Every year on Black Friday, I start getting really excited about Christmas, but I refuse to go to any big box stores to participate in the commercial extravaganza. Instead, in what seems to be becoming a “day after Thanksgiving” tradition for me and my girls, I stopped by one of my favorite secondhand stores, The Consignment Shack, in La Mesa. (Of course it would be a favorite with a name like that!)
My girls and I had a great time poking around the Christmas items, scoring an adorable cache of handmade tree ornaments. And of course we perused the large, excellent, and well-priced record collection. Every time I shop their 3 aisles of wooden bins filled with used vinyl, it brings me back to all of those wonderful college and post-college days I spent trolling the now-defunct Rhino Records shop in West L.A.
So this time I hit the Christmas record jackpot by scoring the following records to add to my holiday music collection:
A fun coincidence: they all share the same title. I am all for variety, but these were the best of the bunch that day, so that’s that. Let’s examine each one, shall we?
The Original: Gene Autry Sings Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer & other Christmas Favorites (Grand Prix Records, 1957)
This was quite a special find for me for a few reasons. First, who doesn’t love Gene Autry’s classic rendition of the Rudolph song? Second, we get all of the “other CHRISTMAS favorites” by America’s greatest singing cowboy, which you don’t hear as often on the airwaves (at least these days?). And third, it features the lovely art of Richard Scarry from the associated Little Golden Book, which we also own. (Actually, maybe this is the primary reason.)
Original Sound Track and Music from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (A Videocraft TV Musical Spectacular) Featuring The Voice of Burl Ives (Decca Records, 1964)
I adore the Rankin-Bass Rudolph animated classic, as do countless millions. So it’s delightful to now own the soundtrack album to play and enjoy at any time. Listening to the original songs on their own (aka through an audio-only source and not while watching the show) gave me a new appreciation of just how good they really are, and how they are all now modern Christmas standards. (You go, Johnny Marks!!)
This is also one of those fun ’60s records in which there wasn’t enough material to release a full album, so the A side contains all the songs from the show, while the B side simply contains instrumental versions of the same; in this case, by the “Decca Concert Orchestra.” My copy of the original American pressing of A Hard Day’s Night by the Beatles also does this. (I was so confused when I used to listen to it as a young child; I kept wondering, were all of these instrumentals actually in the movie?! It just didn’t seem like a “proper” soundtrack album to this child of the ’80s).
Of course the sleeve of this record tells you the reason for this artistic choice:
“The delightful performances of the songs of the original sound track are complete on Side I of this recording. The score is so outstanding that rather than extend each selection and interrupt your enjoyment of a complete performance, Decca has recorded the music for Side II instrumentally by the Decca Concert Orchestra.”
Thanks, Decca Records! 🙂
And the last of this year’s haul, but certainly not the least, as I came to appreciate after listening:
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Other Christmas Favorites (Wonderland Records, 1982)
I just grabbed this because I liked the illustration and it seemed like a fun chance to take for the kids for only $1.00. (Yep, all of these were half-off the sticker price that day – yay Black Friday! Actually, the Consignment Shack always does this). The kids were getting antsy, so I had to just grab it and go, so I didn’t get a chance to read any of the fine print; and with no artist listed in big print on the cover, I thought it might be one of those recordings done by studio musicians or no-name bands, so it could go either way. Certainly there was no track listing on the back. (Way to go, Wonderland Records!!)
After I got it home I was pleasantly surprised to learn, once I pulled the record from its sleeve, that the tracks contained a couple of great singers (as well as some unknown to me). I also learned after playing it that the songs are all a lot of fun to listen to and quite well-done. Here’s the track list:
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Mike Stewart and the Sandpipers (huh?)
- Cracker Jack Xmas (lots of use of “Xmas” – I guess for space considerations?)
- Winter Wonderland
- Xmas is Comin’
- The Night Before Xmas
- Santa’s Other Reindeer – Sandpipers – Mitch Miller and his Orchestra
- How Lovely is Christmas – Bing Crosby (love!)
- When Santa Gets Your Letter
- I Dreamt That I Was Santa Claus – Ann Lloyd
- Little Boy Who Couldn’t Find Xmas – Roy Rogers (hooray!)
- Reindeer Dance
- Jingle Bells
- 12 Days of Xmas – The Sandpipers
- Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Jimmy Durante (yes!)
I found this link that had some additional info on this album and its artists, including the Sandpipers, who sound familiar, but I’m really not familiar with them. Apparently they recorded quite a lot of “Golden Records” for kids, spearheaded by the great Mitch Miller. How great to be able to sing children’s songs for a living!
Overall this was really enjoyable and fun to listen to, and will now be a holiday staple. This record was truly a hidden bright and tiny gem; it’s such fun to be able to uncover something like this whilst treasure hunting at secondhand stores.