Early this year, I began putting aside any song-poems I acquired that had to do with Christmas, and doing the same with any from my existing collection that I came across, with the intent of having the best of all possible Christmas oriented song-poem material for my song-poem blog, come December. Well, December is here, and I have found that I have an overabundance of material for that once-a-week website. And so this forum is the lucky recipient of ten examples of the finest Christmas offerings from the hardworking song-poets of yore, and the sometimes equally hard-working folks who toiled at the various song-poem factories, way back when.
I'll start with the one I think to be the best of the batch, and it's from our friends at the fabulous Fable Label. Label head Sandy Stanton sings this one himself, along with label stalwart Patty Wheeler. It's the sad, yet hopeful story of the author's "Christmas Tree". Although this record goes on more than a minute longer than it should (almost four minutes, a real rarity among song-poems AND among 45's from 1958), there is some nice guitar work in there, and the general off-kilter feel of the typical Fable release:
A close second would have to be this offering from two of my favorites from the song-poem world, Rodd Keith (heard here in my favorite era of his, the one-man-band Chamberlin era of the Film City label) and song-poet extraordinaire Edith Hopkins (my choice for the best writer of song-poems ever, and about whom I really need to do a full tribute to, one of these days). This record was undoubtedly contracted via Film City, but like most of Hopkins songs, it was released on her own "Inner-Glo" label:
Norm Burns is perhaps my favorite song-poem singer, at least based on his best work compared with the best work of other song-poem heroes. But he had his share of clunkers, too, and "Christmas With You", from 1973, is closer to the latter category than the former:
There are few relatively few records which have been discovered on the small Stylecraft label - it was one of the earlier labels, with releases stretching back to the 78 era, and the performances on their records show a level of thought, preparation and focus quite a bit higher than most of their cohorts at other labels, particularly the later labels. From Stylecraft, here's Lynne Richards with "Christmas in Ireland":
Six more song-poems after the break!
A lot of song-poem collections and collectors focus on the MSR label, but it tends to be one of my least favorites, particularly its releases any time after the death of Rodd Keith. I don't particularly enjoy their singers, the effort given is often minimal, they relied way too heavily on terrible synths, and the soundand pressing quality is abysmal. Perhaps you'll disagree though - whatever your reaction, here's Dick Kent with "Everywhere You Go On Christmas"
The following Sammy Marshall track (or "Singing Sammy Marshall" as the overkill on the label would have it) was available on the downloads at the old American Song-Poem Music Archives, and has therefore been posted here at WFMU as part of the reposting of those MP3's. However, it seems to have a Christmas tie-in, although a vague one at best (it is about Jingle Bells, to a degree), and it's a lot of fun, so I thought I'd include it:
Finally, four records from the minimalist era at the Tin Pan Alley label. Tin Pan Alley started off making fairly decent sounding records, many of them doo-wop oriented, and could easily have been lumped in with Stylecraft as a label which tried to go above and beyond what many competitors were doing. But by the mid '60's, they had swung FAR in the other direction, releasing records featuring arrangements that sound barely thought out, with bare bones backing bands (often sounding at the unsignable garage band level), and amateurish singing. The following four songs vary in the degree to which they match that description, but all come from the era I've described, and all are significantly lacking in the low-to-moderate amount of polish heard on records by most of their competitors. I will also comment that the last record featured, about the elf, is in terrible shape, with a crescent shaped crack in it, running from the outside edge to the center, and back out half-way to another part of the edge. I thought that it's particular wretchedness as a song and performance made it worth sharing anyway, but hopefully, that does help explain the sound quality you'll experience:
More Christmas weirdness, song-poem and otherwise, can be found here.