Blast From The Christmas Past… or Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas

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With the holiday season in mind, what better time to look back at one of the greatest Christmas records; Guaraldi created something so magical that one cannot imagine the animated special without the music. The best moments of a Charlie Brown Christmas is where the animation and the music link arm in arm to create a perfect mood.

“Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” yell the Peanuts their heads all look to the sky and the holes that are their cartoon mouths move to the sound of “Hark, The Hearld Angels Sing.” It is one of my favorite Christmas special moments – but why should you own the soundtrack – and why on vinyl?

First, the music not only holds up without the cartoon, but it actually stands out as something special alone. Guaraldi’s greatest triumph as an artist was always his ability to convey emotion through music. In just over 40 minutes he captures the varied feelings brought out during the season. There is a sense of not only joy and wonder, but also empathy, sadness, and even humour. It is music that can be enjoyed with a set of headphones or put in the back ground as you enjoy a glass of Riesling with a few friends. It is an awesome sit down record that seems as familiar as reminiscing with an old friend during the holiday season.

So, the real question… why vinyl?

Glad you asked.

With only a decent turntable, the sonics hold up against the CD. In fact, it sounds a bit better. Having played them against one another, certain piano runs just have a warmer and more dynamic feel. It sounds like someone is in the room playing rather than a couple of speakers.

Next, while a CD is a pretty good gift, a limited edition coloured vinyl album is a really cool and collectable gift. Hecky darn, it’s an amazing and sentimental Christmas gift. Really it is the kind of thing that someone remembers exactly who gave it to them over the years, and will be pulled out with a big smile on their face.

Most record stores are carrying a green translucent vinyl edition that both looks and sounds great. However, if you are looking for something a little more… collectible, Newbury Comics has two variant editions. The first was released last year and is a red and white split vinyl that was limited to 1500 copies and sells for close to $40 USD. The second was put out for this year’s holiday season on pink ribbon candy coloured wax and limited to 1000 copies. Even better, it’s priced at a much more palatable $21.99 USD.

cbc1Vince-Guaraldi-Trio-A-Charlie-Brown-Christmas-Exclusive-LP-Vinyl-2154540-1_1024x1024

Trust me, if I didn’t have it already, I would be ecstatic to find it under the tree.

 

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10 Awesome Christmas Records … available on vinyl

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The holiday season brings out the nostalgia in most of us, and nothing seems quite as cool as breaking out the Christmas wax with a few friends and sharing some good tunes. Since the tactile nature of vinyl makes it a great sentimental gift, here are some great records to acquire for (yourself or) others as you celebrate the holidays.

jdm

John Denver & The Muppets – A Christmas Together

Say what you want about Denver and his antiseptic brand of environmental folk-rock… his work with the Muppets was truly outstanding. Back in 1979, he performed a one-off Christmas Special with the Muppets entitled A Christmas Together, which has never been released onto home video or DVD. Regardless, the soundtrack has become quite the holiday classic.  I mean come on; the admission price is worth it just to hear Fozzy forgetting words and Miss Piggy over-articulating “gold” in “The Twelve Days Of Christmas.” In terms of vinyl, you have some great options if you look hard enough. There is the standard black edition, however; if you are looking for the ‘wow factor’ there is either the more coveted green vinyl or picture disc.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qt3wPl7bdFQ

grinch

Dr Seuss – How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Nothing quite like Frankenstein’s monster (Boris Karloff) narrating a beloved holiday classic… and, of course, you have the singing of Tony the (Frosted Flakes) Tiger (Thurl Ravenscroft) with the most outrageous holiday lines ever… turning this into a ‘must have’. Two separate editions of this classic are available on vinyl for fans. The first has the familiar animated special cover while the other has the Dr Seuss original Grinch version. Both editions have special ‘Grinch Green’ coloured versions available.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgP0aUKlmNw

ROUND 1

Imagene Peise – Atlas Eets Christmas

Back in 2007, the Flaming Lips were still at their peak as they were touring 2006’s At War With The Mystics. So, with a massive backstory written on the CD jacket, they put out a Christmas record in very limited quantity under the pseudonym Imagene Peise. The only clue to it being the Lips was a sticker on the plastic wrap that read “Merry Christmas from the Flaming Lips.”

Fast forward a few years and the Lips have re-released Atlas Eets World, a record that mixes joy with quiet reflections and darker hues of green and red that doesn’t so much shine a warm fire glow as threaten to burn in post apocalyptic flames. Last year’s Black Friday / Record Store Day version was released in translucent red vinyl and is still widely available at your favourite record retailers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RW7IZBUMc8

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Soundtrack – The Nightmare Before Christmas

For those of us who like our stop motion animation specials a little darker in tone than the various Rankin/Bass giggles, The Nightmare Before Christmas provided the annual holidays with a refreshing blast of gothic insanity. After all, nothing says Christmas like skeletons and zombies learning lessons about the spirit of the season. Interestingly, the vinyl versions of this record have only been released as two 180 gram picture discs; making it a very collectible gift for that Tim Burton fan in your life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPblZa10_Pk

bigstarchristmas

Big Star – Jesus Christ (10 inch)

This Black Friday – Record Store Day has seen the re-release of Big Star’s epic “Jesus Christ” on coloured vinyl. Originally found on Third/Sister Lovers, “Jesus Christ” has been covered by artists ranging from REM to Blue Rodeo and many points in between.  The 10” also contains six other classic tunes by the power-pop pioneers, making it both a great gift and an introduction to one of the 20th century’s most overlooked and influential bands.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIO3KvvgCqA

shehimchristmas

She & Him – A Very She & Him Christmas

A few years back, music hipster M. Ward and New Girl star Zooey Deschanel teamed up as She & Him, putting out a string of albums with a sound reminiscent of well crafted pop songs from the 60’s and 70’s. With that same motif intact, they also released the wonderful A Very She & Him Christmas covering classic hits “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, “Blue Christmas”, “Sleigh Ride” and a slew of others. Last year saw the album rereleased on clear vinyl or, if you don’t mind shipping, Newbury Comics in the US has a special 180 gram vinyl version in translucent green. Limited to 1200 copies, it is sure to be a coveted collectible in the near future.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rz4oG4eh5J0

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Various Artists – Soul Christmas

The 60’s really was the golden era for Christmas music, producing a virtual ton of soul infused classics. Coming out of the southern Stax and Atco record companies was a compilation of some of the era’s biggest soul acts. Led by artists as inspired as Otis Redding and Booker T. & the MG’s, Soul Christmas has appeared on many best Christmas albums of all-time lists. If this album appeals to you, you’re in luck, as it has just been reissued on vinyl this year.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_k5skKLwb8&index=3&list=PLgaJr2id8YsLN8Kn0IzH9seI0rUeltgq3

brownchristmas

James Brown – A Soulful Christmas

As long as there have been great Christmas records, there has also been outstanding contrarian holiday music. Rather than cover the standards or spin the same old cheer with familiar themes, Brown took Christmas in a more observational direction. Starting off with “Santa Claus, Go Straight To The Ghetto”, he would follow it with “Believers Shall Enjoy (Non Believers Shall Suffer)”, “Say It Loud: I’m Black and I’m Proud”, “Let’s Unite The World For Christmas” and “Santa Claus Gave Me A Brand New Start”. It may not be the usual Christmas tunes, but they are all outstanding. A Soulful Christmas was re-released on vinyl last year.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2j9zRrJUPs

Music_album_record_a_charlie_brown_christmas

Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas

For many of us, our introduction to jazz was through Vince Guaraldi and his work with the Peanuts. The music itself takes us on Charlie Brown’s search for meaning amongst all the tinsel and can bring you to tears without any need of the cartoon itself. The playful nature of “Linus and Lucy” and the sadness of “Christmas Time Is Here” are only eclipsed by that incredible performance of “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing.”

As a gift, you have three outstanding options on vinyl. Most record stores carry a special green translucent version. If you are looking for something a little more… um … special; Newbury Comics is selling two different variant editions. The first is a red and white split vinyl while the other is a pink ribbon-coloured copy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6zypc_LhnM

Print

Various Artists – Phil Spector: A Christmas Gift For You

Music being subjective, we could all argue until we are blue in the face about what the greatest pop-focused Christmas record is; suffice it to say, this one is mine. When Darlene Love breaks into the opening of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” you get a song that conveys joy, sorrow, hope and yearning all at once. Phil Spector used his ‘wall of sound’ to create an atmosphere rich in texture and emotion.

Last year A Christmas Gift For You was released for Black Friday/Record Store Day on limited edition red translucent vinyl. However, this year has seen another edition made available in a much wider release in both standard black or translucent red. It is well worth the cost.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EvZOXEoJ84&index=11&list=PLzvFf9lFuV-fdtni_6bi4bq5hSDvSNiMU

 

So this year, instead of giving another ornament to hang on the tree, give the gift of spinning coloured wax. It’s sentimental, sounds great and is the perfect gift for that special someone whose turntable is amongst their prized possessions.

You can also read this at edge.ca

Where To Buy Sh.. Stuff #4 – Newbury Comics

A while back I wrote a piece about treating everyday like Record Store Day. Thing is, while I don’t really want to endorse one retail place over another, a good deal of the “new” collectible vinyl I have gotten my hands on has been through Newbury Comics. I get an e-mail, I check out the price, and then decide if it is something I REALLY want.

newbury

However, like RSD itself, it does come with its detractors. There are those people who would argue that having “special” “limited” “collector” or “variant” editions of records raises prices, causes delays in arrivals of new releases and is an overall cash grab. Generally speaking these limited run records do cost a couple bucks more than the common black vinyl editions. There is also the question of how many variants are needed for a single record. Between 2009 and 2014 there were no less than nine official re-releases of Bleach by Nirvana in 180 gram vinyl and in almost all the colours of a rainbow (blue, green, yellow, red, maroon, white and clear). Two of these colour choices came from Newbury itself and both quickly sold out.

nirvana colour

Still, for me the question is, does the vinyl sound good, and is it giving me a unique fan experience. I don’t go to e-bay resellers who charge way above market after the fact, but I do find it interesting what people will charge for what is essentially scalping records instead of tickets.  Of course my ego plays a part as I find it cool to see something I bought for $20.00 have a new asking price of $100.00 and that only 749 other people on the planet own a copy.

At other times, it gives me an opportunity to buy something I wanted to get, but in a different form. In fact, with music moving more towards a digital medium I think a bands best chance to make money from their “true fans” (those willing to spend money for their music) is to provide them with a variety of formats and “special” opportunities to receive their music in a unique way. The other thing is they do make awesome gifts for those hard to buy for people. I gave a copy of A Charlie Brown Christmas in red and white split vinyl to a very happy friend.

cbc1

So you see this is where Newbury Comics comes into the picture. For a couple years now they have been offering music fans a chance to get “limited edition” vinyl. The prices are competitive with most record stores for the same records that sit on their shelves and the shipping cost is quite reasonable. To date I’ve never had problems with any of the vinyl shipped to me. As for sound quality, I’ve played Big Star’s #1 Record gold coloured variant against the recent 180 gram edition, and I found both items sounding great… in fact, I’d lean more towards the gold variant as it “seemed” to have a bit of a warmer tone.

bs2

Anyway, new items seem to hit the market every week, and the choices are pretty eclectic ranging from the Coltrane to Nirvana and points in-between. Check them out, you might find yourself signing up to the old mailing list and buying something from time to time. Just don’t be too disappointed if it gets sold out before you get your shot. It’s happened a couple times to me and caused a slight bit of teeth grinding and cursing. But then again, that’s all part of the fun of getting something worth having.

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Some links to past vinyl releases I wrote about that came from Newbury.

https://barrettbitesdotcom.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/episode-one-christmas-and-more

https://barrettbites.com/2015/03/13/oh-woe-is-me-the-rocky-horror-picture-show-soundtrack/

https://barrettbites.com/2015/03/25/which-bleach-is-bleach-nirvana-bleach/

https://barrettbites.com/2015/04/08/you-know-what-they-say-about-blinking-nirvana-sliverdive-7/

https://barrettbites.com/2015/04/16/1-in-so-many-damn-ways-big-star-1-record/

Between My Heart & My Brain A Battle Rages or The Eagles Studio Albums 1972 -1979

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Sitting uncomfortably on a fence is not a pleasant place to be. It isn’t that I’m worried about outside opinions at this point in my life. My friends and relations will still be the same regardless of my commentary on the Eagles. Although, I know that many would be in shock to find me not coming to the defence of my once favorite band and side with critics on many levels… but still…

I spent a decent amount of cash to buy this limited (5000 copies) edition copy of the Eagles Studio Albums all of which have been re-mastered for this 180 gram audiophile vinyl re-release of their six albums proper. Six studio albums that were inspired by the sounds and formula laid out entirely by others and turned from coal into diamonds by the combo of Henley/Frey and associates.

eagles2

The best explanation for why a large group of people hate the Eagles was best represented in the Big Lebowski by “the Dude” himself. On the other hand, the cab driver in that same scene shows exactly how much a ‘real’ Eagles fan wants to hear that… not only can a ‘real’ Eagles fan not comprehend your criticism, but they could resort to violence just to get you to “shut the fuck up.”

So about this fence… well in one previous blog I spoke about my past and reviewed Eagles Live… sort of. It’s just that those thoughts and feelings come from a decade when I had my head stuck up the ass of classic rock. While it wasn’t called “classic rock” in the 80’s, it was a genre type that most people recognize today that encompasses a large amount of bands that rose to prominence in the 60’s, 70’s and a bit into the 80’s and then stopped cold. In the world of ‘Rock Radio’ it was if music stopped being made one day. I’m not sure what day that was. Maybe it was the death of John Lennon or John Bonham; maybe it was when Van Halen became Van Hagar; maybe it was the release of one too many Asia records; whatever the reason… “Rock Radio” became “Classic Rock Radio” and the airwaves became filled with, well – crap. That is when the fence went up.

It isn’t that I hated the music I had once loved. That couldn’t happen. But I did get bored. Seven thousand, nine-hundred and thirty-seven listens to the same songs by the same bands just made me search for something new instead of being fed the same old shit. So, my cassette copies of the Eagles sat in plastic racks by the stereo gaining dust while I listened to Dinosaur Jr. Boston sat quietly in a box while Nirvana (yes I know what you’re going to say) was spinning on a nice carousel CD player. And… Uncle Tupelo had me searching out the influences to the band I once loved (the Eagles), because they offered those similarly influenced groups praise where the Eagles rarely did.

Here’s the thing, I never heard Henley or Frey once refer to Gram Parsons. Sure they dropped the names of the Burritos and the Byrds, but… not the guy who convinced them to go in that country direction. That’s just something that, to quote Homer Simpson, “grinds my gears”. Then there is the soulless nature of the music. Sure Frey can turn a phrase, and Henley can go all epic about the death of the American dream or environmental causes… BUT, it all seems very manufactured. Manufactured in a way that manipulates an emotional response like so many animated Disney films that would rather create your response than allow a story to ‘move you’ by a true emotional connection to the subject matter.

Oh… I hear ya. You want a better example. OK, I can do that.

“The Long Run” is a classic boy meets girl, boy might lose girl cliché driven song. It is harmony gold sung by a great vocalist and given power by an amazing band. You can hum, sing along and even play air guitar to it, but in the end it says shit-all about the truths of being in that relationship. “We can handle some resistance, if our love is a strong one…” is hardly what one would see as depth.

“Thirteen” is a classic boy meets girl, boy might lose girl song. It is driven by the desperation of young person who hasn’t got a clue how the world works and just wants to be with the girl he has fallen for. The first two lines as sung by Alex Chilton blow the crap out of the tired cliché by giving it desperation and emotional resonance. Without the benefit of harmony vocals and big honkin’ guitar solo (which they were quite capable of doing), Big Star stick to an acoustic guitar and a singer who places himself in the part.

In the end, what has me buying Eagles records is nostalgia, what has me buying Big Star records is a connection with the music.

Anyway…

I’m not regretting buying the box. In fact, I was rather blown away by the quality of the recording to vinyl. Using “Witchy Woman” from the debut Eagles record and listening to my old cassette, a CD, Spotify, and the 180 gram vinyl, the wax wins by far. It has a clear and crisp detail that just doesn’t even come close on a digital transfer, and seeing as my tape was 30+ years old, and crossed the country a couple times over, its best days were left behind a few miles back.

If you’re a fan, you will love the box, I do, but at the same time, I love discovering new things even more, and the Eagles didn’t offer that even when they were one of the biggest bands on the planet.

She danced like a ‘peanut’ – The Lowest of The Low – Musical Memories

She danced as if she was the missing peanut from the Christmas special. I’m imagining that “Linus & Lucy” is playing each time I see this dance.

Bouncing in spot with her hands in a cute chipmunk like groove that only works for her and it is a sheer joy to see. It’s a totally platonic friendship that means the world to me… her pure enjoyment of life mixed with a look that says “screw with me and you die” has me in awe. She is one of a very small group who can drag this sad “Charlie Brown” out and get him to laugh in a most animated way.

Except this isn’t a cartoon and only 15 people are in attendance as The Lowest of the Low play their songs as if to thousands. The lack of people only serves to give the lucky few more room to move… and they all do. The band seems delighted that everyone is having a great time, and so they are having a blast. At the end of the night I walk over to the ‘merch booth’ where the only thing being sold is the band’s debut Shakespeare… My Butt and slap my fifteen dollars on the table. The patrons are hanging out with ‘the Low’ and there are smiles all around.

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http://www.maplemusic.com/product.asp?dept%5Fid=278&pf%5Fid=275%2D50&lang=EN

Seventeen songs play out the stereo. Seventeen songs play from my Walkman. Seventeen songs become part of the soundtrack of what turns into a pretty good summer. And as the fall semester begins I’m seeing the same band, at the same venue, playing the same songs, with the same power, but this time the Trasheteria is at capacity. She still stands out to me. In a sea of people who do the Simpson’s music festival dance (“Homerpalooza”), she is still a peanut.

Only difference is, this time we know all the words, and a group of us, a circle of friends, dance and sing together as “Rosy and Grey” and “Bleed A Little While Tonight” now take on meanings.

As winter begins, there are more shows, more splendid times with friends. One night you’re catching the Rheostatics another it’s Weeping Tile, and then you drive to Toronto to catch Sugar. After all, it’s the early 90’s, and there is always some cool band around to see. Still, even with all these shows and all these bands, The Lowest of the Low gets circled on the calendar in red marker.

Which makes it all the weirder as that less than a year from that first show I saw, I’m standing at the Ontario Place forum with thousands of people watching the Lowest of the Low play. However, this time it is different. The Edgefest crowd is having a good time, but she has stopped dancing, and our group of friends have begun to stare in quiet disbelief. Ron Hawkins, the Lowest of the Low’s main songwriter, singer and rhythm guitarist has begun to smash his guitar in angry spectacle. Sure, I’ve seen musicians smash instruments as part of the ‘rich rebel’ – ‘wow, did you see that’ theatrical display. Classic rock is full of that crap, but this was different… it was real… and it must have been expensive. This wasn’t some wealthy ‘rock star’ smashing his guitar. This was Ron Hawkins, who I’m guessing was just finally able to pay bills with their new found regional success.

When I asked the bands lead guitarist Stephen Stanley about it just a few days later at the Hillside Music Festival in Guelph, he kinda smirked, looked serious and hinted that I should “ask Ron”. Except his tone was saying that the last thing I should do was “ask Ron.”

What I did get is that a new album was imminent. The guys were excited as it was being produced by Don Smith who had worked with 54-40, Cracker and The Rolling Stones. In fact, it looked like everything was in place for this band to be HUGE! Of course, the idea of this is awesome; the band consisted of four great guys who had been working their asses off to get to this point.

The thing is, it was different that night at Hillside. There was no friend dancing to my imaginary “Linus & Lucy”, and the audience was more jocular than enthusiastic. The band seemed almost hesitant with material that they had played hundreds of times. It looked like colour had been bled from them and nothing remained but black and white stills with great music in the background.

Another fall semester began and ‘the Low’ had a show scheduled at the university. The new album Hallucigenia was supposed to be in the stores soon, and tickets for the concert were selling fast. My whole circle of friends would be there, either working or singing along. It was going to be a big party, and maybe… just maybe, our enthusiasm would reach the band and the colour would come back.

http://www.amazon.ca/Hallucigenia-Lowest-Low/dp/B00005B7XF/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1424024680&sr=1-2&keywords=lowest+of+the+low

 

It never happened.

The show was cancelled, the band had broken up, and I was left kinda shuffling my feet along the ground. It felt like a good friend had moved to another continent without so much as a “see ya later.” Other bands, other friends, had moved in and taken memorable places, but well, it just wasn’t the same.

The band would reunite a couple times over the years, but tickets would sell so quick, the show would be sold out the very moment I heard about it.

A couple years back I was in my favorite record store and spotted Shakespeare… My Butt on display in vinyl. The plastic hit the table and I forget how much I paid, but it did take me exactly where I wanted to be. As it spun on the turntable I lay upon my couch eyes closed and I could see, in perfect colour, a girl dancing like a ‘peanut’, a group of friends having a great time, and a band playing to a few people as if it was to thousands.

Thank You Lowest Of The Low

Episode One – Christmas and more…

Introduction

Here it is folks, the first real post for the new Barrettbites. Or, well, at least the written blog part. The video portion will be coming soon, but needs a bit more work. I put the theme song at the top of the post and will start adding the rest of the episode as each video segment is completed.

In the future, I probably won’t cram five pieces into a single post, but I wanted to get this out there…

I really hope you enjoy it, because it was a lot of fun putting it together.

Thanks

 

 

 

On The Path To Vinyl Glory

Twice a year the wonderful people at “Record Store Day” get great bands to do some limited stuff and music geeks like myself line up to wait for our store of choice to open its doors. Official Record Store Day is in late April, but the second is on Black Friday. The irony is that you wait in a line to spend cash on things with no savings to be had at all, while a couple doors down people are waiting to save a whack of cash on things to play their music on.  Once the flood gates open, the line becomes a mob in an effort to get those one or two must have items while they remain on the shelf. This of course leads to an absurd scene in which a bunch of musical nerds (including myself) paw at narrowly displayed vinyl until they get hold of that Mother Love Bone 7” inch and send records flying in all directions during the collection process.

The highlights of this Black Friday included in no particular order

The Ramones  – curated by Morrisey

It doesn’t get much cooler than one of the planets most influential artists picking songs that best represent another set of influential artists.

ramones curated

A red vinyl re-release of Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You

Perhaps the greatest pop influenced Christmas record ever recorded.

Print

A limited re-release of the Kinks Muswell Hillbillies

The best example of Ray Davies overall song writing prowess.

kinks

A live Green Day ep Tune in, Tokyo as well as a bunch of 45’s by J.Mascis, the Decemberists, the Beatles and many many more things.

Today, as I was kneeling to see what was on the lower shelves, a shower of various records fell upon my head. There was Dio and Joe Satriani. There was Miles Davis and the Flaming Lips. There was Green Day  and David Bowie raining down upon me as if to say “Merry Christmas, now please,  take home more than you want or can afford.”

So, while I got a few things I wanted today, some of which I will review later, there is always a couple that just didn’t show, or were purchased before I could get to it. This times it was a cover of J.Mascis doing Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” and the Greatest Christmas rock album ever – Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You. I’ll keep looking for them, but for now, they have escaped my grasp.

Which is just how it goes on Record Store Day in Canada…  A long list shows up over the net – you put together a geek wish list of items you want –  you politely battle for a position in front of the corner where said records are displayed – only to find that a bunch of items are not at your favorite retailer –  or are not even being shipped to your country.

 

The Blast From The Past

Vince Guaraldi Trio

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Fantasy Records (Newbury Comics Limited Edition Red/White Vinyl)

Music_album_record_a_charlie_brown_christmas

 

With the holiday season in mind, what better time to look back at one of the best Christmas records ever.  Guaraldi created something so magical that one cannot imagine the animated special without the music. The best moments of A Charlie Brown Christmas is where the animation and the music link arm in arm to create a perfect mood.

“Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” yell the Peanuts their heads all look to the sky and the holes that are their cartoon mouths move to the sound of “Hark, The Hearld Angels Sing.” It is one of my favorite Christmas special moments – but why should you own the soundtrack – and why on vinyl?

First, the music not only holds up without the cartoon, but it actually stands out as something special alone. Guaraldi’s greatest triumph as an artist was always his ability to convey emotion through music. In just over 40 minutes he captures the varied feelings brought out during the season. There is a sense of not only joy and wonder, but also empathy, sadness, and even humour. It is music that can be enjoyed with a set of headphones or put in the back ground as you enjoy a glass of Riesling with a few friends. It is an awesome sit down record that seems as familiar as reminiscing with an old friend during the holiday season.

So, the real question… why vinyl?

Glad you asked.

With only a decent turntable, the sonics hold up against the CD. In fact, it sounds a bit better. Having played them against one another, certain piano runs just have a warmer and more dynamic feel. It sounds like someone is in the room playing rather than a couple of speakers pumping sound.

Next, while a CD is a pretty good gift, a limited edition coloured vinyl album is a really cool and collectable gift. Hecky darn, it’s an amazing and sentimental Christmas gift. Really it is the kind of thing that someone remembers exactly who gave it to them over the years, and will be pulled out with a big smile on their face.

Now the copy I have here is from Newbury Comics which is not only a pretty cool comic book/record store retailer, it also puts out limited edition coloured vinyl. For A Charlie Brown Christmas, Newbury has a limited run of 1500 records put out on a split red and white 12” vinyl priced at $27.99 US. Shipping is a very reasonable eleven bucks and change, which coming in from the US, believe me – it could be a lot more.

Even if you don’t get the Newbury edition, the A Charlie Brown Christmas album had been released a couple years back on a limited green vinyl release. While Amazon isn’t carrying it, you can still spot the odd one in some of the better independent record stores around.

http://www.newburycomics.com/rel/v2_viewupc.php?storenr=103&upc=103-2036171N

 

Lately I’ve been thinking… listening… whatever… it’s a new review damn you!

Imagene Peise (The Flaming Lips)

Atlas Eets Christmas

Warner Bros.

ROUND 1

Back in 2007, the Flaming Lips were still at their peak as they were touring 2006’s At War With The Mystics. So, with a massive backstory written on the CD jacket they put out a Christmas record in very limited quantity under the pseudonym Imagene Peise. The only clue to it being the Lips was a sticker on the plastic wrap that read “Merry Christmas from the Flaming Lips.”

Fast forward seven years and the Lips are doing a larger run of their Christmas record, this time on red translucent vinyl. What is extremely fascinating about Atlas Eets Christmas is just how well the Lips stay in character. Yes they sound like the Flaming Lips, but with the crackles and pops they have added to the record, at times it really does come off as some little known jazz artist that walked straight out of a mid-eastern desert.

So what you get is this instrumental record that is driven by piano and accompanied by synthesizer and sitar. Instead of the usual holiday sentiment poured into your consciousness like a well known Chardonnay, you find yourself drinking Port for the first time ever. It’s cigar smoke drenched and kissed with oak in a darkened bar where you sit alone by the window and contemplate the true meaning of that one bright star hovering in the sky.

Or, let’s just say that this isn’t an easily accessible holiday record designed to make you remember roasting chestnuts and singing Rudolph with the family. Nope, it mixes joy with quiet reflections and darker hues of greens and reds that don’t so much shine with a warm glow as threaten to burn. The character of “Imagene” is rumoured to have committed suicide in 1978, and that underlying feel is carried throughout the record.

Personally, I found myself rather mesmerized by Atlas Eets Christmas in much the same way I find some of the darker records in my collection. It isn’t an easy listen, and not one I would pull out while toasting the health of my in-laws as we sit down to our turkey. But, it is a worthy record to pull off the shelf in mid-December after you’ve spent a few hours shopping in an over-crowed mall, that has ‘syruped’ your ears with greetings from Celine and Bolton in some attempt to make you want to buy more stuff from more places. This might be a kind of apocalyptic Christmas record, but sometimes that’s what we need in order to really appreciate what we have.

Anyway, it is a very cool record, and any Flaming Lips fan would be ecstatic to find this under the tree on Christmas day. When I last checked their were still copies to be found at the independent record stores around town, and it shouldn’t cost anymore than 25 bucks a pop.

 

Comic Relief – The Christmas Edition.

Perhaps you’re looking for the perfect gift this holiday season to give to that Fan Expo person in your life… well if so, look no further than the Uncanny X-Men # 143.

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_143

In this Christmas issue of the Uncanny X-Men, every fan-boys dream girl-next door Kitty Pride, faces off against a soul sucking demon, with claws that can rip through solid steel walls and yada yada yada. Because you know, nothing says happy holidays like a young Jewish teenage girl being chased through a mansion by a demon reminiscent of the aliens in… well Alien.

From a trivia/ value point of view, it is also the end of a run of issues that saw the stellar Chris Claremont and John Bryne team up and produce some of the X-Mens most memorable issues including the introduction of Canadian Super-Team Alpha Flight, the Death of Phoenix, and the inspiration for the most recent X-movie, Days of Future Past.

Both writers are legends within the business and comic guides always have their material marked up a couple extra bucks. From a gift perspective, this is a stand- alone issue that has great character development, and importance within the greater Marvel community as the first issue Kitty has had to battle alone. Honestly, it shows just how damn smart her character is.

Prices will range depending on the condition of the comic itself, but you should expect to pay between $20 and $35 for a decent copy. And even knowing the issue came out back in 1981, which by my math makes it 33 years since its release, you can still find  it easily enough at some of your better comic shops. Or if all else fails – ebay.

 

Collectors Corner

A Christmas Carol or Scrooge

The 1951 Alastair Sim Version

For many years I have stayed up late on Christmas Eve so that I could watch the old 1951 classic black and white version of A Christmas Carol. For me, it is the ultimate holiday movie. While not exactly what I would call family friendly, it does put forward not only the themes of kindness and generosity, but also the desire for redemption.

The movie acts as morality tale, horror film, and holiday movie all in one shot, which pretty much speaks to its lasting appeal. Then of course there is the multitude of versions inspired by both the original Dickins tale, and this film. Bill Murray, Mickey Mouse, the Muppets, Jim Carrey and many many many others have all taken shots at telling this story.

However, from a collectors point of view, beyond the books and movies (movie in Blu-Ray can be had for about $15.99 from Amazon) – what is there?

a christmas dvd

Glad you asked.

The movie posters!

Yep. The movie posters.

A quick search online and you will find yourself at movieposters.com which is located in Toronto and has a massive selection of movie posters to be had.

Seeing as I’m sticking to the 1951 film, you can find two different reproductions at great price points.

The first is close to your standard sized movie poster at 26” by 39” for $10.99. Standard size these days is 27” by 40” but places that sell posters usually also sell frames that will fit any film poster size.

cc standard

Of course, if you don’t have wall space for something so big, you can go with the more classic look poster that is only 11” by 17” which is also $10.99.

cc small

Then, let’s not forget the collectors dream come true – an original poster! While it is identical to the 26″ by 39″ it is bigger.

The one selling at movieposters.com (http://ca.movieposter.com/poster/MPW-54764/Christmas_Carol.html) is not standard size and does not come cheap. Remember that this movie holds legendary status amongst people that love both old films and Christmas themed films.

The poster itself is 44.5” by 82.5” which is both wider and taller than me – and I’m pretty wide and tall. It also sells for $2529.99; which means, sign up for their newsletter and wait for a 15% off sale because even that will save you a few hundred bucks. Of course, a serious collector will love ya forever with a gift like that, but let’s face it; it is out of the price range for most of us.