THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS
with The Living Strings
In 1963, an LP record album was released on the RCA Camden label entitled "THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS WITH THE LIVING STRINGS". That album is by far the very best album of Christmas music that has ever been produced in the history of mankind.
I guess the last sentence I just wrote above might seem a little bit exaggerated, but in my opinion it's really not.
"The Spirit Of Christmas", which was recorded in England and arranged and conducted by Johnny Douglas, features more than 40 minutes of rich and lush instrumental Christmas music from "The Living Strings" orchestra.
True to its title, every moment of this exquisite album overflows with the "spirit of Christmas". If there's a better collection of Yuletide recordings out there than this one, I've yet to hear it.
From the very first seconds of this album's first track ("White Christmas"), the feeling of an "old-fashioned Christmas" surrounds the listener.
The soft jingling of sleigh bells slowly fade in at the beginning of that first "White Christmas" track, followed by one of the finest instrumental versions of that famous Irving Berlin tune that has ever been recorded.
The feeling and the mood of the Yuletide season just pours out of your speakers from the first signs of those sleigh bells. Mere words cannot express how excellent and "Christmassy" this "Spirit" album truly is. You simply must hear it for yourself.
And the photo that adorns the album cover is absolutely wonderful, too. It couldn't be any more perfect, with a thick burning candle being depicted next to a couple of Christmas-tree ornaments (the "bowled-out" type that I can remember hanging on the tree every year).
I don't know who it was who designed this beautiful album cover, but whoever it was has my sincere and everlasting thanks and admiration. It's a brilliant (yet elegantly-simple) piece of photography:
"The Spirit Of Christmas" offers up 43 minutes of memorable and classic instrumental Christmas music, which demands to be listened to each and every December. The easy-listening nature of each track blends perfectly into the next.
Most of the standard holiday tunes are here (either by themselves or in medley form), including "Joy To The World", "White Christmas", "O Come, All Ye Faithful", "The First Noel", "Silver Bells", "Deck The Halls", "The Christmas Song", and "Away In A Manger", plus several others.
A mono version of the album was also produced by RCA Camden. But the stereo version is more strongly recommended by this writer.
A few years ago, I transferred my old LP copy of "The Spirit Of Christmas" to an Audio CD. The original 1963 vinyl album is a treasured keepsake, but a CD version is also very nice and handy to have around too.
And the slight pops and crackles that are emitted by the record player's needle are things that transfer to a homemade Compact Disc version too, which I really don't mind at all. In fact, I like hearing the "pops" of the needle. It makes even a re-recorded CD version seem more homespun and authentic, adding to the atmosphere of the original '63 album.
Here are the very suitable words that are printed on the back cover of this LP record album, which more than adequately describe "The Spirit Of Christmas":
Christmas is a spirit, a state of mind, a mood. In this album, the Living Strings musically express every emotion, memory, and feeling that has traditionally accompanied the most joyous season. It's a lush sound, a rich sound--an atmosphere to pervade the whole household with the mood of the holiday.
In medley form we hear the great traditional Christmas carols, the deeply reverent songs of Christmas: 'It Came Upon the Midnight Clear', 'O Holy Night', 'Silent Night'. Here also are the joyful songs of good will and good feeling: 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas' and 'The Christmas Song'.
The modern era of "pop" hits has produced a number of wonderful Christmas songs which have become an indispensable part of the holiday sound and scene. In the mid-1950s, a remarkable calypso Christmas song was recorded by Harry Belafonte. 'Mary's Boy Child' was a world-wide hit but so deeply identified with the Belafonte artistry that few others have dared perform it. In this album, the Living Strings do--and instrumentally capture the unique West Indian flavor in the song.
'The Little Drummer Boy' was a hit during the 1958 Christmas season. It is a poignant, deeply reverent song that has become a favorite for Christmas radio plays. It is given a haunting rendition here by the Living Strings.
Perry Como first recorded the Al Stillman-Robert Allen song 'Home for the Holidays' in 1954. Its lyric message is a "natural"--the yearning for Christmas homecoming. The strings are in lovely "voice" as they capture the mood.
This is the spirit of Christmas--yesterday, today, and tomorrow--in a wonderful and enduring mood setting by the most popular string orchestra on records today.
©1963, RCA, New York, N.Y.
THE COMPLETE ALBUM:
TWO MORE "LIVING STRINGS" CHRISTMAS ALBUMS:
"THE SOUND OF CHRISTMAS":
THE THREE ALBUMS IN MP3 FORMAT:
"THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS" ON AUDIO CD:
In October 2009, Dulcima Records (which was founded by composer Johnny Douglas in 1983) released a set of audio CDs entitled "The Spirit Of Christmas: The Living Strings Collection".
The 2-Disc CD set includes the following three complete "Living Strings" and "Living Voices" Christmas albums:
"The Spirit Of Christmas" (1963)
"White Christmas" (1968)(Re-released by Pickwick Records in 1977)
"A Christmas Songbook" (1974)
BONUS CHRISTMAS VIDEO:
RELATED CHRISTMAS LINKS:
"Music Of Christmas" (Percy Faith)
"The Christmas Music Of Ruth Lyons"
"It's A Wonderful Life" (1946 Movie)
"Miracle On 34th Street" (1947 Movie)
"Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1964 TV Special)
"The Homecoming: A Christmas Story" (1971 TV Movie)
"The Judy Garland Show" -- The Christmas Show (1963)
"The Andy Griffith Show" -- "Christmas Story" (1960)