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Holiday Gift Guide Review: A Classic Christmas With Rosemary Clooney, Frank DeVol

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White Christmas - Clooney

Welcome to Part One of a two-part series exploring the recent line-up of Christmas releases from Real Gone Music!

1954’s White Christmas, quite simply, remains one of the most beloved holiday musicals to ever hit the silver screen. Built around the songbook of Irving Berlin – who lived to the age of 101 in 1989 but was already a Grand Old Man of American music by 1954 – the film starred Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen. Such a quartet promised an evening’s entertainment filled with song and dance, and the movie more than delivered. But what it couldn’t deliver was an accompanying soundtrack album.

Bing Crosby was a Decca recording artist and Rosemary Clooney was on Columbia. (This wasn’t the first time this particular problem plagued an Irving Berlin musical. The 1950 Broadway production of Call Me Madam starred Decca’s Ethel Merman. Yet due to RCA’s holding the rights to the cast album, that label’s Dinah Shore subbed for The Merm on record, leaving Ethel to record her own version of the score with Dick Haymes at Decca.) Crosby and Kaye appeared along with Trudy Stevens (dubbing dancer Vera Ellen) on the nominal soundtrack release, with Decca’s star Peggy Lee subbing for Clooney. As for Rosemary, she, like Merman before, was left to record a “studio” version of the score to her big hit musical. Clooney’s 8-song, 10-inch record has just been reissued and expanded by Real Gone Music (RGM-0309) in a wonderful new edition.

At Columbia, Clooney couldn’t exactly replicate the film’s performances. The full minstrel sequence required a large ensemble; songs like Crosby’s “What Can You Do with a General” and Kaye’s “Choreography” weren’t exactly extractable or particularly suitable for her talents. So on the album overseen by Mitch Miller, Clooney reprised her stunning “Love – You Didn’t Do Right by Me,” turned “Snow,” “Gee, I Wish I Was Back in the Army” and “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” into solos, took over for Crosby on “White Christmas” and Kaye on “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing,” and extracted “Mandy” from the minstrel show. Notably, she also reprised “Sisters,” but with her own sister and onetime singing partner Betty Clooney happily filling in for Vera Ellen. The latter is one of the album’s undisputed highlights; if the album versions of “Snow” (a quartet in the film) and “Count Your Blessings” pale in comparison to the movie arrangements, the strength of Clooney’s vocals on these quintessential Berlin songs keeps them wholly enjoyable. Clooney was an innate jazz singer, a quality which would come to the fore in her later years. Her interpretive skills, pure tone and sly vocal wit elevated even the most absurd novelty material foisted on her by Miller; matched with Irving Berlin, the results could hardly be less than delightful. Rosemary Clooney in Songs from the Paramount Pictures Production of White Christmas, as the full title goes, isn’t a true “Christmas album,” but it’s certainly right for the season – or any other.

After the jump: more on White Christmas, plus a look at a rare title from Frank DeVol and the Rainbow Strings! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 9, 2014 at 11:48

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like a Real Gone Christmas: Label Preps Robert Goulet, Andy Williams and the Williams Brothers, B.J. Thomas, More

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GouletThe first day of autumn is almost here, but Real Gone Music is looking ahead to winter – and the most spectacular line-up of holiday music we’ve seen since The Second Disc started up nearly five years ago!  The label has just unveiled its release slate for November 4, with a whopping seven Christmas titles, two contemporary Christian albums from a classic pop legend that make a perfect seasonal  complement, and – just to keep things rocking – a hotly-anticipated CD from a classic rock great.

I’m doubly proud to announce that four of the titles in this batch are extra-special to us here at Second Disc HQ.  I’ve compiled and annotated the first-ever collection of The Complete Columbia Christmas Recordings of the one and only Mr. Robert Goulet!  That means both of Mr. Goulet’s sparkling holiday LPs (This Christmas I Spend with You and Robert Goulet’s Wonderful World of Christmas), of course, but we’re also adding a little extra under the Christmas tree with both sides of a rare mono 45 and all three duets recorded by Goulet and his then-wife Carol Lawrence – including “The Christmas Waltz,” never before on CD!  Spectacularly remastered at Sony’s Battery Studios, these long out-of-print Christmas classics from one of the most distinctive vocalists of all time have never sounded better!

Williams BrothersI’ve also written the liner notes for another true labor of love for the Real Gone team: the first-ever wide-release CD issue of 1970’s The Williams Brothers Christmas Album – the only full-length album featuring Andy Williams and his brothers Bob, Dick and Don!  With some of the most spectacular harmony singing ever put on a Christmas record, the album is highlighted by an amazing side-long medley of holiday favorites and the Williams Brothers’ renditions of Kay Thompson’s “The Holiday Season” and “Jingle Bells,” this original Barnaby Records release – freshly remastered from the original tapes for the first time by Mike Milchner at SonicVision – finally can take its place among Andy Williams’ Christmas treasures on compact disc.  This reissue of  The Williams Brothers Christmas Album follows last year’s comprehensive, 2-CD release from Real Gone of Andy’s complete Columbia Christmas recordings!

BJ - Home HappyReal Gone is also chronicling a key chapter in the career of B.J. Thomas with two new releases.  In the mid-1970s, Thomas became one of the most successful artists ever in the field of contemporary Christian music, recording a series of record-breaking, Grammy Award-winning albums for the Myrrh label that reflected the style and high production values of his pop material but with a spiritual emphasis.  Featuring key players from Muscle Shoals and the Nashville A-Team and songs by Hal David, Chris Christian, Archie Jordan, Pete Drake, and B.J. and his wife Gloria, these albums have never received their due on CD – until now!  Home Where I Belong/Happy Man and You Gave Me Love/Miracle, with two albums on each CD, reveal a major chapter in the career of B.J. Thomas – and these amazing, heartfelt and incredibly catchy records aren’t just for Christian music fans!  Best of all, B.J. was kind enough to contribute to my liner notes for both releases, illuminating this often-misunderstood period of his remarkable, and still-thriving, career.

These four titles are joined by other must-have stocking stuffers from The Statler Brothers, The Brothers Four, The Kingston Trio, Frank DeVol and Rosemary Clooney – plus Real Gone has the long-lost solo album from Alice Cooper and Lou Reed’s frequent collaborator Dick Wagner on CD!  After the jump, we have the label’s press release and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »