The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

The 12 Discs of Christmas 2008 #1


The Mariners, Bagpipers Carol
(from Christmas 'Round the World, Columbia 10" LP CL 6227)


Among the stacks of ephemera I've managed to accumulate over the years is a substantial collection of Christmas recordings, from 78 r.p.m. platters to boxes full of 7-inch singles, LPs and what Big Black's Steve Albini once referred to as "the rich man's 8-track", compact discs. (And no, I don't have any 8-tracks, a fella's gotta draw the line somewhere.) These have been gleaned from the family collection, thrift shops and used record stores on both sides of the pond, and the generosity of friends and people simply trying to clean out their basements.

So in the spirit of what some popular music blogs have termed "Christmas sharity" I'm presenting 12 of these gems between now and Christmas Day, with tracks from all genres and formats, starting with this prosaic rendition of an old Italian carol by The Mariners, a mixed race vocal group that appeared on The Arthur Godfrey Show from 1949 until 1955.

The Mariners were four former Coast Guard officers who began singing together in 1942, and later became one of Godfrey's featured performers, or "Little Godfreys." Reportedly, Godfrey received complaints by some viewers shocked by the sight of seeing white and black men singing together (it's a good thing they didn't hold hands or anything) but the ol' redhead adamantly refused to pull them from the program.

Christmas 'Round the World features a variety of songs from Appalaichan folk ballads to Negro spirituals and European carols from France and Czechoslovakia, with sparse accompaniment. I like the Bagpiper's Carol for its unique melody and that eerie organ which I assume is trying to imitate the titular instrument. Just click on the link under the cover and enjoy!

2 comments :

Ernie said...

I was thrilled to find this same set of tunes as a 2x45 this year, and wanted to share out the whole thing over at my blog, but then I found it on CD. But it's still quite good. Never seen the 10", thanks for sharing!

swac said...

I didn't know much about them prior to finding this 10", part of me is surprised that Godfrey's name doesn't appear in larger print, given his popularity/ego. But the guy was nothing if not a mass of contradictions, and the story about him standing up to racist viewers (and in other instances his sponsors) have to give you a bit of admiration for him.