Sabot L'ours (sabotlours) wrote,
Sabot L'ours

Christmas Music Detective

Last week I made a post about Xmas music. I mentioned some cassette tapes that were given to me by my sister about 20 years ago. They mainly contained jazz versions of Christmas standards as well as some obscure holiday songs from the 30's and 40's. Every year I would break out the tapes and listen to them over and over. Hearing those songs (and versions of songs) became a holiday tradition. With the advent of the mp3 era, I decided to hunt down the songs and recreate those tapes. Better yet, find the actual recordings in digital format. I couldn't just ask my sister because I'm pretty sure that her audiophile friend had made them for her. This is the story of the hunt.

One of my favorite songs was called "Blue Christmas." Hunting for this song was difficult because 99% of the versions out there are remakes of the song that Elvis made famous. The breakthrough came when I heard the song on a public radio station and I learned that the song was done by none other than the great jazz musician Miles Davis. Now I could do a search on title and performer! I then found out that the song is titled "Blue Xmas" not "Blue Christmas." So I now had one "Rosetta Stone." I did a search on that song and came up with a jazz Xmas cd. It wasn't the one I was hunting for, but there were similar songs. Now I had another Rosetta Stone. I searched on the other songs and got a potential hit. In particular I was looking for a version of "Winter Wonderland." I mentioned last week that I found about 5 pages of hits. I lied. There were over 10 pages of hits with 25 matches per page. I found yet another jazz cd which contained several of songs I recognized from the tapes. Bingo! The version I had been looking for was done by Chico Hamilton. Off to to see if I could order it. There was only 1 hit for a cd. I checked the cd playlist and the song wasn't there. WTF?!? Here's where customer comments came to the rescue. The cd was a re-release of a re-release where the record company combined 2 Xmas jazz albums into one cd. One of the cd's was "Jingle Bell Jazz" which was the album that was used to create one side of the cassettes. In the process of combining albums, some tracks were dropped including "Winter Wonderland." *sadface* But wait! Another comment said that the track was available on a cd with the unremarkable title "Christmas Jazz." There was no hit on "Chico Hamilton" because all of the artists were simply listed as "various."

In searching for "Winter Wonderland" I found a version by The Fabulous Thunderbirds which I knew was on another side of the tapes. That lead to "An Austin R&B Christmas" which was, in fact, the entire side of the tape. You gotta love an album where the cover art features Santa's sleigh being pulled by armadillos.

The tape side that featured old blues Xmas songs from the 30's and 40's was tracked down to be "A Stash Christmas" named after the Stash record label. That album contained a few classic Christmas songs by Louis Armstrong including Satchmo reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas." It turns out that I had earlier downloaded "A Swinging Christmas" which was a re-release of "A Stash Christmas" with a couple of minor track changes.

So in the end I was pretty much able to re-create 5 out of 6 tape sides. Searching for particular Xmas songs can be a task since searching by song title is just about useless unless it's a unique song.
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