2016: The Year’s Reading in Review

Well, here is the list of books I’ve read this year:

  • The Sea Wolf by Jack London
  • Life Is Simple: First Cutting by Jerry Crownover
  • Art Treasures of Seoul by Edward B. Adams
  • The Hero by John Ringo and Michael Z. Williamson
  • Rogue Warrior: Green Team by Richard Marcinko and John Weisman
  • Dead Street by Mickey Spillane
  • Flawed Dogs by Berkeley Breathed
  • GI Joe: The Story Behind the Legend by Don Levine with John Michlig
  • Changdeog Palace
  • Toulouse-Lautrec: Painter of Paris by Horst Keller
  • Carolingian Chronicles by Translated by Bernard Walter Scholz with Barbara Walters
  • Doomsday Disciples by “Don Pendleton”
  • Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
  • How to Live Like A Lord Without Really Trying by Shepherd Mead
  • Vulture’s Vengeance by “Don Pendleton”
  • Down the Wire Road in the Missouri Ozarks and Beyond by Fern Agnus
  • Tuscany Terror by “Don Pendleton”
  • Ten Years in the Tub by Nick Hornby
  • Life in the Age of Charlemagne by Peter Munz
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  • Bad Publicity by Jeffrey Frank
  • So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane
  • Reinhold Niebuhr by Bob E. Patterson
  • Invisible Assassins by “Don Pendleton”
  • Down with Love by “Barbara Novak”
  • Mountain Rampage by “Don Pendleton”
  • The Greek and Roman World by W.G. Hardy
  • The Joy of Hate by Greg Gutfeld
  • Paradine’s Gauntlet by “Don Pendleton”
  • Island Deathtrap by “Don Pendleton”
  • Take It Off, Take It All Off! by David Riitz
  • The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family by Edited by Ray Richmond
  • Ambush on Blood River by “Don Pendleton”
  • Kierkegaard by Elmer H. Duncan
  • Love’s Legacy by Stephanie Dalla Rosa
  • Yo, Millard Fillmore! by Will Cleveland & Mark Alvarez
  • John Donnelly’s Gold by Brian J. Noggle
  • Holes in It by Todd Tevlin
  • The Normlings by Todd Tevlin
  • Frik in Hell Vol 3 by Todd Tevlin
  • Crude Kill by “Don Pendleton”
  • Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard
  • Starcraft Archive by various
  • Sold for Slaughter by “Don Pendleton”
  • The Most of George Burns by George Burns
  • Fishin’, Huntin’, Travelin’, and Ozark Memories by L.B. Cook
  • The Weapon from Beyond by Edmond Hamilton
  • Slam the Big Door by John D. MacDonald
  • Starman Jones by Robert Heinlein
  • The Roman Holiday of Mrs. Stone by Tennessee Williams
  • A Brief History of Sanibel Island by Marya Repko
  • The Sanibel Sunset Detective by Ron Base
  • The Last Paradise: The Building of Marco Island by Douglas Waitley
  • The Know It All by A.J. Jacobs
  • Insane City by Dave Barry
  • Wicked Springfield Missouri by Larry Wood
  • Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress
  • All Madden by John Madden with Dave Anderson
  • Wolverine: Weapon X by Marc Cerasini
  • Kilroy Was Here by Charles Osgood
  • An Altogether New Book of Top Ten Lists by Dave Letterman
  • The Drawings of William Blake by Sir Geoffrey Keynes
  • Paper Lion by George Plimpton
  • K-PAX by Gene Brewer
  • The Forbidden City
  • 12 Monkeys by Elizabeth Hand
  • Wars of the Ancient Greeks by Victor Davis Hanson
  • New York City of Dreams by Bill Harris
  • Dead Man Running by “Don Pendleton”
  • The Ballad of Ethan Burns by James D. Balestreiri
  • Monet by Alberto Martini
  • Peter Paul Rubens Medaenas
  • Lightning Fall by Bill Quick
  • The Official Jewish Joke Book/The Official Irish Joke Book by Larry Wilde
  • Orbiting Omega by “Don Pendleton”
  • The Eight-Seven by Ed McBain
  • Camille Pissarro: A Medaenas Monograph by Anne Schirrmeister
  • Kierkegaard: A Biographical Introduction by Ronald Grimsley
  • The Experience of Nothingness by Michael Novak
  • The Courtship of Barbara Holt by Brian J. Noggle
  • Back Roads of the Ozarks by Wayne Sullins
  • Let Us Go Quietly Together For A Little Way. Let Me Talk To You by Charlotte Osborn
  • Women the Children Men by Roberta Metz
  • Rogue Warrior: Task Force Blue by Richard Marcinko and John Weisman
  • The Peter Principle by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull
  • Beirut Payback by “Don Pendleton”
  • The Lessons of History by Will Durant
  • Advanced French for Exceptional Cats by Henry Beard
  • Hiroshage by Sebastian Izzard
  • RoboTech Genesis/Battle Cry/Homecoming by Jack McKinney
  • Desperate Measures by Joe Clifford Faust
  • Cry Hard Cry Fast by John D. MacDonald
  • A Bullet for Cinderella by John D. MacDonald
  • Misspent Youth by Peter F. Hamilton
  • Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past by Sharyn McCrumb
  • Ginger Snaps by Compiled By Dian Ritter
  • Prairie Fire by “Don Pendleton”
  • Living a Mother’s World by Mary Jane Rerucha
  • Skysweeper by “Don Pendleton”
  • TV Superstars ’81 by Ronald W. Lackman

Okay, so a full fourteen percent of the books I read were Executioner novels. I read a couple of film books (12 Monkeys and Down with Love among them).

On the other hand, I read some theology and philosophy, including a primary text by Kierkegaard (Fear and Trembling), a couple books about Kierkegaard, a book about Niebuhr, and so on. I read six books by people I know (three comics by Todd Tevlin, a book by Stephanie Dalla Rosa, and my two books). I mixed nonfiction with fiction pretty well, and I mixed genres in the fiction along with a couple classics (The Sea Wolf and Gulliver’s Travels). I even read poetry for pleasure. So not bad.

Unstated in this list is books I started and didn’t get through. Two come to mind: The Courage to Be by Paul Tillich and Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. I started reading them as my carry book, got halfway through them, and then lost the train of thought in them. I expect I’ll revisit them in 2017.

Hopefully I can get near 100 again next year, which would mean I’m only acquiring a handful more books than I’m reading annually. Just in case I live to a time when books are not cheaply available on the second hand market (or new for that matter). It might happen.

From the “If It Helps One Person” Files

Whenever talking about fiscal outlays for the impoverished, I often get “cut down to size” with the “if it helps one person, it’s worth it!” rejoinder, such as discussing this chart with a warm-hearted, caring doctor of comic books:

Sure, the amount spent has gone through the roof. But if it has helped one person! Or a small number of people.

In that vein, we have an excited story in the Springfield News-Leader about a change to a government program in Springfield: New city agreement could help more subsidized housing residents get off welfare.

People who receive federal housing vouchers are eligible for the Family Self-Sufficiency Program, which aims to help them get off welfare. Through an annual grant, the housing authority employs a coordinator who helps people set goals and connects them with resources, like job training programs or tuition assistance.

Since 1992, only 21 individuals have successfully completed the program, according to Erma Owens with the housing authority.

For the love of Pete, fewer than one person per year has successfully completed the program. That sounds like an ineffective program if you ask me. But I’m just a taxpayer.

The partnership the article speaks of is that the city will share an employee with the program.

This has definite benefits.

Adams said working at both places helps streamline the process for clients seeking help because she can tell them exactly what to expect from each office.

“Instead of me just saying ‘Go to the career center,’ I can tell them who to talk to. (That way they can) make a better connection with community resources and the career center,” Adams said.

That is, the benefits are facilitation, communication, and improved processination.

On the plus side, at least it’s not the city or the federal government throwing more money at the program hoping to get it up to 1.25 or 1.4 people per year.

“If it helps one person…” mostly helps one type of person: government or Near Government Organization employees.

Book Report: TV Superstars ’81 by Ronald W. Lackmann (1981)

Book cover“Verily, verily,” you say, “This is about the lowest one can go to reach 100 books in the year.” Well, gentle reader, I’d like to point out that Advanced French for Exceptional Cats has even less substance than this Weekly Reader book. Besides, I’ve already read TV Superstars ’82 and TV Superstars ’83. So I’m not just running up the score here. The score, by the way, is 100 books read this year with this title.

At any rate, as with the other (later) books, it features brief biographical sketches of stars from contemporary (then) television shows grouped by the show. So you get the stars of The Dukes of Hazzard together, the stars of WKRP in Cincinnati grouped together, and so on.

The book reuses (or the later books will reuse) bios from those whose programs are on the air, so I’d already read Tom Wopat and John Schneider’s bits from the ’82 edition (’83 has the scab Dukes). The differences in the books’ contents, though, illustrate the fleeting nature of “superstardom” as the shows come and go. For example, Eight Is Enough, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and B.J. and the Bear on television until 1981, so the actors in it are superstars in 1981, but mostly forgotten by 1983 (according to the book).

This book has, unlike the others, animal star bios: The dog who played Boomer (a dog named Johnny) and the Bear (a chimp named Sam). I don’t remember seeing those in the later books, but animal sidekicks seem to have passed out of fashion in the 80s.

The main bit of trivia I got from the book was reminding me of House Calls, a medical show with Gregory Harrison and Lynn Redgrave. It kind of got lost in the blur of the medical shows of the era, from Trapper John, M.D. to St. Elsewhere (which did not air concurrently, but they did in the era known as “my childhood”). So I’m ready if it comes up in trivia nights or on Jeopardy!, but it probably won’t since the window of viable trivia only extends back thirty years, apparently.

It is also a quick reminder, reading these books, how something that seemed to always be when you’re young might only reflect a couple of years. But a high percentage of your life in your youth, so it seems more permanent than it is.

Book Report: Skysweeper by “Don Pendleton” (1984)

Book coverYou might be saying to yourself, “Is he reading more of these Executioner novels to pad his annual total to 100 books read?” Gentle reader, you might not be far from the truth. However, I’d like to point out I’ve read over a dozen Executioner novels this year, so the padding started early.

This book finds Bolan on the West Coast, looking into a Soviet cell looking to steal or disrupt a laser-based missile interceptor program. He’s got some help from the inside, so any infiltrating he needs to do comes with an authentic security badge. He discovers that a former Vietnam POW, now the head of the program, was brainwashed while captive and is programmed to aid the Soviets when activated by following any instruction he’s given. In this case, it is to steal the Skysweeper and deliver it to the Russians. Except Bolan objects.

The structure of the book differs from the others in the series as the book makes a bit of a nod to the technothriller, but sometimes the loss of the earlier simplicity pushes Bolan into doing things that defy the suspension of disbelief. Of course, if I’m into these books for realism, I’m in the wrong place.

At any rate, the conceit of the book is more memorable than the actual book. I just had to crack it open to review how it ended since I actually finished the book last week. Spoiler alert: Bolan wins. Further books are not, in fact, a gritty reboot where The Executioner has been replaced by a fourteen year old minority girl. Well, at least, not the next one. Maybe.

Belated Holiday Wishes

Carol of the Old Ones:

Via Hell in a Handbasket, whose proprietor is a Call of Cthulhu game master from back in the day. I did a couple games of that back then, too, including one that took place in an insane asylum, where everyone was already crazy. Also, I corresponded a bit with Lynn Willis at Chaosium, and he wanted to use a scenario I sent in in the core rules for the sixth edition. But that didn’t come to pass. After I said Chaosium should reprint some of the old Lovecraft stories, he sent me a copy of The Hastur Cycle. But I’ve probably hammered that story from those days where I fancied myself a writer over and over again.

Was This In The St. Louis Post-Dispatch?

St. Louis doesn’t need an MLS team to be a ‘major league’ town:

St. Louis is far from perfect, but the issues that might make you wonder about the town have nothing to do with what we cover in the sports pages. The surging crime and infrastructure issues are much greater concerns in the community than our sports franchises.

What? He is right.

What can this world be coming to when sports journalists in the only paper in St. Louis conclude that governments should handle government duties instead of dabbling in being moguls of some sort or another by “investing” tax dollars in private businesses?

Of course, as government officials have learned, repairing bridges and roads come with no luxury boxes, and keeping the streets clean and safe does not allow you to rub elbows with celebrities from time to time. So it must be sexy projects at the expense of actual duties as much as possible.

Wherein Brian Demonstrates His Familiarity With Japanese Art

So we get a Christmas card from Northern Michigan University because we endowed a scholarship in memory of my father-in-law (the James A. Igert Memorial Scholarship).

This year, we got this card:

I was able to look at it and say, “That looks like a Hiroshige.” It is: Evening Snow at Kanbara.

Apparently, the art museum at NMU has a number of Hiroshige prints.

Who knew?

Please note this post counts as my touchdown dance for recognizing a Japanese artist and the confluence of factors in my life that make my study of trivia worthwhile.

A Cash-Free Society, Previewed

Red Kettle Campaign About $175,000 Short of Goal:

The Salvation Army is running short on it’s [sic] goal to raise money for its year-round programs in the Springfield area.

Red Kettle co-chairs Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams and Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott said with just a few hours left in the Tree of Lights campaign,
the project is $178,000 behind on its goal of $800,000.

In the past, I’ve given all the change in my pocket whenever I’ve passed a bell-ringer. I guess that holds true now, but I don’t have any change in my pocket most of the time because I’m paying with a credit card for everything these days.

Charities like this that depend on micro-donations and impulse coin drops (generally in the ubiquitous vortex collection devices) suffer. If a society goes cashless, a lot of places that get cash donations, like churches, will run into funding problems, too.

Of course, if you’re depending on the government to handle all of the nation’s helpless and homeless, this won’t be a problem at all.

Book Report: Living a Mother’s World by Mary Jane Rerucha (1976)

Book coverThis book is a small, self-published collection of poetry by a Midwestern farm wife circa 1976. It’s on some very nice paper stock, so it probably cost a pile to print. The woman was committed.

It is broken into three sections: poems about family and motherhood, poems about landscape and the natural world, and poems about other things, like church. The poems are decent; some are rote sorts of poems like you get when someone sits down and thinks, “I should write a poem about x.” The poem celebrating the flag is like that. Others have good sense of rhythm and good rhyme schemes. The poems I enjoyed most were in the first section, poignant thoughts about growing children and looking back at them. I’ve decided I feel the same way about poems as I do about paintings: I prefer to have people in them and don’t really enjoy landscapes unless there are human figures in them. Which might be why I have so much Wordsworth around but haven’t read much of it.

As I read this, I thought about the number of magazines that I take that still publish poems. Since I did not renew National Review (too expensive), I’m down to Chronicles and First Things. The poems I see in them don’t touch me, generally, any more or less than the poems in these collections I read by unknowns.At any rate, a good collection of poems by a normal person. One or two of them might have been worth tearing from the paper or a magazine and putting on your refrigerator or cubicle wall. Which is about the best you can expect of any poet, really.

Book Report: Prairie Fire by “Don Pendleton” (1984)

Book coverThis book starts with a running man ploughing through Nebraska cornfields as professionals pursue him. Through flashbacks, we find it is Bolan, who was investigating some off-page MacGuffin that led to his capture and escape from a crew hired to hit him by the KGB. Bolan hides in a barn of a small farm, but finds himself captured by the farm owners and held until they start to believe his story that they’re in trouble with him there.

So the book turns into a tower defense story, with Bolan and the family hardening the household to withstand a nighttime assault. And so they do. Spoiler alert: Bolan lives.

It’s an interesting twist of a plot, as Bolan is usually on the offense so we get to see him build a defense. But sometimes I wonder how little experience with guns, military assaults, and whatnot the authors of the books have as they go on. When booby-trapping the house, Bolan makes a small IED with some C4 he recovered from an attempted carbomb, but he makes it so the trigger requires him to hit a small mark with a .22 shot–from a gun for which he has extremely limited ammunition instead of, I dunno, a tripwire? Also, the book describes the report of a .22 rifle as a falsetto yapping. I suppose that’s a metaphor that might work, except it doesn’t, especially when you don’t trust the author.

So it’s an interesting twist, but there are some things that give you pause. I can suspend disbelief until I start thinking I could do as good of a job as the professionals in the book. But those moments pass, and we’re through the book with some enjoyment in spite of it.

I only have 47 Executioner titles remaining on my to-read shelves, not counting the other related titles. If I keep at it at the pace I have this year, I’ll be done in under four years. Woo! Unless I buy more, which is always a risk.

Book Report: Misspent Youth by Peter F. Hamilton (2008)

Book coverThis book is a British science fiction novel from B.O. (Before Obama). The copy I have is an Advanced Uncorrected Proofs version that I picked up some time ago at a book sale along with other ARC and proof copies of books. Which explains some of the typos I found, although fewer than one might find in John Donnelly’s Gold or the similarly self-published Lightning Fall.

At any rate, the plot of it: About 40 years in the future, the elderly inventer of the storage mechanism that allows the Internet of the future is chosen by the European Union for a revolutionary therapy that rejuvenates a human to the age of about 25. The treatment takes about a year and a half, and at the end of it he has to accustom himself to his new youth and to reconnect with his eighteen-year-old son, the product of a marriage of convenience to a much younger woman who is now older than the formerly elderly engineer. The newly youthful fellow does all of this by nailing all the young women he comes into contact with: the granddaughter of a close friend; the trophy wife with whom he’d never actually had relations; girls in his son’s circle; and finally, the son’s infatuation and something of a girlfriend.

All this boffin goes on against a backdrop of English seperatists who want the UK to break away from the EU and are becoming increasingly violent in their insistence. The pseudoclimax of the book takes place at a major right in England where the father and son end up on different sides: The father is inside a heavily guarded conference center to present a paper, and the son is carried along to the riot by peer pressure. They reconcile, and then the father dies from an unforeseen and untreatable side effect of the treatment. The End.

Well, it’s certainly got a 1970s science fiction vibe from it along with some of that later Heinlein “Ew, put it away already!” I saw on Wikipedia that there are a couple other books set in this same universe, but I don’t expect I’ll revisit it.

What did it get right? Well, people access the voice-enabled computer by saying a word ahead of it. I guess they were doing it on Star Trek, but it’s much more relevant now that every second commercial on television is people talking to the cloud. What did it get wrong? Brexit by violence 40 years from now (hopefully).

I suppose the title means it’s a commentary on misspending your second chances by wasting the time as much you did when you were younger anyway. Or maybe that’s being to charitable, but it’s certainly a theme that has resonance and is probably defendible. Maybe we’ll see in 40 years.

Rogue One Spoilers! Must Credit MfBJN!

Well, not actually. I tweeted these bad dogs and thought I’d do a two-fer with the content by recycling it for you, gentle reader.

Yeah, I saw it, but I wasn’t entranced with it. I wonder if the Star Wars movies and the Marvel movies will have diminishing returns as the decades become saturated with them.

Book Report: Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past by Sharyn McCrumb (2014)

Book coverAs you might remember, gentle reader, I like to read a Christmas book about this time of year. This year, I chose this book because it was the first one I could find on my to-read shelves.

The bottom of the cover indicates this is a Ballad novella; the author has written many best selling books in this series taking place in the eastern mountains of Tennessee, but you don’t need intimate knowledge of them to enjoy this book.

It’s billed as a novella, but it’s really two unconnected stories in the Ballad mythos. The sheriff and a deputy are tasked with arresting a man in the backwoods on Christmas Eve for a hit and run accident that damaged the car of the wife of a Senator (hence the importance of arresting him on Christmas Eve amidst the threat of a heavy snowstorm). When they find what they think to be his home, he says he will go quietly if they just help prepare his home for his absence to make it safe for his wife. The second story deals with a couple of Floridians who have bought a second home that used to be the county’s best home, the place where an old judge and his family lived. They decide to stay for Christmas with their tacky Florida ways. When strange goings on go on, they come to Nora Bonesteel, an elderly local medium, to see if she can guess what is wrong. It seems a spirit of Christmas past is not pleased with a pink Christmas tree decorated with flamingos.

On the plot lines, it’s pretty thin gruel, but the writing is dense and pretty enough to carry you along. Thematically, it’s a little light on the Christmas spirit, too, lacking any religious element of it or particular generosity of spirit. No real changes of heart or reunions of family. But pleasant enough.

I saw one of the author’s Ballad novels on the mark down table at Barnes and Noble while Christmas shopping, and I didn’t grab one for $6. Perhaps I’ll grab one if I see it at a book sale in the future to see what happens in a non-Christmas themed novel from the author.

Overheard at Nogglestead

I was reviewing a video that Mr. Hill posted when my beautiful wife walked into my office.

“Huh,” I said. “I didn’t realize Tim Curry charted a single.”

“I don’t know who that is,” she said.

“He was in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon I, and Clue,” I said. “And Legend as the Darkness.”

Blanks. My wife was not familiar with any of them. Which is odd, since I’m pretty sure I made her sit through National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon I at some point, and she is repressing it.

“It’s a good thing you bring me along to trivia nights,” I said.

Book Report: Ginger Snaps compiled by Dian Ritter (1976)

Book coverThis book is a middle 1970s collection of what we used to call proverbs, but by the mid to late 20th century had to be accompanied with some wry wit. Many of them are the sorts of things you’d find on Internet memes today, if Internet memes lasted longer than it takes to scroll past them on the social media sites. No, these proverbs of the pre-computer era would be photocopied with some cartoon and pinned to a cubicle wall or taped to a the breakroom cinderblocks.

Which is not to say they’re untrue or without their wisdom. As a matter of fact, this book includes lessons from Lao Tzu:

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

We have Lord Whorfin (eight years early):

Character is what you are in the dark.

Aside from these, it’s got tweetable quotes like “I wish I were what I was when I wanted to be what I am now.” and “Be satisfied enough to improve, but satisfied enough to be happy.”

Given the time from whence it came, its proverbs promote hard work, character, skepticism of government, and trust in God. Which means modern people won’t be well versed in any, which might make the contents more unapproachable and archaic than they should be.

Good Album Hunting: “Christmas Shopping,” December 16-17, 2016

I needed a hard rock or heavy metal LP for a Christmas gift, so on Friday and Saturday, I hit the antique malls and thrift stores to find one.

It’s funny, but when I’m not looking for heavy metal LPs (which is most of the time, as I don’t tend to listen to hard rock on vinyl), I find a bunch of them. This time, nothing. Maybe I’m thinking of the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale when I think of boxes of heavy metal.

But, strangely, I did find some things for myself.

I got:

  • Linda Ronstadt and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, Lush Life and For Sentimental Reasons. I already had Lush Life, which has a special cover that comes in two parts. The copy I previously owned only has one of those parts, so now I have the complete cover. I think Linda Ronstadt’s work with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra is awesome, and I’m delighted when I discover there is another.
  • Linda Ronstadt, Linda Ronstadt.
  • Someone donated their entire Mareille Mathieu collection to Disabled American Veterans; I got Mirielle, Meine Träume, Bonjour, MM, and Rendezvous mit Mireille. She’s a French pop singer out of the 1960s.
  • The Melachrino Strings, Music for Faith and Inner Calm. Part of their Moods in Music series, or am I branching into other Melachrino Strings easy listening?
  • Maria Muldaur, Maria Muldaur. Which has “Midnight at the Oasis” which Mr. Hill mentioned when I got my first Muldaur album a year ago.
  • Frank Sinatra, Strangers in the Night.
  • Angela Bofill, Intuition.

To be honest, I thought I’d gotten the needed metal record on Friday night at Relics Antique Mall when I found a copy of Rubicon’s self-titled debut album. Tell me, doesn’t this look about as heavy metal as they come?

Well, not so much. Here’s their hit song from the album:

That is not metal, even in the 1970s.

Strangely enough, that is Jack Blades’ band before Nightranger, though. So I now have his work with three bands from three different decades. Which might make me a Jack Blades collector or something.

At any rate, the aforementioned music has offered a bit of a break from the Christmas music that has been spinning on the turntable for the last couple of weeks. But it also is impressing upon me the need to try to make some new record shelves for the parlor.

Christmas Album Review: Christmas Album by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (1968)

Book coverThis album fits in with the mellow 1960s sound found on the other Christmas albums I’ve reviewed so far this year (you can find them here). As you might know, gentle reader, it was Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass that initially led me into collecting albums from the 1960s in the easy listening genre, and when I saw this album at an antique mall, I bought it. You can tell I’m serious because I paid $5.00 for it. You can really tell I’m serious about it because I paid $5 for the LP when I’d already received the CD as a Christmas gift. Or perhaps you know that I like to spin records at Christmas.

At any rate, the album features mostly secular winter-time songs associated with Christmas, but has “The Christmas Song” and a bit of a religous Bach piece called “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”.

The track list includes:

  • Winter Wonderland
  • Jingle Bells
  • My Favorite Things
  • The Christmas Song
  • Las Mananitas
  • Sleigh Ride
  • The Bell That Couldn’t Jingle
  • Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
  • Jingle Bell Rock
  • Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring

You don’t tend to see “Las Mañanitas” on a Christmas record as it’s a traditional Mexican birthday song, but it could fit the Christ birth theme. “The Bell That Couldn’t Jingle” is a particularly nice bit with Herb Alpert on the vocals. Did you know Herb Alpert is the only artist to win a Grammy for an instrumental and a vocal performance? True fact. Not this song, though, although his gentle tones offer a mellow bit of encouragement.

I like this album plenty and play it a bunch, both on the turntable and on the CD when I’m not in my parlor. Let that be a ringing endorsement.

Album mentioned in this review: