Way Back 2023

December 5, 2023 - At Long Last, Brenda Lee is Number One on the Charts with "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"

Our vintage Christmas classics are off to a good start this holiday season, with Cher and Darlene Love pairing up under crisp mid-Manhattan skies for Christmas in Rockefeller Center, musically and professionally reuniting the former Phil Spector singers on "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," the fabulous Ms. Love's most famous contribution to Phil's A Christmas Gift For You (Cher was a backing vocalist when the album was recorded 60 years ago).

But that isn't the week's hottest news! Brenda Lee has reached the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 with her ever-popular 65-year-old holiday tune penned by pop music genius Johnny Marks, "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" (now the third number one single of her career). Sales, streaming and radio airplay totals have been hovering near the top the last half-decade...and finally, the 78-year-old queen with the forever-amazing-13-year-old voice has taken the throne for at least seven days and hopefully longer!

A couple of quick hits: Merle Haggard's 1968 country chart-topper "Mama Tried" gained a prominent spot on the series finale of AMC's Fear the Walking Dead, while maestro magnifico Ennio Morricone's theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is in a current commercial for Toyota.

November 10, 2023 - Grammy Nominees Include a Wealth of Historic Mid-Century Recordings

A diverse selection of vintage artists and songs have been honored with nominations for the upcoming 66th Grammy Awards, starting with I Am Everything, a documentary film on the fascinating, complicated life and career of Little Richard in the category Best Music Film. Its companion category, Best Music Video, includes an animated short for The Beatles' great Revolver track "I'm Only Sleeping" competing against four current contenders.

The Best Historical Album category contains three collections with rare musical selections worthy of deeper examination:

Written in Their Soul: The Stax Songwriter Demos is a massive seven-disc offering of nearly 150 tracks performed by a who's-who of the Memphis label's artists including Carla Thomas, William Bell, Eddie Floyd, The Staple Singers, Jimmy Hughes, Booker T. and the MG's and the underrated Mack Rice, for whom this set should provide greater recognition.

Playing for the Man at the Door: Field Recordings from the Collection of Mack McCormick, 1958–1971, contains 66 selections by a wealth of largely unknown singers and musicians from rural parts of Texas (Lightnin' Hopkins the only one who achieved fame, several years earlier). The musical styles include blues, gospel, country and ragtime performed by relatively unknown, but no less appealing, regional artists.

Words & Music, May 1965 - Deluxe Edition delves into the works of then-23-year-old Lou Reed, a few years before he emerged as the leader of The Velvet Underground. It'll be difficult to pick a winner, especially considering they're all up against a collection from Bob Dylan's 1990s Bootleg Series.

Plus: a recording by actress Jenna Ortega is in the running for a Grammy, but you won't find her name anywhere on the list. It's a curious entry in the Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella category: a soundtrack version of The Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" from the Netflix series Wednesday, performed on cello by Jenna (who spent two months practicing) that gives Wednesday Addams (the Addams Family character she portrays) as the artist credit! The actual nominees are arrangers Esin Aydingoz, Chris Bacon and Alana Da Fonseca. No doubt original creators Mick and Keith are duly impressed by the quality of this atmosperic musical piece.

October 30, 2023 - Christmas Music Dominates and...no Elvis songs in Priscilla!?

The Priscilla biopic directed by Sofia Coppola doesn't have any Elvis Presley songs on its soundtrack - wait, what?!? The owners of Presley's image denied her the rights to use his recordings, so she made her own artistic choices, two of which are "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and the Shondells and "Sweet Nothin's" by Brenda Lee.

Baseball's World Series is under way and The Meters' 1969 hit "Cissy Strut" came up as a bumper tune. Meanwhile, Christmas music is getting a media push nearly two months ahead of the holiday: a commercial for Walmart features the gloriously Spectorized "(It's A) Marshmallow World" by Darlene Love and a Macy's TV spot plays The Moonglows' 1953 recording for the Chance label, "Hey Santa Claus."

But the biggest early Xmas blast comes from The Holdovers, a just-premiered seasonal comedy starring Paul Giamatti. Set in 1970, several classics are heard: "Silent Night" by The Temptations, "Jingle Bells" by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, "It's the Most Wonderul Time of the Year" by Andy Williams, "Carol of the Drum (The Little Drummer Boy)" by The Trapp Family Singers and two by Grammy-winning French group The Swingle Singers: "White Christmas" and a "Deck the Halls/What Child is This?" medley. In addition, the film features two late-'60s rockers: "Time Has Come Today" by The Chambers Brothers and "Venus" by The Shocking Blue.

October 17, 2023 - Dinah, Booker T. and Astrud in Tourism, Sports and Robot Flicks

Dinah Washington's 1959 hit "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes" is back on the airwaves in an Airbnb ad ("The Countryside Category"). Major League Baseball's postseason is well under way with a series of promotional spots featuring the ultimate-jam '62 instrumental "Green Onions" by Booker T. and the MG's. Among multiplex offerings, Disney's latest sci-fi film The Creator, addressing another humans-versus-robots A.I. dilemma, has a couple of unusual song choices from the '60s: "Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)" by accidental jazz diva Astrud Gilberto and a 'til-now-obscure instrumental, "Len's Sinker," by Boston-based "Back Beat No. 1" band The Rondels (well, it might remain obscure, but at least the song has gained a little autumn '23 exposure).


Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree Good Golly, Miss Molly Let Me Be Good to You Paint It Black Green Onions Sweet Nothin's Cissy Strut Time Has Come Today