Month: November 2011

Listening booth — Billy May, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer Mambo”

Listening booth — Billy May, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer Mambo”

Listening Booth, Music
A few years ago I published my first list of the best Christmas albums to own, and one of them was the fantastic compilation, Ultra-Lounge: Christmas Cocktails. The first track from that LP is a ridiculously fun and funny Latin jazz tune from 1953 called "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer Mambo." Billy May leads the orchestra on this one (lead vocals by drummer Alvin Stoller), and it's a gem. But almost as good as the song is this YouTube video for it, set to clips from Rankin/Bass's immortal 1964 stop-motion TV special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Be-ho-ho-hold!
Album Cover of the Week: Space Age Santa Claus

Album Cover of the Week: Space Age Santa Claus

Album Cover of the Week, Music
This cover has made the rounds for at least a few years, but I just stumbled upon it this year. It's a delicious slice of mid-century Christmas cheer called Space Age Santa Claus. According to the entry on this 45 rpm single (on a FaLaLaLaLa.com post that is now only available through Google cache), "Space Age Santa Claus" is the A-side of this single (from Delhi Records, 1961), and the B-side is "When Christmas Bells Are Ringing." Both tunes were written by Ross Christman -- which sure sounds like a pseudonym to me -- and performed by the Hal Bradley Orchestra with Patty Marie Jay on vocals. I'm a little confused as to the perspective in this drawing. Is that a regular-sized Santa holding a really small tree? Or is the tree normal and Santa is just colossal? Because if it's the
Sunday Jazz: Remembering drumming great Paul Motian

Sunday Jazz: Remembering drumming great Paul Motian

Music, Sunday Jazz
Jazz drumming legend Paul Motian died last Tuesday at age 80 due to complications of a bone marrow disorder. My first exposure to Motian was through his output with Bill Evans in the late '50s and early '60s. Motian was a member of Evans' trio when they recorded a pair of immortal albums at New York's Village Vanguard in 1961 -- Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby. Motian recorded and performed almost up until his death, although to be honest it's his Evans stint I remember the most. But hey, there are worse things to be remembered for, right? For my humble remembrance of Motian, then, a selection from Waltz for Debby. It's the Miles David modal workout "Milestones." Listen to Motian carry the tune along as Evans and bassist Scott LaFaro play off each other brilliantl
Football Friday: November 25, 1951 — The Day the Flags Flew

Football Friday: November 25, 1951 — The Day the Flags Flew

Football Friday, Sports
Browns punter Horace Gillom was ejected after punching Wayne Hansen of the Bears in retaliation for an earlier hit. Today marks the 60th anniversary of one of the more ignominious contests in the annals of the NFL. On November 25, 1951 the Chicago Bears met the defending NFL champion Cleveland Browns at venerable Cleveland Municipal Stadium and made league history. The Browns crushed the Bears 42-21 thanks in part to an amazing six Dub Jones touchdowns, but the stat that is even more eye-popping is the penalty line. Here are the game totals: Chicago Bears -- 16 penalties, 165 yards Cleveland Browns -- 21 penalties, 209 yards As a Raiders fan I'm familiar with penalties, and 37 of them are a lot. There was one flag thrown every 96 seconds on average on that day. During one driv...
8 More Christmas Albums You Need To Own

8 More Christmas Albums You Need To Own

Listcruft, Music
Several years ago I shared eight of my favorite (and best, if I may humbly say so) Christmas albums. I think it's high time to add to that list, so here are another eight Yuletide platters that would make worthy additions to any holiday music collection. As on the first list, there's enough variety here that you should be able to find something new to love. So here we go, in no particular order... #1 A Time to Be Jolly (1971) Bing Crosby Bing was in his late 60s and in the last decade of his legendary career when this was released on the brand new Daybreak Records label in 1971. The only thing that gives this away, however, are the vintage late-'60s/early '70s MOR musical arrangements, which are really quite nice. Most of the tracks on A Time to Be Jolly kick off with some sl
Sunday Jazz: Thanksgiving Jazz Playlist

Sunday Jazz: Thanksgiving Jazz Playlist

Music, Sunday Jazz
OK, so I'm cheating a bit on this one. I can't think of very many jazz numbers written specifically about the Thanksgiving holiday, so it pretty much all comes down to the titles. Still, I think you'll agree that this is a decent feast of music. (Spotify users — you can listen to these and other featured Sunday Jazz songs by subscribing to my GFS Sunday Jazz playlist.) Dave Brubeck, "Thank You" Thelonious Monk, "Stuffy Turkey" Kenny Burrell, "Wavy Gravy" Vince Guaraldi, "Thanksgiving Theme" Mongo Santamaria, "Sweet 'Tater Pie" Ella Fitzgerald, "Flying Home" Related articles Sunday Jazz: Halloween jazz! (grayflannelsuit.net) Thelonious Monk: Thelonious Alone in San Francisco (Review) (popmatters.com)
Cork it, 1972 Dolphins

Cork it, 1972 Dolphins

Sports
This post originally ran in November 2005, when the Indianapolis Colts looked poised to unseat the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only undefeated team in the modern NFL era. They ultimately failed, and so this year the 9-0 Green Bay Packers are next in line for a shot at sports immortality. And wouldn't you know it, the '72 Dolphins just can't shut the hell up. Same crap, different year. I'd like to take a moment to delve into the world of sports. Last night, the Indianapolis Colts beat the Pittsburgh Steelers to go to 11-0 this season. And just like all the other times a team has gone undefeated this deep into the season, we have to watch the graying, braying remnants of the 1972 Dolphins (who finished 17-0) celebrate whenever the last undefeated team loses. And I, for one, have...
Jimmy Fallon channels Jim Morrison, awesomeness ensues

Jimmy Fallon channels Jim Morrison, awesomeness ensues

Funny Stuff, TV & Radio
This is the coolest thing you'll probably see all week, which is a bit depressing since it's only Monday. Still, you need to see this. It's Jimmy Fallon (as Jim Morrison) and some random white guys performing the theme to Reading Rainbow as the Doors. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that his house band, The Roots, were really the ones playing on this. Pretty brilliant. The recreation of the Doors' look from their Ed Sullivan Show appearance is damn good, and I guess now we know which way Jimmy wears his leather pants. Between seeing this and his Barry Gibb Talk Show sketches, I'm thinking maybe Saturday Night Live should've kept Jimmy and dumped Seth Meyers.
So fresh: 10 Black Sabbath songs that will never get old

So fresh: 10 Black Sabbath songs that will never get old

Music
Last Friday the original, legendary Black Sabbath lineup -- Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward -- announced that they are reuniting once again for a tour and a 2012 Rick Rubin-produced album. I'm holding out hope that it won't be a disaster, as the quasi-Sabbath Heaven & Hell project (R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio) was quite good. So to honor the godfathers of heavy metal I've put together this compilation of ten songs (from the original foursome) that are not their biggest hits, but are still true genre classics. 1 -- "Black Sabbath" (from Black Sabbath, 1970) This is it, people. Scholars can debate the origins of metal all they want, but for my money it starts with the first song from Sabbath's first album. Those opening three guitar chords from Iommi ar...