The Three Suns - A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas (1959/2014) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz
Artist: The Three Suns
Title: A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas
Genre: Jazz, Easy Listening, Exotica, Lounge, Traditional Pop, Christmas, Holiday
Label: © RCA Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment
Release Date: 1959/2014
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 96kHz/24bit
Recorded: 1959; Remastered by Maria Triana at Battery Studios in NYC
The instrumental trio The Three Suns had been around for about two decades, capturing fans as far-ranging as First Lady Mamie Eisenhower and the Platters (who took their “Twilight Time” to the top of the charts), when they cut this record for RCA’s famed Living Stereo series in 1959. And, no doubt inspired by the new-fangled recording technology in RCA’s Studio A, they turned in one of the most wacky and entertaining Christmas albums of the era, adding rock and roll guitar and instrumentation as varied as chimes, bells, oboes and two (!) tubas to create a Space Age stereophonic spectacular suitable for the Jetsons’ next holiday party. This record’s long been cherished by Christmas music devotees, and our Real Gone worldwide CD debut reissue features a sparkling remastering job by Maria Triana at Sony’s Battery Studios and liner notes by Joe Marchese. Every bit as fizzy as the champagne you’re going to open to toast the season!
What do avant-garde composer John Zorn and space-age bachelor pad pioneers The Three Suns have in common? More than you might think. Though diametrically opposed on the surface, each has an omnivorous musical genius that pushes the envelope of musical entertainment. One of these did this as part of an aggressively forward-looking exploration; the other did it to sell millions of records. And they both made Christmas albums. Crazier than Zorn’s A Dreamer’s Christmas, The Three Suns’ A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas, just reissued by Real Gone Music, offers more than just holiday standards. Its inventive arrangements and musicianship is so good you might want to hear it all year long.
The great era of ‘50s easy listening music was a kitschy, corny and yet innovative time when record companies out to sell product would do so not by churning out more of the same but finding something different and futuristic. The Three Suns rode this wave to the top of the Billboard charts. If their albums aren’t dollar bin staples like they once were, it’s still not hard to find cheap copies of this expansive trio’s records. Their 1959 Christmas album, perched on the edge of rock and roll, is a lively and almost experimental delight, searching for ever new timbres to convey the joy of the season.
Originally made up of brothers Al and Morty Nevins and their cousin Artie Dunn, the Three Suns began their career in the late ’30s as a trio with the unusual lineup of guitar (Al) accordion (Morty) and organ (Artie). The simple combination of these unlikely timbres launched easy listening hits like “Twilight Time” and “Peg O’ My Heart,” which may well sound cheesy to modern ears but were quite original. Over the years they added other instruments to the mix, and the 1959 album’s original liner notes boast of the addition of two tubas, chimes, bells and an oboe.
What kind of orchestra is this, you might wonder? A wonderful one, and a meaningful one as well. “The Skater’s Waltz” features a guitar solo that could pass for rock ‘n’ roll; but whoever came up with the arrangement that set the melody to alternating tubas and xylophone—as opposite timbres as you can get – was a wild genius. The RCA Living Stereo sound is best heard on speakers with a lot of separation, but even without that you get a yin and yang that seems to represent the frozen ice and the skater’s scraping away at it’s essence.
There don’t seem to be enough covers of “The Chipmunk Song,” but there could be no other like this, alternating back and forth from percussive cha-cha to an organ and guitar-driven early rock beat; a genre-shifting manifestation of the Chipmunks’ diverse christmas wishes. These are dense arrangements, recorded in a way that that lets each note ring and sound out. Sometimes, like on “Russian Sleigh Song,” a pair of unlikely instrumental companions is isolated for a few bars – in this case, tuba and chimes, jolly old Saint Nick’s tuba-sized laugh pairing with the chimes of elves to make festive holiday music.
“Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow” opens with each of the instruments taking a turn, and it’s this strategy that most recalls John Zorn, looking forward to his game pieces like “Cobra.” The Three Suns m.o. is the sound of surprise, an approach taken on nearly every track. You’ll never know how they’ll attack a melody, almost Spike Jonesian in their musical irreverence, but never losing sight of their source. Take “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” The melody is introduced on with chimes and tuba, before changing to guitar and accordion, then back to chimes and tubas. After a chorus, chimes and guitar front a rock a walking rock ‘n’ roll bass line and a rippling guitar solo before the tuba and chimes team pick up again.
“Winter Wonderland” (which Zorn happens to perform on his Christmas album) closes A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas with a high-pitched organ taking rhythm duties and oboes and tubas picking up the melody. Unlike much of the overplayed Christmas standards you might already be sick of this holiday season, The Three Suns make truly wonderful and surprising music that will make any occasion more festive.
Is there one person you like? Not just like, but really like? Is he a pretty swingin' guy? A pal who gets a kick out of things? A kid who spends a lot of time learning that life, after all, is for fun? This album is for those people. It's a gone album, gang, with the kind of melodic surprises we've come to expect from The Three Suns.
The Suns have remained the same over the years. But, as on other of their recent hits, they've added instruments. They've got some novel ones here: chimes, bells, an oboe and two tubas.
The result of this lineup is a collection of melodic Christmas songs with a real crazy rhythm. The beat is Cha-Cha, Merengue and Rock 'n' Roll, all wrapped up in one. These are not carols, mind you, just songs. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer hangs out here, and so does Alvin, star of The Chipmunk Song. Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town in this album, going through a Winter Wonderland to the tune of Jingle Bells as he takes his Sleigh Ride—all to the fun arrangements of Charles Albertine.
If, after listening to these, you think you've heard everything, hold still a minute as the Suns and their helpers bring a weird, exotic sound to White Christmas and such other lovely tunes as Skaters Waltz and The Christmas Song.
Santa Claus has been pushing his staff at the North Pole hard all year with only one thing in mind: fun. If you want to lend him a helping hand, give this album to someone you really like this Christmas. If he's spirited, if he's swingin', if he's a ding-dong dandy guy, he'll love it. --Art Whitman, Radio Corporation of America, 1959
1 Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town 1:59
2 Skaters Waltz 2:52
3 The Chipmunk Song 2:00
4 White Christmas 3:15
5 Ding Dong Dandy Christmas 2:52
6 The Christmas Song 2:26
7 Russian Sleigh Song 2:35
8 Jingle Bells 2:40
9 Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! 2:14
10 Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer 1:56
11 Jingle Bell Rock 2:12
12 Sleigh Ride 2:54
13 I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus 2:17
14 Winter Wonderland 2:42
Artie Dunn - Organ
Al Nevins - Guitar
Morty Nevins - Accordion
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