Christmas Eve And Other Stories
Lava / Atlantic Records, 1996
REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/13/2004
Christmas music tends to evoke strong responses from people; either you love it or you hate it. There is no middle ground. This prevents a good number of people from hearing some very excellent material, the Christmas part of it notwithstanding. A perfect example of this is Trans- Siberian Orchestra's Christmas Eve And Other Stories.
While you won't hear all of the material in the accepted Christmas Canon on this album, you will hear some of the more famous numbers. "O Come All Ye Faithful," "O Holy Night," "The Nutcrackers Suite, "Carol Of The Bells," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," all of these can be heard being delivered in the unique reinterpretation TSO gives them. The latter half of the album is mostly original material that closes out the album, filling in the storyline of an angel sent down by God to "find out the worth" of humanity. How the story ends I leave for you to find out, it's worth it.
Again, there are Christmas standards on this album, but they are performed in such a unique way that they sound fresh and new The Orchestra throws a variety of styles in play. "O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night" is essentially a four-minute guitar solo, suitably over the top and grandiose." "The Prince Of Peace" throws a bit of R&B/Gospel into the mix. "The Silent Nutcracker" quiets things down with a strictly acoustic performance, before the album hits its high points with "A Mad Russian's Christmas" and "Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)". The former is a delightful, synth-laden romp through "The Nutcracker Suite." The latter is the quintessential TSO song, rock fused with classical music, emotional, and driving, This isn't just the highpoint of the album, it is the best song in the Orchestra's catalogue to date.
The original material on Christmas Eve is good, not great. The lyrics are clichéd and overtly sentimental, but they work with the overall idea. After all, Christmas is clichéd and sentimental, so I can't complain. As I mentioned earlier, the second half of the album is composed solely of original songs, most of which don't leave much of an impressions. However, special mention must be made of "Old City Bar." I don't want to say what happens, because it's important to the story, but it is a song even the most cynical person can't avoid but liking.
The trees are being putting up, the decorations being hung, and the lights turned on. Shopping, family, all sorts of things keep us distracted during the holiday season. Do yourself a favor, one night when it's snowing, turn out all the lights, and just sit back and enjoy Christmas Eve And Other Stories. Just for a few minutes out of these last busy weeks, take some time and remember what Christmas is all about.