Wednesday, December 22, 2004

To Herb, with Love

It's that time of the year. Along with the other usual holiday traditions, the Christmas season is also the time of the year to indulge an intense fetish. This deeply-embedded need was forged in the early years of my youth. Without its fulfillment, I often find myself unable to function with anything approximating the Christmas spirit. Fortunately, my tolerant wife indulges me.

I must, must, MUST hear Christmas Album by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass.

I have tremendous fondness for The Tijuana Brass. My father purchased all the Herb Alpert records back when he was a young collector in the 1960's with a home-built hi-fi. We listened to those albums all the time in the dining room of our Harrisburg row home on Adrian Street. TJB music is the score to my personal Wonder Years.

Today, I have a large collection of vinyl, some of it liberated from the stacks of unused albums in my parents' entertainment center. Let's face the truth—I keep that turntable still hooked up to the stereo for one record. Alpert's delightful, cheery Caliarchi LP is the score to every Christmas tree trimming I can ever remember.

Alas, the CD has been out of print since the 1980's, and who knows if it will ever be re-released. Used copies start at $50, and go up from there. (There's obviously a following.) Maybe one year Santa will get my letter and convince the record industry that they could get a temporary reprieve from the naughty list if they'd let Herb's trumpet ring out once more, with digital clarity.

Boing Boing had a piece yesterday called (with apocalyptic intensity) "Tijuana Christmas MP3s from hell". When I clicked on the link from my newsfeed, I was thinking "Don't you even go there, sucker." No, somebody was talking about a pale knockoff called "The Border Brass," which was created by a bottom-feeding record company in the 60's out of low-rent studio musicians. Obviously, this recording was intended to capitalize on Alpert's gigantic fame. It's nowhere near as good, but as Caliarchi goes, it's not exactly from hell, either.

Some people just don't understand.


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