Christmas Eve And Other Stories

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Lava / Atlantic Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Make what snide comments you want about 'producer's projects', they always sound good. And I admit to a weakness for them; being a Alan Parsons Project junkie from way back, I always like it when a good producer or writer strikes out on his own and puts something together for -himself- instead of for whoever signed him to work this month.

I also like good Christmas music. This is somewhat of an oxymoron, since I'm pagan and celebrate Yule as my religious holiday -- but the works surrounding Christmas are some of the most beautiful, soaring melodies ever written.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Imagine my delight when I found about Trans-Siberian Orchestra's 1996 Christmas Eve And Other Stories. TSO is the brainchild of New York City producer and songwriter Paul O'Neill, responsible for Savatage's Streets and Dead Winter Dead CDs. On it, he is joined by session keyboardist Robert Kinkel, most of Savatage, and numerous other performers from the New York City music scene; and in it, he creates a powerful wall of sound celebrating the joy and spirit of the Christmas season.

The album feels very much like a harder version of the aforementioned Project; guest vocalists, layered sounds, and orchestral work mingles with Al Pitrelli's piercing guitar to create an album with depth and, dare I say, glory. The album's loose theme follows one angel's search for goodness on Christmas, and the signposts on that journey are outstanding; "O Holy Night," "The Prince Of Peace,""The First Noel," and the powerful climax to the tale, "Old City Bar," are all excellent.

The real lauds need to be saved for two tracks, though. "Mad Russian's Christmas" is a magnificent romp through Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, alternately playful and triumphant, and "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" is emotionally overwhelming. This tribute to the Cellist of Sarajevo (and if you don't know who that is, go to your favorite search engine. NOW. I don't have time to tell the story here, I couldn't do it justice, but no human being shouldn't know about it) weaves "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Carol Of The Bells" into both indictment and pardon at once, a mirror of light shining within the deepest shadows.

This isn't just another Christmas CD. This is a CD about the return of light, be it Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Solstice. This is a celebration of joy, of power, of peace; in and of itself proof that we will always reach for fire in the depths of winter.

Rating: A

User Rating: A



© 1998 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Lava / Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.