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🎄 Holidays! Annual holiday listens: Herb's Christmas Album(s)

Harry

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I realized when I wrote my post that "To Wait For Love" was the follow-up. But I never thought that was going to be a hit. Too much like "This Guy" and yet, not nearly enough. "Without Her" (again, apart from the epic dynamic range issues) I think could have---good song, hot (at the time) writer. But 1969 was not Herb's (or A&M's) year.
"Without Her" got a special mono single mix that tamped down the dynamic range by a ton:

 

Mike Blakesley

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"To Wait For Love" was the follow-up vocal to "This Guy's In Love With You". It was a single-only for a long time before WARM placed it on an album, and I heard it a fair amount on the radio at the time, but it only could muster a #51 on Billboard's Hot 100. It had pretty much the same "Bacharach-bounce" of its predecessor, and was probably why it failed - it was too same-y.

To me, the problem with "To Wait For Love" wasn't so much the song itself, it was the production. "This Guy" had Burt Bacharach's hand on it productionwise (even though he's uncredited) and that spare, casual arrangement had such an openness to it. "To Wait For Love" on the other hand has sort of a wall-of-sound feel to it. The vocal is more buried in the mix and doesn't sound as clear. It shows Herb's limitations as a singer, while "This Guy" actually capitalized on them.

They should have known from prior experience with Herb's vocals that he was never cut out to be a singer. "This Guy" was in effect a novelty record and proof that it is nearly impossible to make lighting strike the same place twice.

Back to Christmas Album though. I was blasting "Jingle Bells" on my way home from work yesterday afternoon, and swear to God, I've heard this album hundreds of times since it came out, but it was 2020 before I realized that the opening choral segment of "Jingle Bells" actually follows the melody of "Jingle Bells," albeit extremely slowed down. All these years I've thought it was just a random made-up melody.

This is not a new phenomenon though. It was several years of listening before I figured out how the melody of Winter Wonderland fit that song. (I'd been trying to figure out where the trombone part fit into the lyrics.) But in my defense, I was only 12 then. I have no excuse for my failure to recognize "Jingle Bells" in that intro.
 

Michael Hagerty

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To me, the problem with "To Wait For Love" wasn't so much the song itself, it was the production. "This Guy" had Burt Bacharach's hand on it productionwise (even though he's uncredited) and that spare, casual arrangement had such an openness to it. "To Wait For Love" on the other hand has sort of a wall-of-sound feel to it. The vocal is more buried in the mix and doesn't sound as clear. It shows Herb's limitations as a singer, while "This Guy" actually capitalized on them.
Bingo. Herb and Burt always felt fresh and contemporary. "To Wait For Love" felt heavy, drowning in orchestration.
 

Michael Hagerty

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Tony Orlando had no luck with that song as a hit single in 1964 either.
If---and I'm guessing it wasn't----"Without Her" had been available as an immediate follow-up to "This Guy's In Love With You", I think Herb would have done better. I know it did worse than "To Wait For Love", but I think some of that was the bloom being off the rose from "This Guy". "To Wait For Love" and a year killed any momentum.

I'm not saying Herb missed out on a career as a vocalist---just that (and I got into this in a thread on the Carpenters' forum a few years back) the right song at the right time can make a huge difference.
 

Mike Blakesley

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Absolutely, and that's why Herb never had another vocal hit.

What surprises me is that the powers-that-be in the marketing department didn't recognize that. Instead, Herb kept making vocal records.... they kept being released as singles... they all flopped. I still remember the first time I saw the Warm album in a store. It had a sticker on it --- "Contains the hit vocal 'Without Her.'" They were just obsessed with getting him another hit vocal.

I always thought his best shot at another vocal hit was "Save the Sunlight." It was catchy; it was timely; it didn't bury Herb and Lani in orchestra; it didn't make him try too hard as a singer; the mellow singer/songwriter tunes were making all kinds of noise by that time... but even given all those factors, still it didn't connect. Maybe a more aggressive production with stronger drums might have done the trick, hard to say. I've always thought they should do a version of it in their more recent shows.
 

Rudy

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I'm not saying Herb missed out on a career as a vocalist---just that (and I got into this in a thread on the Carpenters' forum a few years back) the right song at the right time can make a huge difference.
For sure. 👍👍

There was also "You Are My Life" from The Brass are Comin' but although it was a nice album track, it wasn't hit material. It had the TV special for some momentum (although I can't recall if that tune was in the special or not).
 

Mike Blakesley

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I haven't seen the special in a long time but I do think it was in there.

I like that song too, but again.... too much heavy-handed orchestration in it.

Back on the Christmas track... it struck me on my last Christmas Album listen, that "The Bell That Couldn't Jingle" just may be the song that has the least amount of Herb's trumpet in it. Just two short spots, 11 notes each. It's a grand total of about eight seconds of trumpet playing. Can anyone come up with a Herb/TJB tune that has less trumpet in it?
 

Mike Blakesley

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There's a fairly long trumpet section at the end of the song. If you listen to the "single" version it is even longer. Also there are trumpet fills in between the lines of the lyrics throughout the song. So....nope that's not even a close contender.
 

Michael Hagerty

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Absolutely, and that's why Herb never had another vocal hit.

What surprises me is that the powers-that-be in the marketing department didn't recognize that. Instead, Herb kept making vocal records.... they kept being released as singles... they all flopped. I still remember the first time I saw the Warm album in a store. It had a sticker on it --- "Contains the hit vocal 'Without Her.'" They were just obsessed with getting him another hit vocal.
I had a friend for many years who worked in promotion at A&M. Despite Herb's well-earned reputation as beyond a nice guy, she said there was always ENORMOUS pressure to deliver on a Herb record or a Lani record. I'm sure it never came from Herb himself, but perhaps from Jerry and definitely from the head of promotion who reported to them.

Now, during those years, it NEVER happened. Those records flopped time after time, and everyone kept their jobs, but there was an absolute mandate to make magic for Herb & Lani.

And I agree about "Save the Sunlight"---it's in a playlist I have of otherwise non-A&M, non-Herb & Lani material. That one should have flown.
 

Harry

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Back on the Christmas track... it struck me on my last Christmas Album listen, that "The Bell That Couldn't Jingle" just may be the song that has the least amount of Herb's trumpet in it. Just two short spots, 11 notes each. It's a grand total of about eight seconds of trumpet playing. Can anyone come up with a Herb/TJB tune that has less trumpet in it?

Okay, follow me here, I think I've got one.

In "The Bell That Couldn't Jingle", Herb is actually playing three-note chords on those 11-note figures, so 33 notes times two sections gets you to 66 notes total.

I just went through "You Are My Life" and counted about 55 notes. There might be a couple or three either way, depending on whether some of his noodling notes are really notes or just grace note-type things. But they are all single notes, no doubling or tripling. It's certainly a longer time in the song of Herb playing trumpet, but for note count, I think this might be the fewest in the Tijuana Brass era.
 

Mike Blakesley

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I guess we could run this contest two ways .... the number of seconds of trumpeting, and the number of notes played.

The fact that I have time to think about this means that (contrary to my belief) I obviously DO have some spare time! Who'da thunk it?
 

DavidRSmedley

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Absolutely, and that's why Herb never had another vocal hit.

What surprises me is that the powers-that-be in the marketing department didn't recognize that. Instead, Herb kept making vocal records.... they kept being released as singles... they all flopped. I still remember the first time I saw the Warm album in a store. It had a sticker on it --- "Contains the hit vocal 'Without Her.'" They were just obsessed with getting him another hit vocal.

I always thought his best shot at another vocal hit was "Save the Sunlight." It was catchy; it was timely; it didn't bury Herb and Lani in orchestra; it didn't make him try too hard as a singer; the mellow singer/songwriter tunes were making all kinds of noise by that time... but even given all those factors, still it didn't connect. Maybe a more aggressive production with stronger drums might have done the trick, hard to say. I've always thought they should do a version of it in their more recent shows.
I often wish he would re-record Save the Sunlight with Ms Hall, especially with the fine musicians he works/travels with when he does gigs.
 

Mike Blakesley

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Lani did it on her solo album Hello It's Me, backed by mostly the same musicians as played on Herb's version. The two are totally different, if you haven't heard hers. (The T.J.B. version is the far better of the two, IMHO.) But yeah, especially given Herb's use of "What a Wonderful World" with his environmental message during his recent concerts, this song would be a perfect fit. He might not be comfortable with that much singing these days but Lani could pull it off for sure.
 

A&M Retro

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Mike:

I don't think so. My understanding is that the TJB Christmas Album and the videos supporting it were produced in the summer of 1968---a couple of months after The Beat of the Brass TV special and album.

If I remember correctly (and I'm pretty sure I learned it here), Warm was recorded after Herb's escape to Brazil in early '69, when he began to question the whole thing, and was at least partially inspired by the trip (The Sea Is My Soil, Zazueira). A track or two (To Wait For Love, maybe Without Her) might have been from the Christmas Album sessions, but that'd have been it. The bulk of Warm was probably recorded in March or April of '69. The LP was released in June.

Which prompts a question: If The Monkees (and a lot of other artists) have sessionographies, where you can tell the exact day they dubbed in a tambourine, why doesn't Herb?
Speaking of ‘Warm’, I just found an original sealed cassette of the album from 1969. The price tag said, ‘$5.99 and it had the old cigarette pack styled plastic. Curiosity got the best of me and I opened it. It’s got the sticker type label on it. Perfect condition.
 
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