Top positive review
286 people found this helpful
Quite good... just be sure you know what you're getting!
on October 30, 2011
First, for anyone who does not already know: The arrangements on this CD are essentially the same as the ones on the previous MS CDs. The only real difference is the instrumentation. So, for example, "Deck The Halls" and "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" are still played in that bouncy 12/8 time as they were so many years ago, but instead of synthesized horns and keyboards, they're now played by an actual symphony. Whether or not this will be enough to make the album a worthwhile purchase for you depends on a few things.
If you're just a casual fan of MS, I really don't think the differences will be enough to make this CD too interesting. However, if you're a diehard fan who grew up listening to this stuff every year, and you know the original arrangements inside-out, like I do, then it's a lot of fun to hear how they've been reworked on this CD. Everything sounds so much bigger and richer this time around, and replacing synthesizers with acoustic instruments makes certain songs feel a lot more expressive.
If you're not much of an audiophile, or you just play MS's music on a cheap CD player in the background, I don't think you'll get too much out of this (assuming you already own the previous albums. But if you tend to listen through headphones, or on a good sound system, then the fullness of the sound makes this a very enjoyable, worthwhile CD to add to your collection.
If you've never bought a MS Christmas CD, then I would not hesitate to recommend starting with this one. It takes some of their best music throughout the years, and makes it even better. Removing the synthesizer sounds actually makes the music much more timeless than any of their other CDs. Symphonies never sound dated, but the Yamaha DX-7 keyboards that were used on the original recordings haven't aged so well. Neither have Chip's electronic drums, which, thankfully have now been replaced by a proper acoustic drum kit(FINALLY!)
My only complaint about this CD is the song selection. Don't get me wrong, all of the songs are GREAT, but some of them are wasted here. Greensleeves, for example, is a beautiful tune, but since it was originally recorded with an orchestra, it doesn't sound that much different here. And while all of the renaissance stuff is fun, there's a bit too much of it. I would have preferred to see some of that replaced with songs like "Joy To The World" and "Good King Wenceslas", which would have been really interesting to hear with a symphonic arrangement. I almost wonder if Chip is saving those for a sequel album.
The bottom line is that I'm pleasantly surprised by this album. Based on Amazon's samples, I had my doubts, but now that I've listened to the full thing, the expanded arrangements really do sound great. Now I'd love to see them do a "Fresh Aire Symphony" album, so they could take classics from the Fresh Aire series, like "Dancing Flames" and "Mere Image", and rework them for a full symphony.