In Have A Strange Christmas Part 1, I examined 5 strange holiday CDs. In Part 2 I give equal time to 5 strange holiday records. You’ll find links at the end if you want to add any of these oddities to your holiday music library.
Scrooged: Danny Elfman (Enjoy The Ride ETR096; 2022)
Scrooged, starring Bill Murray, debuted in November of 1988, and is the kind of film that you either liked or didn’t. This Danny Elfman soundtrack, which is completely different from the original motion picture soundtrack, doesn’t feature any strange material, although the music ranges from creepy to full orchestral holiday numbers. Nonetheless, I’m including it in my article because my vinyl pressing itself is strange.
For one thing, it’s the thickest record I’ve ever owned…1/4” thick! This makes 180 gram vinyl look like paper. The thickness is because, sandwiched in between each side of the clear vinyl, is liquid with sparkles. Move the record around and it creates a kind of snow globe effect, perfect for a Christmas soundtrack. It’s the world’s first now globe record. And yes, you can actually play it.
The other odd thing about this liquid-filled record is it’s refillable. If any of the liquid should evaporate over time or change color, I simply ship it back to the record manufacturer and they’ll replace the liquid and sparkles for a small fee. It’s the world’s first refillable liquid record!
This Scrooged variant took 6 months to make and each one was assembled by hand. It was limited to something like 100 pressings and sold out in less than 15 minutes. You’ll blow your entire Christmas gift budget on one of these records now, assuming you can find one.
2. Switched on Santa: Sy Mann (Pickwick SPCX 1007; 1969)
The Moog synthesizer is an electronic, modular instrument invented by Robert Moog in 1964. It has the ability to replicate the sounds of other musical instruments as well as create unique sounds that no other instrument can produce. Early models were large and intimidating and required hours of programming by an electronic engineer. The 27 minutes of music on Switched on Santa must have taken forever to program. The liner notes claim it took 1 hour of Moog programming to yield 30 seconds of usable music!
The Moog wasn’t a musical curiosity. It was used by The Doors, The Beatles, The Monkees, Rolling Stones, The Byrds, Grateful Dead, and Stevie Wonder. But this strange musical monstrosity wasn’t limited to just rock and pop music. The Moog found its way onto jazz and even classical records, too. Switched-On Bach from 1968 was a huge hit that went on to sell over 1 million copies and win 3 Grammy awards. Johan was probably spinning in his grave.
With success like that, it was only a matter of time until another “Switched On” title followed. Enter Switched On Santa from 1969, the logical follow up. Who could resist 13 holiday classics including Angels We Have Heard On High, Silent Night, and White Christmas performed on the Moog? The music sounds like the soundtrack from a low budget 1950’s sci-fi Christmas movie.
Manning the Moog was Sy Mann. Mann served in the army during World War II, mostly conducting army bands. In 1953 he joined CBS-TV and replaced Dick Hyman as pianist and arranger for the Arthur Godfrey Show. He later went on to work with artists like Barbara Streisand, Melanie, Connie Francis, and Tiny Tim.
I doubt this is the record you’d play while trimming your Christmas tree, but you might play it while you burn your real tree in the backyard after the holiday is over. Merry strange Christmas from Mann and the merry Moog.
3. Merry Christmas…Have A Nice Life: Cyndi Lauper (Real Gone Music RGM-0930; 2022 (original released in 1998 on Epic))
That Cyndi Lauper, she’s so unusual. But that’s not the only reason I’ve included her first Christmas album on my list, or because this vinyl variant is festive red and white candy cane swirl color. I’m including this title mainly because she recorded all of her vocal tracks from inside her cedar closet! I’ll refrain from any coming out of the closet jokes.
The music is also unusual, not for Lauper, but for a Christmas album. Eight of the eleven tunes she wrote or co-wrote and they’re all over the place. Some have a tropical vibe like Christmas Conga, or a Cajon flavor like Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree. Still others are folk-inspired with Lauper playing the ukulele, dulcimer, and recorder. Then there’s the wheezing bag pipes on Three Ships. I don’t know what the hell Minnie and Santa is all about. Since she recorded it at home you can hear her young son, born the year before, in the background on New Year’s Baby. Perhaps mommy’s singing upset him.
Admittedly, there are some very sweet tunes like December Child, In The Bleak Midwinter, and Silent Night, featuring New York’s Chatterton Elementary School Choir. Basically what we have here is a very mixed musical bag, which is just fine for celebrating a strange Christmas.
4. Bonanza: Christmas on the Ponderosa (RCA Victor LSP-2757; 1963)
Bonanza holds the title for the second longest-running TV western (Gunsmoke is number 1), lasting 14 years and 430+ episodes. TV Guide included the show in its list of the 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. The series starred Loren Greene as Ben Cartwright and it revolved around the dynamics within the Cartwright family, their interactions with the community, and operating their ranch called “Ponderosa”. A young and relatively unknown Michael Landon played “Little Joe” Cartwright.
You’ll hear Landon, Greene, and the other two Cartwright brothers belting out Jingle Bells, O Come All Ye Faithful, Deck the Halls, and 25 minutes of other holiday classics you’d expect any family from the 1860’s to be singing around the Christmas tree. There are also heartwarming stories about the first Christmas tree and why we light candles on a tree. The songs are presented as if someone recorded the audio from a never-broadcast Bonanza Christmas episode, complete with cast banter and clapping at the end of the songs. If you loved Bonanza, you’ll love this record. Here’s an excerpt from a review someone wrote about the record on Amazon: “I cry when I listen to it. Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to such simpler times. I just love Bonanza. What a loss when it was cancelled.”
Speaking of crying, if you’ll allow me to digress a moment, I recently caught the Bonanza episode, A Christmas Story, and it had me in tears. It starred a baby-faced Wayne Newton who played a wannabe singer, and his shifty Uncle who defrauded the town out of thousands of dollars. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but if you have the opportunity to watch it, it’s well worth tracking down even if you’re not a Bonanza fan.
When one thinks Christmas songs, one usually thinks Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Andy Williams, and the like. The cast of Bonanza doesn’t usually come to mind, which puts Christmas on the Ponderosa firmly on my strange Christmas list. Let’s be honest. This album only exists because NBC wanted to milk every last penny they could from this extremely popular TV show, and after all, isn’t that what Christmas is really all about?
5. A Twisted Christmas: Twisted Sister (Rhino 563173; 2017 (originally released 2006))
So far, I’ve explored Christmas records with liquid + glitter inside, music performed on the Moog, songs sung in a cedar closet with a baby gurgling in the background, and songs sung by the cast of Bonanza. I conclude my list of strange Christmas music with this holiday gem by Twisted Sister.
Even if you’re not a heavy metal head banger, you should know the name Twisted Sister and its big hair and makeup-wearing leader, Dee Snider. You should also be familiar with their one big hit, 1984’s We’re Not Gonna Take It.
In this outing from 2006 (reissued on limited edition green vinyl in 2017 for Record Store Day), A Twisted Christmas features heavy metal versions of songs like I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Let It Snow, and The Christmas Song. The band also puts their own twisted take on We Wish You a Twisted Christmas and The Twelve Heavy Metal Days of Christmas. Lita Ford even dropped by to do the honors on I’ll Be Home for Christmas.Oh Come All Ye Faithful is performed in the same style as We’re Not Gonna Take It. The group performed it on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Scanning some of the A Twisted Christmas reviews on Amazon: ”the whole thing is just a bad idea”, “Horrible. Please do an album of your own material”, and “Makes a great joke gift”. You get the idea.
I guess if you’re looking for some completely different holiday music, you should consider this A Twisted Christmas. Just be sure to pick up a bottle of extra-strength Tylenol while you’re in the store in case you get a twisted headache.
Regardless of what music you listen to this holiday, I hope you have a wonderful time and are able to be with the people you love. Happy holidays and I’ll see you next year.
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Last year I wrote an extensive article about strange holiday music. It focused on several vinyl records and one CD. It got a lot of reads and positive comments. I decided to do another, but this year I’m doing a two-part series. This first installment focuses on strange holiday CDs while Part 2 looks at strange holiday records. Whether you still play CDs like I do, or you just fancy the unusual, I think you’ll enjoy reading about these odd discs. I’ve included links at the end should you be brave enough to want to add any of these titles to you holiday music library.
Cocktails with Santa: Richard Cheese (Coverage Records IDTCR27CE; 2013)
If you’ve never experienced Richard Cheese’s music then you’ve been denying yourself a unique listening experience. You have to start somewhere, so why not with this holiday CD, 2013’s Cocktails with Santa?
If you don’t know Cheese (Mark Jonathan Davis), he’s a deliberately cheesy lounge singer from Los Angeles. He writes some original material but is mostly known for taking pop songs and “louge-ifying” them as only Cheese can do. He’s had several songs make it on Billboard’s Comedy Album chart and performed briefly in the movie Barb And Star Go to Vista Del Mar.
On Cocktails with Santa, he transforms (or butchers, as you prefer) Jingle Bells, O Christmas Tree, Deck The Halls, Little Drummer Boy, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, and other classics,into swinging, smoky Vegas lounge songs. If this is cheese then cheese me up, baby. His original Christmas in Las Vegas is my favorite track from this CD:
Christmas in Las Vegas / Decorate your tree with chips / Let’s roll a yo beneath the mistletoe / While that angel strips / Rudolph sold the sled, now he’s betting on red / In a casino made out of gingerbread / Christmas in Las Vegas / It’s a trip!
Having been to Las Vegas many, many times around the holiday season, I can confirm it is indeed a trip, and Cocktails with Santa brings you there.
This music might be strange, but that doesn’t mean it’s not popular. The Cocktails With Santa CD and 2020 limited edition colored vinyl record are both out of print. I bought my used CD for an inflated price on eBay. However, if you’re intent on having a cheesy Christmas, you can buy the digital album download through Bandcamp for just $5. As the Cheese himself would say, please lounge responsibly.
2. Luau in December: King Kukulele and the Friki Tikis (Friki Tiki Records FT-003; Released 2008)
I’ve never been to Hawaii, but without exception, anyone I’ve ever known who visited has described it as paradise. So, what better place to celebrate Christmas than in paradise?
You may not have heard of King Kukulele (Denny Moynahan) and the Friki Tikis, but they’ve played at Disneyland, Universal Studios, Hollywood, and indeed all over the world. Their songs feature the ukulele, marimba, Hawaiian lap steel guitar, and vibraphone, with drums and bass in the rhythm section. The band performs in 1940’s Hapa Haole Hawaiian tradition for a truly authentic listening experience. The King even dresses the part with a bold Hawaiian shirt, straw hat, and a grass skirt.
On Luau in December, the group’s 3rd release, the King and his Frikis apply their exotic island treatment to 14 vocal tracks, including 3 holiday classics. It’s certainly different hearing Hawaiian versions of You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, The Night Before Christmas, and Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. Some of the originals, besides the title track, include Hooray For Santa Claus, Thirty-two Feet and Eight Little Tails, and Santa’s Menehune. The cool retro cover art was designed by the artist Shag.
If you think of Bing Crosby’s Mele Kalikimaka when you think of Hawaiian holiday music, this isn’t that. Don your hula skirt, pour yourself a Mai Tai, pop this disc into your CD player, and have a Friki Tiki strange Christmas.
3. Tales From The Crypt: Have Yourself A Scary Little Christmas (The Right Stuff T2-31330; 1994)
If you’re a horror geek like me, you’re familiar with the Emmy-nominated Tales From The Crypt series which aired for 7 seasons on HBO between 1989-1996. The host, the Cryptkeeper (voiced by John Kassie), was a wisecracking, animatronic skeleton with a super annoying, high-pitched cackle.
In the fine tradition of record companies, The Right Stuff, a subsidiary of Capitol Records, put out this holiday gem to milk as much money out of the series as possible. These 15 tracks are sure to warm the cockles of your heart with little ditties like Deck The Halls With Parts of Charlie, We Wish You’d Bury The Missus, ‘Twas The Fright Before Christmas, and Should Old Cadavers Be Forgotten. Of course, no album from this period would be complete without a horror rap song. Yes, a rapping decomposing corpse. And you thought you heard it all.
To complete the theme, the included booklet is a “special collector’s comic re-print” of And All Through The House.
I think it goes without saying, this title is long out of print but it can be found on used record sites like eBay where I scored my copy (minus the slime green-colored jewel case). A word of warning that this CD might cost you an arm and a leg (no pun intended).
As a side bar, 6 years later Capitol Records came out with Tales From The Crypt: Monsters of Metal. These were real songs by real metal bands tied together with narration by the Cryptkeeper.
Have Yourself A Scary Little Christmas is a must for horror buffs or anyone looking to have a scary strange Christmas.
4. White Trash Christmas: Bob Rivers (Atlantic 83591-2; 2002)
Having worked in radio, I was familiar with Bob Rivers, but you don’t need to be a former broadcaster to know his work. If you were a regular listener to pop, classic rock, or even some talk radio, then chances are you know Bob Rivers, too.
Rivers was a popular radio host who began writing and performing his own parody songs. His best-known release was his first, 1987’s Twisted Christmas, which went gold. You’ve probably heard the track Twelve Pains of Christmas which received a lot of air play. A Message From the King is another classic from this album that will have you in stitches. Thank you, Mama.
Rivers went on to release six holiday comedy CDs including What Trash Christmas, his last, in 2002. This disc has 13 tracks of humorous holiday-spoofed tunes. Some of the songs include Osama Got Run Over By A Reindeer, The Little Hooters Girl, Shoppin’ Around For A Christmas Tree, and I’ll Be Stoned For Christmas, sung by a dead-on Dean Martin imitator named Scott Burns. I think my favorite from this CD is Me And Mrs. Claus, which isn’t particularly funny, but it’s a great holiday take on Billy Paul’s Me and Mrs. Jones.
Like some of the other CDs on my list, White Trash, along with Rivers’ other holiday CDs, are out of print, but can be had very reasonably on eBay and elsewhere.
Today, Rivers is semi-retired living in Vermont where he makes maple syrup with his wife and often flies out to California to visit his grand kids. How life changes.
You’ll have a merry strange Christmas listening to White Trash Christmas, or pretty much any Bob Rivers Christmas CD. Just be careful not to cough up eggnog through your nose as you laugh out loud.
5. Surfin’ Kitty X-mas: Mark Malibu & The Wasagas (Sharawaji Records SRW 135; Released 2020)
I’m not sure what surfing has to do with Christmas, but I suppose if surfing is your bag, then Mark Malibu’s got a brand-new bag. Surfin’ Kitty X-mas is stacked with 18 tracks, 5 of which are Christmas standards plus a “public domain holiday medley”. All of the songs are instrumentals performed in bold surf music style.
Surfin’ Kitty X-mas is a compilation CD of surf bands like Underwater Bosses, The Breakers, Voodoo Surf Tribe, Urban Surf Kings, and The Terrorsurfs. Mark Malibu organized the project and he and his Wasagas contributed 2 tracks of their own. Mailbu is a self-described Canadian surf-punk instrumentalist and formed his Wasagas in 1979.
Frankly, it’s weird hearing surf versions of sacred classics like O Little Town of Bethlehem, Silent Night, and O Holy Night. Then there are the original songs like Christmas Twist, A Voodoo Xmas, and Cuckoo for Christmas. Try as I might, I just wasn’t able to picture Jesus hanging ten. This is definitely not your father’s Christmas music, unless dear old dad was a surfer dude.
The other odd thing about this CD is it was released to benefit the Pinetree Stables/Cat Sanctuary in Grand Bahamas which spays, neuters, and feeds all the abandoned cats on the island (thus, the origin of “Surfin’ Kitty”in the title). The Sanctuary also benefits from the sales of Surfin’ Kitty Volumes 2 and 3. The Sanctuary’s mission isn’t what’s odd, it’s the location. With the organizer being Canadian, you’d think all the proceeds would benefit a Canadian animal shelter, eh? Well, it all goes to a good cause wherever it is.
If you’re looking for totally different holiday music this season that will knock your Christmas stockings off, Surfin’ Kitty X-mas should just about do it, and it’s only 10 bucks.
In Part 2 of Have A Strange Christmas, I give equal time to 5 strange Christmas records. Remember to come back here in a few days to unwrap it.
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Much like Santa Claus, WALM Radio – Christmas is shrouded in mystery. There’s no information about WALM on its website and no method of contacting them. WALM Radio has other Internet stations under its belt like jazz and old time radio (OTR), and what I take to be their anchor station, a Christian music station. The “Christmas vinyl” playlist is definitely laid back, but it’s just shy of full blown “easy listening”. You’ll hear music from artists like Anne Murray, the Boston Pops, Robert Goulet, Mitch Miller & The Gang, Peggy Lee, Mahalia Jackson, Montovani, Johnny Cash, Lawrence Welk, Celtic holiday music, and, gulp, Jim Nabors. If you can get past the insipid spoken promos (“We’re the home industrial strength, elf-powered turntables…”), you’ll thoroughly enjoy the music. You can even make a song request through their website and the meta data will show “Requested” when the song plays!
Streaming at 320 kbps, this is one of the best-quality, all-holiday streams available on the net, plus there are no commercials. Because it’s streaming at such high quality (“ultra-high fidelity” as WALM Radio calls it), there can be annoying stability issues with their Internet radio stream such as not connecting or connecting but not having any sound. Still, I included WALM Radio in my list since the stream on their website is very stable. That said, I much prefer listening to my Internet radio, not a computer, so I ended up cutting and pasting the Direct URL (shown at the beginning of this segment) into my Internet radio. It’s not perfect but it has better reliability than their Internet radio stream.
The WALM Radio – Christmas mix is mostly calming and peaceful…something we could all use a little of during the holiday rush. And no, WALM Radio is not short for Walmart Radio.
Update: Unfortunately, WALM’s website stream has also become unreliable as well as the direct URL and I can find no way to contact WALM about this. However, my other holiday station suggestions more than make up for this.
I have a soft spot for crooners, especially the legends of the past, and Crooner Radio – Christmas Vintage delivers Christmas crooners and then some. All of our old holiday friends are here…Andy Williams, Mel Torme, Sammy Davis, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Della Reese, Wayne Newton, Lena Horne, and even dashes of Elvis and Bobby Darin. Crooner Radio pushes the boundary with artists like The Pointer Sisters, but what the heck, it’s Christmas. Strangely, the stream’s meta data sometimes lags, meaning it continues to show the artist and song title for the previously played song. But with these big-name crooners, it’s pretty easy to figure out who’s singing what.
If you’re not in the mood for sugary holiday pop hits and you have no use for commercials, give Crooner Radio – Christmas Vintage a listen this holiday. You’ll feel so warm and fuzzy inside you just might start crooning some Christmas classics yourself.
I’ve freely admitted it before…I don’t know much about classical music and rarely listen to it, but I often turn to it during this time of year to get a refreshing break from the same old holiday fare. This station reaches deep into Santa’s classical bag and plays harp, brass, voices, and carols, and without a single commercial jingle. Artists include the San Francisco Girls Chorus, the Berlin Philharmonic Brass, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Cambridge Singers and Orchestra, the Choir of Kings College, and many more. The music is uplifting and creates a wonderful atmosphere day or night. As ACCC states on its website, “Classical Holiday favorites; comfort, joy and peace whenever your spirit needs a lift.” This isn’t a pop-up station or temporary format just for the holiday. They stream this music all year-round. I think I know which station Santa listens to in the off-season.
If you need a little classical Christmas right this very minute, whether you’re in California or wherever, tune in A Classical California Christmas courtesy of Los Angeles’ KUSC.
JIB On The Web was on my holiday station list last year, and it was also one of my Recommended Stations a few years back. Ordinarily, I never repeat a station, but JIB On The Web is such an exceptional station it deserves inclusion again. It’s a beautiful music station, not a dedicated Christmas music station, but starting at noon eastern time on the day before Christmas, the station airs 15 hours of holiday music. For many, “The Beautiful Music of Christmas”, now in its 5th year on JIB On The Web, is an annual tradition that’s not to be missed.
Unlike some other beautiful music Internet radio stations, a great amount of love and care goes into programming this station, and no less effort goes into its musical holiday extravaganza. JIB On The Web is operated by a very talented radio announcer who worked for the original FM station in Massachusetts, so expect nothing but an authentic WJIB beautiful music experience each time you tune in.
There certainly are a lot of radio stations you could listen to on the night before Christmas and the day of, but none are like this one. In fact, you’ll enjoy it so much, I’m willing to bet you’ll still be listening to JIB On The Web long after the holiday is over.
RadioSpinner Fireplace Sounds isn’t a Christmas station or even a music station, but I’m including it anyway because a fireplace always makes for a better Christmas. It’s just as the name says- the station plays fire sounds 24/7. All fire, all the time. You can practically smell the smoke. It creates the perfect ambience for the holiday or for pyromaniacs. Personally, I like to play this station while I have my electric fireplace on. Why electric fireplaces don’t have a digital recording of fire crackling or just a USB jack to connect a thumb drive with a fireplace recording, I don’t understand. But I digress. By the way, I say “fire sounds” because you’ll mostly hear outdoor fires with an abundance of wind, but I guess Radio Spinner Outdoor Fires With Wind didn’t quite have the same appeal.
The station does a much better sell job on its website: “Fireplace Sounds is designed to soothe, relax. Listening to the radio station is as pleasant as wrapping yourself in a warm blanket, hugging a cup of hot mint tea with both hands and quietly watching the ferocious weather through the window. Only a pleasant crackle of firewood, smoldering coals and barely audible sounds of the wind.”
Fireplace Sounds streams out of Russia where they know a thing or two about cold weather. At 97 kbps in the AAC codec, the sound quality is okay, but the wind noise overwhelms the fire sounds. I also didn’t hear any chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but I’ll take what I can get, especially when it’s free.
Maintaining a fire in fireplace, or anywhere, is a lot of work…tending to the fire, hauling and stacking the wood, clearing the ashes, and so on. In this case, just sit back and enjoy, because RadioSpinner Fireplace Sounds is the lazy man’s fireplace. Now, where did I leave my slippers?
Update: As my luck would have it, this station’s stream stopped working about a week after I posted this article.
You now have five free Internet radio stations to enjoy this holiday season! When someone asks you about the station you’re listening to, be sure to tell them you discovered it through RecomendedStations.com.
Trivia:What was the first radio station in the US to play Christmas music this year? Cincinnati’s Star 93.3FM was the first out of the gate. On November 1st, the day after Halloween, Star FM switched over to all Christmas music.
‘Tis the season for giving, so if you enjoy any of these radio stations, please help support my website by becoming a Patreon supporter today for $1. In return, you’ll get my Recommended and Hitchhiker Station every month in your in box as my thank you. This month’s Recommended Station recalls the early days of radio while the upcoming Hitchhiker Station might cause temporary holiday insanity.
Looking for that elusive gift for the record collector who has everything? Before we get into the details of this device that illuminates colored vinyl, a little background is in order.
Records are made with PVC pellets (which are naturally slightly milky-white in color) that have been mixed with black carbon which is gives them their shiny black color. The black carbon also fills in imperfections and adds strength and rigidity which makes the record last longer. This is important because, unlike a CD, cassette tape, or digital music file, a record album degrades each time you play it.
Another thing basic black has going for it is that the quality of black vinyl records tends to be high because it’s the industry standard…they’ve been producing them that way since the advent of the vinyl record. As a result, the quality of black records is remarkably consistent. The black color also makes it easier to spot imperfections during quality control inspections.
Color Me Impressed
Colored vinyl, on the other hand, uses PVC pellets mixed with dyes. In addition to records made using a single, non-black color, there are variations on the colored vinyl theme like multicolored, split color, smoked, marbled, and splattered. Yes, I’m talking about records, not meat or cheese. By the way, don’t confuse any of these variants with picture discs which are a whole other story and tend not to sound as good or last as long as colored or black vinyl.
A Little History
Colored vinyl records didn’t start with the vinyl LP. Some 78 RPM titles dating back to 1917 were colored, starting with a Vocalion Records release that was a reddish-rust colored shellac. Perhaps not the most appealing color choice, but it served its purpose of making their records stand out. I believe the first prolific use of colored vinyl by a major label was RCA Victor’s introduction of the 45 RPM single in 1949. To give the new format a little extra excitement, each genre had its own color. For example, country music used green-colored vinyl, classical used red, children’s recordings used yellow, while pop music stuck with basic black.
The Sound of Color
There’s a school of thought that says not all colored vinyl is created equal. That is to say, certain record colors may not sound as good as others upon playback, or as good as your standard carbon black record. It’s strange to think that color could impact sound, but it can. In fact, one could argue the more colors present in the vinyl, the worse the sound might be because of all of the foreign ingredients. There are even glow-in-the-dark records, though I don’t know anyone who plays their records in total darkness. I’ve read these are noisier than their black and colored brethren, but I can’t personally attest to that since I don’t own any. It would follow, then, that a transparent clear record would sound better than a colored vinyl record (except for black).
Do You Hear What I Hear?
If I played a colored vinyl record for you, immediately followed by the identical recording pressed on black vinyl, would you hear any difference? I suspect most people wouldn’t, but if there was an overt difference, it could just as well be attributed to the manufacturing process rather than the color of the vinyl. If the record plant doesn’t have much experience pressing colored vinyl, that won’t help either. Regardless, most record enthusiasts don’t buy colored vinyl records because they think they sound superior. They buy them for their unique appearance and collectibility, especially since many colored vinyl titles are produced in limited batches.
Speaking of limited quantities, that, along with the cost of the dyed pellets, tend to make colored vinyl titles more expensive. So, you’re paying more for a record that technically probably won’t have the same longevity as less expensive black vinyl and possibly not as good sound quality. Mind you, there are plenty of black vinyl titles that can be quite pricey in their own right.
In Living Color
If you want to add some colored vinyl to your collection you don’t need to search very hard. Some record labels specialize in colored vinyl like Third Man Records, Real Gone Music, Enjoy The Ride Records, Sundazed Music, Wax Mage, and WaxWork Records. Major retailers like Barnes & Noble, Urban Outfitters, and Newbury Comics sell colored vinyl, some of which are exclusive to them. Even record clubs like Vinyl Me Please and Vinyl Moon release titles on colored vinyl. Yes, Virginia, there are record clubs.
If you want to go off the deep end, you’ll find records that go way beyond colors. Romanus Records, for example, has pressed records with different kinds of material sandwiched between the 2 sides including kitty litter, razor blades, sand, gunpowder, colored liquid, LEDs, and even pieces of Doritos chips! I wonder how some of those records would look with colored lights behind them. I was delaying this article to be able to display my “snow globe variant” Scrooged LP soundtrack I ordered more than 6 months ago. It contains a clear liquid with sparkles inside. I decided to go forward with my article rather than continue to wait. Such special releases require more time since they’re much more complicated to produce.
The Vinyl Verdict
You’ve heard the saying, “Once you go black, you never go back.” Somehow, I don’t think that phrase was about records, but it might be equally applicable. The absence of black carbon likely means colored vinyl records won’t have the same strength and longevity as their black counterparts and may not sound as good. That said, unless they’re abused, most colored vinyl records should last long enough and sound good enough for the average record enthusiast. If sound quality is of the utmost importance, you’re probably better off playing it safe with good old, boring black vinyl. On the other hand, if seeing colors and patterns spin on your turntable puts a smile on your face and you’re enthralled by the art, go for it. After all, records have the potential of being the most visual of all music storage formats.
Colored vinyl is meant to be seen and heard. If you’ve got an album you especially love the color of, why hide it inside a cardboard jacket? Sure, you could frame it, but that’s not very exciting, and it prevents you from being able to easily play it. What if there was a product that allowed you to safely display your colored vinyl, backwash them in light, and easily access them for playback? Well, there is.
Let There Be Light
Vylumi Shine and the Shine Pro do just that. Andrew Boudreau came up with the idea and had his final design completed in 6 months. He hand-assembles each one out of his home in Atlanta, Georgia and sells them on his recently revamped website and on Etsy. The two models backlight a record to make its color(s) pop. Simply place the record over the center nub and turn the light on. Voila! Instant glowing artwork. The record “floats” so you don’t have to worry about it making contact with the surface and getting scratched. And the LED that illuminates the record never gets hot enough to warp the record, so no worries there. The result is beautifully mesmerizing.
I got in touch with Boudreau to ask him some questions about his unique invention:
Peter: What gave you the idea for Vylumi Shine?
Andrew: It all started in late 2021 when I picked up my first picture disk. I was searching online for ways to display it since it’s widely known the audio quality on all of them are notoriously bad and I couldn’t find anything that didn’t have a massive picture frame as part of the display. I knew a good friend of mine had a 3D printer so I ran him through an idea of what I now call the ‘Nub.” It’s a very minimalist design and is simply a rod the size of the record spindle that angles up to safely keep the record in place and that’s attached to a base plate. I was using a simple command strip to test hanging a few on the wall and while I was thumbing through my collection I thought: “I wonder what else would look good hanging on the wall,” so I grabbed a copy of Cowboy Bebop that I knew had a nice colored marble to it and hung that on the wall to see how it looked. It looked okay, but a bit lifeless, so on a whim I brought it over to an outside window to get some light on it and it came to life! That’s when the light bulb(s) went off (dad joke, apologies). It just dawned on me that I had so many of these color variants in my collection, and they were just spending their lives tucked away in their sleeves on the shelf. So, I built my first prototype out of cardboard, a battery powered LED light string, and the nub and just started putting records on it to see how they looked. It was very basic, but the idea worked. 4 prototypes later I had a design I was really proud of and started showing people in February of 2022. Everyone I showed wanted one for themselves so I started making a few. I opened the Etsy store in March of 2022 and my own website in June. So far, I’m at 300 units sold worldwide and I can’t explain how proud and fulfilling it is to see my customers showing off their collections on social media.
Peter: You source the parts and assemble the units by hand in your spare time?
Andrew: The electronics I source through two separate companies and I’m trying to narrow that down to one moving forward. I do that for a few reasons; First, it allows me to be more nimble when new technologies emerge. Secondly, after putting in an inquiry with a product design company, I learned that it would take about $200,000 just to get custom electronics and molds designed and the same, if not more, to actually get them produced. I’m very proud that the structural materials are all made here in Georgia. Very early on I had run this idea by my neighbor, as he likes to tinker and is generally handy. I came to him with the problem of properly diffusing the light to see if he might have any ideas. He operates a company that specializes in large scale vinyl wraps and signage projects for conventions and airports, so I thought he might have some ideas and I recalled that he had a few CNC machines that weren’t getting a lot of use because Covid had really hit their business pretty hard. I drew some designs on some printer paper and he cut those out on the CNC machines, and to this day his company cuts all of the structural parts. As mentioned above, a friend of mine makes the nub on this 3D printer and I’m able to pay him a fair price per batch he prints. But to the other part of your question, after I get my daughter to bed and my wife settles into a book, I head to the basement and assemble these by hand still. I’ve had to make a few tools to speed up assembly and help to standardize the sizes of a few components, but I can’t explain how much I love doing this!
Peter: Does it work with picture discs?
Andrew: You can certainly display a picture disk on a Vylümi, but sadly, picture disks are all opaque and won’t let any light through.
Peter: You have a Patent pending?
Andrew: I do! I have both Trademarks and Patents pending for this as of this last summer.
Peter: Do you own a lot of colored vinyl or records in general? What’s your favorite-colored vinyl title?
Andrew: I’ve been trying to catalogue my collection and I think I have about 1,000 in my collection right now. I’ve been building a vinyl collection since 2008 when I invested in my first Hi-fi setup and started to get into finding color variants 4-5 years ago. Color variants are probably 10% of my collection and I didn’t get into collecting the more boutique pressings from Wax Mage and others until I came up with this idea and found them through my research. My favorite though? That’s like picking your favorite child! My recent favorite is a pressing from Glory or Death Records by Great Electric Quest (which is actually his band). It’s a beautiful party monster and really transforms with the Vylümi to look like a sheet of elegant stained glass…It also glows in the dark as a bonus!
Peter: What’s the rarest or most expensive record you own?
Andrew: This little invention has introduced me to a lot of amazing people in the industry. Pretty early on I contacted the folks at Wax Mage/Gotta Groove, Wax Vessel, SlyVinyl, Heathen HandMade Records, Romanus Records, and Plastikat Deviations to get their feedback on my idea and early products since they make the hand-crafted art my audience is collecting. Recently, Matt Ortt at Plastikat surprised me with one of his liquid-filled records that is a complete one-off. It was made for the owner of Glory or Death Records and is the first liquid filled that has two separate chambers of liquid in it. A portion of that liquid is black, so when it’s on the turn-table spinning, it spreads out pretty evenly with centrifugal force that it just isn’t awesome eye candy like the rest of his stuff. He put it on his Vylümi and it just transformed. He dropped me a note that said this album looks best when lit up, and we (he and Buddy from Glory or Death Records) thought you should be the rightful owner of it. That about made me cry, I am so honored to have it and it is by far the most-rare album I own.
Peter: What brand and model turntable(s) do you use?
Andrew: For my 40th [Birthday] I was able to purchase a Rega P6 and have a Dynavector 10×5 with a ruby cantilever and optimized contour nude contact line diamond tip from Sound-Smith after bending the original cantilever in a cleaning accident 3 months into owning it. That one hurt the soul, but I can’t speak highly enough of the crew at Sound-Smith and their craftsmanship they put into repairs and upgrades.
Peter: What’s your professional background?
Andrew: My day job is and has always been in technology sales. I get to be a nerd all day long and I have to constantly learn about what’s new in the market, and my customers are always bringing me difficult problems to solve. It’s a pretty demanding, high stress job, so sitting down to spin a record at night has always been my way to unwind. I’m certainly not an engineer or someone who is crafty/handy, so the fact I was able to come this far with an idea is a miracle unto itself.
Peter: What kind of music do you usually listen to?
Andrew: My tastes are certainly firmly on the rock side of the spectrum. I can be found listening to your typical classic rock albums, but spend most of my time reliving my high-school days with grunge/Alt music from the 90s.
Peter: Anything else to add about the Vylumi Shine/Pro?
Andrew: I would just like to thank everyone for their kindness and support (!), and thank you Peter for taking the time to talk with me. This has been an unintended and amazing journey. I never thought this idea would take off in the way that it has and all of my customers have been so patient and understanding of the fact that I’m a one-man shop doing this in my spare time. The vinyl community has been very generous to me over the years and I’m so thankful I can provide a little something back. Thank you all for the support and I can’t wait to see where this journey goes!
I found splattered vinyl to look the most impressive with Shine Pro. Colored vinyl that’s all one color looked like a giant-colored spotlight. As it turned out, I only had one splatter-colored record in my small LP collection. Its base color was transparent which meant I could make it whatever color I wanted with the Vylumi Shine Pro’s light, which was very cool. You can see more impressive Shine Pro-worthy pictures on Boudreau’s website, Instagram, tiktok, Etsy, and Facebook (links provided at the end of this article).
If you happen to have a few colored 45 RPM singles or 10″ records in your collection, Boudreau has you covered. For $20 you can get a set of adapters that fit both of those sizes, though the adapters can only be used in conjunction with the “dust cover” which is an additional $30.
Ask The Manager
As a Product Manager, part of my job involves finding problems with a product before it goes into production and coming up with ways to improve it. In the case of the Vylumi Shine Pro, I have a couple of suggestions for improvements and enhancements.
To start with, being able to anchor the base or give it some weight would be great, as the base is very light weight since it’s just a thin, empty plastic case with LEDs. If you use the wired remote instead of the app as I did, you must be very careful not to accidentally yank the base.
Getting my record off of the center nub was rather difficult. I had to pull the record to the point of bending the sides of the LP. Due to the nub being a black or dark brown color, I didn’t notice until later that it’s actually positioned at an upward angle instead of straight so the record doesn’t fall off easily. Had I known to pull upward instead of straight, it would have been a bit easier to remove the LPs. Still, Boudreau has since modified the nub in production to make it a slightly smaller diameter. I’d also suggest putting a radius on the nub. No sharp edges in close proximity to records!
It would be nice if at least the Pro model could be wall mounted. Boudreau told me one can easily glue a saw tooth hanger on the back but the problem is the dangling wires from the combined wired remote control/power supply. His first-generation models were battery powered and could thus be wall mounted. I assume a built-in Li-Ion battery rechargeable version would be too expensive to make.
What I would really like to see the Pro do is what records are supposed to do- spin. Seeing colored vinyl come alive through light is amazing, but having the record actually rotate (not necessarily at 33 1/3) would be very cool and more engaging, especially if the record was liquid-filled. Without a doubt, this would push the cost higher, perhaps to the point of turning most buyers off. If you’re tempted to manually spin your record on this device, Boudreau warns users against this or else the 3D-printed nub will eventually become sawed off.
Don’t Try This At Home
The Shine Lite sells for $60 while the Pro goes for twice that plus shipping (the Pro is on sale as of this writing). Frankly, both models look remarkably simple. Being the cheap and creative guy I am, I tried to think of a less expensive way to accomplish the same thing, which is also part of a Product Manager’s responsibilities. Since I was a kid, I’ve had a bit of MacGyver in me…spontaneously creating things out of duct tape and tampons, although nothing explosive. I remember one Halloween I secured rope from the kitchen window of our second-floor apartment down to a chain link fence adjacent to the sidewalk in front of our house. I cut a small hole in the top of a white pillow case, slipped the top of a metal coat hanger through the hole, and drew two eyes and a mouth with a black maker to make it look like a ghost. I tied a second rope onto the hook of the coat hanger in order to slide it up and down the main rope. As a final touch to my crowning achievement, I hung a flashlight from the coat hanger inside the pillow case to illuminate my ghost, hung it on the rope, and slid it up and down as the trick or treaters made their way in and out of our apartment house. I was quite proud of my creation and the costumed, candy-hungry visitors appeared equally impressed. A few years ago, I saw a very similar contraption in a catalog, albeit much more refined. That guy probably owns his own island now. But as usual, I digress.
Returning to my MacGyver LP light, I took a cheap picture stand that was collecting dust in a drawer and placed one of my colored vinyl records on it. I then backlighted the record with a Remon 25-watt LED spotlight I bought two years ago on Amazon for $29 (which has since been discontinued) to light my vintage aluminum Christmas tree. The light included a remote control that allows the light’s brightness and colors to be adjusted similar to the Vylumi Pro’s remote, although it doesn’t have a built-in microphone to flash to the beat of music like the Pro can. My color contraption created a similar effect as the Pro, but the stand could be seen behind the record, it risked scratching the record, and the spotlight got hot enough to make me concerned about the record possibly warping. It also sent the light all over the place rather than containing it just to the record itself. The Lite and Pro each cost significantly more than my Frankenstein light, but they accomplish the task more effectively, safely, and elegantly.
If you don’t need the additional control the Vylumi Shine Pro provides, like thousands of color options, 100 dim levels, a remote, free app (by a 3rd party), a timer, the ability to group other Pros, and Siri/Alexa compatibility, you can save some dough and stick with the more basic Shine. Either model is a fun and safe way to display and share your beloved-colored vinyl. If you’re looking for a gift this holiday for the vinyl lover who has everything, this should do it.
I didn’t get my review sample for free and I don’t receive any commission if you buy either of these models, so if you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting RecommendedStations.com by becoming a Patreon supporter for just $1. As a thank you, you’ll received my Recommended Station and Hitchhiker Station every month in your in box and you’ll be helping to support articles like this.