Noel
03.02. Silent Night
03.03. Ding Dong Merrily On High

04. Medley 04: (2:54)
04.1. The Little Drummer Boy
04.2. December Dream

05. Medley 05: (3:23)
05.01. Winter Wonderland
05.02. The Season Of Winter

06. Medley 06: (2:50)
06.01. One In Royal David’s City
06.02. The Holly And The Ivy

07. Medley 07: (3:23)
07.01. While The Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night
07.02. Away In A Manger
07.03. Good King Wenceslas

08. Medley 08: (2:32)
08.01. Happy Holiday/
08.02. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

09. Medley 09: (3:07)
09.01. Little Donkey
09.02. Do You Hear What I Hear

10. Medley 10: (2:32)
10.1. Mistletoe And Holly
10..2. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

11. Medley 11: (2:59)
11.1. Christmas Alphabet
11.2. White Christmas

12. Medley 12: (4:32)
12.1. Oh Come All Ye Faithful
12.2. God Rest Ye
12.3. Hark The Herald Angels Sing




Various Artists – Blues, Blues Christmas Vol. 1 – 1925 – 1955 (2005)

FrontCover1.jpgThe idea of Christmas themed blues and gospel numbers stretches back to the very dawn of the recorded genres. “Hooray for Christmas” exclaims Bessie Smith to kick off her soon to be classic “At The Christmas Ball”, which inaugurated the Christmas blues tradition when it was recorded in November 1925 for Columbia. A year later, circa December 1926, the gospel Christmas tradition was launched when the Elkins-Payne Jubilee Singers recorded “Silent Night, Holy Night” for Paramount Records. After these recordings it was off to the races with numerous Christmas blues numbers recorded by singers of all stripes, a pace that continued as blues evolved into R&B and then rock and roll. For some reason there’s far fewer gospel Christmas songs although there were plenty of Christmas sermons in the 1920’s and 1930’s when recorded sermons rivalled blues in popularity among black audiences.

Going hand in hand with Christmas is quite a number of New Year’s songs, a good vehicle for juxtaposing the problems of the past year with the glimmer of hope that the upcoming year will bring better fortune. Whether these artists sung these numbers as part of their regular repertoire is unclear but it’s almost certainly the case that many of Illustrations01.jpgthese songs were recorded at the prompting of the record companies. Like any business they were always looking for a new angle or gimmick to sell records and advertised these boldly, often with full-page ads, in black newspapers like the Chicago Defender.

Perhaps you think this is a bit cynical but then you probably still believe in Santa Clause and good will towards men! Well, sit back, tip a glass of holiday cheer and enjoy our survey of yuletide classics spanning the 1920’s through the 1950’s, a simpler, more wholesome time – right! (by

Christmas and the blues might seem at first like a strange combination, given that the music of the holiday season is usually joyful, hopeful, and bright, but no other time of the year is so good at showing you what you don’t have, and what you can’t get, and if you have the blues at Christmas, well, it’s going to be a pretty heavy dose. This generous two-disc set from Document Records features 52 tracks of vintage African-American Christmas-themed blues and gospel pieces (with a couple of street sermons thrown in) recorded between 1925 and 1955, ranging from down-and-out laments and jailhouse moans to surprising (and occasionally risqué) requests for what Santa can bring down the chimney. Highlights on the first disc include the opening track, the joyous “Christ Was Born on Christmas Morn,” recorded in 1925 by comedian and female impersonator Frankie “Half Pint” Jaxon; Harry Crafton’s “Bring That Cadillac Back” (a Cadillac might not be the best gift if your girlfriend likes to ramble) from 1947; Tampa Red’s amazing, Illustrations02.jpgringing slide guitar tone on “Christmas and New Year’s Blues” from 1936; and the bizarre, disturbing field recording of “Junior’s a Jap Girl’s Christmas for His Santa Claus,” sung by Willie Blackwell for Alan Lomax in Arkansas in 1942. Other high points include the charming “Christmas Boogie,” recorded in 1950 by piano prodigy (he was only ten years old when this recording was made) Frankie “Sugar Chile” Robinson and the intense, bottled-up street-corner sermon “The Wrong Way to Celebrate Xmas,” recorded by Rev. Edward Clayborn in 1928. The second disc yields even more holiday gems, including the bottleneck guitar attack of Black Ace (Babe Karo Lemon Turner) on 1937’s “Christmas Time Blues (Beggin’ Santa Claus)”; Leroy Carr’s stark and brilliant “Christmas in Jail” from 1929; a breezy, bouncing “When Jesus Was Born” by gospel harmony quartet the Sons of Heaven (who were really the Selah Jubilee Singers doing a little moonlighting — which they did often, also recording as the Jubilators, the Southern Harmonaires, and the Larks) from 1948; and the sparse, stunning “Christmas Time Blues” by the mysterious Boll Weavil (Willie McNeil), also from 1948. A marvelous collection, Blues, Blues Christmas is a refreshing addition to the more standard holiday material that prevails during the season. (by Steve Leggett)


see booklet


CD 1:
01. Frankie ‘Half-Pint’ Jaxon: Christ Was Born On Christmas Morn 3.25
02. Titus Turner: Christmas Morning Blues 2.31
03. The Cats & The Fiddle: Hep Cat’s Holiday 2.31
04. Ralph Willis: Christmas Blues 2.36
05. Willie Blackwell: Junior’s A Jap Girl’s Christmas For His Santa Claus 4.55
06. Butterbeans & Susie: Papa Ain’t No Santa Claus (And Mama Ain’t No Christmas Tree) 3.16
07. Jimmy Butler: Trim Your Tree 1.54
08. Gatemouth Moore: Christmas Blues 2.54
09. Harry Crafton with Doc Bagby Orchestra: Bring That Cadillac Back 2.38
10. Bertha ‘Chippie’ Hill: Christmas Man Blues 2.57
11. Cecil Gant: Hello Santa Claus 2.52
12. Bumble Bee Slim: Christmas And No Santa Claus 3.04
13. Felix Gross: Love For Christmas 2.35
14. Lonnie Johnson: Happy New Year Darling 2.36
15. Tampa Red: Christmas & New Year’s Blues 3.22
16. Amos Milburn: Let’s Make Christmas Merry, Baby 2.52
17. Julie Lee & Her Boyfriends: Christmas Spirit 2.45
18. Bessie Smith: At The Christmas Ball 3.23
19. Rev. A. W. Nix: How Will You Spend Christmas 3.20
20. Harmon Ray: Xmas Blues 2.40
21. Jimmy Witherspoon: How I Hate To See Xmas Come Around 3.01
22. Joe Turner With Pete Johnson & His Orchestra: Christmas Date Boogie 2.32
23. Sugar Chile Robinson: Christmas Boogie 2.12
24. Leadbelly: The Christmas Song 2.41
25. Lighnin’ Hopkins: Happy New Year 3.12
26. Rev. Edward Clayborn: The Wrong Way To Celebrate Xmas 2.25

CD 2:
01. Bo Carter: Santa Claus 3.12
02. Black Ace: Christmas Time Blues (Beggin’ Santa Claus) 2,.44
03. Mary Harris: Happy New Year Blues 3.08
04. Charlie Jordan: Christmas Christmas Blues 3.23
05. Johnny Otis Orchestra: Happy New Year, Baby 2.43
06. Little Esther & Mel Walker With Johnny Otis: Faraway Christmas Blues 3.18
07. Sonny Boy Williamson I: Christmas Morning Blues 3.22
08. Leroy Carr: Christmas In Jail 3.10
09. Kansas City Kitty: Christmas Mornin’ Blues 3.08
10. Rev. J.M. Gates: Did You Spend Christmas Day In Jail 2.52
11. Rev. J.M. Gates: Death Might Be Your Santa Claus 2.59
12. Blind Lemon Jefferson: Happy New Year Blues 2.53
13. Smokey Hogg: New Year’s Eve Blues 2.40
14. Larry Darnell: Christmas Blues 2.52
15. Sons Of Heaven: When Was Jesus Born 2.39
16. J.B. Summers With Doc Bagby’s Orchestra: I Want A Present For Christmas 2.28
17. Sonny Parker With Lionel Hampton Orchestra: Boogie Woogie Santa Claus 2.41
18. Roy Milton Solid Serenaders: New Year’s Resolution Blues 2.27
19. Sonny Boy Williamson II & His Harmonica & Houserockers: Sonny Boy’s Christmas Blues 2.32
20. Roosevelt Sykes: Let Me Hang My Stockings In Your Christmas Tree 2.53
21. Elzadie Robinson: The Santa Claus Crave 3.18
22. Walter Davis: Santa Claus 3.00
23. Victoria Spivey: Christmas Morning Blues 3.24
24. Boll Weevil: Christmas Time Blues 3.09
25. Floyd Dixon: Empty Stocking Blues 3.01
26. Mabel Scott With Les Welch & His Orchestra: Boogie Woogie Santa Claus 2.13