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2001 holiday album from Chip Davis and his mates in Mannheim Steamroller.
Chip Davis's Mannheim Steamroller hasn't lost any ground in the six years since their last Yuletide offering. Christmas Extraordinare is another innovative and heartfelt collection of seasonal treasures played on a combination of 18th-century instruments and modern-day synthesizers, drums, and electric guitars. While not the first to marry different ages of musical instruments, Davis and his cohorts use them with imagination and an intensity that gives new life and drama to this rather inert genre. For material, Mannheim Steamroller asked their fans to choose their favorite holiday selections and vote on their Web site. The results of the poll are a fine mix of old and new--with slightly more emphasis on the modern--ranging from the bracing "Fum, Fum, Fum," a traditional Catalan carol, to Tchaikovsky's "Faeries" from The Nutcracker. Mannheim Steamroller imbues this beloved song with an almost militaristic edge, grounding it with an ominous tuba that gives the usually fey "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies" an edgy tension. "Winter Wonderland" is a spectacular work, bordering on prog rock, as if Emerson, Lake & Palmer had re-formed to whip up a winter blizzard gone amok. While most of the Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas albums are largely instrumental, Davis has employed the considerable talents of University of Michigan's Glee Club to sing on "O Tannenbaum," respectfully fading their elegant, full vocals around the pristine voice of Johnny Mathis, elevating this German carol to a cinematic peak. Don't miss out on the clever liner notes, which give the reader a whimsical, anecdotal history of the 12 songs. --Jaan Uhelszki
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A couple of even the best songs sounded like they were borrowed instrument sounds from a couple of Chip Davis CDs.
"Hallelujah - From 'The Messiah'" sounded like it had a lot of rhythm borrowed from the song "Chocolate Coffee" based on the Album "Sunday Morning Coffee II", on Track 14.
"Fum, Fum, Fum" sounded like it had a lot of rhythms borrowed from "Mere Image" based on the Summer Album "Fresh Aire III", on Track 4, with the harpsichord rhythm and the high flute.
Whoops, sorry, I'm back now. Well, anyway, if you ever have worked Christmas retail- or just got stuck in line and had to listen to some of the same old songs way WAY too many times, you'll understand.
I helped out a buddy a couple of Holiday seasons ago, and they had 3 CD's on endless repeat. About the 5th time I had to listen to "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer", I asked the boss how much was my "employee" price on that CD. She replied "$8" and I said "Sold!". Then there was a loud "snap!" noise, silence, then a pattering of applause from the customers and my fellow coworkers.
Now, still, I like Christmas songs, but it's just the same-old-same-old repeated too many times I am ranting about.
So, here's my cure- three Christmas-time CD's that break the mold but don't stray too far from the much-loved Holiday favorites.
Next- another, "traditional but different" collection- Christmas Extraordinaire by Mannheim Steamroller. A collection of 12 mostly instrumental, mostly traditional tunes. My favorite here is "Faeries" a new take on Tchaikovsky's famous Nutcracker tune. I love the bass line here, the tuba work is edgy and interesting.
Hallelujah will also knock you out of your seat.
Again, we have a nice mix of ancient and modern instruments, giving the music here an interesting and different sound.
If you enjoy lovely holiday instrumentals, well played in light and uplifting arrangements, then you are sure to love this album.