Well, it’s just about time to start thinking about the old turkey and Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the best. And you know why it’s the best? Because you don’t have to give any presents to anyone! Cool!
You just sit around the house and listen to mom and dad argue about how to cook the turkey (that’s all a part of the process). Then you eat delicious food until you are about to burst and watch the Detroit Lions get clobbered on TV. Aunt and Uncle come over too! Well, actually that’s the bummer part, cause then you have to act a bit more civilized than usual, but it’s all worth it when the big bird comes steaming onto the table with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. Oh! What a treat!
But then, the day after… (Fade in ominous music…)
Your entire world comes crashing down upon your head! You know why? Well, it’s because all-of-a-sudden there’s Christmas music playing everywhere you go. Now, if you are a normal person, you’ll hate Christmas music as much as I do (it is for kids). But what that Christmas music actually is saying is:
“Well, you blew it again this year. Here it is end of November, and you still haven’t bought a single Christmas present. Why, oh why, do you do this to yourself every year?”
Need I mention that the entrance to the parking lot at the mall is already backed up two city blocks? No? Great.
Now, if you really were as smart as you tell all your friends you are (oh, the stories I’ve heard about you!) You would have listened to good ol’ Mike and ordered the great box sets I recommended in my last “Cool & Strange music” article. Maybe you did. Maybe you were as smart as Kim who wrote:
“I just wanted to thank you for the recommendation of the CD box set “Masters of Classical Music” in your, “Cool & Strange Music Part 3.” I ordered it on amazon.com and received it on November 2, making it the perfect distraction during Election Day, and I am just thrilled with it! I had been looking for a way to expand my classical music horizons past Mozart and this box set is just perfect for that. Plus, it was such a bargain!
Even though you recommended “Masters of Classical Music” as a Christmas present, I’ll definitely be keeping this one for myself.
Thank you once again!
Kim (in Michigan) Blott”
No! Kim! I know that this music is incredibly cool (and cheap as dirt) but you were supposed to give those CDs as Christmas presents! Oh well, I guess I can’t really blame you for having great parents who raised you right and your having exceptionally good taste.
Okay, well, it’s 4th down and 40 yards to go with just a few minutes left on the clock. The score is tied. Are you going to wait until the last minute like everyone else this year, and go for the crummy tie? (neck tie again, that is.) Or are you going to kick the ball, break the field goal record, and go for the victory? I know what I’d do: I’d go for the glory.
Wild Cool & Swingin / Mrs. Miller
So if you want proper CD box sets for Christmas presents, see my previous article about it. Today we’re going to go for the “stocking stuffers,” you know, the fun stuff (can never have enough of those). And we’re going to save money while we do it too!
So here’s the “Chip-shot” (stocking-stuffers) to win the game:
All of today’s music will fall under the category of “Wild, Cool, and Swinging” as that is the title of our first CD.
Anyone who was around during the “British Invasion” from 1963 to 1967 will remember Mrs. Miller. And even if you weren’t around then, one listen to this CD and you’ll be hooked. Everyone loves Mrs. Miller! Elva Ruby Connes Miller was an ordinary housewife from California who somehow found herself in a time-warp continuum and fell into a Hollywood recording studio. She is definitely one of the truly most amazing voices of the twentieth century. That isn’t to say that she has a great singing voice, or even a good voice for that matter. She sings in a falsetto that takes no prisoners and can peel paint off the walls.
And when she can’t remember the lyrics? No problem! She just mumbles them or whistles. She sold over a million records of her first album on Columbia records. Just one listen to this CD and you’ll know why that fact is just incredible. The kids will love this CD. Mom and dad will get a kick out of it too (as well as romantic memories?) Heck, even Merv Griffin loved Mrs. Miller so much, she often was a guest on his show!
Time for Love – The Best of Julie London / Julie London
List Price: $17.98 on sale now for $14.99
Not only does Mrs. Miller make an unforgettable experience on CD, she makes an album that you will never ever get rid of. And I’ll bet Mrs. Miller makes great brownies too!
18 of Julie London’s greatest hit songs from her signature song of, “Cry Me a River,” to the incredible and rare “Go Slow.” There are a few up-tempo songs but this CD goes to Julie London’s strengths and those are the ballads. And man, is Julie London ever sexy! I doubt that I have ever heard a more sexy female crooner in my life (No disrespect to Peggy Lee fans!)
If you’re new to Julie London or jazz music in general, this CD is a perfect introduction to what the genre, and this fantastic vocalist, can offer. The perfect music for that romantic evening for just the two of you or just having a drink and relaxing by the fireplace alone. Julie London? Can’t miss.
There was this lady way back when named Florence Foster Jenkins. She loved the opera and classical music; she aspired to become the world’s greatest opera singer. There was a slight problem, though… She couldn’t sing worth a… well, as Monty Python would say, “She couldn’t sing worth a parrot-dropping.”
That being said, she was extremely famous in her time. She even sold-out Carnegie Hall! I used to host a late night show here in Japan where I would threaten the listeners that if they didn’t call-in, I would play Florence Foster Jenkins all night as a sort of humorous torture. Well, my threats didn’t work. When people would call-in, other listeners would complain that they wanted to hear Ms. Jenkins destroy classical and operatic music. And destroy it she does! The result? An unforgettable and hilarious trip into the “dark-side” of high-class society. It’s a blast!
This CD features Florence Foster Jenkins along with some other gems by Jimmy Durante and a song called, “Fireman’s Bride” which is so bad, it’s good. Florence Foster Jenkins, she’ll have you rolling in the aisles with this unforgettable musical moment. Get one while they last!
Forgive me kind sir and madam, but I couldn’t resist. No this isn’t a stocking stuffer, it’s not even a music CD; but it is filled with musical mirth and merriment. This, my fellow brethren, is probably the greatest Christmas present the world has ever known or ever will know. Dare I say that this is the Christmas present to end all Christmas presents? Yes! I dare! I know, for it is I who own this set. What present could anyone possibly ever give in their entire lives that would top The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus Megaset? I fear, there is none. This is the Holy Grail of presents. After giving this box set of DVD’s, Christmas wilst hold yon deepful meaning no morest.
The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus Megaset / Monty Python
List Price: $199.95 on sale now for: $149.96 ($49.99 discount!)
I admit it: I am a Monty Python fan… Have been for quite a while. As the Amazon review of this DVD says:
“This ‘persistently silly’ collection encompasses three-and-a-half seasons of dead parrots, cross-dressing lumberjacks, loonies, upper class twits, and spam, spam, spam, baked beans, spam, spam, and spam.”
The greatest British comedy TV show of all time in one place. Need I say more? Nay! Say I.
Take a good close look at the jacket of this CD; a real close look. Notice anything strange? You’ve heard of people like that guy in the hilarious movie “Best In Show” that has two left feet, right? Well, Jonathan (Paul Weston), has two right hands! And can this guy ever play! Jonathan and Darlene (Jo Stafford) are the most hilarious, brilliant comic team ever to record these standard songs. The CD booklet is worth several hoots, too! This is such a treasure. You won’t regret buying it.
I have played this recording on my radio shows and at parties for friends, just to see if people will notice the intentional sour notes and general blunders. People who really love music, will laugh hysterically. People who don’t know the American Standards won’t “get it." This is a CD for people who love parody done by excellent musicians. If you love music and aren’t tone deaf, then you’ll get hours of laughs and enjoyment from this winning CD!
But this is a CD for listening to. I would recommend having a friend who loves great music over for a few drinks and playing this CD. You’ll howl with laughter. Funny that. I know all these songs well, and the more I drink, the funnier they get. Or is that just me? If you have a hankering for the good old days and a bit of a sneaky humorous streak, throw this one on! The grandkids will think it is great or they’ll be sure that you really are as crazy as they thought you were! Chuckle!
Okay. Let’s get serious here. You want to buy that special person in your life that brand new Cadillac? You’d love to cough up the money for that new Ferrari? Well, I would too. But I can’t. What to do? Well, what’s the next best thing to do? Give a CD box set that is the perfect background music for driving them long, lonely, dusty hi-way trails.
Roll down the windows and lower the convertibles’ top. ‘Cause I’ve got the car cruising music CD for you. This is the greatest collection of driving music ever made! And what a fine piece of workmanship too! Not a clunker in the bunch! How about this extra wide lane of musical tastes all on one CD box set:
Johnny Bond’s “Hot Rod Lincoln,” Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline,” War’s “Low Rider” to more gentle tracks that might make you pull over for a rest stop like Hank Williams’s mournful “Lost Highway,” or even, Rod Stewart’s “Gasoline Alley." A total of 88 of the world’s most famous “Car songs."
1:10 Scale Ferrari F1 Racer (8386)
You expect this CD set to be good, right? But it’s not just good, it’s amazing. This box should be in every road music lover’s collection, because the songs (and sound quality) are just fantastic, the booklets are great… But that’s not all! The set also comes with some “cherry” dingo-balls (dice to hang from your car’s rear-view mirror) and you get some cool hot-rod decals!
Yep. With this CD, you’re there. Now if you just must have the new Ferrari (some men are just such children, aren’t they?) here it is.
Build this impressive, ultra-detailed replica of the Ferrari F1 Racer! This 1:10 scale model measures 14.5 inches long and features big tires, colorful decals, and more to make it the ultimate racing machine. But be forewarned! The manufacturer only recommends this $69.99 toy for husbands 9 years and older! If your husband doesn’t qualify for that, then maybe you know a responsible young man (or lady) who does.
Uh-Oh / Tipsy
List Price: $14.98
I love exotic music; I love classical; I love Jazz; I love electronic music and I definitely love Tipsy. Here’s what Amazon has to say about this unknown treasure:
“Anyone who’s ever prepared a bubbly drink for a patio party while listening to Esquivel (or one of the endless series of Ultra Lounge comps from the mid-’90s) will know precisely where Tipsy’s coming from. This playful modern group uses all the sonic cues of classic lounge and exotica music — popping-popcorn rhythms, string arrangements set on “tickle,” tiki-surf guitars, and interjections of “Zow!.".. Uh-Oh is a perkily distracting good time in any era.”
See? What did I tell you? Tipsy is fantastically fun good music! I whole-heartedly recommend Tipsy to people who are sick and tired of, are you ready for it?… Today’s Hit Parade of Hell! And while you’re there, might as well get Tipsy’s second record which is just as good as the first (now that’s a rarity)!
Usually an artist’s second album is a let down; but not this one. Tipsy keeps the party going with just a touch of an “after-hours” flavor. This, like the first, is perfect music for parties, studying (no lyrics), and keeping the “energy flowing.” You’ll listen to either of these CDs and wonder, “Just how did they make those sounds?” Tipsy mixes Jazz and Lounge music into new, beautiful, often breath-taking sounds. I highly recommend Tipsy’s music for anyone looking for something really new.
Space Age Bachelor Pad Music / Esquivel
List Price: $16.98 on sale now for $14.99
I have always been a fan of Cool and Strange Music. From the off-beat, to the unusual; from unknown classical composers to the well-known. I also like some “Pop Music." (I generally hate the Top 40, though!) I was so happy when the retro-swing movement came about, and I found that many old recordings were re-released on CD. I knew that if I didn’t buy these CDs while they were out, I was going to “miss out” for a very long time. And you know what? I have never bought a single one of these CD’s that I have ever regretted (now ask me why I hate the Top 40).
From a classical standpoint, if you like Stockhausen (who was a huge influence on the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), Ligeti, or David Eugene Tudor then Esquivel might really sound familiar (or is that, not so weird?) Esquivel twists pop music, slowing down tempos, using instruments that are unusual (such as Spoon Harps and Bellowphones) as well as other instruments that he invented himself. His trademark is his back-up singers, who sing stuff like, “Zu-Zu-Zu” or “Za-Za-Za” or only say one or two words of a lyric while the instrumentalists take over.
While esoteric avant-gardism has been filtered into popular culture, the influence of Esquivel cannot be over looked. Esquivel was one of the first modern artists to bring us into a brave new world of aural experience. There are many Esquivel CDs available now; they are all an exciting, and different listening pleasure. But this CD, too, is for serious music lovers only! People who think Hip Hop or Top 40 are the only thing worth listening to these days will either hate this CD or their entire world around them will open like a beautiful Lotus flower. All depends on the person and if they like new experiences or not. Esquivel: Beautiful music for the adventurous at heart.
Well, that’s it for today. I would recommend more CDs but now I’ve got an entire dinner table covered with CDs that I just would love to introduce you to, but they’ll have to wait for our next Cool & Strange Music article next year (I’ll be on the lookout for some cheapy treasures for you to pick up by then). But, for now, time’s a wastin’! This is probably your last chance to avoid the Christmas rush.
So, what are you waiting for? I’ve got just about everything you need all lined up for you at the click of a button! Or do you actually enjoy standing in long lines with a bunch of crabby people?
It’ll be a Merry Christmas, especially if you make it that way. Take it easy! And drive careful! (Or don’t drive at all, if you’re smart this year!)
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has worked as an independent writer, producer, and personality in the mass media for nearly 30 years.