Title: Joni James: Nina-Non & Christmas And You
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Christmas Music Guru
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(Date Posted:05/25/2013 23:00)




 


One of the goals I had in mind when I first created this
In The Spotlight series back in 2009 was to bring attention to Christmas music by a number of recording artists whose Christmas music was either under-appreciated, underrated, or even worse, just sadly forgotten altogether. And therein lies the mission of this particular In the Spotlight tribute.

The artist is Joni James, and the album is her 1956 MGM Records Christmas LP, Merry Christmas From Joni.


In all the years since this message board was created back in 2005, I have never once been asked a question about her or her Christmas album; in fact, her name has never even been mentioned in any post, on any thread -- with the one exception, of course, being my thread where I posted my all-time Top 300, where her album resides in the 2nd Tier, coming in at #146.


Joni had a relatively brief career which started in 1952 and lasted until 1964, when she prematurely retired from the music business to care for her ailing husband, arranger-composer-conductor Tony Acquaviva. However, in that brief career, she had over half a dozen Top 10 hits (including a #1, Why Don't You Believe Me) and recorded over two dozen albums. Her sudden departure from the music scene while still in her prime is no doubt one of the contributing factors to the unfamiliarity that younger folks have of her today.


Joni's 1956 Christmas LP was first released on CD in Japan in 1992 (although, Amazon incorrectly shows it as being released in 1999, click here) and then in the U.S. on CD in 1995 (click here). Sadly, both CD releases are now out-of-print; however, new and used copies of both are available on Amazon. In addition, a download of the album is currently available on Amazon as well (click here).


The songs that I chose to spotlight for this In The Spotlight tribute are the two original Christmas songs on the album: Nina-Non and Christmas And You. These two songs were actually recorded and released together on a 45-rpm single in 1953 -- three years before the 1956 LP. They are the first two Christmas songs that Joni ever recorded, and I believe they are her very best. In fact, Nina-Non was a Top 30 hit for Joni on the Billboard charts, reaching a peak position of #27 on December 26, 1953.









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RE:Joni James: Nina-Non & Christmas And You
(Date Posted:05/26/2013 08:15)

Thanks for Spotlighting Joni James Chip,

I had forgotten that she had a Christmas album, but I think it has to do with not being played on the radio over the years.  I am sure I've seen in in your Top 300, but it didn't jog my memory.  I just purchased one from eBay and I hope it is in playable condition as it is listed as VG, but I've seen/heard VG with skips and a lot of scratches.

But if it doesn't skip, I can edit out the scratches with software when I copy the album to my computer.  The Jacket appears to be in excellent condition.

There are many other artists that I have heard but don't always remember them and it takes something like this Spotlight to jog my memory.  I always loved her version of "Little Things Mean A Lot" and "How Important Can It Be?"
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RE:Joni James: Nina-Non & Christmas And You
(Date Posted:05/27/2013 00:25)


My pleasure, Susan. Glad to hear that you picked up a copy of the album.

And yes, those two songs by Joni that you mentioned are great; particularly, How Important Can It Be. It's got a great rhythm to it.





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RE:Joni James: Nina-Non & Christmas And You
(Date Posted:05/27/2013 08:42)

Thanks again Chip,

I know being the year that this album came out that it is MONO, but were there any "True Stereo" recordings of the songs from this album?  I know that MGM often will add a "e" to the catalog number for Simulated Stereo, which I don't care for.  It is still a MONO recording.  I'm guessing the OOP CD's are Simulated Stereo too, but they probably state "Stereo" on them.

Thanks for the YouTube Clip.  I saw one of Joni singing on a Variety Show and was going to add it to my previous post, but I didn't want to detract from your Spotlight Post.

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RE:Joni James: Nina-Non & Christmas And You
(Date Posted:05/27/2013 16:00)


No Susan, the entire album was recorded in pure mono; MGM Records didn't start releasing stereo LPs until the latter part of 1958.

The prefix for the MGM 3000 series of mono LPs (which first began to be issued in 1953) was an "E," hence Joni James Christmas 1956 album which was catalog #E-3468. For the MGM 3000 series of stereo LPs (which first began to be issued in late 1958), the prefix began with an "SE."

As for the 1992 (Japanese) and 1995 (American) CD reissues of this album, no, they were not electronically enhanced for re-channeled (simulated) stereo; both CDs contain the album in its original mono form.


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RE:Joni James: Nina-Non & Christmas And You
(Date Posted:05/28/2013 08:22)

Thanks again Chip,

I believe you have mentioned this before about a specific cutting head or needle being invented, for doing Stereo records, but I believe it was in the late 1950's.  I don't remember the specific year, but I know it was after 1956.  I am not the expert, but off the top of my head, I can't think of any albums that were done in Stereo until late 1958.

Thanks for reminding me that MGM used SE in their catalog numbers for Stereo in late 1958.

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RE:Joni James: Nina-Non & Christmas And You
(Date Posted:05/29/2013 01:16)


Susan,

It was the introduction of the Westrex cutting head in 1958 that finally enabled the record companies to mass-produce Stereophonic vinyl discs and make the commercially available to the public for the first time. MGM Records acquired their first Westrex cutting head in mid-1958 and was releasing Stereo LPs to the marketplace by late 1958.

By the way, several of the major record companies (including Columbia, RCA and Mercury) actually began recording selective sessions (usually instrumental music) in 2-track and 3-track Stereo as early as 1954. However, these early Stereo recordings were only available to the public (beginning in mid-1955) in the form of consumer-grade 2-track reel-to-reel Stereo tapes until 1958, when the Westrex cutting head was introduced and finally enabled the record companies to release previously recorded 2-track and 3-track Stereophonic recordings on vinyl LPs. In 1959, three-track Stereo recordings became the industry standard for the record companies.



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RE:Joni James: Nina-Non & Christmas And You
(Date Posted:05/29/2013 09:28)

Thanks for refreshing my memory Chip,

I do remember that Stereophonic sound was available, though it maybe wasn't referred to as that way, prior to when records were being released on Stereo.  I have a few 4-Track Stereo Reel-to-Reel tapes, but they are actually like a record album, with two sides, so even though there are 4 tracks on the tape, only 2 are being played at one time and then the tape recorder plays in reverse and plays the other two tracks.

I could never understand why the recording industry used the 3-track method for recording, when they have to mix the 3rd. track into 2 for Stereo.  I remember when I worked as a secretary for a Professional Sound Company, we had a 16 track mixing board, and would output it to 4 tracks for the final mix and then when the final tapes were done and sent to a record pressing company, they were converted to 2 tracks for Stereo.

8-Tracks tapes were similar to 4 tracks, but basically there were four rows on the tape where the 2 channel head would be on the tape and then the metal splice would move the head down to the next 2 tracks until the entire tape was played.

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RE:Joni James: Nina-Non & Christmas And You
(Date Posted:05/29/2013 19:09)


Susan,

The word "Stereophonic" actually dates back to 1927, when it was first introduced by Western Electric. However, the phenomenon of Stereophonic sound didn't really gain national prominence until its pervasive use in widescreen motion pictures beginning with the 1952 film, This Is Cinerama.

Other notable big-budget widescreen epic films made with Stereophonic sound that followed were The Robe (1953), Demetrius And The Gladiators (1954),
The King And I (1956), The Ten Commandments (1956), Around The World In 80 Days (1956), South Pacific (1958), Ben Hur (1959), How The West Was Won (1962), Cleopatra (1963), Camelot (1967), among many others.


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RE:Joni James: Nina-Non & Christmas And You
(Date Posted:05/30/2013 11:02)

Thanks Chip,

I wasn't aware that "Stereophonic" goes back to the 1920's.  I to remember something that you could look at 2 photographs with this hand held device and it made the 2 images look like they were, for lack of a better description, 3D, but I believe it was referred to as Stereoscope.  My Grandparents had such a device and looking at some of their very old pictures was interesting using this device.  The pictures were very thick and felt like cardboard.

I can't think of the movie, but I want to say it was Ethel Merman singing a song and there was the words "Stereophonic Sound", and each time she sang them, they made it echo.  I am not certain that it was Ethel Merman, but that is all I can think of right now.

I do realize that Stereo was used in the movies in the early 1950's, but I was very surprised to find that the movie "White Christmas" the music is in MONO according to IMDB.com  Under the Specs, it shows "MONO (Western Electric Recording)"  I know you can't trust everything on the Internet.  On my Blu-ray, it shows MONO also.  I can't find any information about the sound on my DVD of the movie, but you would think being this was filmed with a new technique VistaVision, where the film runs horizontal through the camera instead Anamorphic/vertical.
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RE:Joni James: Nina-Non & Christmas And You
(Date Posted:05/30/2013 23:40)


That is indeed correct, Susan: Stereoscope is the name for that device which you were alluding to in your post.

As for the 1954 motion picture White Christmas, unfortunately only monaural prints of the film still exist today. Sadly, the few stereo prints of the film that were made and released
to selective movie palaces and theaters across the country no longer exist. What's worse is that audio production elements that could have been used to assemble a complete stereo print of the film were lost in a fire, and all that remains is a hi-fi monaural music master.

And lastly, regarding the song that you were trying to think of, it's called Stereophonic Sound. It was written by Cole Porter for the 1957 MGM musical Silk Stockings and was sung in the movie by Janis Paige and Fred Astaire.





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RE:Joni James: Nina-Non & Christmas And You
(Date Posted:05/31/2013 22:36)

Chip,

Thanks for giving me the correct movie and singers of "Stereophonic Sound"  I've seen the movie when I was much much younger, and even while going through channels or heard the song one of those programs where they show highlights of different Classic Movies and this particular song was being shown from the movie, but I didn't remember the name of the movie or the artists.  It might have been "That's Entertainment", but that is just a guess right now, due to the lateness of the hour too.

To show you how my mind works, just now a movie with Betty Hutton popped into my head, The Song is "The Sewing Machine" from the Paramount Picture "The Perils of Pauline" 1947, but she was doing a scene, that may have been in a mill of some type and there were a lot of women using sewing machines and she started singing a song.  I'll try my best to remember the lyrics, but she also sang it with a Brooklyn Accent I believe it is referred to when someone says "Moider da bum in Joisey.  I don't know if I spelled it correctly or not.  But anyways, she is dancing and singing "A sewing machine a sewing machine. A girls best friend.  I don't remember the next verse, but part of another verse is "I wouldn't have time to woik" meaning Work.  Anyways, I can remember certain things, without having to look them up, but other things I have trouble with and also with the accuracy of them.

It's a shame that the Stereo prints of "White Christmas" no longer exist and the audio production elements that could have been used to create a Stereo print were lost in a fire.  I guess even if they tried to do simulated stereo, that would ruin the High Fidelity of the Monaural print.  It might have been possible if Rosemary Clooney wasn't under contract with Columbia Records.  I don't know off the top of my head what record label Danny Kaye was contracted with, but I do have his LP Hans Christian Anderson, but not immediately available to check what label it is on.

Thanks again for the clip, I haven't seen "Silk Stockings" in a very long time, but I do remember this scene.
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RE:Joni James: Nina-Non & Christmas And You
(Date Posted:06/01/2013 03:45)


Susan,

The clip of Stereophonic Sound was in 1994's That's Entertainment! III.

As for the 1954 motion picture White Christmas, there was Stereo enhanced version released on VHS (but I wouldn't recommend it):
Click here. And regarding Danny Kaye, he was primarily a Decca Records recording artist; however, he later recorded for Columbia, Capitol and London Records as well. His album Hans Christian Andersen was released by Decca Records in 1952; and then later reissued on Decca's successor label, MCA Records.

And lastly, yes, Betty Hutton's Sewing Machine song and routine from the 1947 motion picture The Perils Of Pauline is a classic. I loved Betty Hutton and I loved what Bob Hope used to call her: a vitamin pill with legs.







(Message edited by Christmas Music Guru On 06/01/2013 04:22)
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RE:Joni James: Nina-Non & Christmas And You
(Date Posted:06/01/2013 09:18)

Thanks Chip,

As I mentioned, I'm not sure which record label my Hans Christian Anderson album is on because I don't have immediate access to it.  It could be the DECCA release, but I just can't say for sure.  I can sort of picture it in my mind, but can't focus in on the label.

I sort of got something right for a change, lol, I did think "Stereophonic Sound" was shown in "That's Entertainment!", but I didn't have that it was "That's Entertainment! III"

Yes, I remember Bob Hope referring to Betty Hutton as "A Vitamin Pill With Legs"  I really liked her  She died on what would have been my mother's 81st birthday.

I can't say for sure, but I believe I have seen all of the movies with Betty Hutton, but don't have time to go list all of them.  But 2 that come to mind are "The Greatest Show On Earth" and "Annie Get Your Gun" and of course the aforementioned "The Perils Of Pauline"  There are other's, obviously, but I don't have to look them up right now.


I wouldn't want the Stereo Enhanced version of "White Christmas" on VHS, not even for $1.65.  It just wouldn't be worth ruining the High Fidelity of the Monaural Soundtrack.

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RE:Joni James: Nina-Non & Christmas And You
(Date Posted:06/01/2013 14:16)


Yes Susan, they are the two movies that Betty Hutton is most famous for: Annie Get Your Gun which is by far her signature movie; and The Greatest Show On Earth which was directed by the great Cecil B. DeMille and won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The other two great movie triumphs in her career were
the hilarious The Miracle Of Morgan's Creek which was directed by the great Preston Sturges and the very delightful The Stork Club.


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RE:Joni James: Nina-Non & Christmas And You
(Date Posted:06/03/2013 20:19)

Chip,

My Merry Christmas From Joni arrived today, and for it's age, it was in better condition then the vendor described and I listened to it in it's entirety.  It is such a beautiful album.  It's hard to believe she was only 26 when this album was released.

Also, being a MONO release, the sound quality is excellent.  I am glad that I have added this album to my ever expanding collection.  Slowly but surely, lol.
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RE:Joni James: Nina-Non & Christmas And You
(Date Posted:06/03/2013 23:22)


Glad you are pleased with the album, Susan.


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