We’re in the final days of Critical Popcorn’s Gift Guides, which I’ve put aimed to give you a prod of inspiration at this seasonal time of year. As well as an assortment of effortless tech for your life with 4K UHD Streaming devices, Kindles, Cams and Echo Dots reviewed here, there’s new and nostalgic Scalextric escapism here, a selection of epic coffee table pop culture books, the latest must-have Mondo soundtracks on vinyl, and other exciting gift ideas on the way!
Today, we go straight in for original Christmas songs on record, as well as your favourite 1990s Club Classics, a ground-breaking legendary live set on remastered from a master, and 60 years of Bond themes all in one place, let’s put some records on…!
Winter Wonderland – Demon Records
Winter Wonderland does exactly what it says on the tin BUT it’s one of the best if you’re into your classic Christmas songs. I’m partial to a North American Christmas Collection from Time Life, and a variety of these tracks were also on that lost version, so this is an exciting selection!
Many tunes stand the test of time, and then some. You can put these songs on, and you won’t want to skip a track, plus there’s no dodgy 70s tunes, just the pure Christmas innocence of the likes of Bobby Helms, Brenda Lee (Home Alone for me!), Bobby Vee, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Durante, Judy Garland and, of course, Bing Crosby to name just a few.
Taking us through the 40s, 50s and a few from the 60s, Winter Wonderland suits so many decades and ages of folks in your family that you can’t go wrong. Hitting the wealth of nostalgia for your parents but also that music they played when you were growing up, it’s masterful.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Pick it up: https://amzn.to/3W4Dnef
Jimi Hendrix Experience Los Angeles Forum: April 26, 1969
Man, now then. This is truly another level of encounter, and from the start you’ll be jealous you’re not in the crowd, even if it sounds like now and it’s from 1969. If you’re a music lover of any kind, you need some Jimi Hendrix in your life, and if you haven’t already got Electric Ladyland – or even if you have – add this to your collection because it’s never before released in its entirety. So grab a beer, turn off everything else and escape into the sounds.
After a quick tune up by Hendrix, there’s a 13-minute epic intro that’s followed with Tax Free (by Swedish duo Hansson & Karlsson) and then Jimi, drummer Mitch Mitchell, and bassist Noel Redding are literally ‘hang on’, we just need to tune up, and your mind is blown again. They jump right into Foxey Lady and make no mistake, this could sound like an elaborate jam but it’s so much bigger, bolder, inventive. This is a historic moment in time, it reminds us of Jimi’s step ahead of everything – along with the two musicians – because it still could be now.
But this wasn’t just about the music, Hendrix was at the forefront of a changing era. While The Beatles had been hitting the big stadiums, that early sound was an issue but not at the Los Angeles Forum, which was designed with music in mind, even if crowd control wasn’t really a thing yet. Delve into a stunning Purple Haze, a beautiful provocative 17-minute medley of Voodoo Child (Slight Return) plus Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love with incomparable improvisational skill like no other. After you’ve recovered, enjoy the sleeve notes from ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, who was in reality there – after his band of the time, Moving Sidewalks, had been touring with the Experience, and he speaks of that influence on what he and his new trio went onto create.
It’s difficult to put a Hendrix live album into words because it’s beyond them. Like the show itself, it’s a true experience but revel in the atmosphere and importance of every second. With an accompaniment of your choice. The crazy brilliance of it all relies in the depth of the songs, the fact this could be live now, the time it transcends and then the realisation of when it was.
Beyond magic. Get it. Delve in. Live it now. Worth every song and a star-spangled banner that you can enjoy, wherever you’re from!
Buy it here: https://amzn.to/3BN9bNd
Bond 25, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
It’s incredible that we hit Bond 25, that’s 60 years of film and 70 years of Bond doing his thing. This Decca Records release puts every orchestral theme into one place, and it’s a veritable banquet of talents, memories and classic Bond moments.
Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, with new arrangements of those iconic title themes performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, it offers up an interesting switch into modernity but also an important reminder over how accomplished the new songs feel as individual compositions. Now, this might be because the last 25 years or so of Bond have been themes with a specific set of skills, that I personally recall more fondly, but side four of the second LP is particularly epic from start to finish.
Also, by offering up these orchestral outings, it counters my previous belief that one or two songs/recent themes are similar because broken down like this, you hear a lot more under the surface. When broken down into classical pieces, you can hear the individual artist song and melody writing, which doesn’t always come through with the biggest version of the songs. And, no, I’m not questioning the quality of the originals because they play such a huge part of the Bond world in their own right, but these versions provide a fresh perspective.
The Decca album design, and cover, is nice and Bond-y as well – with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra getting their deserved name in full flow, to remind you these are definitely the classic, orchestral versions of the songs. The inside sleeve also gives us a great look at every poster from each film over the years, and that’s also worth browsing – or displaying proudly in the background – while you put the needle down and enjoy the full wealth of 007 themes.
James Bond fan in your life? It’s a no brainer!
Buy now: https://amzn.to/3hen7Zg
90s Club Classics – Demon Records
If you’ve got a nineties dance fan in your household, then 90s Club Classics is for them! While I love an eclectic selection of songs from that era – indie, alternative, and R&B and Dance all played a part in my youth – then I believe this is worth your (or someone you know) time for a revisit, plus it’d be great for Kitchen Disco Parties, you know you love them!
In this setup, you’re getting two 140g vinyl’s and everything sounded decent quality. I had the Best of Dance ’92 vinyl growing up, and quite a few tracks here graced that release, kicking off with the pure classic Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless) by Crystal Waters, plus Bobby Brown’s iconic Two Can Play That Game (K Klassic Radio Mix – which I think I had as a 7” single), Groove is in the Heart by Deee-light, Fatboy Slim’s Right Here, Right Now, DNA’s version of Suzanne Vega’s Tom Diner (the song that gave this gorgeous tune a new lease of life); Tori Amos’ Professional Widow, and Phat Planet from Leftfield – although why not ‘95’s Open Up because what a tune!
If you loved Spaced, with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, you could relive that ‘rave’ episode and enjoy Camisra’s Let Me Show You, granted it’s not the Tall Paul remix but this is definitely a good one. Overall, 90s Club Classics hits 1990 to 1998 with tracks designed to kick off the party and hit that ever-present nostalgia button.
Your records and packaging loves the blue and yellow, the quality is good and overall it’s an uncomplicated design – so letting the tunes do the talking and not messing with what you’re getting on the records!