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Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Eve & Other Stories CD (album) cover


Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Crossover Prog

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Bob Greece
3 stars What stops this CD being excellent is the vocals. Some of them sound like Meat Loaf, some are school-girl choirs and none of them are particularly good. However, there are three amazing instrumentals on this album that makes it all worthwhile - "First Snow", "A Mad Russian's Christmas" and "Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24". These tracks are powerful, orchestral and lively. They're not really progressive but they can knock you off your feet.

So overall with this album you are getting 3 essential tracks and 14 for fans only, which means that I would only advise you to pick up this album if you can find it at a good price (like I did!).

Report this review (#59382)
Posted Wednesday, December 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
The Crow
3 stars OK, "Christmas Eve & Other Stories" is a good album... But a good "christmas music" album. So this is not an album for everyone, and of course, not vor every moment... But if you enjoy the best christmas music, surely you will find excellent moments here.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra is the parallel band of Savatage. All the Savatage members are palying here, but with a lot of collaborators too. But the mastermind of this project is Paul O'Neill, the Savatage's producer... He and Jon Oliva are the main composers of the music here, along with Bob Kinkell, a very important man in Savatage too. The lyrics and the story, of course, are written by O'Neill.

So this album is mainly Christmas music... But this is not all that you will find here, because like every Trans-Siberian Orchestra record, there's a lot of classical music adaptations too. The Silent Nutcracker, for example, is a fine Tchaikovsky's adaptation. Another tracks, like First Snow and A Mad Russian's Christmas, are in more Savatage vein, more rocker and with good electric guitars works... And this album is full of sweet ballads too, with the typical Jon Oliva's piano playing and structure. If you like the Savatage's ballads, maybe you will also find some good moments with the ballads of this album too... But in my opinion, the quality never reaches de Savatage's high levels. Except, of course, Christmas Eve-Savajevo 12/24, wich is exactly the same song included in the Savatage album from 1995 "Dead Winter Dead".

The great problem with this album, is its difficulty to be enjoyed everytime you listen to... Maybe in Christmas time this is the best musical support you can expect, but in the rest of the year, is a little anoying to hear this album, it sounds totally out of place, except some tracks... But this is something that happens with every Christmas album, I think.

Conclusion: very original mixture between hard rock/metal and Christmas music. But like every Christmas album, it's only to be enjoyed in some moments, this is not the kind of music you can hear everyday without feeling a little annoyed... With some great exceptions like First Snow, A Mad Russian's Christmas and Christmas Eve. And of course, I think the Savatage's die-hard fans will also find enough good moments here to not feeling sorry of purchasing this album...

Report this review (#75771)
Posted Friday, April 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
The Whistler
3 stars What's that, the sound of sleighbells?!? Oh boy, it must be time for some Christmas joy! And some METAL!!!

Yep. I initially despised this album. In fact, I feel as though I've been training my whole life to hate this album. There was a time when I couldn't sit through the whole thing for a single listen. But then, common sense got a grip of me, and I realized that this wasn't King Crimson. This was some second (third?) rate prog metal band playing a buncha arena rock covers of Christmas carols and calling it an opera. So, with expectations sufficiently lowered, I listened to the album again. And you know what? It's good. For what it is.

"An Angel Came Down" actually provides you with a pretty decent view of what the album is going to be like. Very serious piano, over the top vocals, and then a sudden burst of squealing guitars and four-by-four drumming. With some bells thrown in for good measure.

Actually, maybe because it's the first of the many "hard" Christmas instrumentals (and when everything sounds the same, the first is best, right?), "O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night" takes the place of the best song on the album. They turn it into a riff- fest (and dig the walking guitarlines), but in the end, it somehow manages to kick enough ass that even I can headbang and air guitar along.

"A Star to Follow" has a kind of interesting build, but the children's choir? Oh well, at least it's tasteful. Real sing along anthem for the coda. Now, for "First Snow," I SWEAR I've heard that dorky riff somewhere else before...maybe A LOT of somewhere elses before. But I love the fact that the drummer tries to convince us, right here, that he's the lord of drums. He can't improve his technique, but damn it, he CAN drum louder!

After this point, the album gets a little less fun for me. "The Silent Nutcracker" is silent because it's acoustic, I guess. Just some basic acoustic trickery, that grows more complex as it moves along. "A Mad Russian's Christmas" works well enough; I mean, it is the Nutcracker March, and it applies itself well enough to the metal format. But it still sounds like a hyperactive soundtrack to a toy commercial.

"The Prince of Peace" is pretty, but absolutely throwaway. Now, "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24," aside from having a LOT of slashes in the title, is actually not bad. I mean, if any Christmas carol is begging to have an ominous metal retooling, it's gotta be "The Carol of the Bells." If there were a real kick ass guitar solo, no way that thing escape the honor of best song. But it doesn't, relying on synths instead. Still headbangin' though.

"Good King Joy" is easily the weirdest of the lot, which, on a record that doesn't have a lot of variety, is never a bad thing. It starts out like everything else, a slick, serious, radio metal Christmas carol, but then it morphs...into a blooz song! Complete with a black dude on vocals. I think the lyrics are supposed to be funny...hope...

"Ornament" is one of the biggest letdowns of the whole thing. It starts out as a ballad, and just when you think it might have some REAL emotion in it, it takes a turn for the powerful. A power ballad...about Christmas. Need I say more? Too bad, because I honestly can hear the decent song under all the drums and radio metal guitars.

"The First Noel," another acoustic bit, is actual kind of nice, giving us some much appreciated reprieve from all the power balladeering. "Old City Bar" though serves essentially the same purpose as "Ornament," and it's nowhere near as good. It is much more acoustic oriented, so it's easier to listen to, but it's way more plodding.

"Promises to Keep" is just a choir. Read, "just a choir," with some piano. In the middle of the metal, this thing is REAL schlocky. Now, "This Christmas Day" IS the same as "Ornament." A sort of quiet intro with a loud, overbearing center. At least it speeds up at the end.

"An Angel Returned" takes the pomposity of "An Angel Came Down" and the gospel choir energy of "This Christmas Day" and jams 'em together. Oddly enough, it works, gaining enough steam by the end to win me over.

The next two songs are "post script," not sure what that means. I guess it's a kind of afterthought, since the opera's technically over (or, as Mr. Townshend might say, an underture). The classical "O Holy Night" is the better of the two. It's not really acoustic, since it's played on an electric, but it's tuned way down. Very pleasant that. Maybe even pretty. Or maybe I just like that song. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is well played, but it's nothing new. Somewhere between the talents of Anderson, Blackmore and Ingle, that has become THE Christmas song to "progress." And this version? Nothing special. Not the greatest ending, but, considering this band, could be worse.

Now, as much as I hate to admit it, there are a couple of good points to this thing. The musicians are not virtuosos by any means, but "the guitarist" is not bad and the acoustics especially are always nice (even if his style is a little cliché), and "the keyboardist" has his moments too (even if they're a little cheesy). And no, "the reviewer" didn't bother to learn any of their names.

Secondly, they are able to come together and rock so brainlessly hard, that even I have to close my eyes and sway back and forth, lighter in, I mean, headbang violently. And finally, and most importantly, it's a Christmas album fer goshsakes! Lighten up, and give the Constitution a rest. I mean, I like Christmas; I'm not some heartless troll.

In fact, sometimes the lyrics, if you're in the right mood, CAN tease some emotion from even a cynic like myself. Now, of course, I was reading the lyrics in the liner notes, and I was listening to Benefit...and I was high, but other than that, truly emotional that "A Star to Follow."

However, there will always be the fact that the vocals are ridiculous, the guitars are cheezy, the bass is practically non-existent, the keyboards are dorky, the drummer is a moron, the band takes itself WAY too seriously, and it's still just a load of radio metal dressed up with a concept, some boys' choirs and some acoustic numbers. It needed a saxophone! But still, it is Christmas, so we can overlook these things. For the first album anyway...

Report this review (#135562)
Posted Friday, August 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars For a while I wasn't sure where to place TSO on the progressive map, but with more careful listening I decided they were indeed a good fit for Crossover. There are plenty of progressive elements to go around and quality musicianship, as well as with this band the unavoidable and inevitable tendency towards popular music as a result of the cliché quality that Christmas music naturally has since we hear it so much every year. Fortunately, there is little if anything at all cliché about this album, which I think is their most underrated, and is a great progressive album overall, especially for the holidays. It is not without it's flaws, of course, but it has many strengths, and in my book enough to somewhat compensate for them.

Unlike pretty much all of the other albums I've heard of their's, there is virtually no filler through the album. Just about every song is well thought out, instrumentally and lyrically, and the produced result is great. The only somewhat mediocre track I would say is Ornament, which is, if you hear the song, for obvious reasons. Specific instruments and their usage, such as the bells, are effective in giving the overall album a great atmosphere, portraying the mood of the conceptual story very well at each moment. When I listen to this album, I get a great sense of instrumental balance. Some of this album is quite reminiscent of classic prog and hard rock, especially Fragile and A Night at the Opera. The drumming is relatively interesting and compliments the rest of the music quite adequately. The most notable songs are the more well known ones of course, A Mad Russian's Christmas and Sarajevo 12/24, though the album would still carry its own weight without them. Even the tid-bit guitar bonus tracks at the end are quite pleasant. I won't discuss the story line, as the version most will probably buy doesn't have the special narrated version, which helps a lot in understanding it. I was quite fortunate in being able to hear it really, because it really does add a lot to the album, as it is a good story, to say the least.

Only a few flaws slightly bog this album down from otherwise being a masterpiece. The main one is the vocals - mainly the guest vocals. They aren't really bad, and tend to fit well with the mood as they are, but are just quite mediocre. As well, there are occasional keyboard/piano parts that are at times repetitive and at others corny, but these are quite few and far between. There are also a couple sections where the writing seems a bit thin, like it could have used another instrument or two added on top or bottom. However, these are issues that are common in many not quite masterpiece albums.

Overall the album is very well composed and produced. It has a great, balanced mixture of classical Christmas tunes combined with hard rock, almost metal elements and some very interesting arrangements. It is the band's first, and in my mind, best overall album so far. It's a great album for anytime, and especially Christmas.

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Posted Tuesday, January 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well.. maybe it's a bit to urly for being in the Christmas astmospheres, but I do want to share this with you. 'Progressive rock and christmas sounds' does not seem to be a logical combination. And in fact: it isn't. But Jethro Tull has actually tried it and succeeded, now Trans Sibirian Orchestra is the main band in the christmas rock genre. This is the first of their three Cristmas recordings.

The production is perfect for it's time. Recorded modern, with beautifull use of Metal-like distortion in a gentle way! This is not seen very often. In addition we hear good amplified keyboards giving TSO an orchenstral sound (as it's name suggests). The drums are as they should be, but again recorded very gentle and subtle. The overall atmosphere is peacefull and warm! But some tracks have a very serious feeling.

I will discuss some highlights on the album

Come all ya faithful - A perfect rock version of this classic Christmas song. Heavy and still 100% sounding like a warm song. Great guitarwork acompany the symphonic sounds resulting in a sensational christmas song.

A mad Russian Christas - This is an straight progressive rock piece with beatifull orchestrations, metal guitars and a dark atmosphere. This darksness suddenly changes in a happy christmas rock piece and so the meaning of the title becomes clear. Great composition!

Christmas Eve - The opening is with an clean guitar and some classical instruments, then the guitars come. This is the darkest song of the album - in fact - I would not recommend to play this song on a christmas evening with your old folks around. It's heavy! Beatifull passages to the next themes and the rock explotion at the end make this track a sensation!

Good King Joy - One of my favourites! This song has a feeling that just seems to work for me. It opens peacefully with a childlike piano piece and some vocals. Then: yeaah... the guitars! A courteaus theme arises and tension is build up resulting in a known cristmas (Joy to the world I think) theme played with rock perfection! The production is just great! When this section is closed a very dared move is made. Suddenly you are in an American black churge with a black preacherman. This sound weird, but acompanied with some subtle solo's this turns out to be one of my fouvarite parts of the album! At the and of the song we here again the main theme and so an epic is closed.

Old City Bar - A fully acoustic song with great potential. The theme isn't very complex, actually the song is a bit repetitive. BUT.. the lyrics are so nice! It even gives me a warm feeling, something rarely happening with Christmas music. The guitars sound warm, the vocals are PERFECT... a voice so warm, it could have been a great blues singer. This is the kind of song that keeps my attention till the last second!

Some other tracks on the album are acceptable christmas tracks. I like An angel came down, wich is a perfect opening (and closing track under the name 'An angel returned'). The vocals are the main instrument here, but they are done very nice. First Snow is another great christmas/heavy rock track with lots of interesting parts. Ornament is nice balled, I especially like the couplet theme. Again - great vocals!

The prince of peace is a painfull experience... the female vocals make it a song that doens't fit on this (till now) very nice rocky christmas album. This ballad is just to slow and soft. A song like Promises to keep with an child choir are acceptable for it is Christmas, but a bit cheesey it is.

As a conclusion: A perfectly recorded heavy symphonic rock christmas album with enough progressive rock elements to be placed on this site. The guitars are played very professional, perfect one could say. The vocals are supurb! They realy chose some great vocalists for this prestious project. It's feel good, but yet acceptable. No other band has ever done a christmas rock project so good, so I'll give it five stars!

Edit. Five stars might be a bit high for a record that is appropriate just a short period per year. Normally it's worth three stars.

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Posted Saturday, November 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Trans-Siberian Orchestra - 'Christmas Eve and Other Stories' 2 stars

Music of the season, not of the essence.

This music is a tad unnecessary at just about any time but the winter season. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is an offshoot of progressive metal band Savatage. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra features a mass array of guests, most of which contribute in the orchestration section.

There are so many negatives on this album. First off would be the vocals. They are absolutely terrible in my eyes, with the worst of all worlds like a woman's choir singing Christmas joy and old men with raspy voices. When I listen to my music, I like the vocals to evoke some interesting and not being something I would ignore if I hear it in the streets. Many of the songs are reworking of uninteresting Christmas tunes that don't serve too much of a purpose, but are better than the boring originals in my opinion.

The upside to this album is some of the most unbelievable Christmas instrumentals ever. The tracks 'First Snow', 'A Mad Russian's Christmas' and 'Christmas Eve/Sarajevo' are all beautiful works of art worth owning. Unfortunately the rest of the 14 tracks are all pretty terrible in their own unique way.

Unless you can download the tracks separately, just get the above mentioned pieces. As a whole the album just gets down to not being good enough. If you get it, disgrace yourself by being labeled a collector.

Report this review (#190026)
Posted Friday, November 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars An Angel came down, and operatic Christmas orchestra metal was born!

The album starts off powerfully with the moving An Angel Came down, and wraps you around its ability to meld original song ideas with classic Christmas tunes. Now, this isn't progression in the standard sense, but their uncanny ability to make each Christmas instrumental their own (certainly not just "rocked up" Christmas songs) These are fully fleshed out creations. And certainly original for their status.

And there are quite a lot of instrumentals. Oh Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night is absolutely beautiful in its epic approach. The guitars and guitar soloing is grand, but is right out of top rate 80's metal. If you have a predisposition against that, well screw you. No, I jest. If you dislike the sound, you might not like the album as much. Don't discredit it, though, because there are just too many beautiful moments on this disc to let slip away.

There is also very little of what I like to call "filler time" or "down time" or "boring times where the band was too lazy to fill it with something good so they just let the rhythm section fiddle on for a minute or so to waste time" I will take average melodies over that boring chug.

Fortunately, there are rarely any average melodies. No, whether going their own route, or skillfully perverting everybody's favorite winter songs, the melodies are always fresh and are always warm. I suppose the simple introduction to A Star to Follow would be mundane, if it didn't build up so well. The classic Savatage technique of overwhelming vocal overdubbing is a sight to behold. It builds nicely. Thus leaving to break to the pretty children's choir singing. Cynics and naysayers might say this music is only fit for a certain season. I say shove off, fools! This is the end of April and I am loving this stuff. There is a story beneath the music, but it is pushed aside to make sure all the music is easily accessible(and the proggers cry foul) but not accessible in a MTV propositioned pop way. It is accessible in that the attention to melodic craft and lead musical lines is phenomenal. First Snow has another captivating melody played on seasonal instrumentation. Well, before those pumping guitars kick in, and this turns into a warm and interesting rocker.

Some could accuse the songs of being a bit too poppy, and they wouldn't be wrong. There is a Wagner style production that is immediately accessible and surrounding. I don't think they should be faulted for strong production techniques, though. Nor do I think they are very simple, either. The songs feature staggering progression of song ideas and twisting. No, not progression in the sense of playing a million notes per second in a time signature nobody has heard of (read: compositional). This is ideological progression. The Silent Nutcracker begins with a sweet acoustic guitar melody. It is a soft moment of prettiness. Which then segues into the darker and more frenzied Mad Russian's Christmas, that has them busting out in metallic form. I do adore those squealing and dark guitars. This is a punching rocker, with mood changes, and a very professional feel.

The Prince of Peace softens things up, again. The female vocalist has such a sweet sound. Lyrically, they could have done better. But, not offensive. Their story is loosely based upon a child's quest given from God. I don't let the religious connotations get to me, as I am a nonbeliever (Heathen! outcast unclean!) I don't think that even the coldest of satanic hearts could ignore such powerful and exquisite melodies. I get goose bumps during some of those well crafted hooks. Then we have the big one. The song they took form Savatage's Dead Winter Dead. Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24. This is an album highlight. As it was on the aforementioned album. The guitars scream with dark passion, and it all crashes down with such meticulously performed bombast. What a paced and furious rendition of two of my favorite seasonal tunes.

Good King Joy is the first real slip up I see. The song is just slower and less interesting than their other songs, and it isn't paced as well as it could be. But it isn't bad. Well, the melody lines could have used more work. And it does a nice job of building tension. And halfway through it just hits that soaring and well known melody. See, not even the whole song is bad! Still a little too average, though. Ornament arrives and has a hoarse, but warmly lovable singer with pretty piano accompaniment, pompously crashing in are the guitars, again. Not a divine song, but the quite prettiness, interspersed with the thick guitar crunch is straight out of the best of Queen. An unoriginal, but nonetheless emotional solo follows.

Another pretty acoustic snippet of First Noel is next, and doesn't do very much to alter the original piece, but the song is so very peaceful and touching all the same. This melds into another brilliant album highlight. Old City Bar has those rough but warm singing that fits so well with the smart acoustic playing. The lyrics are actually good imagery wise, if a bit mundane. But the way the image is portrayed is just as important as the image, itself. So certainly not a failure. It is a heart wrenching movement. The snow, it was falling, neon was calling. This song is capable to move me to tears, in the right mood. I am normally a very cynical person, and normally despise overtly happy endings, or bright and poppy stories. But the story here is so inoffensive. It is so warm and ...damn it, I like it! It might not be perfect.

Promises To Keep is next, with more soft Christmas time atmosphere. The child choir is at it, again, and I still like it a lot. How can one small set of individuals pack so many absolutely terrific melodies and musical ideas into one hour long album, without relying on cliche riffs and bland or banal filler rock? It amazes me each time I hear this album. Now, the songs do have a sort of depth to them, and carry that, as well as a timeless quality. This Christmas Day is good. No, it isn't brilliant, but the piano is nice, the vocals are soft and encompassing, the lyrics are bland and weak, but don't offend, and as always, the attention payed to the main musical idea is terrific. And another nice and stirring solo comes in, with guitars a-slingin'. The opening theme is referenced in An Angel Returned, and carries the same grandeur. O Holy Night has a nice and calm, yet fleeting melody that is able to mesmerize you if you let it. Rather simple, but the soft playing is of accurate and regal quality. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is the closing acoustic melody, and I feel it fits very well.

It might help if you like opera to enjoy this album. It also might help if you like this style of music. The lyrics aren't grand, but convey their message with deft imagery. The playing is great. There are no flights of "showing off" here. Nothing is used to any other affect than to further the music and its ideas. This is my absolute favorite "seasonal" album of all. It is hard for me to find many actual flaws. The compositions are somewhat simple at times, but there exist a fair share of twisting and complicated tunes. They take cues from The Beatles, Queen, and Meat Loaf, as much as they do classical composers. There are an eclectic mix of influences, and anyone who likes a full wall of sound, with melodies up front will love this. Highly Recommended.

Best Song - Oh it has been so long since I have had to fight to choose this category. Perhaps Old City Bar/Christmas Eve-Sarajevo/An Angel Came Down, but the album never really slips in quality.

Worst Song - First Half of Good King Joy.

**** Strong stars. They only once came close to topping this once.

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Posted Thursday, April 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars For those who love theatrical music, or the combination of heavy music and classical music, who also love to get into the Christmas Spirit ... Trans-Siberian Orchestra is THE band.

But if you are not in the mood for Christmas music, then most of this bands discography is going to go over your head.

Christmas Eve and Other Stories was their debut, and it sold well enough for them to continue producing albums years afterward. It was a pretty solid album, and at the time of its debut, I probably would have given it three stars, but there isn't a whole lot of point in owning all three of their Christmas albums, and The Lost Christmas Eve (released 8 years later) was arguably superior.

That does not mean there is nothing to enjoy in this album. It has many fun songs, such as Star to Follow, and it has what made Trans-Siberian Orchestra really worth hearing: excellent metal adaptations of classical music. On this album, the best tracks were First Snow, Mad Russian's Christmas, and Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24), each being excellent adaptations.

Each Trans-Siberian Orchestra album is accompanied by a story, and listening to the music while following the story in the booklets and reading the lyrics is half of the fun of their music. The story to this album is not particularly stunning, however, being about an angel coming down to earth to find the meaning of Christmas. It is a family friendly story, and there's nothing wrong with it, but it is not their most interesting.

The end of the album feels a bit longer. The story moves more at this part, but Trans-Siberian Orchestra has a habit of making songs with more exposition sound more generic than their other pieces. This is not bad on all of their albums, but on this one, it is quite obvious near the ending (from Ornament to An Angel Returns).

When Trans-Siberian Orchestra performed live last year, they did two sections to their show. The first section was this album in completion, and the second section was their better instrumental pieces. If they took the three songs mentioned above, and all the instrumental pieces from the second half of their show except for those from Beethoven's Last Night, they'd probably have a prog/metal-lovers best possible Christmas album.

With only a few high points on this album, and a story that is not quite as theatric as their best, this album is for those who are already fans of their music. Others would be better served getting Lost Christmas Eve.

As a final note, if Lost Christmas Eve is not available and you are forced to choose between this one and The Christmas Attic, take this one.

Report this review (#247393)
Posted Friday, October 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Let me first remind you about this date and the readers should ask themselves if I had bothered even putting this CD in my CD player if this was a hot day in July. The answer is probably no.

This is the debut album from this very succesful US band. A band with at least three Christmas albums and one more normal album. Which says it all really. This band is tapping into the US desire for naff culture. Someone would say: the Americans lack of culture. But I would not say that, would I ? Anyway, this band, consisting of members from Savatage and other heavy metal bands, has made a small fortune on their bestselling albums and tours. If anyone had tried this in the UK or Europe, they would had been laughed out of the business and their albums sold a dozen albums, Christmas gifts to the band members cats and dogs included. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is as patriotic American as Route 66 and the American flag itself.

That is why I am a bit surprised how good this album is. Yes, it is overladen with cheese in the form of children choir and heavy metal arrangements of well known Christmas carols. Arrangements in the Meat Loaf/Jim Steinman street. But the arrangements are not bad at all and there are some really great instrumentals here too.

Listening to this album is a mix of cringing and approving smiles. And this album is one of the better Christmas themed albums out there. I am a happy owner of this album and will play it next Christmas too.

3 stars

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Posted Sunday, December 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars I have been delaying the reviews for the three TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA albums I own long enough. I got these back around 2006 but not being a big fan (understatement of the year) of Christmas music i've kept putting these reviews off. Just to give a bit of history here, Paul O'Neill the man behind this project first met SAVATAGE when the A&R Rep for the label (Atlantic Records) they were signed to sent him down to Florida to check them out. The Rep had personally signed SAVATAGE and was concerned for them because of how bad the most recent SAVATAGE album ("Fight For The Rock") sold and sounded. He wanted Paul to produce and write for them hence his trip down south to catch the end of the tour. The band at that time were ready to quit after taking bad advice from management and making a bad album as the result. SAVATAGE felt they had let themselves and their fans down. Enter Paul who loved them right away but had to convince them to carry on under his direction. Well the rest as they say is history.

The first album they put out under Paul's guidance was "Hall Of The Mountain King" which is my favourite from them. Anyway one of the songs they did was called "Prelude To Madness" which the band really hesitated in doing because it was classical and symphomic neither of which the band had done before. It was based on Edvard Grieg's "Peer Gynt Suite". The band relented and it is significant because it led them years later to do "Sarajevo" on the "Dead Winter Dead" record which was of the same style. Well that song took off over Christmas that year and the label didn't have enough albums printed for the demand. That song is the center-piece of the first TRANS SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA record i'm reviewing here. That song spawned this band. Here it's called "Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24".

Lets just say this project which contains many members of SAVATAGE has made them a commercial success and i'm sure they've been doing many shows this month. This first album is a concept album about a young angel who has been sent to earth to find and bring back to God the one thing that best represents everything good that has been done in the name of that day. This quest takes the angel all over the world and these songs tell us the story. So SAVATGE fans will recognize names like Paul O'Neill, Jon Oliva, John Middleton, Chris Caffery and Zak Stevens.Certainly this is extremely well done and well played and if you are into Christmas songs and Progressive Rock I don't know how you can't be impressed.

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Posted Saturday, December 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars It's bad enough hearing the same Christmas songs non-stop on the radio between the 1st and 25th of December. What's even worse is that in this day and age of commercialism, most supermarkets (in the UK, at least), start playing these songs over the radio as early as the first week of November! Sounds crazy, right? So it's understandable that, between seven weeks of the same songs every year (which only seems to get more tedious as you get older), that heartwarming spark of nostalgia is replaced with utter contempt for the holiday season.

Or perhaps that's just me. I am borderline sociopathic, mind you...

Thankfully, here's the Trans-Siberian Orchestra to get us through the monotony of the Christmas period.

Sounding exactly like the metal band Savatage, but with an orchestra (which funnily enough, is exactly what this is, for lack of a better description), Trans-Siberian Orchestra ("TSO" for short) take all the classic Christmas carols that we've come to love, and gives them the full rock opera treatment, with styles ranging from rock, pop and jazz, and an assortment of vocalists, including a kids choir thrown in for good measure. There's a feeble attempt at a storyline in there somewhere, but I wouldn't bother digging too deep into it.

TSO are a great and certainly unique group, but this album as a whole just feels slightly lacking. The musicianship is incredible, and the music covers a lot of ground, from epically bombastic tracks to beautifully emotional ones. However, some of the tracks seem the complete opposite. Lifeless, dull, lacking any real emotion or depth.

Some of the highlights include 'A Mad Russians Christmas', 'First Snow', 'Promises to Keep', and the epic 'Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24', which is probably the true highlight of the album and interestingly enough was also used on Savatage's album 'Dead Winter Dead'.

Arranged by rock producer Paul O'Neill, Trans-Siberian Orchestra's debut album 'Christmas Eve & Other Stories' is an ambitious record that doesn't quite hold up as well as subsequent releases, but that's mostly due to the fact that their later output is just so damn good. It's a good album though, and still worth listening to if you're fed up with hearing the same, rehashed Christmas hits every year.

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Posted Wednesday, September 27, 2017 | Review Permalink

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