When you’re ranking the Best Christmas records of all time, The Ventures Christmas Album is definitely near the top of the list. Not only is it incredibly clever, the way the guys used current songs of the Sixties and morphed them into holiday classics, but it’s also a whole lotta fun to listen to. Real Gone Music has just reissued the classic album in remastered form, and for the first time, the set includes both the stereo version, and the must-sought after mono version of the album. From Real Gone Music, we welcome in Gordon Anderson, who is co-president of the label. Gordon spent over 17 years overseeing things at Collectors Choice music, before co-founding Real Gone. We chat how this Ventures reissue came to fruition, and future projects.
Gayla Peevey was all of ten years old when she recorded the now-classic Christmas song, “I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas.” She cut the track back in 1953 for Columbia records and even performed the single on the Ed Sullivan show. The song’s popularity allowed her hometown zoo to obtain a real hippopotamus.
But, Gayla found following up her hit song difficult, and trying to break out as a serious singer even more challenging. She eventually wrote and recorded songs under a different name before walking away from the business altogether to raise a family.
But then something funny happened: the Hippopotamus song continued to grow in popularity, until now it’s one of the most played Christmas songs of all time, and she even has reconnected with the Oklahoma City Zoo to perform the song there as a holiday tradition.
You could say it’s been one hell of a ride for Dwight Twilley. Emerging from Tulsa, Oklahoma in the mid Seventies, he scored a big hit right out of the gate with “I’m On Fire” – establishing right away Twilley’s keen way with a melody, something he’s been doing for over 40 years. After souring on the bright lights of the big city, he returned home to Tulsa near the close of the last millennium and began making records on his own terms.
The Best of Twilley: The Tulsa Years sums up one of the most fruitful chapters of his career. The two disc set also contains several bonus tracks as well. Twilley also gives his memories of the late Leon Russell.
Big Star’s first two LPs were full of chiming guitars, heavy drums and melodic hooks, yet somehow both albums failed to meet the high expectations. Those failures loomed large as Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens went to work on their next project. Eventually called Third or Sister Lovers, the songs recorded for these sessions seemed at times to be the polar opposite of their first two records – alternating between haunting moments of despair, and fragile beauty. The album, never officially completed, has been issued over the years in many forms and track listings. But, Omnivore Recordings has assembled quite possibly the final word on the legendary project.
Complete Third is s three-disc set, bringing together virtually every note recorded for these sessions. Through acoustic demos, rough mixes, and about as final version of the album as we’ll ever hear, we get a peek behind the scenes of this fractured masterpiece. We talk to Big Star drummer Jody Stephens about recording the album, what producer Jim Dickinson brought to the project, and how a song he wrote, “For You,” helped shape the rest of the record.
Remember when an album was a collection of great songs that you wanted to play over and over? Seth Walker does, and he’s recently issued Gotta Get Back, his ninth album, full of his signature soul-blues hybrid. The new record finds him returning to his roots, enlisting family members to play on the album, and embracing the music that set him down his life’s journey.
We talk to him about some of the unique stories behind these great new songs, and how Stevie Ray Vaughan changed his life as a young college student.
John Hall has been able to live two distinctly different lives. In one, he led the Seventies soft-rock outfit Orleans, co-writing their two big hits “Dance With Me” and “Still the One.” In the other, he was a US Representative for New York’s 19th District from 2007 to 2011. John’s just put out his memoir, Still the One: A Rock n’ Roll Journey To Congress and Back.
In it, we find several times where his two worlds intersect. We also find out how he struck up a friendship with Janis Joplin, and also had a large hand in the No Nukes concerts that featured heavyweights like Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne.
Well, they say that everything old is new again – that holds true for Banjo Nickaru & the Western Scooches, who have combined elements of country, bluegrass, western swing, rockabilly, and Dixieland jazz. The result is an infectious blend of styles that will get you dancing. They’ve just issued a new EP called The Very Next Thing, and from the band we talk with both Nick Russo, who plays guitar and banjo, and Betina Hershey, one of the singers.
Both Russo & Hershey are also in the Hot Jazz Jumpers, so we talk the differences in both bands. Plus, Hershey tells the story about how the two met, and eventually got married (also turning out the ironically titled “I Don’t Believe in Love”).
Singer Tiffany had phenomenal success at an unbelievably young age. Her debut album went quadruple platinum when she was only 15 years old. That record yielded back to back number one hits with the Tommy James’ cover “I Think We’re Alone Now,” and “Could’ve Been.” Other hits followed, including the Beatles reworking “I Saw Him Standing There” and “All This Time.” But, the shelf life of a teen idol is usually short-lived. As she became an adult, she ventured into different territory – dance and country music.
Now, she’s back with A Million Miles, her first new album in five years. She talks about learning the art of songwriting in Nashville, co-producing an album for the first time, and she reminisces about her early days in the music business.
Singer/songwriter Stephen Bishop scored several hit songs in the 70’s & 80’s like “Save it For a Rainy Day,” “On & On,” and “It Might Be You.” He wrote songs for many other artists, including “Separate Lives,” a #1 hit for Phil Collins & Marilyn Martin. He’s part of one of the most iconic scenes of the classic Animal House movie, where John Belushi smashes his guitar.
Stephen has a brand new album called Blueprint, which features many songs that were originally cut as demos. He tells us the origins behind many of the songs, plus how he became friends with Eric Clapton, and how got involved in the Animal House movie. And, he tells us a very funny story of touring with Linda Ronstadt.
The Connells came out of the same Southern Pop scene that birthed R.E.M. and Let’s Active in the early Eighties. They scored multiple hits on US college radio with songs like “Something to Say,” “Stone Cold Yesterday,” and “Fun & Games.” The band was even bigger overseas, turning in the surprise European smash “’74, ’75” in 1993 (the song still makes “best of Nineties’ lists overseas).
The band’s 30-plus year career finally gets distilled on Stone Cold Yesterday: The Best of the Connells from the Bicycle Music Company.
From the band, we talk with singer Doug Macmillan, who talks about why their classic music was unavailable for so many years. Plus he tells us stories about working with producer Mitch Easter, meeting the Pogues, and playing in Italy for a crowd of over 100,000 people.