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Archive for December, 2006

Have Yourself A Merry…

Monday, December 25th, 2006

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last
Next year we may all be living in the past

Is that depressing, or what?  Those are the original lyrics to "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," believe it or not.  These lyrics, plus the history of how such a sad song came to be, are detailed in a fascinating article in Entertainment Weekly.

"Have Yourself" is my favorite Christmas song.  Last year I attempted to record my own version, loosely based on my favorite arrangement (from A Christmas Together by John Denver and the Muppets), and sent it around to friends.  I don’t promise greatness (I could only record on my Korg, not a real piano), but I promise that I put a lot of feeling into it.  So if you’re interested in one more (instrumental) Christmas carol this year, here you go.

Jason Hare – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (download)

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  We’ll return with Chart Attack! and Mellow Gold in the beginning of January.

Happy Holidays from Starland Vocal Band

Sunday, December 24th, 2006

I received an e-mail this morning from one of the members of Starland Vocal Band, detailing the story behind Christmas At Home.  I thought I’d share it with you.  Next year, how cool would it be if we could get all of the artists to submit information on their tracks?  Then again, if we’re ripping them all apart, I doubt it’ll work.  Props to SVB for taking my post with a sense of humor!

Hey Jason,
Thru no fault of your own you’ve entered a sort of time ravine which has brought you to "Christmas at Home" by the Starland Vocal Band.
 
The album was done at the request of a friend of the group for a local charity.
 
The idea, and what they did, was to get together in Bill’s home studio, practice a Christmas song a day, and record it ( not consecutively; spread out over two weeks). The profits, (there were few expenses) went to the charity.
 
The machines were simple and the Steel player, Danny Pendleton engineered.
Only available instruments were used.: a Prophet 5 synthesizer, a steel guitar, piano, guitars, various percussion devices.
 
Since the group members had all grown up Catholic, they knew all the traditional carols and each claimed
their favorite to be included. And then they did the others.
 
"Here Comes Santa Claus" is one of Bills favorites as he tries to be faithful to the Gene Autry version he heard in his youth.
  (JH: Now I feel awful!)
 
The children singing were from Emma Danoff’s (Bill and Taffy’s daughter)  kindergarten class.
The idea was to use "just a touch". SVB took them, with supervision, for an hour to do those simple lines and credited them on the album. It’s those children’s parent who probably own all the existing copies of the recording. 
(JH: Okay, so which parent is selling out their kid by putting it on eBay?  Fess up!)
 
It was a spontaneous act of love that the group is proud of.
 
Peace and Love,
 
CHRISTMAS AT HOME
 

The Twelfth (And Final) Day Of Mellowmas!

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Well, friends, here we are.  You thought the day would never come.  I know.  It’s been rough, hasn’t it, listening to all this Mellow holiday music?  But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it shines brightly today, as we present The Most Mellow Holiday Record Of All.

Starland Vocal Band – Christmas At Home

Entire album (zip)

O Holy Night
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Away In A Manger
Angels We Have Heard On High
The First Noel
What Child Is This?
Joy To The World
Here Comes Santa Claus
The Two Days Of Christmas
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Deck The Halls
Jingle Bells
Silent Night
We Wish You A Merry Christmas

You didn’t even know this existed, did you?

We haven’t talked about Starland Vocal Band on Mellow Gold as of yet.  I’m sure we will at some point.  But it means that I haven’t told you my dirty little secret: I have a Starland Vocal Band bias.

You see, my parents were both big John Denver fans in the ’70s (be nice, people, they read my website).  They saw SVB open for Denver a number of times and really loved them.  They bought their first two albums, Starland Vocal Band and Rear View Mirror, and played them all the time.  And I mean all the time.  Every road trip we ever took involved Starland Vocal Band.  I know all 20 of those songs from the first two albums by heart.  I know the harmony lines.  I can play them on piano.  The whole thing.

So, for better or for worse, because they were such a part of my childhood and my musical memories with my parents, I really love those two albums.  I am actually amused by the repeated flak they get for "Afternoon Delight," because I can’t find anybody that’s ever actually listened to any of their other songs.  Some are actually quite good, and all feature their best quality: a pristine, four-part harmony blend.

Being a good son, I made it my goal in the late ’90s to get as much SVB stuff as possible for my dad (who, by the way, had moved on by then, but I didn’t know what else to get him for Christmas).  Eventually those first two records were released on CD, so that was an easy one.  Finding their last two original albums, Late Night Radio and 4×4, only came within my grasp once eBay came around.  Those two (mediocre) albums, lovingly transferred to CD, and maybe an SVB songbook, and I was pretty much out of ideas.

Then, one year, I came across Christmas At Home on eBay.  I had never heard of it.  Most sites that mention Starland Vocal Band don’t have any record of it, either.  In fact, I think the only place I’ve really found it documented is on founding member Bill Danoff’s website.  So I bought it, had it transferred to CD (as you’ll be able to tell, there are some clicks and pops I wasn’t able to remove), and proudly gifted it to my father for Christmas.

And we listened.

And we realized: this album sucks.

And that, my friends, is the story of how Jason ruined Christmas.

But the album IS mellow, and from the right time period as well.  I’ll argue that it’s not as Mellow Gold as Fogelberg, but it’s got the smooth acoustic guitars and the trademark SVB harmonies (oh, the harmonies!).  It’s as close to a full Mellowmas album as we’re ever going to get.

I hadn’t listened to it in about five years, and gave it a re-listen.  I sent it to Jeff, too.  We opted not to do song-by-song commentary, because, well, we didn’t want to kill you.  But here are some of my favorite Jefito comments:

Oh Jesus, is this ever square.
Bing Crosby would have laughed at this.
I think I’m going to throw up.
What fresh hell is this?
  (JH note: this one is my favorite.)
It isn’t as bad as REO or Medeiros, certainly.
Actually, it’s probably better than most of the shit we’ve been posting about.
But it’s still pretty awful.
It sounds like argyle.
  (JH note: second favorite.)
"What Child is This?" is an urgent plea for gang violence.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Funny guy, that Jefito.  (By the way, from the minute I informed him of this album’s existence, he claimed it was my moral imperative to share these songs with you, so he shares in the blame.)  Although I admit to being a bit ill-equipped for snarking on this band, I was able to recognize what songs were good and what songs sucked.  I do recommend listening to the whole thing – even with 14 songs, it clocks in at under 25 minutes.  However, if you want to pick n’ choose, here are my thoughts on a few:

Best Songs, Seriously:  "Angels We Have Heard On High"; "The First Noel"; "Silent Night"

Worst Songs, Seriously:  "Here Comes Santa Claus"; "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer"

Most Mellow Gold, Mainly Because Of An Overactive Bass Drum:  "Deck The Halls"; "O Holy Night"

Worst Use Of Children’s Voices:  "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" "Rudolph"

Song That Would Have Been Proclaimed "Ironic Genius" Had Sufjan Stevens Recorded It:  "The Two Days Of Christmas"

Biggest Suckers/Best Sports This Mellowmas:  You guys.

So there you have it.  Enjoy, or don’t enjoy, this final Mellowmas offering.  Here’s wishing you and yours a very happy holiday – and from both Jeff and I, thanks for indulging us as we reviewed The 12 Days Of Mellowmas!  Now let us never speak of it again.

The Eleventh Day Of Mellowmas: I Can’t Fight This Mellow Anymore

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

It’s the penultimate day of Mellowmas, friends.  Please, please – stop crying.  Put away those mellow tears for now, and get thee to Jefito’s for today’s Mellowmas track.  Some might argue the Mellow Goldness of this track, but if Mellow Gold were to exist today, this is what it would sound like.  Sadly.

Enjoy!  And don’t forget: tomorrow’s the big finale!  And you’re in for a big disappointment surprise!  We can’t wait to share it with you!

The Tenth Day Of Mellowmas: Croach!

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

Hang on, folks, we’ve only got a couple more days of Mellowmas ahead, and these last few – ESPECIALLY DAY TWELVE – are going to rock.  (By "rock," I mean…well, you know what I mean.)  Today we’re listening to a song that was recommended by not one, but TWO readers, which means it must really be mellow.  And away we go!

Jim Croce – It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way (download)
From Life and Times, but more easily purchased through The Definitive Collection

Jeff: So much separation!

Jason: Who names a Christmas song "It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way?"  That’s an awful choice for a title. 

Jeff:
A musical genius.

Jason
: I need to give props to two readers – woofpop and J.A. Bartlett of The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ – who both suggested this song.  Separately.  That’s both awesome and a little sad.

Jeff
: The Christmas carols sound like blues, but the choir is not to blame.

Jason
: You know who’s to blame?  Fogelberg.

Jeff: He’ll be dropping by today, because they could get it together tonight.  Croce was fucking smooth.

Jason
: No, that’s an awkward lyric.  I disagree with you. 

Jeff:
He’s telling her to get ready for some rough ridin’.

Jason:  Ha!  "It doesn’t have to be that way. I could give it to you all night."

Jeff: He’s the Smoove B of Mellow Gold.

Jason:
Wow.  I hope SOMEBODY else gets that reference.


Jason: Croce sounds wimpy…but not necessarily mellow.  There aren’t any backing vocals, which is a shame.
  Still, this is vintage Croce.

Jeff: Who needs backing vocals when you’ve got Croce?  Backing vocals would ruin the purity of the Croach.

Jason:  The Croach?

Jeff: This should have been titled "I Will Slip You My Yuletide Sting." 

Jason
: Oh shit, the song is over!  It’s over before it’s begun!

Jeff
: He’s got more important things to do.

Jason:
Like schtupping.

Jeff:
He was unbuckling his pants during the solo.

Jason: I thought I heard that!

Jeff: Unrolling the bearskin rug.

Jason:  Waxing his moustache.  If you know what I mean.

Jeff:
Warming up "Little Jim"

Jason:
You don’t mess around with Little Jim.

Jeff:
No, you sure don’t.

Jason:
Turns out that "Leroy Brown" was just his codename for anal sex.

Jeff: She’s going to be walking funny the day after Christmas.  But, of course, it didn’t have to be that way.

Jason: Ha!