Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Friday, 3 February 2017


As I've mentioned before, I don't always have the patience to look through boxes of 7" singles, but when albums are thin on the ground I sometimes have a rummage, and somehow over the past 12 months I've amassed quite a few.  Here's a somewhat random selection.

Bought for 50p at a car boot sale last August was this well-known record from British vocal trio The Avons.

The Avons - Seven Little Girls Sitting In The Back Seat b/w Alone At Eight (1959)

After an inauspicious start, sister-in-law duo The Avon Sisters (stepsisters Valerie and Elaine Murtagh) dropped the "Sister" part of their name and teamed up with singer Ray Adams.  Seven Little Girls Sitting In The Back Seat was their debut single and their biggest hit, topping out at no.3 in the UK.  The song was first recorded earlier that year by US singer Paul Evans, who took it to no.9 in his home country.

I'm very fond of this cheeky but wholesome pop song about a frustrated motorist (driving what must be a fair sized vehicle considering the passenger load) and his polyamorous pal, especially the pleasing "de-doody-doom-doom" backing vox.

From the same seller and also costing 50p was another old favourite on Columbia, this time from Bobby Vinton.

Bobby Vinton - Blue Velvet b/w Is There A Place (Where I Can Go) (1963)

Blue Velvet was a top 20 hit for Tony Bennett in 1951, then The Clovers in 1955 and The Statues in '59.  Vinton had the most success with it, his piningly nostalgic rendition bagging two weeks at the top spot in the US in 1963.  Although it didn't dent the UK chart, it eventually achieved a no.2 placing in 1990 when it was re-released, four years after it had been heavily featured in David Lynch's noir of the same name inspired by the song.  The most recent version was Lana Del Ray's brooding interpretation, used in a TV ad for H&M in 2012.

Car boot season isn't up and running in my part of the world just yet, so I've been relying on the local charity shops for second hand music fixes.  This has meant mostly CDs, but a couple of weeks ago I bought the first lot of chazza vinyl of 2017; a handful of 50p singles including this on Disques Vogue from Pet Clark.

Petula Clark - Il Faut Revenir (You'd Better Come Home) b/w Un Jeun Home Bien (1965)

Founded in 1947, Disques Vogue began by releasing jazz by American and French artists, expanding into pop towards the end of the '50s.  Petula Clark signed with the label in 1957 and started having French-language hits in Europe as well as continuing to chart at home in the UK on Pye Records with songs sung in English.  She also recorded material in Italian, Spanish and German, and her worldwide smash Downtown was released in four different languages.

Il Faut Revenir (You'd Better Come Home) came out in 1965, and the b-side is a very tasty French-language cover of A Well Respected Man by label-mates the Kinks.  This cover was also released as an a-side the same year on the Vogue Productions imprint, with a song called Las Vegas on the flip.

Also on Disques Vogue is this by François Hardy, bought at a boot sale last summer (another 50p-er).

François Hardy - Si C'est Ca b/w Je Serai La Pour Toi (1966)

Parisienne swoon-inducing pop singer Hardy joined Vogue in 1961, and like Clark sings in Italian and German as well as French and English.  This single (the titles translate as If This Is It and I'll Be There For You) was a British release, made in England and distributed by Pye.  Both sides are lovely; Si C'est Ca features just minimal guitar behind Hardy's enchanting vocal, but the slightly more produced b-side Je Serai La Pour Toi just edges it for me.

Pye's association with Disques Vogue meant that they put out this next single on both imprints.  I bought a copy in a local E.A.C.H. (East Anglian Children's Hospice) shop at the very end of December last year for a pound.  (Sadly mine is the UK Pye version, not the rather sought-after French release.)

The Honeycombs - Have I The Right? b/w Please Don't Pretend Again (1964)

The Honeycombs were a squareish sixties London beat group, and were unusual for their time in having a female drummer; Ann 'Honey' Lantree, an ex-salon assistant to founding member and former hairdresser Martin Murray (rhythm guitar).  Have I The Right? was written by Ken Howard and Alan Blaikely, who'd later go on to write for many other artists, including Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky Mick & Tich, Pet Clark, Lulu and, er, Rolf Harris.  Produced by Joe Meek, the thumping beat of HITR? was bolstered by band members stomping on the stairs to the studio, to which Meek had attached a series of microphones using bicycle clips.  This beefy stomp plus the novelty of a big-haired girl drummer helped propel the single to the top of the charts in the UK plus three other countries, with worldwide sales estimated at a million.  Pye's canny practise of putting out multi-lingual releases was employed, with the German-language version reaching the same place in the German chart a month after the English original, and the label's penchant for artistic cross-pollination resulted in the band's fourth single being a cover of a Kinks song.  It was called Something Better Beginning, and it flopped.  Here they are with their smash hit to see us out.

You can keep up with all of my car boot and chazza finds by clicking the Twitter follow button at the top of the page, and hear me playing some of them on the all-vinyl cloudcast here:

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The good, the bad and the ugly

In the previous post on a Terence Trent D'Arby album I mentioned a hot August day last year when I returned home from a boot sale with quite a large haul of records, including several 78rpm singles.  Due to their age these are often the most interesting kind of car boot record, not only giving us an idea of the musical trends of their time, but also social mores and popular attitudes.  I bought ten in all on that sunny Sunday, and they cost 50p each.  Let's have a look at a few.

The oldest of the lot is a slightly strange-looking disc with a raised edge at the outer rim and a rather non-shellac feel to it.  It's also heavier than other 78s I've previously encountered.

Spot the odd one out.

The disc was produced by Zonophone Records in 1911 and is a double-sided reissue of two single-sided records originally released in 1905 and 1906, hence "The Twin" label.  At this time the recordings would have been made acoustically (i.e. into a horn), since electrical recording wasn't developed until the 1920s.

The Minster Singers - My Old Kentucky Home b/w De Ring Tailed Coon (1911)

Performed by a British quartet named The Minster Singers , Side 1 is a version of My Old Kentucky Home; an anti-slavery ballad written in the mid-1800s by American songwriter Stephen Foster.  Whereas My Old Kentucky Home is a song sympathetic to the abolitionist cause and has evolved into an important part of American culture, Side 2, De Ring Tailed Coon, is a different kettle of fish.

From around 1880 to 1920 the in US, and to a lesser extent the UK, there was a craze for what were known as "Coon songs".  Yikes.  These songs incorporated elements of ragtime and combined them with 'comedic' lyrics portraying very cartoonish stereotypes of African American people, often depicting them as lustful, lazy, dishonest and stupid with vices such as gambling and alcohol.  In the UK, white "coon imitators" would perform them at music halls, and when I say there was a craze, I mean that the songs were enormously popular with the public at large, with sheet music selling in the millions in the English-speaking world, and the language and imagery filtering into art, film, commerce and even nursery rhymes, before eventually (and thankfully) falling out of favour.  De Ring Tailed Coon is from the repertoire of Yorkshireman Alfred Scott-Gatty, who when he wasn't busy being an officer of arms spent his time as an amateur composer.  He wrote a couple of dozen of these "Plantation Songs" as he called them, and they were to become his most popular works.

Both sides of the Minster Singers record are sung in a terrible accent meant to imitate that of enslaved African Americans, although to my ears sound more like dodgy attempts at a Scots accent.  Here's a Youtube video I found of Side 2 playing on a gramophone. I'd like to think it was actually just a song about a racoon, but.... well, listen for yourself.

No less interesting but much more enjoyable to listen to are a pair of singles by Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark.

Dinah Shore and Buddy Clarke - Let's Do It b/w 'S Wonderful (1948)

Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark - My One And Only Highland Fling b/w
Baby It's Cold Outside (1949)

Dinah Shore
Tennessee native Dinah, born Frances Rose Shore, was a singer, actress and radio and television presenter whose recording career boasted 80 hits, mainly during the 1940s.

Her long career on the small screen included a 1970s daytime show that amongst the usual light entertainment and lifestyle guest stars also numbered the likes of Iggy Pop and David Bowie.

Here's slightly fuzzy clip of them both on her couch:

Buddy Clark
Born in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1912, Buddy Clark rose to fame as a popular singer, beginning like most stars of his era on the radio before moving on to a career shifting shellac. His biggest hit came in 1946 with Linda, a song written by Jack Lawrence at the request of showbiz lawyer Jack Eastman for his six year-old daughter, future Beatle-botherer and veggie sausage saleswoman.

The first disc I bought by this wholesome duo is a perky Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love) from the pen of Cole Porter, backed by a breezy rendition of the Gershwin standard 'S Wonderful.  The other is My One And Only Highland Fling, originally from the 1949 movie The Barkleys of Broadway.  Dinah and Buddy's version features a ropey Scots lilt from both, but not as toe-curlingly bad as those of Fred and Ginger in the film.  The flip is a charming rendition of Baby It's Cold Outside complete with sound effects of a chilly wind and slamming door.

The same year as this latter single was released, Clark was killed in a plane crash.  He was just 37.  During his very last radio broadcast he'd performed a comic rendition of Baby Face with the Andrews Sisters, entertaining them and the studio audience with his impersonation of Al Jolson.  Funnily enough, among this particular clutch of 78s bought last August were discs featuring both.

Al Jolson
Vaudeville singer and actor Al Jolson is perhaps best remembered for sometimes performing in blackface, a branch of minstrelsy with a complex history that played its part in the cementing of racial stereotypes as well as the popularisation of black culture.

He was born Asa Yoelson in 1886 in a small Jewish village in Lithuania, and after his mother died young he and his family emigrated to the USA where Al became a megastar of stage and screen.  In addition to his musical legacy he did tremendous work during WWII with the USO (of which he was a founder member), and despite his conservative leanings was a key player in the fight against racial discrimination via the promotion of black playwrights and actors on Broadway and in Hollywood.

The record of his I picked up features songs from the follow-up to his 1927 film The Jazz Singer; The Singing Fool.

Al Jolson - Sonny Boy b/w There's A Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder (1928)

Sonny Boy is a song of cloying sentimentality, which obviously had great appeal, since it sold a million copies and remained at the top of the US charts for twelve weeks.  My favourite use of the song is in the "Tuppy and the Terrier" episode of the Jeeves and Wooster TV series, where it's used to excruciating effect.

Here's the more chirpy flip side There's a Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder:

Like Jolson, The Andrews Sisters were of recent immigrant stock, their Greek father Anglicising the family name of Andreas upon his arrival in the USA.  The close harmony trio of LaVerne, Patty and Maxine sold countless millions of records in their time, and became forces sweethearts of WWII during which they entertained Allied forces on three continents with the USO.

The sisters recorded a total of 47 songs with Bing Crosby, including the pair on this car boot 78:

Bing  Crosby and The Andrews Sisters - Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?
b/w Quicksilver (1949)

Have I Told You Lately That I Love You? (not the Van Morrison single) was released in late 1949 and charted in January 1950, peaking at no. 24.  It was written by country artist Scotty Wiseman and later covered by the likes of Elvis, Eddie Cochran and Ringo Starr among dozens of others.  Its b-side Quicksilver is a lighthearted number about a fickle lover, and fared better, climbing to no. 6.  Doris Day also released a version the same year.

Here are Bing and the gals to see us out:

I hope you've enjoyed this peep into the past.  To keep up with my car boot and chazza finds in real time you can follow me on Twitter by clicking the button at the top of the page.  If you'd like to hear me giving some of them a spin go to the Car Boot Vinyl Diaries page on Mixcloud.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Neither Fish Nor Flesh

On one hot Sunday in the middle of August last year the first car boot sale I arrived at was heaving from beginning to end with vinyl and shellac to dig through.  I bought so many 45s, 78s, 12"s and LPs that I ran out of time, pennies and inclination to go on to the next port of call, and so returned home with a record bag bursting with 26 discs in all, plus a multi CD set in a faux LP sleeve.

Phew. 78s weigh a lot.

Amongst this heavy haul was Terence Trent D'Arby's 1989 album Neither Fish Nor Flesh, bought in excellent condition with the original booklet intact for £2.

Terence Trent D'Arby - Neither Fish Nor Flesh (1989)
Inside booklet, with rice paper pages.
Definitely looks like fish to me, Terence.

From rear of booklet.

Subtitled "A Soundtrack of Love, Faith, Hope and Destruction", this 2nd album from the Manhattan-born singer, songwriter and musician (now releasing music under the name Sananda Maitreya) followed 1987's multi-platinum "Introducing The Hardline According To...".  Unlike Hardline, NFNF tanked, peaking at no.12 on the UK album chart before dropping out entirely after just five weeks.  Lead single This Side of Love fared even worse, scraping into the Top 100 at just no.83.

It seems that a combination of ego and ambition scuppered the project, with D'Arby making wild proclamations both about himself and his latest work, with the latter sounding very different from the chart-friendly pop smashes that characterised his debut. Even today on his website Sananda makes outlandish claims, such as that NFNF was a "formative influence on both what subsequently became marketed as 'Hip Hop', as well as what was sold as 'Grunge'".

Maybe he truly believes this, but it's a huge shame that such posturing probably put a lot of fans off from buying what turns out to be a phenomenally good record; one that's perhaps borne of overindulgence and ego-led ambition, but succeeds in melding funk and R&B to catchy, psychedelic pop.  There's a huge cast of musicians, with D'Arby himself on a variety of instruments including Fender Rhodes, sitar, timpani, "scratching" and er, kazoo.  He's also credited with things like "Aural Manipulations" and "Sound Manifestations", not to mention the highly intriguing and un-Googlable "Other Phaqueries".  Hmm.

It starts quietly, the spoken-word Declaration: Neither Fish Nor Flesh giving way to the sparse but melodic I Have Faith In These Desolate Times, whose harp accompaniment by "The Lovely Helen Davies" (sleeve notes) in the first half is joined by Terence on bongos in the second, before an abrupt end.  After the eerie and equally sparse It Feels So Good To Love Someone Like You it's not until the middle of Side 1 that things really get going, with the sexy pop-soul of To Know Someone Deeply Is To Know Someone Softly when That Voice is finally unleashed; those sweet, silken tones hitting all the right buttons and delivering the most romantic and least pretentious lyrics on an album that has its fair share of cringeworthy couplets.

From here the tempo increases and the song titles become snappier, highlights being AIDS story Billy Don't Fall, its punchy percussion and whistling keyboard riff reminiscent of hit Wishing Well; the staccato funk of You Will Pay Tomorrow; and minor soul belter I'll Be Alright, with lyrical nods to Prince and the Beach Boys.

Towards the end of the album song titles stretch out again with a corresponding lowering of pace, firstly with powerful deep soul ballad I Don't Want To Bring Your Gods Down. Stax-y horns and D'Arby's full-throated wail contrast with an intermittent minor-key violin part; an unsettling but typical and effective TTD touch.  Closer ...And I Need To Be With Someone Tonight is a solo a cappella with layers of TTD harmony, engaging for the way in which he's clearly enjoying playing around with his voice, but spoiled somewhat by lyrics like the clunky, "Though apartheid's a greater issue, I long to hear "I miss you" ". Erk!

It's a damn shame that this album didn't sell well, and although D'Arby's posturing may have deterred potential buyers, the bigger factor may have been a lack of marketing push behind it due to the eccentric and ambitious nature of both the artist and his creation.  I only say this because after loving the debut, Neither Fish Nor Flesh seemed to entirely pass me by at the time, even though I eagerly bought the follow-up Symphony Or Damn. Perhaps if NFNF had contained a sure-fire 'hit' to promote as a single it would have done better.  Whatever the reasons, if you've not heard it I urge you to give it a whirl, in case like me it means you've been missing out on a massively enjoyable record all these years.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Car Boot Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 10

It's Day 10 of the 2016 Car Boot Christmas Countdown, which means it's also Christmas Eve, and today is the turn of the Christmas crooners.  Let's begin with the King Of Cool, and a record I nabbed for a pound at a car boot sale on this year's May Bank Holiday weekend.

The Dean Martin Christmas Album (1966)

The Dean Martin Christmas Album was Dino's second festive offering, the first being 1959's Winter Wonderland, which shares a few tracks including the tenuous inclusion of The Things We Did Last Summer.  Aside from this, many of the old chestnuts are here, such as a delightful Marshmallow World, a Blue Christmas to rival that of Elvis, and of course everyone's favourite, Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow, as so memorably used in Die Hard.

On the making of the album the sleeve notes state,
"'Twas the ninth of September, a very warm night, and we were in California.  And on this hot desert night, not a sleigh or a jingle bell in sight.... Dean Martin sauntered into his friendly neighbourhood recording studio and made himself an album of song. Christmas song."
His vocals must have been dubbed separately, as there are plenty of bells here, as well as tinkling xylophone, jaunty strings and sweet backing vocals.  The combination of these with Dino's laid back, nonchalant style results in a seemingly effortless, gently swinging, warm and breezy record that's completely uplifting and a joy from start to finish.

Less uplifting, despite the title, is A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra, which I bought for 50p in August 2015.

A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra (1957)

Alternative cover and title

First released in 1957, my copy is a slightly later US issue with Capitol's "rainbow" label.  Assisted by the "orchestra and chorus of Gordon Jenkins" (the chorus being the Ralph Brewster Singers), like many before and after him Frank brings us one side of popular Christmas songs and one of carols.

I found the album to be rather leaden and samey, and in particular Frank's delivery isn't suited to the carols, which for me fall flattest.  But as a nice bit of background music it's pleasant enough, and no doubt could act effectively as a soothing accompaniment to that post-Christmas dinner booze-snooze in the armchair.

In the '60s the album was briefly issued as "The Sinatra Christmas Album" with a different cover image.  When it was reissued on vinyl in 2010, the original title and artwork were restored.

Last but by no means least is A Jack Jones Christmas, which cost me a pound in March 2015.

A Jack Jones Christmas (1969)

Like Dean Martin, this RCA release was Jack's second Christmas album, coming after 1964's equally imaginatively titled "The Jack Jones Christmas Album" on Kapp Records. After Frank 'n' Dino's Burgundy baritones, Jack's easygoing tenor makes for a nice change, and as well as the usual parade of suspects he throws in some curveballs like gospel number Little Altar Boy, Bacharach and David's Christmas Day from the Broadway musical Promises Promises, and a look at the different ways Jesus is perceived around the world in Some Children See Him.  There's also the inexplicable inclusion of Oh Happy Day; an odd choice, but it fits in quite well.

The highlights for me are his a cappella version of Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, the aforementioned Little Altar Boy, and best of all his absolutely winning rendition of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, the latter making the perfect signing-off track for Car Boot Christmas 2016, which you can listen to using the player below.

Thanks for joining me; I hope you've enjoyed this year's countdown and the accompanying cloudcast, and I also hope you can pop back in the new year to see and hear what other records I've been liberating from car boot sales and charity shops here on the Suffolk coast.

Wishing you a happy and peaceful Christmas, whatever it is you're up to.

Minibreakfast xxx

Friday, 23 December 2016

Car Boot Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 9

Welcome to Day 9 of the Car Boot Christmas Countdown 2016.  On this penultimate festive blog post we're looking at two LPs that are both over 50 years old.  Both are in remarkable condition despite their age and the fact that they were found languishing at car boot sales.

First up is Ray Conniff and the Ray Conniff Singers - We Wish You A Merry Christmas, which cost 50p last October.

Ray Conniff and the Ray Conniff Singers - We Wish You A Merry
Christmas (1962)

1970s reissue with cropped
image, also found last year.
Born Joseph Raymond Conniff in Massachusetts in 1916, Ray was a prolific bandleader and arranger, having 28 albums in the US Top 40 between 1957 and 1968.  His most successful output was that with his "Ray Conniff Singers", numbering 13 men and 12 women at any one time.

Here they present all the Yuletide favourites you'd expect, plus a couple of other less commonly covered numbers; for instance Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep) from the film White Christmas appears as part of a medley.  In fact the album is mainly composed of medleys, with just two standalone songs; Ring Christmas Bells (aka Carol of the Bells) and a surprisingly enjoyable version of the normally tedious The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Conniff was renowned for his vocal arrangements, and the harmonies here are unmatched, the highlight for me being O Holy Night, where the soaring layers of voice give me genuine tingles.  Unsurprisingly the album went gold in 1963, and it continued to chart year after year in the 1960s.  It remains a bona fide Christmas classic, and for those who grew up with it playing in their home, a veritable time machine.

Track list.

Side 1.
1. Medley: Jolly Old St. Nicholas; The Little Drummer Boy.
2. Medley: O Holy Night; We Three Kings of Orient Are; Deck The Halls With Boughs of Holly.
3. Ring Christmas Bells.

Side 2.
1. Medley: Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!; Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep); We Wish You A Merry Christmas.
2. The Twelve Days of Christmas.
3. Medley: The First Noel; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; O Come, All Ye Faithful; We Wish You A Merry Christmas.

I paid £1.50 for a copy of Harry Belafonte's To Wish You A Merry Christmas in April this year.

Harry Belafonte - To Wish You A Merry Christmas (1958)

Compared to the cheery sound of the Ray Conniff Singers this album comes as a bit of a downer.  Although Belafonte tackled all kinds of folk music, he's best known for hits such as Jump In The Line and Island In The Sun, but if you were expecting this album to deliver a calypso Christmas you'd be in for a disappointment.  That's not to say it has nothing to offer; if you like your carols delivered solemnly with traditional, sparse instrumentation, then you'll enjoy this low-key collection.  As well as the well-worn carols there are others less familiar, such as A Star In The East and Jehovah the Lord Will Provide.  Harry's soft voice is matched by the gentle playing of guitar virtuoso Laurindro Almeida, and the most upbeat the album gets is the marching pipe and drums on Christmas Is Coming.  Verdict: tender and mild.

Track list.

Side 1.
1. A Star In The East.
2. The Gifts They Gave.
3. The Son of Mary*.
4. The Twelve Days of Christmas.
5. Where The Little Jesus Sleeps.
6. Medley: The Joys of Christmas; O Little Town of Bethlehem; Deck The Halls; The First Noel.

Side 2.
1. Mary, Mary.
2. Jehovah the Lord Will Provide.
3. Silent Night.
4. Christmas Is Coming.
5. Medley: We Wish You A Merry Christmas; God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; O Come All Ye Faithful; Joy To The World.
6. I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day.

Be sure to come back tomorrow - Christmas Eve! - for the final installment of the Car Boot Christmas Countdown, with three great albums by some beloved crooners.  You can hear me playing the best selections from my festive record boxes on the family-friendly Car Boot Christmas 2016 cloudcast.  Use the player below or follow the link to Mixcloud.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Car Boot Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 8

It's Day 8 of this year's Car Boot Christmas Countdown, and today it's the turn of the ladies of country.  Let's begin with the First Lady Of Country, Tammy Wynette, whose Christmas album I picked up for a pound at a car boot sale back in April.

Christmas With Tammy Wynette (this edition 1982, original release was 1970)

Like fellow pioneering country artist Charlie Pride, Tammy was also from Mississippi and a successful sportsperson before moving into music, having been a top basketball player in her high school year.  Like several of the Christmas albums covered in these pages, this one is split in to two distinct sides.  The first consists of reverently delivered carols including Gentle Shepherd and O Little Town Of Bethlehem, and with the Jordanaires swooning behind Tammy as she sings "no criyyb for his beyyd", Away In A Manger never sounded more Nashville.

Side 2 is my favourite, however, where backed by The Nashville Edition Tammy lets loose the heartache on popular songs such as Blue Christmas, before eventually perking up when her man returns home for the festivities on One Happy Christmas.  But he's dun left her agin by next song Lovely Christmas Call where she pleads with him to return for the sake of the children.  He doesn't, but the reverence does for final number Let's Put The Christ Back Into Christmas.

In October last year I spent 50p on a copy of Christmas Day With Kitty Wells.

Christmas Day With Kitty Wells (1962)

Also featuring backing vocals by The Jordanaires, this 1962 release by Nashville native Wells (born Ellen Muriel Deason) is a cheerier affair than Tammy's, opening with Dasher With The Light Upon His Tail, C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S and a sleigh bell laden Santa's On His Way.  As well as a great cover of Gene Autrey's Here Comes Santa Claus there are a couple of carols, plus the seemingly compulsory Blue Christmas and White Christmas. Wells throws in a little heartbreak with Christmas Ain't Like Christmas Anymore, but jollity is immediately restored with a chirpy cowgirl rendition of Jingle Bells.

As far as I can tell the album wasn't released outside the US, but these days UK folks can buy it as download.

On a freezing Sunday morning in February 2015 I splurged five pounds (now approximately half a Euro) on a copy of something I'd been hoping to spot in the wild for ages: Light Of The Stable by Emmylou Harris.

Emmylou Harris - Light of the Stable (1979)

This 1979 release was named after the title track, which had come out as a single four years earlier with Bluebird Wine on the b-side.  A prolific collaborator, Emmylou is joined on this song by Neil Young and Trio partners Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton on harmony vocals.  Other contributors include Willie Nelson and Ricky Skaggs providing vocals on Angel Eyes (Angel Eyes) and singer-songwriter Nancy Ahern duetting with Emmylou on Away In A Manger.  Among the musicians contributing to the largely acoustic backing are Rodney Crowell, Albert Lee and autoharpist Bryan Bowers (misspelled as 'Brian' on the sleeve notes).

Alternative cover art

Emmylou's incredible voice shines particularly brightly on the a cappella The First Noel, but my favourites are bluegrass opener Christmas Time's A-Coming, an absolutely beautiful Little Drummer Boy, and of course the title track.  The album has been reissued many times over the years on both CD and vinyl, with a few alternative covers.

You can hear tracks from many of the albums featured in the countdown, plus lots more, on the all-vinyl Car Boot Christmas 2016 cloudcast.  Use the player below or click the link to go to Mixcloud.  Do come back tomorrow, Friday the 23rd of December, for the penultimate day of the Car Boot Christmas Countdown and two great festive records from the 1950s and '60s.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Car Boot Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 7

Today's festive LPs were kindly sent to me as earlier this year by a dear chum; charity shop connoisseur and tat-magnet Beany.  The first has already become one of my favourite ever Christmas albums; The Swingalongs Present: Sing A Song Of Christmas.

The Swingalongs Present: Sing A Song Of Christmas (1973)

According to the notes on the back cover this MfP release was "Arranged and produced by the same team that made Tijuana Christmas", i.e the greatest ever Christmas album (billed as being by the Torero Band), so no surprise that it raced into my Top Ten so quickly.  Indeed, Alan Moorhouse is named as arranger and director, with Bill Wellings as producer.  The "20 non-stop Christmas songs" are in fact arranged into half a dozen medleys of the usual suspects, all carols except opener Jingle Bells.

The up-tempo stuff is totally groovy, with a swinging drummer, funky bassist, plus of course the other trademark instruments used by this set-up such as xylophone, organ and of course trumpet.  The vocals are great; harmonious and sweet with faux-American accents, these guys 'n' gals are square as hell, but hugely entertaining, although by the end of Side 2 their relentlessness can be a little wearing, especially on the slower carol medleys.

There are plenty of parts that put a grin on my face, including the bouncy percussion and farty brass of the opening medley, and a brief but sexy organ flourish between Ding Dong Merrily On High and We Three Kings.  Another album I now need to look out for is the only other one released under The Swingalongs' name; a double with Bert Shorthouse and his Glenlomond Band called "Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year".  It has Bert and co. on the second disc playing 20 non-stop New Year's party tunes, and presumably on the Christmas-themed first disc by The Swingalongs the same non-stop recordings as on my album, having an identical track list.

Also in the surprise package from Beany was The Julie Andrews Christmas Album.

The Julie Andrews Christmas Album (1983)

Here Julie is backed by a symphony orchestra as she makes her way through a clutch of familiar favourites plus a few more unusual songs such as French carol Patapan (the English translation rather than the Burgundian original), Christian folk hymn I Wonder As I Wander, and a goosebump-inducing version of Bing Crosby's The Secret Of Christmas.

Julie has several Christmas albums in her discography, but this particular set of songs has been issued more than once (this 1983 edition is a Reader's Digest release), firstly in 1975 (minus two tracks) as "The Secret Of Christmas", then in 1982 as "Christmas With Julie Andrews", and again in 1987 as "The Sound Of Christmas" complete with Sound Of Music rip-off cover art:

The lush, movie soundtrack-style orchestration suits her crystal clear soprano beautifully, and with Julie you can relax safe in the knowledge that she's never going to miss one of the high notes - and there are plenty of those here!

Join me again tomorrow, Thursday the 22nd of December (getting close now!), for Day 8 of the Car Boot Christmas Countdown with Yuletide albums from three ladies of country. Hear me playing over an hour of car boot and charity shop Christmas music using the player below or by following the link to Mixcloud.