O Holy Night

Yes Virginia

Wise Guy Records, 2000


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It has actually gotten to the point where I look forward to the Christmas season. Not for the presents, not for the parties - and surely not for the snow. (I write this after Chicago has had two significant snowfalls in three days - bring me the head of Perry "Let It Snow!" Como.)

No, I love this time of year because it means the release of the latest Christmas CD from Delaware-based Yes Virginia, a band whose praises I've been singing for over a year now. Paul Janocha and crew have built up a significant following since starting this side project in 1997, taking the carols we all know and love and giving them a slightly harder edge.

O Holy Night, their latest release, demonstrates that the band has proven themselves to be more willing to take chances with the source music, and though this formula bites them once or twice, the group has scored another hit.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Mario Padovani has settled in nicely since being added to the band in 1999 as their keyboardist; listen to him whipping out a Kansas-like riff on "Coventry Carol" and try to deny that this is a well-executed version. You can't. Padovani's influence on this and songs like "The Holly And The Ivy" seems to push his bandmates to new levels.

I commented to Janocha in a private phone conversation last year that I happened to like hearing lead guitarist Joe Merkel get a chance to whip off a solo. I'm not taking credit for it, but Merkel actually seems freer with the guitar riffs this time around, turning in some tasty work at the end of "We Three Kings" and "Christmas Suite".

There was one song I was a bit apprehensive about on O Holy Night - namely, the title track. The manner in which Yes Virginia approached this song was in question; if they turned this into a pure rock show, the song would not succeed. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded; this version opens with a gentle guitar pattern that slowly builds into a respectful, though rock-oriented, body. Granted, I would have liked to have heard what Janocha and crew could have done with this in either an acoustic or an all-guitar element, but I did like the way that the song closes, returning to a gentle guitar line. Well done!

For fear that it might look like all I ever do is sit and drool about this band, I do have one or two points of contention this time around. First, drummer Mac Hines has to start putting some feeling into his performances; more often than not, the drumming sounds a bit robotic, cold and emotionless. Take what he did on "Little Drummer Boy" and put that kind of rhythm on some of these songs, and things improve tenfold.

The only other beef I have? The grind-to-a-halt stops on a few of these tracks, like "Coventry Carol" and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas". Not every track needs to fade out, I know, but it would have been better to have brought, say, "Coventry Carol" to a more natural stop than just musically slamming on the brakes.

Still, O Holy Night is a disc which shows that Yes Virginia is a band who deserve a slice of the holiday music pie. I know there are record company-type people who read these reviews... and if you want to give me a nice Christmas gift this year, please give these guys a chance and consider signing them to your label.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen 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 Wise Guy Records, and is used for informational purposes only.