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O Canada, Jeff's home and native land...

Jeff who? No, that's Jeffco! If you click on this link to a previous yuleblog entry, you can read the fascinating but true story of how I met Jeff Fox, my very good friend from Nepean, Ottawa and the recepient of ALL my Christmas music in the case of my untimely death.

Is that why Jeff sent those snakes on a plane? Curious.

Last week, I received an e-mail from Jeff shortly after I posted my last review of Ernie (not Bert)'s stack of CDs. The e-mail simply read:

"I hear you're done reviewing your Ernie CDs. Download at will."

One click of the mouse led me to a new page on Jeff's amazing, ever changing web site. There I discovered NINE digitalized Christmas albums available to download! Another new stack? WOW! This album you see before you is one of the seven albums I didn't already own (the others will be reviewed here, I promise!).

History lesson: The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has been in existence since 1936 on the radio. Later in 1952, they moved over into television, giving us "Hockey Night In Canada" and "The Red Green Show" (we won't hold you responsible Jeff for the latter). If you want to read more about CBC, Wikipedia's entry covers just about everything!

Lately, the CBC hasn't performed too well thanks to private TV companies and cable & satellite companies slicing up the viewership pie. Another reason floated around is their focus on Canadian content. When "Hiking In The Manitoba Woods" is up against "Baywatch", guess which show is going to win?

Throughout the 1960s, the CBC carried a show called "Jubilee", a variety show starring Don Messer - the Canadian Lawrence Welk and produced by a talented musician & producer named Bill Langstroth. The focus was strictly music and was wildly popular across Canada.

Starting in 1962, Langstroth gave Messer the summer off and "Singalong Jubilee" was its replacement show. Similar to Mitch Miller's "Sing-Along" show, Langstroth brought together dozens of talented singers and showcased their talents in folk, country, spiritual, and pop music.

Two singers in particular soared to greater heights: the lovely Catherine McKinnon became a household name across Canada with her "voice of an angel". The other singer appeared on "Singalong Jubilee" from 1966 to 1970, introduced many of her songs on the program, went on to marry Bill Langstroth and enjoy a remarkable career: the one and only Anne Murray!

This album is quite the hootnanny! From the first notes that Bill Langstroth plucks out on his trademark banjo (Anne Murray married a banjo player?), you'll know that is album will be definitely different.

It gives the folk treatment to several tracks (the title track "It's Christmas Day" and "The Holy Baby (Children Go Where I Send Thee)" in fine Canadian fashion. Langstroth's version of "Go Tell It On The Mountain" sounds eerily like Burl Ives! Other tracks are given a standard choral treatment ("Good King Wenceslas" and "The Huron Carol").

When this album was recorded (year unknown), Catherine McKinnon was still the house singer of note and she's featured on several tracks. Does she have a "voice of an angel"? Pretty close. Her solo of "The Cherry Tree Carol" is haunting, but I preferred her other song - "Virgin Mary Had One Son" with Michael Stansbury .

If there's one standout track, it has to be by Jim Bennet, the other co-host of the show. His version of "O Tannenbaum" is quite remarkable because Bennet's voice is deep, scary, and unforgettable.

Quite a fun album! Very folky and Christmasy. Definitely Canadian! Thanks Jeff for offering this album!

On to the next new Christmas CD in my collection...