Thursday, December 21, 2006

By An Old Neon Star ...

I love Trans-Siberian Orchestra. There I said it. I guess it's because Savatage is my favourite band and Trans-Siberian Orchestra is, at it's core Savatage expanded. TSO is the brainchild of Paul O'Neill who is Savatage's producer and helped usher in the new Savatage sound which to older fans was not welcome. However, I learned to appreciate the efforts and strong musicianship. Green Day did not resuscitate the rock opera concept album. Savatage and eventually Trans-Siberian Orchestra have kept it alive and well. You just had to know where to look. But enough about Savatage and on the experience that is Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Paul O'Neill with the help of Jon Oliva and Bob Kinkel have created an unapologetically sappy, yet extremely heartwarming album. This is not the first time rock and Christmas have been mixed, but never have I heard such a unique and passionate blend. TSO is like progressive power metal with power ballad tendencies. Oh and if you throw in some jazz, blues and classical styles you'll start to understand where I'm going with this. It's an eclectic mix of various musical styles with a variety of vocalists blended into one of the most original sounds you'll hear. All while not forgetting to rock!

The album "Christmas Eve And Other Stories" starts and ends with "An Angel Came Down" and "An Angel Returned" respectively, with the later being a show stopping gospel reprise of the first (which is more power ballady). The story is of the Angel instructed by the Lord to go find something on Earth that best represents Christmas. I won't spoil the ending for you, but its sweet. Other ballady songs are "Ornament", "This Christmas Day" and "Old City Bar". While the first 2 are flat out power ballads with the first having a great solo and the second having a touch of gospel for that extra soul. "Old City Bar" however, is a bare-bones acoustic song with the vocalist (who I can't figure out which one it is) has a gruff, yet powerful voice and brings home the real Christmas message. Of strangers doing uncharacteristic actions on the eve of Christmas and reeks of heartfelt emotion. This is my favourite song on the album, it's raw and emotional.

On "The Prince Of Peace" a female vocalist (??? I wish they'd had put who sang what in the liner notes) gives a powerful rendition of "Hark, The Harold Angels Sing" in the middle of the song. Again, just stripped down piano and singer ... RAW! And then there is the jazzy blues song "Good King Joy" that starts off magically majestic with a "Joy To The World" instrumental before slowing it down to some bluesy "Good King Wenceslas" and a very powerful performance by a male vocalist who sounds as if he's added a little country twang to his performance. But man is it in your face powerful. James Brown-ish. There are also a couple tracks that feature children's choir's which as gitchy as it sounds adds a very haunting yet angelic vocal performance for "Promises To Keep and "Star To Follow" (It's so good it makes you understand why they'd castrate young boys to keep their voices pure in the old days. ... OK it just was barbaric). "Star To Follow" is intermixed with an older male choir that plays on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman" with a drums, bass and piano accompaniment and a very catchy rhythm. Ever since Savatage's "Handful Of Rain" album the band and TSO love the repetitive multiple vocal melodies first introduced on "Chance". Mind you they do it very well! And "Star To Follow" is very sing a long-ish.

On top of the acoustic renditions of "Silent Night" and "Nutcracker medley" "First Noel" as well as some post scripts done finger pick style on a clean electric at the end of the album "O Holy Night" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" that are all performed splendidly, we have the big progressive instrumentals that made TSO famous. "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" is the often overplayed rendition of "Carol Of The Bells" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen". It is dark and chilling and powerful. "A Mad Russian's Christmas" is a medley of The nutcracker. It has the heaviest intro TSO have done, with a killer thrash style riff mixed with chilling piano rendition of Nutcracker Medley's. Then we get blasted by the main theme which is exhilarating and brooding all at once. A fantastic blend of a classic Suite. My favourite of the instrumentals though is "O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night" which is a faithful and stirring instrumental of the 2 melodies seamlessly mixed. What I love most is the falling sustaining electric guitar note at the end that's held through some inspiring piano tinkling. It brings a tear to my eye everytime. "First Snow" is an original tune and is enthusiastic and magical.

I've only really scratch the surface of what listening to a Trans-Siberian Orchestra album is like. They have created a very unique sound and very passionate and heartwarming concept. I'm surprised this has not been done before. All I can say is that Trans-Siberian Orchestra is rock enough for metal heads to enjoy, but sticky sweet enough for your Grandmother as well.

Coming up next, however, is a look at the Christmas season ... In Chaos ... Stay tuned for "A Brutal Christmas" ...


Blogger Chana said...

if you knew how much i missed visiting your blog. i'm sure your posts have been brilliant..i will someday read them all..

i'm here, to wish you and your beautiful wife and your darling family a Very Merry Christmas. God's Blessing to you all. hugs.

10:03 PM  
Anonymous SkeptiC said...

Trans Siberian Orchestra will be in concert here sometime soon. I have heard about it on the radio, but I had never heard of them. I have heard of Savatage, and do like a couple of there older tunes. I haven't heard a whole lot of there stuff though. I should check it out.

7:14 PM  

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