RadioCarla’s Top Ten Christmas Albums

As someone who actually got paid to “spin the hits” at one point in my life, I spent WAY too much time tweaking my playlists on iTunes. I was polishing up my holiday music one today and noticed how many songs were from the same few albums. So, without further ado, here are my Top Ten Christmas Albums. Before Christmas, I’ll be posting my Top Ten Christmas Songs (though it may have to be Top Twenty or divided into two lists or something like that).

10. Cool Yule by Bette Midler (2006)
The newest one in the bunch is just packed full of Bette fun. I dare you to listen to her version of “Mele Kalikimaka” without smiling!

9. Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration by Dianne Reeves, Patti Austin, Stevie Wonder, Take 6, Tevin Campbell, Al Jarreau and more (1992)
One of the things I miss about managing a college radio station is the music that my students would share with me, music that I would otherwise miss. I had sung Handel’s Messiah in high school and college, but this contemporary reworking of the classic by Quincy Jones just knocked my socks off. Unlike the other albums on this list, this is listened to from beginning to end in one sitting to appreciate the full experience.

8. Rocky Mountain Christmas by John Denver (1975)
I always believe that parents affect their children’s musical tastes (one way or another). I thank my parents for nuturing my love of Broadway cast albums and, in particular, I thank my mother for playing this album almost non-stop from 1975 on. The album was the first time I ever heard “Coventry Carol” and it will always be my favorite version.

7. Holiday Inn Original Soundtrack by Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire (1942)
Okay, gather ’round young ‘uns… back when I was in high school (the late 1970s), we didn’t have DVD players or VCRs and even the channels we had on cable would be consider less than basic today. Every Christmas, one of the local television stations showed either the Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol or Holiday Inn at 10:30 pm. And I love them both to this day. The soundtrack is not easy to find now (most likely due to the inclusion of the song “Abraham”), but it is well worth the hunt.

6. A Very Special Christmas by the Pointer Sisters, Eurythmics, Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen, the Pretenders, John Mellencamp, Sting, Run D.M.C., U2, Madonna, Bob Seger, Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, Alison Moyet and Stevie Nicks (1987)
I have a unique connection with this one. In fall of 1987, John (don’t call me Cougar) Mellencamp rehearsed his “Lonesome Jubilee” tour in Terre Haute, Indiana. I was hired as a production assistant for the week and, when the tour came to Indianapolis in December of that year, they asked me to work again because I “had a brain” and wasn’t “a groupie”. When I wasn’t answering phones, I got to see John tape the video for “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”. Lots and lots of fun!

5. Christmas by Rockapella (2000)
You may remember the old kid’s show (based on the computer game) Where In The World is Carmen Sandiego?. And if you do, you may also remember the acappella singing group Rockapella that was on the show. Their first Christmas album is a delight full with their takes on classics and some new music too. Their second Christmas album Comfort and Joy (2002) is also quite good, but their ultra deep bass Barry Carl had left by then so it doesn’t seems as much like them.

4. Christmas Favorites by Nat King Cole (1992)
Of course, these songs are much older than 1992, but that’s when this particular collection was released. And what a joy that it was! Like most folks, I originally bought it for “The Christmas Song” but have come to love Cole’s versions of the more traditional Christmas carols just as much.

3. A Christmas Together by John Denver and the Muppets (1979)
Here’s another album that has songs that make you laugh and songs that touch your heart. This soundtrack from a television special that has never been on video or DVD is all time favorite of many people I know. I had it originally on vinyl and got my CD version about ten years ago. Songs from John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain Christmas” and the Muppets’ Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas are revisited here.

2. Boogie Woogie Christmas by the Brian Setzer Orchestra (2002)
Having a party? This has to be one of the albums you play. What Brian Setzer does with these Christmas songs is just incredible. You’ll be going back and listening to this one over and over. The big band version of “The Nutcracker Suite” is probably my favorite. Well, my favorite this week at least!

1. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector by Darlene Love, the Ronettes, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, the Crystals and the Ronettes (1963)
I remember when I got my first vinyl copy of this album. I was working at WBOW/WZZQ in Terre Haute and we were getting ready for the two weeks before Christmas when WBOW played Christmas music 24 hours a day. The program director decided that Phil Spector didn’t fit with the Ray Coniff Singers and so on that they usually played so I got the album. Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is a classic and has been remade many, many times (including U2’s version on “A Very Special Christmas”). Apparently, I’m not alone in thinking this is the best Christmas album. According to Wikipedia, “Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, well-known as a fan of both the Ronettes and Spector, has cited this album as his favorite Christmas album of all time.”

Hope you enjoyed the list and…


“It’s a Wonderful Life: The Radio Drama” – Falcon Theater in Newport, KY

I must admit that I’ve been a bit remiss in my sampling of Cincinnati area theater since I moved here in 1998. I’ve seen several productions at UC’s CCM and was even lucky enough to catch Shoshana Bean in both “Babes in Arms” and “Hot Mikado”. You knew then she was going to be a star on Broadway. We also had subscriptions to Broadway in America’s Cincinnati seasons for several years. Two favorites over the years were “Urinetown” and the Deaf West production of “Big River”. But, the seasons started to include too many so-so revivals and too many non-Equity shows at Equity prices so we stopped going.

It's a Wonderful Life

This past Thursday night, Tom and I were lucky enough to see the final dress rehearsal for the Falcon Theater’s production of “It’s a Wonderful Life: The Radio Drama”. As someone with a background in both theater and radio, I was very interested in seeing this production. The idea of transporting the audience back to a radio studio in late December of 1945 adds a very nice twist to this beloved story.

Since this is a radio production, the performers actually hold their scripts and often take on more than one part. My radio self smiled as they carefully held the scripts away from the mics and oh so gingerly turned each page. Also because this is a radio production, we get the joy of watching the sound effects being created by an excellent two-person team. There are jingle singers, an announcer and a program director who points out the APPLAUSE sign in case you missed it flashing.

As the lights go down, the wonderful story grabs your attention as it tells once again about the life of George Bailey and how one person can affect the lives of many others without even knowing it. All of the performers (except for the ones portraying George and Mary) played five or more characters which showcased their versatility. Lisa D. Dirkes (Cousin Tilly, Violet, Mrs. Hatch, Worried Woman, Bank Teller, Zuzu Bailey) and Peter Weiglin (Clarence, Harry Bailey, Potter, Ernie, Mr. Welch, Eustace, Randall) were especially good in their multiple roles.

Even with two intermissions, this lively show keeps you in the moment and eager for the next scene. The enactment of live radio production is spot on. In fact, the only thing missing was the smoking. As late as the 1990s, smoking in radio studios was still allowed. Some of the performers did do some business with an unlit cigarette as if they were anxious for the next break so they could get their next smoke in.

All in all, our first experience enjoying one of the many great theater companies in the area was a definite success. It was wonderful to get in the holiday spirit and I look forward to seeing more Falcon Theater productions and sampling more local theater in general.

Falcon Theatre presents

“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Radio Drama”
By Anthony E. Palermo

Directed by Ric Young, Produced by Ted Weil

Cast: Bill Keeton, Michael Potter, Caitlyn Allison, Lisa Dirkes,
Adrianne Underhill, Jim Waldfogle, Peter Weiglin, Beth Mizer,
Jenny Kessler, Amy Waldfogle, Carrie Mees, David Levy,
Judy Berrens & Amber Samblanet

Monmouth Theatre
636 Monmouth St.
Newport, KY 41071

Fri, Dec. 12 at 8 p.m.
Sat, Dec. 13 at 8 p.m.
Sun, Dec. 14 at 3 p.m.

Tickets: $15, $12 seniors and students


How Twitter Saved Our Vacation

How Twitter Saved Our Vacation

I’ve always been a sweepstakes person. When I was about twelve or so, I remember reading an article with sweepstakes winners detailing the tips and tricks of the trade. At that time, you had to cut out the entry blank or write your information on a 3×5″ index card. Each entry set you back the cost of the envelope and stamp, not to mention your time. Oh, how sweepstakes have changed! Fill out a web form, hit “Submit” and you’re done. Web sites like EZsweeps make it even easier by finding the sweepstakes for you and prefilling the form for you sometimes.

Over the years, I’ve won several small things. The best I ever won was $250.00 from Hormel. Until now…

I can vividly remember the day I got THE email message. The subject line was “Congratulations – You are a winner in the Dream Suite Sweepstakes”. My immediate thought was that it was either a scam or a phishing attempt. But something made me read closer. The email went on to say that I had won the Grand Prize in Sandals Resorts Dream Suite Sweepstakes. Then, it clicked. I remembered that I had entered that sweepstakes!

Being a academic, I immediately started doing research on the whole thing. The email was from a company called ePrize and a quick web search found a Wikipedia entry that said “ePrize is a Michigan based company that creates promotional campaigns ranging from online sweepstakes to points-based loyalty programs.” Okay… that’s a good sign. But, I needed more verification. There were attachments to the email that included an affidavit to be filled out and a set of the contest rules. In those, I found the name of another company – Unique Vacations, Inc. Another search revealed that Unique Vacations is the parent company of both Sandals and Beaches Resorts. Holy cow! This win may be real!!!

Tom and I filled out the forms and sent them back to ePrize (FedEx with confirmation, of course). Then, we waited for them to verify my eligibility (and waited and waited). I became very superstitious and didn’t want to tell anyone about my win until it was verified. Finally, in late July, I received my claim letter (their term) from Sandals and it was time to make my choices. I had won seven nights in a suite at any Sandals resort. Since airfare wasn’t included, I chose the one with the least expensive airfare from Cincinnati: Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau. I also had to pick my dates which were tricky with my school schedule. Once it was filled out, I scanned the claim form (just in case) and sent it back to Sandals (FedEx with confirmation once again). Then it was time for more waiting and waiting and waiting… The official word was that Sandals could wait until 30 days before the trip to notify us. Ugh!

This is where Twitter comes to the rescue. I started becoming addicted to using Twitter about a year before and since then, I’ve met some wonderful people thanks to it. Because my bio on Twitter states that I’m a travel agent, I get some interesting people and companies following me. On October 21st, I got notification that Sandals and Beaches Resorts were following me. I decided to send a direct message to the Sandals account and see if the person updating it was actually in the corporate office. Luckily, they were. A flurry of direct messages began. I explained that I was a winner in one of their recent sweepstakes and that I was anxious to hear if I had gotten the time period I requested since I didn’t have much flexibility there. Lydia, the delightful person I was Twitter-chatting with, started checking for me and told me that Pedro would be the person contacting me with that information. However, as she was checking into things, she discovered my claim letter was missing! They had record of the security guard signing for it, but no sign of it after that! ACK!!! Just as I was about to go into full panic mode, I remembered that I had scanned the filled out form and I asked if that would work if I emailed or faxed it to them. It would! Hallelujah! I sent it to both Lydia and Pedro as soon as I could. They said again that I wouldn’t know for sure until December. By then, I was so relieved I didn’t care so much. Vacation was saved and this was all taking place on Twitter!

Just nine days later, my phone at work rang and it was Pedro from Sandals. He asked if I wanted to hear about my vacation details and I just about jumped out of my skin. We got the resort we asked for in Nassau and my first choice for the dates too. I thanked Pedro profusely and hung up the phone. I sat there for a good long time so thankful that Sandals decided to follow me on Twitter and that I decided to send them a direct message. And that’s how Twitter saved our vacation!

You can win too! Sandals is running another round of their “Four Days in Paradise” Sweepstakes right now. You can enter at

Good luck and happy Twittering!


So the Cubs were out of the playoffs in record time. The World Series starts tonight with the Red Sox facing the red hot Rockies. The Bears are uneven at best (and really still in need of a quarterback). The Illini are a big surprise and so are the Texans. Tom and I are currently at the Learning 2007 conference at Coronado Springs in Walt Disney World. We fly back this evening and then on November 2nd, we head back to Florida for a four-night Disney cruise and then two nights at Wilderness Lodge. Life is good. 🙂


Here we go again

Well, I can’t say I’m surprised about last night’s Cubs loss to the D-Backs. I definitely haven’t been getting my hopes up over this year’s playoff appearance. It was just too much of a roller coaster year for that. The game was way too late for me to watch so I didn’t find out the outcome until this morning. That said, after reading the coverage of the game, I am surprised that Lou took Zambrano out when his pitch was only at 85 pitches. So, I’m hoping that decision will work out in the end, but I’m prepared for the worst.



Go Cubs!

Okay, I can breathe a little easier now… the Cubs FINALLY clinched the division last night (thanks to the Padres beating the Brewers). I don’t really believe that they will go far in the playoffs, but then I thought the same thing about the Cardinals last year. It should be an interesting October!


What’s DP up to?

I was busy most of August getting ready for our Alaskan cruise and advising at school, so I only caught a tiny bit of Dan Patrick’s last shows on ESPN radio. Just this week, I discovered his web site and I’ve been loving the little video clips of what he’s doing since he left ESPN and before he starts his next great adventure. I’m dying to know what he’s going to be doing and crossing my fingers that (A) Keith Olbermann will be a part of it and (B) it will be available as a podcast. I’ve been doing regular Google searches and haven’t come up with an definitive answer. Even the possible starting date seems to be nebulous at best. Oh well, at least we know it’s later this month.


UPDATE: The actual date (if you believe the counter on this website) is October 1st. I think…


I am now officially banned from watching or listening to the Cubs games live. Okay, I banned myself, but here’s why… I turned on yesterday’s game in the bottom of the 8th. The Cubs were winning 4-3. You guessed it… top of the 9th, three run homer plus more and the Cubs lose to the Dodgers 7-4. I switched on my iPod to my favorite Disney podcast after the 3-run homer, but it was too late. The damage was done. So, after being in 1st place in the division for a nice bit of time, the Cubs are tied with the Brewers. The next few weeks are going to be nail biters!


Cubs Notes

Nice to see that the Cubs picked up Jason Kendall. A good sign all around! I guess the trade of Michael Barrett is officially complete now.

I was watching the Cubs-Giants game today and noticed that the Giants were wearing a black patch with the number 47 in white on the left sleeve of their uniforms. It didn’t immediately click with me, but some quick research on the web discovered that the patch in memory of Rod Beck. Given Beck’s importance in the 1998 season and most recent affiliation with Iowa Cubs, I wish the Cubbies had done sometimes similar.

I found this great article about a great Cub legend on Cap Anson –