And So This Is Christmas

Yes Virginia

Wise Guy Records, 2002

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Paul Janocha and the boys in Yes Virginia must think I don't like them anymore. After a mail snafu kept the band from sending me their newest disc in 2002, I never got around to reviewing that disc, And So This Is Christmas, or last year's release Father Christmas in 2003.

It's my fault, really, since I've been saying for years that Yes Virginia is poised to be the next big thing in holiday music along the lines of Mannheim Steamroller or Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This eight-song disc caps that belief. (This disc is included on the band's compilation release The Essential Christmas Treasury 1997-2003. Click here to get more information on it -- and when you order it, tell them "The Daily Vault" sent you.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Taking the four songs off their privately-released 2001 disc My Favorite Things, the band -- bassist Janocha, guitarist Joe Merkel, keyboardist/vocalist Mario Padovani and drummer Gregg Hoffmann - add four tracks to not only flesh out the previous release, but kick it into an entirely new realm. While I liked My Favorite Things, the additional tracks make it that much better.

Since Yes Virginia was an instrumental band up until 2001, it is understandable the band is still trying to find its place in the singing department. The operatic style of "My Favorite Things" isn't quite the perfect fit, though Padovani does make it work well on "Here We Come A-Caroling," especially in the layered harmony vocals. But their take on "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" -- including sharing of lead vocal duties with Merkel - absolutely seals the deal. Taking a respected modern-day Christmas song like this is a risky proposition for any group, but Yes Virginia treats it with the love and respect it deserves. The use of acoustic guitar -- if memory serves me right, its first appearance on any Yes Virginia release -- is perfect. If I had to find one fault with this disc, though, it would be that the acoustic is underutilized - it would have fit perfectly with their take on Vince Guaraldi's "Christmastime Is Here".

The instrumental performances are still powerful, and shouldn't be discounted merely because of the addition of vocals. The merging of "The First Noel" with Pachelbel's "Canon In D" is inspired, and both songs are reverently played, even with the hard-rock stylings of the band. Their take on "Silver Bells" is still a lot of fun to listen to, and with the continued war in Iraq going on, the almost dirge-like take on "Silent Night" is that much more powerful, though I don't think this was ever the intention of the band.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: a Yes Virginia release is one of the things I most look forward to every Christmas season. And So This Is Christmas, to this point, is easily the band's best work, and is one holiday CD that counts as a "must-own". Now that it's combined with all the other releases from the band, there is no excuse not to give them significant play on your stereo.

Rating: A-

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© 2004 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.