Vinyl Elvis #2: 1982’s MEMORIES OF CHRISTMAS Inspires Nostalgia

This re-post was first published on one of my pop-culture blogs, now retired.


MEMORIES OF CHRISTMAS (RCA, 1982; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for full-color version

Memories Of Christmas
Label: RCA
Catalog Number: CPL1-4395
Recorded: 1957-1971 | Nashville, Hollywood
Released: 1982

Memories Of Christmas is a perfectly named album for me, because it indeed fills me with nostalgia for many special Christmases growing up in the 1980s. When my brother gave me the album, along with the rest of his Elvis records, it marked the first time I had played Memories Of Christmas on vinyl in over 20 years.

Side A of MEMORIES OF CHRISTMAS (RCA, 1982; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for full-color version

Side A

  1. O Come, All Ye Faithful (1971)
    This previously unreleased version is a splice between the master (Take 1) and Take 2. It actually proves to be better than either take alone, making it my “go to” version of the song by Elvis. Fantastic performance and a perfect opener to the album. Sound quality on the record itself is excellent.
  2. Silver Bells (1971)
    Another stellar Christmas performance, first heard on Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas (1971). I love the acoustic guitar here.
  3. I’ll Be Home on Christmas Day (1971)
    Here it is, the highlight of the album–the previously unreleased re-recording of “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day.” Attempted in June 1971, this is a bluesier take on the Michael Jarrett song than the May 1971 version that became the official master on The Wonderful World Of Christmas. For my money, this is Elvis at his best.
  4. Blue Christmas (1957)
    It is apparently unlawful for RCA to release an Elvis Christmas compilation without this worn-out tune, featuring the grating background vocals of Millie Kirkham. I would have preferred the use of a live version from 1968. In fact, what would have been at the time the previously unreleased June 27 6 PM Show performance captured for the ELVIS special would have been perfect.
  5. Santa Claus Is Back in Town (1957)
    Side A finishes up in style with the greatest Elvis Christmas song of all, the down and dirty “Santa Claus Is Back In Town,” arguably the only real competition against “Reconsider Baby” (1960) as his finest blues performance.

Side B of MEMORIES OF CHRISTMAS (RCA, 1982; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for full-color version

Side B

  1. Merry Christmas Baby (1971)
    Speaking of bluesy Elvis Christmas songs, here is another fine entry. This is the previously unreleased extended version of “Merry Christmas Baby,” over two minutes longer than the album master (Wonderful World Of Christmas) and nearly five minutes longer than the single version. As a kid, I loved hearing Elvis ad-lib, “Gave me a diamond ring for Christmas; now I’m putting it through Al’s mike.” Unfortunately, there are a couple of pops/crackles on the record on this song, but nothing too distracting. Side A had no noise at all! Like the 1969 live versions of “Suspicious Minds,” “Merry Christmas Baby” just goes on forever. In both cases, a very, very good thing.
  2. If Every Day Was Like Christmas (1966)
    This is the previously unreleased “undubbed” version of the master. The piano is beautiful here, and I believe more prominent than on the CD version I have of this performance. There is a “raw” sound to this version, but it makes for a very beautiful and effective performance.
  3. Christmas Message from Elvis/Silent Night (1967/1957)
    The opening message was recorded for Season’s Greetings From Elvis, his 1967 Christmas special that aired on radio stations across the United States. My only gripe here is that the message originally flowed into “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” (1957). The compilation producers decided to splice “Silent Night” on instead. I am assuming it is because they wanted to “bookend” the album with traditional Christmas songs. You can actually hear “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” begin during Elvis’ message before the segue into “Silent Night.” Unfortunately, this has never been corrected on subsequent releases of the message. The label has even released “Silent Night” on at least one Christmas compilation since then that did not contain the message, yet had the beginning of the song chopped off due to apparently using this version. Sloppy. I knew and recognized none of this when I first heard this album back in the 1980s. I loved hearing the message from Elvis, and I must admit, I still find it pretty cool today. Overall, this record sounds incredible, with the only extraneous noise being those two pops on “Merry Christmas Baby.”

Back cover of MEMORIES OF CHRISTMAS (RCA, 1982; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for full-color version

Elvis recorded less than 25 Christmas songs during his entire career. Every year, though, it seems there is a “new” Elvis Christmas compilation that rearranges those songs with a new, cheap cover. Memories Of Christmas offers not only beautifully conceived cover art, but unique album content that is truly worthy of standing alongside the two Christmas albums that Elvis released in his lifetime, Elvis’ Christmas Album (1957) and Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas.

Calendar insert from MEMORIES OF CHRISTMAS (RCA, 1982; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for full-color version


“All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).”
Isaiah 7:14

A familiar winner takes all the candy in Elvis Trivialities #12

Congratulations to Thomas (elvistoday), who unscrambled his way to victory in Elvis Trivialities #12.

He receives a Christmas gift box full of bragging rights and yet another spot in The Mystery Train’s Night Riders.

And the answer is…

Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas (1971)

1.) “The Wonderful World Of Christmas”
2.) “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day”
3.) “O Come All Ye Faithful”
4.) “It Won’t Seem Like Christmas”
5.) “The First Noel”
6.) “Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees”
7.) “Merry Christmas Baby”
8.) “If I Get Home On Christmas Day”
9.) “Silver Bells”
10.) “On A Snowy Christmas Night”
11.) “Winter Wonderland”

are the Elvis songs represented by the following scrambled letters:

1.) RTSHLOHICMDRADOOFLERTWWUNEFS
2.) SRHTLISCYOEMDIHALOMNBEA
3.) YOLAULTHFEFMAEIOCL
4.) MWIKSSRMATLOTTIESCHNIEE
5.) SINOEETHTRFL
6.) SRAOSESIENVDETHLLHSRLTACEYAM
7.) EMRMIARBSSATRYYBHC
8.) DGIHMOIHSAESMINACYFORTET
9.) LVBLEISSRLE
10.) NROSNASTSMHNAITOCGWIYH
11.) DILDRNRTEONNAEWW

* * *

Have a Merry Christmas!


The Mystery Train’s Night Riders

  • December 23, 2012: Thomas (0:36)
  • October 9, 2012: David (14:38) | Honorable Mention: John (22:06)
  • February 4, 2012: Thomas (13:52)
  • February 3, 2012: Thomas (2:18)
  • December 21, 2011: Wellsy (2:37)
  • October 31, 2011: Thomas (17:32)
  • October 1, 2011: Jimmy Cool (1:01)
  • September 9, 2011: Steve Brogdon (0:17) <— Record time
  • August 6, 2011: Thomas (2:26)
  • July 9, 2011: Thomas (5:26)
  • June 23, 2011: Fred Wolfe (0:18)
  • June 22, 2011: Ty stumps the train (no winner)

On That Train Tomorrow: Elvis Trivialities #12

Well, folks, this must have been the busiest December on record for me. After finishing university in May, I thought my schedule would be lighter. Instead, other commitments keep rushing in to fill the void.

One thing that helped get me though this tiring but fun month has been listening to lots of Christmas music, including, of course, many Elvis songs. With that in mind, I think it’s time for the last Elvis Trivialities of 2012.

Here we go!

Elvis Scrambles The Wonderful World Of Christmas

Will you be first to unscramble the Elvis songs?

Name the Elvis songs represented by the following scrambled letters (punctuation and spaces have been omitted):

1.) RTSHLOHICMDRADOOFLERTWWUNEFS
2.) SRHTLISCYOEMDIHALOMNBEA
3.) YOLAULTHFEFMAEIOCL
4.) MWIKSSRMATLOTTIESCHNIEE
5.) SINOEETHTRFL
6.) SRAOSESIENVDETHLLHSRLTACEYAM
7.) EMRMIARBSSATRYYBHC
8.) DGIHMOIHSAESMINACYFORTET
9.) LVBLEISSRLE
10.) NROSNASTSMHNAITOCGWIYH
11.) DILDRNRTEONNAEWW

The first person to get all eleven right in the comments below will unwrap a huge box full of bragging rights.

Good luck!

REVIEW: Elvis – The Complete Masters Collection (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of an ongoing series reviewing Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection. Read Part 1.


We haven’t finished the summer yet, folks, but why not take a break from the heatwave to enjoy a Christmas-themed review?

CD Vol. 4: Christmas With Elvis

Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection - Volume 4This volume of The Franklin Mint‘s 36-disc Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection (mastered by Vic Anesini) presents nearly all of the Christmas songs that Elvis released during his lifetime (a live version of “Blue Christmas” appears on a later disc).

Christmas With Elvis contains each of the Christmas songs featured on Elvis’ Christmas Album (1957), his 1966 Christmas single, and Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas (1971).

01. Blue Christmas: I think of “Blue Christmas” as the “Hound Dog” of Elvis Christmas songs. It’s the one the general public most associates with him. It is an okay recording and certainly appropriate to kick off this CD. I wish it had less or no backing vocals, though. I much prefer his live versions from 1968. (Recorded: 1957)

02. White Christmas: “Blue Christmas” does not transition very well into “White Christmas,” but the compiler has once again taken the easy way out and confined the song sequencing of this disc to recording order. I’m actually not a huge fan of “White Christmas” by Elvis. For this one, my go-to versions tend to be those by The Drifters (whose 1954 recording inspired the Elvis one) or Burl Ives (1965). Incidentally, this track differs from the one released during Elvis’ lifetime in that a finger-snap near the beginning of the song has been omitted (5). I must admit, I would never have noticed such a small detail on my own. That’s the wonder of the For Elvis CD Collectors Forum. (1957)

03. Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane): You’ll be happy to know that no finger-snapping has been omitted from this terrific version of “Here Comes Santa Claus.” I love how Elvis swings some of the lyrics. (1957)

04. Silent Night: I probably would have saved “Silent Night” for the closer, but what a beautiful recording. For the gentle voice of a 22-year-old to convey this kind of passion and conviction speaks volumes about the faith of Elvis Presley. (1957)

05. O Little Town Of Bethlehem: On the other hand, Elvis’ version of “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” tends to wear on me a bit. Like “White Christmas,” it is an okay performance, but nothing special. Nat King Cole’s 1960 recording tends to be my go-to version of this one. (1957)

06. Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me): It’s more finger-snapping fun on “Santa Bring My Baby Back.” What’s not to love? (1957)

07. Santa Claus Is Back In Town: Here it is, not only Elvis’ best Christmas song, but also one of his best blues numbers – right up there with 1960’s “Reconsider Baby.” When it comes to Elvis performances, they do not get much better than “Santa Claus Is Back In Town.” Incredible. (1957)

08. I’ll Be Home For Christmas: Elvis delivers yet another stunning performance on his classic version of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” This also would have worked as a great album closer. Sound quality is noticeably cleaner here than it was on 1994’s If Every Day Was Like Christmas CD, my previous source. (1957)

09. If Every Day Was Like Christmas: Recorded just a couple of weeks after the session that produced the How Great Thou Art album, the unique “If Every Day Was Like Christmas” makes me wish Elvis had recorded a few more Christmas tunes at this time. This one seems to have slightly more reverb than my previous source on the same 1994 CD. As I’ve not seen any experts make note of this, I assume this reflects the original release. (1966)

10. It Won’t Seem Like Christmas: Flash forward five years now to May 1971 and the sessions that produced Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas, my favorite of his Christmas albums. I used to write off “It Won’t Seem Like Christmas” as too depressing for a Christmas song, but it has definitely grown on me over the years. (1971)

11. If I Get Home On Christmas Day: Though it covers much the same theme as “It Won’t Seem Like Christmas,” “If I Get Home On Christmas Day” sounds much more hopeful. A very enjoyable performance. (1971)

12. Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees: Written by Elvis’ longtime friend Red West, “Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees” takes its place among the best of Elvis’ Christmas recordings. (1971)

13. Merry Christmas Baby [Album Master]: While it does not quite meet the stature of “Santa Claus Is Back In Town,” “Merry Christmas Baby” is another solid blues take on the holiday season by Elvis. This studio jam ran for well over eight minutes, about 5:45 of which appeared on the Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas album. The single version, edited to 3:15, does not appear in The Complete Masters Collection. (1971)

14. Silver Bells: Elvis delivers a fine rendition of “Silver Bells,” a Christmas classic. (1971)

15. I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day: Written by Michael Jarrett (“I’m Leavin'”), “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day” is a perfect Christmas song for Elvis. I put this one just below “Santa Claus Is Back In Town” as his best Christmas recording ever. Really, one of his best-ever songs, period. It is always a highlight of any album on which it appears. (1971)

16. On A Snowy Christmas Night: Though it does not often get mentioned, I love “On A Snowy Christmas Night,” especially the reminder to “Give thanks for all that you’ve been blessed with and hold your loved ones tight.” (1971)

17. Winter Wonderland: For some reason, many Elvis fans criticize this performance of “Winter Wonderland.” Even Thomas over at Elvis Today Blog, with whom I almost always agree, called it “spiritless.” I don’t hear it that way at all. Perhaps some feel this song should remain in the territory of a performer like Johnny Mathis, whose 1958 version is horrible. For me, Elvis owns “Winter Wonderland” – particularly by adding on his signature ending style. This sounds exactly like “Winter Wonderland” as interpreted by Elvis should: Perfect. (1971)

18. O Come All Ye Faithful: “O Come All Ye Faithful” is the “Silent Night” of the second Christmas album and is just as effective. This is a great arrangement, too. I love the percussion leading into “Sing choirs of angels…” (1971)

19. The First Noel: While I would not call it “spiritless,” Elvis does begin to sound a bit tired on “The First Noel.” To continue the comparison, “The First Noel” is the “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” of the 1971 album. Good, but not great. (1971)

20. The Wonderful World Of Christmas: It is strange that “The Wonderful World Of Christmas,” the weakest song of the 1971 Christmas album session, became the title track. It also does not serve very well as the closing track here. (1971)

As I stated last time, since The Franklin Mint has chosen to theme their CDs anyway, I would have preferred the compiler put more thought into the sequencing. It is much easier to intermingle Elvis’ Christmas music from different decades than many of his other recordings (also true of his gospel music), so this is a missed opportunity on this CD.

However, Christmas With Elvis at least gathers his Christmas masters in one place. It’s really hard to go wrong with an Elvis Christmas CD and this one is no exception. With upgraded audio, I’m all set for the Christmas season in a few months.

* * *

In Part 1 of this review, I mentioned that I was planning to frame the reproduction of the 1954 SUN 45 “That’s All Right” b/w “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” that came with this set. Here are the results, and it looks beautiful.

SUN 209 Reproduction - Framed

I’ve just obtained an RCA vintage-1977 edition of “Way Down” b/w “Pledging My Love” to hang beneath it. Just waiting for the frame to arrive.

Well, that’s four CDs down and … wow … thirty-two to go. Continue to look for future installments here on The Mystery Train Blog. I hope to finish within the next eight or nine years.

Sources

(5) “Re: Complete Masters compared/contrasted with Franklin Mint” by Claus, For Elvis CD Collectors Forum, 2010.


Read Part 3.

Good music on my radio

Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas album coverHowdy folks, I hope the holiday season is treating you well. I’ve been listening to the new FTD version of Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas for the last couple of days. The 2-CD set arrived here Wednesday night, just in time for Christmas. Promised Land also arrived, but I’m saving that one until after Christmas. Something to cure those post-Christmas blues.

Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas is proving to be one of my all-time favorite FTD releases. For one thing, I love “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day,” written by Michael Jarrett – who also wrote “I’m Leavin’.” In fact, you could almost subtitle this release “The Making Of ‘I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day'” because it contains a plethora of takes of both versions of the song. I prefer the blusey “remake” version that unfortunately was not issued until after Elvis’ death. It should have been a single back then.

This album gives that real “behind-the-scenes with Elvis in the studio” feel that I enjoy. Alternate takes of “Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees” are also highlights.

The previously unreleased take 2 of “O Come All Ye Faithful” is incredible, nice to hear without all of the overdubs. The ending of that take was spliced with the master take 1 for 1982’s Memories Of Christmas. Unfortunately, that spliced version is not included here, though there is plenty of space for it. It would have been nice to have that in upgraded sound.

The original album master tracks sound pristine. It is great to finally upgrade from the circa-1994 versions I have been playing all these years. Though recorded 40 years ago, close your eyes and it is not too hard to imagine Elvis is in the room with you, the sound of his vocals is so clear.

Alas, what’s Christmas without a couple of disappointments? The unedited version of “Merry Christmas Baby” fades between the undubbed and dubbed versions of the song, making for a very poor listening experience on the track I was expecting to be the highlight of this release. Elvis talking and rehearsing just before the jam begins almost makes up for it, though.

Also notably absent is the single version of “Merry Christmas Baby.” Why not include it when there is space available?

Finally, was it really necessary to close out the Christmas album with a track where Elvis drops an F-bomb? I’m not suggesting FTD should have edited the outtake of “Winter Wonderland” or even left it off. To use it as the last track of the album, though? Really?

Despite a couple of disappointments, the expanded Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas is a fabulous re-release of what is probably my favorite Christmas album. It will make Christmas 2011 one to remember!

“BAM!” Wellsy unscrambles the Christmas spirit in Elvis Trivialities

Elvis' Christmas AlbumFirst-time winner Wellsy has proven victorious in the Christmas edition of Elvis Trivialities.

Wellsy receives a stocking full of bragging rights, just in time for Christmas.

Plus, he becomes a member of The Mystery Train’s Night Riders.

And the answer is…

1.) “Santa Bring My Baby Back”
2.) “Peace In The Valley”
3.) “White Christmas”
4.) “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”
5.) “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”
6.) “It Is No Secret”
7.) “Here Comes Santa Claus”
8.) “I Believe”
9.) “O Little Town Of Bethlehem”
10.) “Silent Night”
11.) “Santa Claus Is Back In Town”
12.) “Blue Christmas”

are the Elvis songs represented by the following scrambled letters:

1.) YAANIAGBBABYKBCRTNSM
2.) TYEEEENLAVAIHCLP
3.) TREHSWHMCIITAS
4.) OETLRDODINMEAURPKSHCAY
5.) ISIORMRLAHEFOMSHCTLEB
6.) SEIONCITTRES
7.) EOAAMCTCASNLSEUHRSE
8.) BVLIEIEE
9.) OOMENLLBTHEETFTOIWTLEH
10.) IGTSHLNIENT
11.) USSCAWNNLISATAONTCAKBI
12.) LASRUCSETBMIH

* * *

The next question could come at any time. Be ready to jump on it by subscribing to The Mystery Train Blog using the feature in the menu bar to the right. That way, you’ll be emailed whenever a new post appears.

Once again, congratulations to Wellsy!


The Mystery Train’s Night Riders

  • December 21, 2011: Wellsy (2:37)
  • October 31, 2011: Thomas (Elvis Today) (17:32)
  • October 1, 2011: Anton Jeldres Tiselj (Jimmy Cool) (1:01)
  • September 9, 2011: Steve Brogdon (0:17) <— Record time
  • August 6, 2011: Thomas (Elvis Today) (2:26)
  • July 9, 2011: Thomas (Elvis Today) (5:26)
  • June 23, 2011: Fred Wolfe (0:18)
  • June 22, 2011: Ty stumps the train (no winner)

Elvis Trivialities Is Back In Town

As you finish up last minute preparations for Christmas, take a moment to relax and try your hand at today’s Elvis challenge.

Elvis' Scrambled Christmas Album

Can you be the first to unscramble the Elvis songs?

Name the Elvis songs represented by the following scrambled letters:

1.) YAANIAGBBABYKBCRTNSM
2.) TYEEEENLAVAIHCLP
3.) TREHSWHMCIITAS
4.) OETLRDODINMEAURPKSHCAY
5.) ISIORMRLAHEFOMSHCTLEB
6.) SEIONCITTRES
7.) EOAAMCTCASNLSEUHRSE
8.) BVLIEIEE
9.) OOMENLLBTHEETFTOIWTLEH
10.) IGTSHLNIENT
11.) USSCAWNNLISATAONTCAKBI
12.) LASRUCSETBMIH

The first person to get all twelve right in the comments below receives a stocking full of enough bragging rights to carry her or him well into the new year.

Good luck!