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John Williams albums by Philips Records (Boston Pops)


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You try too hard to make jokes on this forum.  Your overall success rate of making people laugh would improve if you posted less often and didn't spread your comedy juice so thinly.

I finally got around to taking pics of my collection               I'm gonna listen to and post my thoughts on each starting soon!

Well, I looked on Amazon and it turns out I can get all 13 of the Philips albums I don't have for ~2 bucks each, so I ordered them.  I think I'll listen through all 19 in order once they arrive and po

3 hours ago, Jay said:

01 Pops in Space 1-1080.jpg

 

 

01 Pops in Space 2-1080.jpg

 

01 Pops in Space 3-1080.jpg

 

 

Pops In Space (1980)

 

And the series is off to a terrific start!

 

Williams kicks of his run with an album of his own compositions, smartly centered around a space theme as 4 of his biggest hits at the time (CE3K, Star Wars, Superman, and TESB) all had connections to it.

 

While I do think its a very good album overall, I think the first half of the album is much stronger than the second.

 

The Superman March is a brilliant album and series opener, and this is a terrific rendition; Only two years after this arrangement was created for the OST album by editing together the recording of the original Main Title with the recording of the End Credits, we get a cohesive recording of that arrangement under Williams' baton and it sounds really good.

 

The Love Theme from Superman always sounds great and this is no exception.  The way its lovely ending leads into the quieter concert opening of The Asteroid Field from TESB is terrific!  I always loved this arrangement (I believe I first heard it on the Gerhardt TESB album) and it's nice to get a nice quality recording of it under Williams' baton not too long after the original film cue would have been recorded.  Did this album come out before or after Gerhardts?


Yoda's Theme is really nice too.  The Imperial March, however, while fine, is nothing remarkable - it loses a lot of its "power" compared to the original recording I believe, something none of the other recordings on this disc lose - and this is especially notably compared to the Gerhardt album, where he arguably gave th piece even more power!

 

Then things get kinda weird where we now go into the Main Theme from Star Wars, which again was the Main Title recording edited togethe rwith the End Title recording on its OST album, but is a cohesive performance here.  But like The Imperial March, it somewhat loses some of its original oomph.  Maybe the Pops players were already sick of playing it after 3 years? 

 

Anyway, it is kind of weird to get the main theme arrangement here at this point in the album.  I wish he had done Han Solo and the Princess, Here They Come, or The Last Battle instead!  Leia's Theme is next, and sounds fine - but any version of that is always pretty great.


Finally we end with the Close Encounters Suite, which is notable for giving us the intended end credits with the When You Wish Upon A Star interpolation, after it had been edited out of the original OST album.  It would be another year before we got to hear Williams' original recording of it within the Special Edition release of the film in 1981, and almost 2 decades until we got it clean on CD.  Anyway, I tend to enjoy any performances or any of the various suites, and enjoy noticing the differences, like most notably the choir is always different.  I liked the choir here.  This is a nice album closer.

 

 

The packaging for this is kinda funny.  All lower case track titles (other than the first word and "Leia") on the back cover, back cover of the booklet, and disc itself.  I do enjoy the cover picture showing Williams conducting on a spaceship.  The blurb on the inside of the CD edition is clearly not something taken directly from the original vinyl since it mentions later scores.

 

Oh, and something I found amusing: When I put it in my CD player, it displayed a time of EXACTLY 40:00.  This can't be a coincidence, it must have been intentional, no?


Overall, a great start here!

 

 


Add Jaws and this is basically a John Williams greatest hits album at the time of its release.  It is a shame Williams himself never recorded the full Star Wars suite.

 

You are making me want to acquire the last few Boston Pops albums that I’m missing. I’m currently acquiring the remaining Kunzel albums that I didn’t have.  I used to only buy them if there was a Williams piece on them.

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3 minutes ago, MrScratch said:

I’m currently acquiring the remaining Kunzel albums that I didn’t have.  I used to only buy them if there was a Williams piece on them.

 

I did the same thing! Then I purchased some more hehe.

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4 minutes ago, MrScratch said:

Add Jaws and this is basically a John Williams greatest hits album at the time of its release.  It is a shame Williams himself never recorded the full Star Wars suite.

 

Right?  He would later go back and record 8 of his own compositions that already would have existed the summer he recorded this album (and the Midway March for the second album) for albums later in this same series

 

1970 Jane Eyre: "At Lowood" (Pops Britannia)
1970 Jane Eyre: "To Thornfield" (Pops Britannia)
1970 Jane Eyre: "The Return" (Pops Britannia)
1972 The Cowboys: "Suite" (Pops Around The World, retitled "Overture" on By Request)
1975 Jaws: "Theme" (By Request)
1976 Midway: "Midway March" (Pops on the March, retitled "March" on By Request)
1979 1941: "March" (By Request)
1979 1941: "Swing, Swing, Swing" (Swing, Swing, Swing)

 

He would never record anything from The Fury or Dracula for Philips, though.
 

 

Quote

You are making me want to acquire the last few Boston Pops albums that I’m missing.

 

Do it!  They are super cheap on Amazon, and probably other websites as well.

 

Quote

I’m currently acquiring the remaining Kunzel albums that I didn’t have.  I used to only buy them if there was a Williams piece on them.

 

That might be my next deep dive after I finish this then his Sony run.  I already have most of the Kunzels though, I believe.

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Some of these albums were mastered at a very low level for the CDs, and so they need a little extra boost compression, like The Planets album, for example.

 

I've "enchanced" some of them for my personal pleasure, because even at the max volume on my media player, I missed all the subtilities the quieter parts. 

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This discussion has made me realize that I never ripped “Pops On The March” to my iTunes!  Gotta rectify that soon...


I have “That’s Entertainment” and I don’t think I’ve ever listened to it.  

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1 minute ago, MrScratch said:

I have “That’s Entertainment” and I don’t think I’ve ever listened to it.

 

I'm very very partial to the "A Little Night Music" medley on that album.  Great arrangement, great performance.

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3 hours ago, Jay said:

That might be my next deep dive after I finish this then his Sony run.  I already have most of the Kunzels though, I believe.


A similar thread on the Kunzel collection would be most welcome.  I heard many a score for the first time through those CDs.

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53 minutes ago, Bespin said:

Some of these albums were mastered at a very low level for the CDs, and so they need a little extra boost compression, like The Planets album, for example.

 

I've "enchanced" some of them for my personal pleasure, because even at the max volume on my media player, I missed all the subtilities the quieter parts. 

 

I'm listening to these on an actual CD player so don't have any of these issues

 

47 minutes ago, MrScratch said:

This discussion has made me realize that I never ripped “Pops On The March” to my iTunes!  Gotta rectify that soon...

 

Hopefully you find it more enjoyable than I did... 

 

47 minutes ago, MrScratch said:

I have “That’s Entertainment” and I don’t think I’ve ever listened to it.  

 

I was surprised how much I liked it! 

 

46 minutes ago, Disco Stu said:

I'm very very partial to the "A Little Night Music" medley on that album.  Great arrangement, great performance.

 

I agree with Disco Stu

 

44 minutes ago, MrScratch said:

A similar thread on the Kunzel collection would be most welcome.  I heard many a score for the first time through those CDs.

 

The Great Fantasy Adventure Album is one of the first film score CDs I ever owned

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8 hours ago, Jay said:

Pops On The March (1980)

 

Well, I don't have too much to say about this one, really.  I find it to be a bit of a curious choice for their second album.  It's 41 1/2 minutes of marches.  Yep, that's it.

 

I always thought of this album as a sort-of transition from Arthur Fiedler to John Williams, the way it includes a number of marches from classical music, before moving to more contemporary selections.  It is sort of weird, though, that it doesn't include ANY John Philip Sousa (The March King).  Several of the pieces on this album are recorded again for Sony Classical, for the I Love a Parade album (and those performances are much better, or at least better-recorded).

6 hours ago, Jay said:

This is also the first album in the series to not feature any Williams compositions at all.  Looking ahead, the other 1981 album doesn't either.  This may be a bit surprising after the smash hit of Raiders in 1981 not to mention the plethora of older Williams hits not represented yet (like Jaws, Cowboys, Dracula, 1941, and his disaster scores), but I guess it was never meant to be a series that focused only on film music, as the first 3 albums being so completely different from each other in terms of content.

 

I'm sure you're aware of this, but the Fiddler on the Roof suite IS his own adaptation, so he does get a credit on the album.  I'm not too surprised that his music isn't as prominently featured early on; he was probably very self-conscious about not over-programming his own stuff.

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8 hours ago, Jay said:

The Great Fantasy Adventure Album is one of the first film score CDs I ever owned

 

That's interesting! While certainly not my first film score CD, it came relatively early in my fandom too -- probably some 5-6 years into it. There was a guy, some 3-4 years older than me, who used to come over to our house and play computer games with me and my dad (he was sort of both a friend of me and my dad). One time, he brought that CD along. By that time, my own film music interest had rubbed off on him a bit. I proceeded to copy his CD to a cassette, which I played to death in the years that followed (leaving out the SFX tracks, though). So yeah, I have a very nostalgic connection to that CD, so much so that I named an episode of Celluloid Tunes in its honour.

 

In any case, interesting walkthrough of these Boston Pops CDs, Jay. I have a handful of them myself, but never sought out all of them actively. Perhaps it's time I do so.

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9 hours ago, Matt S. said:

I'm not too surprised that his music isn't as prominently featured early on; he was probably very self-conscious about not over-programming his own stuff.

 

That makes sense

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6 minutes ago, Jay said:

 

That makes sense

 

But he was offered the baton especially because his scores were popular, and so Phillips expected some re-recordings to boost the popularity of the BPO and bring a new generation to "classical music".

 

Already on the first 1980 album it's clear, with the release of TESB: the programme is almost Star Wars all the way.

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35 minutes ago, Bespin said:

 

But he was offered the baton especially because his scores were popular, and so Phillips expected some re-recordings to boost the popularity of the BPO and bring a new generation to "classical music".

 

Already on the first 1980 album it's clear, with the release of TESB: the programme is almost Star Wars all the way.

 

Of course they hired him for his popularity (or at least the music's popularity... I don't know how much of a household name JW was at that point...), but there still needed to be a balance.  He does manage to include one or two of his own pieces on most albums (with exceptions of course, like the all-Bernstein, all-Gershwin albums, or the showtunes ones).  Wasn't part of the cause for the rift between him and the orchestra in 1983 that they were upset about having to play so much of his music?  (I could easily be wrong about that, but I thought I read that somewhere...)

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22 minutes ago, Matt S. said:

I don't know how much of a household name JW was at that point...

 

He was already a well known guitarist.

 

22 minutes ago, Matt S. said:

Wasn't part of the cause for the rift between him and the orchestra in 1983 that they were upset about having to play so much of his music?

 

I guess they were tired of playing the same two notes over and over again...

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41 minutes ago, Matt S. said:

Wasn't part of the cause for the rift between him and the orchestra in 1983 that they were upset about having to play so much of his music?  (I could easily be wrong about that, but I thought I read that somewhere...)

 

My understanding is that at heart the issue was that he just wasn't Arthur Fiedler.

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1 hour ago, Matt S. said:

Wasn't part of the cause for the rift between him and the orchestra in 1983 that they were upset about having to play so much of his music?  (I could easily be wrong about that, but I thought I read that somewhere...)

 

This story was just told in detail in Maurizio's great Williams/Goldsmith celebration video you can watch here:

 

https://www.jwfan.com/forums/index.php?/topic/33465-announcing-score-masters-celebrating-john-williams-jerry-goldsmith

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1 hour ago, Matt S. said:

 

Of course they hired him for his popularity (or at least the music's popularity... I don't know how much of a household name JW was at that point...), but there still needed to be a balance.  He does manage to include one or two of his own pieces on most albums (with exceptions of course, like the all-Bernstein, all-Gershwin albums, or the showtunes ones).  Wasn't part of the cause for the rift between him and the orchestra in 1983 that they were upset about having to play so much of his music?  (I could easily be wrong about that, but I thought I read that somewhere...)

 

As Jay said, well addressed on the wonderful Maurizio's Williams/Goldsmith video discussion.

Anyway, long story short, the orchestra wasn't happy with the way things were going for a long while, already during the late Fidler years. I think they tolerated the old man, and behaved a bit better under him, but with a new guy, coming from what was perceived as a more commercial world, some musicians had a more rude attitude during rehearsal, don't taking him seriously. Things deteriorated to the point of Williams filling personally poorly treated during rehearsal of his own music. 

Eventually, things were resolved and he withdrew his resignation.

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3 minutes ago, Jay said:

Got it. 

 

Coming soon you will see pictures I took of two drastically different versions (artwork wise) of the same album... stay tuned!

 

Is it gonna be the Peter and the Wolf/Nutcracker album?  I remember there being two very different covers for that.

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4 minutes ago, Jay said:

Got it. 

 

Coming soon you will see pictures I took of two drastically different versions (artwork wise) of the same album... stay tuned!

 

If you have Japanese releases, they are sure to have different artwork :)

Also, should be pointed out that there were 5 different releases of Peter & the Wolf back then, all with different artwork.

Later on, there was one additional narration in German recorded for a Philips compilation.

http://www.jw-collection.de/compilations/peter_dt_rueger.htm

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57 minutes ago, Disco Stu said:

 

Is it gonna be the Peter and the Wolf/Nutcracker album?  I remember there being two very different covers for that.

 

I only have one copy of that one but I've seen bunch of different covers online, yea

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I was curious with the gold strip discussion from earlier above so I decided to check my copies.  Here is what I have:

 

Gold Bar

  • Pops in Space
  • Pops on the March
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  • Pops Around the World
  • Out of This World
  • On Stage
  • Peter and the Wolf
  • Swing, Swing, Swing
  • America, The Dream Goes On
  • With a Song in my Heart 
  • Berstein by Boston
  • Pops in Love
  • Digital Jukebox
  • Lucky to be Me

 

Yellow Bar

  • The Planets
  • By Request
  • Pops Britannia

 

White Bar

  • That's Entertainment
  • Aisle Seat
  • Salute to Hollywood
  • Pops a la Russe
  • Pops by George
  • The Very Best of the Boston Pops

 

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14 minutes ago, ATXHusker said:

I was curious with the gold strip discussion from earlier above so I decided to check my copies.  Here is what I have:

 

Gold Bar

  • Pops in Space
  • Pops on the March
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  • Pops Around the World
  • Out of This World
  • On Stage
  • Peter and the Wolf
  • Swing, Swing, Swing
  • America, The Dream Goes On
  • With a Song in my Heart 
  • Berstein by Boston
  • Pops in Love
  • Digital Jukebox
  • Lucky to be Me

 

Yellow Bar

  • The Planets
  • By Request
  • Pops Britannia

 

White Bar

  • That's Entertainment
  • Aisle Seat
  • Salute to Hollywood
  • Pops a la Russe
  • Pops by George
  • The Very Best of the Boston Pops

 

 

Oooh, interesting!  I'll check mine and compare!

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Oh, one thing I forgot to mention about Pops on the March is that I thought it was funny that tracks 5, 8, and 9 all feature the snare drum ditty used to open the 20th Century Fox Fanfare

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On 2/25/2021 at 11:51 PM, ATXHusker said:

I was curious with the gold strip discussion from earlier above so I decided to check my copies.  Here is what I have:

 

Yellow Bar

  • By Request

 

My By Request (the only one of Williams' Philip albums I have so far, except for a CDR copy of The Planets) has a gold bar.

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On 2/25/2021 at 5:51 PM, ATXHusker said:

I was curious with the gold strip discussion from earlier above so I decided to check my copies.  Here is what I have:

 

Gold Bar

  • Pops in Space
  • Pops on the March
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  • Pops Around the World
  • Out of This World
  • On Stage
  • Peter and the Wolf
  • Swing, Swing, Swing
  • America, The Dream Goes On
  • With a Song in my Heart 
  • Berstein by Boston
  • Pops in Love
  • Digital Jukebox
  • Lucky to be Me

 

Yellow Bar

  • The Planets
  • By Request
  • Pops Britannia

 

White Bar

  • That's Entertainment
  • Aisle Seat
  • Salute to Hollywood
  • Pops a la Russe
  • Pops by George
  • The Very Best of the Boston Pops

 

 

On 2/25/2021 at 6:08 PM, Jay said:

Oooh, interesting!  I'll check mine and compare!

 

1 hour ago, Marian Schedenig said:

My By Request [...] has a gold bar.

 

Here's what I got

 

Gold Bar

  • That's Entertainment
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  • Pops Around the World
  • Aisle Seat
  • Out of This World
  • With A Song In My Heart
  • Peter and the Wolf
  • Swing, Swing, Swing
  • America, The Dream Goes On
  • Bernstein by Boston
  • Pops in Love
  • By Request
  • Lucky to be Me


Yellow Bar

  • The Planets
  • Digital Jukebox
  • Pops Britannia


White Bar

  • Pops in Space
  • Pops on the March
  • Salute to Hollywood
  • Pops a la Russe
  • Pops by George

 

 

 

So between the two of us we have only seen yellow bar versions of The Planets and Pops Britannia, and only white bar versions of late-era album Salute to Hollywood, Pops a la Russe, Pops by George

 

By they were done doing gold foil by the time Pops Britannia rolled around?

 

There must be gold foil versions of The Planets out there but neither of us have one

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16 minutes ago, Jay said:

There must be gold foil versions of The Planets out there but neither of us have one

 

My copy obviously only has a cheaply printed scan of the original cover, but it does look like gold foil (i.e. mostly blackish, with a white/yellow/golden highlight on one side).

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Great so that confirms gold foil exists from the start through Digital Jukebox, then so far Pops Britannia is only in yellow, Salute to Hollywood, Pops a la Russe, Pops by George are only in white, but then Lucky To Be Me is back to gold foil.  Well, maybe gold foil editions exist of all those too

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8 minutes ago, Jay said:

Well, maybe gold foil editions exist of all those too

 

I'd say that's very likely. It's reprints that aren't necessarily golden.

 

I also expect all the original LP releases to be golden, like this one.

 

615X3dBqwNL._SL1500_.jpg

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04 We Wish You A Merry Christmas 1-1080.jpg

 

04 We Wish You A Merry Christmas 2-1080.jpg

 

04 We Wish You A Merry Christmas 3-1080.jpg

 

04 We Wish You A Merry Christmas 4-1080.jpg

 

1742934288_04WeWishYouAMerryChristmas5-1080.jpg

 

 

We Wish You A Merry Christmas (1981)

 

This album is interesting; While it is entirely Christmas tunes, the odd-numbered tracks feature orchestra & choir, while the even numbered tracks are entirely instrumental arrangements.  The instrumental tracks are the clear winners here, featuring not only more recognizable tunes all arranged in traditional and very enjoyable ways; The choir tracks are a mixed bag often featuring a very loud and unpleasant (to me) sound that was kind of surprising to hear...

 

We Wish You A Merry Christmas - Well now I know where the arrangement of this that opens the end credits of Home Alone comes from!  Right away this album turned me off because the singers are too loud and forceful; I dunno about anybody else, but I like my Christmas music to be warm and pleasant to listen to, and the singers practically shouting the lyrics at top volume was a huge turn off.  It's also a poor arrangement, as they sing the same lyrics over and over again.  Even at 2 minutes, this long outstays its welcome.

 

Christmas Festival - Well I've run into my first snafu here; My CD must be scratched over this track, I couldn't get my CD player to play it no matter how well I cleaned it!  I had to go on youtube to hear this track!  This is a really nice instrumental arrangement of all the biggest traditional Christmas tunes.  I found myself recognizing every single one as it went on, and enjoying the arrangement of each one along the way too!  Over 9 minutes we get 9 different songs all nicely arranged here.  A instant add for my Christmas playlist!

 

A Christmas Greeting - 13 minutes of loud choir, just not pleasant to listen to.  Yeesh!

 

Holiday Cheer - Ah, a lovely 9 1/2 minute instrumental arrangement of various Christmas melodies, all sounding very nice.  Let It Snow, The Christmas Song, and Silver Bells were especially nice, and a short cameo of All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth was fun.  This is another track to instantly add to my Christmas playlist!

 

A Christmas Carol - Yes!  Finally the choir is used here in a warm and pleasant way!  I wasn't familiar with this tune and as far as I know was hearing it for the first time here, but it's really nice and very Christmasy for sure. Very nice!

 

Carol of the Drum - This is "Little Drummer Boy" - I had no idea it originally had different name until this caused me to look it up!  This is a good version of this tune.

 

The Twelve Days of Christmas - This is great!  The choir is a bit on the loud and booming side, but here it actually works because the song is kind of over the top to begin with (and they aren't quite as boisterous as in tracks 1 and 3). The lyrics to this are changed to be about various instruments in the orchestra and it's really clever and fun as each instrument mentioned does a little solo after each mention.  Eventually as it goes on some of the repetitive bits are written out to get through all 12 instruments quicker which is nice.  This a great album ender!

 

 

The cover art is understated but perfectly suited for the compilation.  The first in the series to now feature John Williams likeness on the cover at all is also the first one to not feature any of his own compositions OR arrangements at all.

 

Overall I'd put the album in the category of "good" if the only options are "good" or "bad", but I really did find the choir in tracks 1 and 3 to be a huge turn off, and combined those two tracks make up almost a third of the album!  The other two choir tracks and all the instrumental tracks are real nice so, so it's a winner.

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28 minutes ago, Jay said:

04 We Wish You A Merry Christmas 1-1080.jpg

 

04 We Wish You A Merry Christmas 2-1080.jpg

 

04 We Wish You A Merry Christmas 3-1080.jpg

 

04 We Wish You A Merry Christmas 4-1080.jpg

 

1742934288_04WeWishYouAMerryChristmas5-1080.jpg

 

 

We Wish You A Merry Christmas (1981)

 

This album is interesting; While it is entirely Christmas tunes, the odd-numbered tracks feature orchestra & choir, while the even numbered tracks are entirely instrumental arrangements.  The instrumental tracks are the clear winners here, featuring not only more recognizable tunes all arranged in traditional and very enjoyable ways; The choir tracks are a mixed bag often featuring a very loud and unpleasant (to me) sound that was kind of surprising to hear...

 

We Wish You A Merry Christmas - Well now I know where the arrangement of this that opens the end credits of Home Alone comes from!  Right away this album turned me off because the singers are too loud and forceful; I dunno about anybody else, but I like my Christmas music to be warm and pleasant to listen to, and the singers practically shouting the lyrics at top volume was a huge turn off.  It's also a poor arrangement, as they sing the same lyrics over and over again.  Even at 2 minutes, this long outstays its welcome.

 

Christmas Festival - Well I've run into my first snafu here; My CD must be scratched over this track, I couldn't get my CD player to play it no matter how well I cleaned it!  I had to go on youtube to hear this track!  This is a really nice instrumental arrangement of all the biggest traditional Christmas tunes.  I found myself recognizing every single one as it went on, and enjoying the arrangement of each one along the way too!  Over 9 minutes we get 9 different songs all nicely arranged here.  A instant add for my Christmas playlist!

 

A Christmas Greeting - 13 minutes of loud choir, just not pleasant to listen to.  Yeesh!

 

Holiday Cheer - Ah, a lovely 9 1/2 minute instrumental arrangement of various Christmas melodies, all sounding very nice.  Let It Snow, The Christmas Song, and Silver Bells were especially nice, and a short cameo of All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth was fun.  This is another track to instantly add to my Christmas playlist!

 

A Christmas Carol - Yes!  Finally the choir is used here in a warm and pleasant way!  I wasn't familiar with this tune and as far as I know was hearing it for the first time here, but it's really nice and very Christmasy for sure. Very nice!

 

Carol of the Drum - This is "Little Drummer Boy" - I had no idea it originally had different name until this caused me to look it up!  This is a good version of this tune.

 

The Twelve Days of Christmas - This is great!  The choir is a bit on the loud and booming side, but here it actually works because the song is kind of over the top to begin with (and they aren't quite as boisterous as in tracks 1 and 3). The lyrics to this are changed to be about various instruments in the orchestra and it's really clever and fun as each instrument mentioned does a little solo after each mention.  Eventually as it goes on some of the repetitive bits are written out to get through all 12 instruments quicker which is nice.  This a great album ender!

 

 

The cover art is understated but perfectly suited for the compilation.  The first in the series to now feature John Williams likeness on the cover at all is also the first one to not feature any of his own compositions OR arrangements at all.

 

Overall I'd put the album in the category of "good" if the only options are "good" or "bad", but I really did find the choir in tracks 1 and 3 to be a huge turn off, and combined those two tracks make up almost a third of the album!  The other two choir tracks and all the instrumental tracks are real nice so, so it's a winner.

Lovely summary. Totally unseasonably, if you enjoy Christmas albums but aren't a fan of choral versions, I highly recommend this album https://www.prestomusic.com/classical/products/7926856--kelly-b-improvisations-on-christmas-carols-etc - the performances are great and the way the well known Christmas carol melodies are used is terrific.

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5 hours ago, Jay said:

We Wish You A Merry Christmas (1981)

 

This album is interesting; While it is entirely Christmas tunes, the odd-numbered tracks feature orchestra & choir, while the even numbered tracks are entirely instrumental arrangements.  The instrumental tracks are the clear winners here, featuring not only more recognizable tunes all arranged in traditional and very enjoyable ways; The choir tracks are a mixed bag often featuring a very loud and unpleasant (to me) sound that was kind of surprising to hear...

 

We Wish You A Merry Christmas - Well now I know where the arrangement of this that opens the end credits of Home Alone comes from!  Right away this album turned me off because the singers are too loud and forceful; I dunno about anybody else, but I like my Christmas music to be warm and pleasant to listen to, and the singers practically shouting the lyrics at top volume was a huge turn off.  It's also a poor arrangement, as they sing the same lyrics over and over again.  Even at 2 minutes, this long outstays its welcome.

 

Christmas Festival - Well I've run into my first snafu here; My CD must be scratched over this track, I couldn't get my CD player to play it no matter how well I cleaned it!  I had to go on youtube to hear this track!  This is a really nice instrumental arrangement of all the biggest traditional Christmas tunes.  I found myself recognizing every single one as it went on, and enjoying the arrangement of each one along the way too!  Over 9 minutes we get 9 different songs all nicely arranged here.  A instant add for my Christmas playlist!

 

A Christmas Greeting - 13 minutes of loud choir, just not pleasant to listen to.  Yeesh!

 

Holiday Cheer - Ah, a lovely 9 1/2 minute instrumental arrangement of various Christmas melodies, all sounding very nice.  Let It Snow, The Christmas Song, and Silver Bells were especially nice, and a short cameo of All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth was fun.  This is another track to instantly add to my Christmas playlist!

 

A Christmas Carol - Yes!  Finally the choir is used here in a warm and pleasant way!  I wasn't familiar with this tune and as far as I know was hearing it for the first time here, but it's really nice and very Christmasy for sure. Very nice!

 

Carol of the Drum - This is "Little Drummer Boy" - I had no idea it originally had different name until this caused me to look it up!  This is a good version of this tune.

 

The Twelve Days of Christmas - This is great!  The choir is a bit on the loud and booming side, but here it actually works because the song is kind of over the top to begin with (and they aren't quite as boisterous as in tracks 1 and 3). The lyrics to this are changed to be about various instruments in the orchestra and it's really clever and fun as each instrument mentioned does a little solo after each mention.  Eventually as it goes on some of the repetitive bits are written out to get through all 12 instruments quicker which is nice.  This a great album ender!

 

 

The cover art is understated but perfectly suited for the compilation.  The first in the series to now feature John Williams likeness on the cover at all is also the first one to not feature any of his own compositions OR arrangements at all.

 

Overall I'd put the album in the category of "good" if the only options are "good" or "bad", but I really did find the choir in tracks 1 and 3 to be a huge turn off, and combined those two tracks make up almost a third of the album!  The other two choir tracks and all the instrumental tracks are real nice so, so it's a winner.

 

I'm not much of a fan of this album; mostly for the reasons Jay listed.  The instrumental tracks are the best; I don't care for any of the choral ones.  We Wish You a Merry Christmas was recorded again for Sony's Joy to the World album, along with A Christmas Festival.  Interestingly, that medley was a Pops mainstay from the Arthur Fielder days (arranged by Leroy Anderson) and choir was added for JW's second recording.  And speaking of Leroy Anderson, how can you have a Boston Pops Christmas album and NOT include Sleigh Ride?  That's blasphemous!!  (Almost as bad as a Boston Pops album titled Pops on the March that doesn't include The Stars and Stripes Forever!)  It's almost as though, in his earlier albums, he was trying to move the Pops away from the same-old, same-old?

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Interesting, I haven't heard that Sony album - can't wait to get to it!  I'll be curious to compare that version of A Christmas Festival to this one

 

Hmm, I must sheepishly admit I'm not familiar with Sleigh Ride or its connection to the Boston Pops...

 

Wow, you're right, it is somewhat absurd that Pops on the March doesn't include Stars and Stripes Forever!  I swear they've played that at 75% of every Pops concert I've ever gone to...

 

 

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7 minutes ago, Jay said:

Interesting, I haven't heard that Sony album - can't wait to get to it!  I'll be curious to compare that version of A Christmas Festival to this one

 

Hmm, I must sheepishly admit I'm not familiar with Sleigh Ride or its connection to the Boston Pops...

 

Wow, you're right, it is somewhat absurd that Pops on the March doesn't include Stars and Stripes Forever!  I swear they've played that at 75% of every Pops concert I've ever gone to...

 

 

 

Sleigh Ride, by Leroy Anderson, was first recorded by Arthur Fiedler, and is an unofficial signature tune of the Pops during Christmastime.  I'm not sure if Anderson was ever actually employed by the Pops as a house arranger, but he and Fiedler were very close and they would very often appear together and perform his music.  Keith Lockhart has put out three Christmas albums, and Sleigh Ride is included on all of them...

 

The second recording of A Christmas Festival is mostly the same, but with the addition of the chorus.  However, the chorus doesn't actually come in until nearly 4 minutes in the piece, at "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing"...

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