There is a generous amount of misinformation about Percy Faith's Christmas albums in various places on the internet. The following article is intended to clear up the Faith Christmas album lineup. Some companies seem to be selling the 1954 MUSIC OF CHRISTMAS as if it was the 1959 totally re-recorded stereo version. Not often done with Percy Faith on Columbia, HALLELUJAH! from 1958 was re-issued in 1965 with new cover art and the title of MUSIC OF CHRISTMAS VOL 2. There is no MUSIC OF CHRISTMAS VOL 2. It's HALLELUJAH! repackaged with a new album number.
We need to step back to 1958 for the original recording and release of HALLELUJAH, CS 8033. The album has a much drier sound; severely recorded and not great listening, while MUSIC OF CHRISTMAS used very generous amounts of "engineer-added reverb."
In the 1958 fall season we had a 2-Lp set, The Columbia Album of Christmas Music, C2L-1, mono only; it had a rather plain white cover, with the cover art from Hallelujah! and Music of Christmas shown without their usual lettering. This album, then, consisted of CL 588, paired with the monophonic version of Hallelujah! for the double album set. Since CS 8176 was recorded after the 2-Lp set was released, both Music of Christmas (1954) and Hallelujah! (1959) appear in mono; Hallelujah! could have been in stereo, but I guess it was decided to keep both albums mono. Had they waited 'til 1959 they could have released both of Percy's Christmas albums in stereo for "The Columbia Album of Christmas Music." Percy's first stereo "Columbia Album 2 Lp set" was the Victor Herbert set (C2S 801).
Music Of Christmas has been in print with few interruptions through the 'end of the Lp' era. Hallelujah turned up in bargain bins, as did the re-title to Music Of Christmas Vol 2 in 1965. There are a few Percy Faith albums that were given new covers over the years - but album numbers and titles were rarely changed. It took the STEREO REVIEW "search service" to find a mint stereo copy of CS 8176 Lp for me, after years of searching, so I'm not in agreement that it's been available over the years (prior to the unfortunate CD) since 1959. It may have been in the catalog, but I couldn't find it in the Washington, DC metropolitan area stores. I had also asked Merit Music Shop in Manhattan that found most of my early "CL 500" series albums; they didn't have it.
In 1965, Sony issued Music of Christmas Vol 2 - as if it were a new addition to Percy's music; it was only a total repackaging (I'm being nice here) of 1958's CS 8033 (Hallelujah!) but it appeared in the mid 1990's, re-engineered to a great effect; it was re-equalized and given equalization tweaks, along with about as much reverb as Music of Christmas - a truly improved listening experience. It was only available 2 or 3 seasons then vanished for good. Why? Dunno. It's a case where the digital remastering by three ladies listed on the liner notes took an early stereo effort that had a very dry, severe sound, and opened it up and made it sound merely GREAT. I've seen it fetch high prices... it's a rarity. Keep in mind if you buy Hallelujah! or Music of Christmas Vol 2 on Lp you are getting the "dry" recording. I'm told the "tweaked" CD garnered high prices on Ebay (over $100) since it was withdrawn after only a few seasons. It was rescued again by Real Gone Music, and Maria Triana at Battery Park Studios, who remastered it it for release on Gordon Anderson's Real Gone Music label (along with the 1954 Music of Christmas, "the early edition.)"
1966 brought us the final Percy Faith Christmas album, CHRISTMAS IS... which has been available on Lp and CD as well and distributed on a spotty basis since. The title song was popular and covered by other artists. Percy originally wrote the music as "Judy" after one of his granddaughters and it was "repurposed" into being a Christmas tune with the lyric, sung by the female chorus, lyric penned by Spence Maxwell. 5 tracks are with the chorus, 6 are orchestral. The CD catalog number is CK 9377, and the Lp was CS 9377. The title song is actually Percy's composition "Judy" written for his granddaughter (his other granddaughter has a song Percy wrote just for her, "Lisa" on the CAREFREE album).
To summarize: Percy Faith recorded Music of Christmas TWICE, one 1954 version in mono (of course). I notice it is being sold with "new" cover art overseas; listeners are going to hear either the 1954 or 1958 version, of widely varying quality.
CHRISTMAS IS... from 1966 is part vocal (the Percy Faith Chorus that he did arrange, in contrast to his recordings a decade before that had a chorus, where he did not arrange the vocal parts - you can tell, they tend to sound written in linear fashion (vertical writing) where the Faith choral and instrumental work was always featuring lots of horizontal writing - lots of parts, lots of countermelodies. Ray Charles, of the Ray Charles Singers, wrote the 50's choral parts you can hear mainly on the first two volumes of the "Singles Collection." To hear the Ray Charles Singers by themselves you can find used copies on several different labels (e.g., COMMAND). EXTRA NOTE: Marilyn told me that the recording sessions for Percy's Christmas albums were in the summer (I've been vilified for saying summer, if the recording dates are correct, they were recorded in the spring, however I had letters from C. R. Jenkins, Columbia's New York PR letter-writer that gave what must have been the release dates, July and August) so Percy tried to make things as festive as possible - decorations amongst the music stands/chairs, all over the studio. I think it comes through in the music! Also I see a lot of speculation on the internet that CL 588 and the Ep versions of same with the man wearing a Santa outfit (cap and white beard pulled down) with his daughter and her doll are a real painting for this album. Not so... just some stock cover art.
Real Gone Music has reissued, on CD, Percy Faith's ORIGINAL Music of Christmas, CL 588, from 1954; also the remastered HALLELUJAH! with the original BRIGHTY colored album cover art! The albums are sold as a pair in RGM's THE COMPLETE MUSIC OF CHRISTMAS (a tad misleading unless bought with the new Music of Christmas 1959 just reissued, and CHRISTMAS IS... you'll have all PF recorded of Christmas music (except for singles, which are covered on RGM's issues).
THE ULTIMATE CHRISTMAS ALBUM, the STEREO 1959 re-recording of MUSIC OF CHRISTMAS, which is the only time I can think of where an original Percy Faith album was COMPLETELY re-recorded for true stereo, is now here thanks to Gordon Anderson's REAL GONE MUSIC label, on CD, NOW on the realgonemusic.com website! This is THE essential Christmas album, the likes of which we simply won't hear again. I've seen the RGM copies on Amazon and Collectables. Take care not to buy older Lp's on CD's unless they're on names you can trust - e.g., Sony, Collectables, RGM. There are bad copies out there that are made from "digitized Lp's" which can vary in quality.
I've not heard about Percy's CHRISTMAS IS... CD being reissued, though it has long been distributed by Sony itself, if you can find it amongst GRANDMA GOT RUN OVER BY A REINDEER............................ I've not seen those cardboard boxes of Christmas CD's in grocery/department stores YET, though it's only a week out from Halloween :) The grocery store here was putting out Christmas candy yesterday :-)