2007 holiday treat from Chip Davis and Mannheim Steamroller, their first new Christmas album in six years! Features guest vocals from Johnny Mathis (no stranger to great holiday recordings) plus Olivia Newton-John. 12 trac... more »ks including 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas', 'Frosty The Snowman' and many others. American Gramaphone.« less
2007 holiday treat from Chip Davis and Mannheim Steamroller, their first new Christmas album in six years! Features guest vocals from Johnny Mathis (no stranger to great holiday recordings) plus Olivia Newton-John. 12 tracks including 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas', 'Frosty The Snowman' and many others. American Gramaphone.
S. Fennell | Somewhere out there.....beneath the pale moon ligh | 10/09/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Let's face it, kiddies.... this has been done to death. The original Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album from 1984 was very innovative for it's time, and it's follow-up from 1988 (A Fresh Aire Christmas) was, in my humble opinion, even better than the original. In the years since then, however, the Steamroller Christmas series has become a cash cow for it's creator, Chip Davis, and he refuses to let go of the project, churning out a new rehash every few years or so. The original concept of combining Renaissance-era instruments, electronica, and full orchestra was a great thing at first, but Mr Davis has run out of fresh ideas and just keeps recycling the same thing over and over. (For example, check out the middle section of "Masters In This Hall"; it sounds like a direct rip-off of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" from the first album, and in keeping with the style of most arrangements on this album, it stops abruptly and feels unfinished.)
A huge pet peeve of mine pops up early in the first two tracks; arrange a song in a different style if you must, but DON'T rewrite the melody, especially in something as familiar as a Christmas song. There are a couple of instances that sound as if Mr. Davis wasn't exactly sure where the standard melody was supposed to go, and he just changed it to something he must have figured was close enough that no one would care, but I'm sure the original songwriters wouldn't appreciate it.
There are a couple of nice moments to be found, such as "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" which hearkens back to "Cantique de Noel" from the second album, but for every pleasant moment, there is something equally as jarring close behind, the absolute worst being the inexplicable version of "Frosty the Snowman", in which the song becomes almost completely unrecognizable. The liner notes describe it as "Frosty...the Techno Dance". (with vocals by "Spaceman"??) You'll just call it embarrassing and reach for the skip button on your player.
Olivia Newton-John and Johnny Mathis both turn up as guest vocalists, and they do the best they can with the material they've been given. Johnny is saddled with the above-mentioned melody goofs in "The Christmas Song", not to mention a plodding arrangement that doesn't capture the warm feeling it should have. Olivia has a song that is a Chip Davis original, previously appearing on "Christmas in the Aire" (Christmas album # 3) in an instrumental form, and it's nice enough, but feels a bit of a cheat that the song has shown up again. (To be fair, there is a sweetness about this track that is quite nice, and it IS a better version than the original. So there.)
I know I sound like I'm being overly critical of this CD, but I think it's deserved this time around. I don't hear as much forethought or effort going into these albums anymore, and it's time to stop the series if they're going to stay at this level of quality. Regardless, something tells me that in about two or three years, we can look forward to Chip and Co. returning with something like "More Christmas Songs We Haven't Trashed....Yet"."
Loyal long-time fan wants better than Christmas Song deliver
M. Attrey | USA | 10/10/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I want to preface my remarks about this particular CD by extending my sincere thanks to Chip Davis and all Mannheim Steamroller personnel, past and present, for the most beautiful and moving Christmas music I have ever heard. By the end of the 1980s, Mannheim Steamroller had become my all-time favorite Christmas artist. I have looked forward to each new Christmas CD with great anticipation. Based upon my experiences with previous releases, I have quickly added each new album to my collection without having heard any of the songs, and haven't regretted doing so until the purchase of this album. I wholeheartedly recommend the first four "canon" Mannheim Steamroller Christmas CDs: Christmas, A Fresh Aire Christmas, Christmas In The Aire and Christmas Extraordinaire (available together at a great value as The Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Collection box set). However, I cannot recommend this newest album. Aside from Christmas Live, the largely spoken-word The Christmas Angel, and the 2004 compilation Christmas Celebration, Christmas Song is the first Mannheim Christmas release to revisit the group's earlier material. Each of the aforementioned "canon" albums is full of imaginative, evocative yuletide arrangements. While Christmas Song has some great moments, it is a disappointing effort overall.
"Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" starts off the album well, in a style reminiscent of "Winter Wonderland" and "Joy To The World" from previous albums. "The Christmas Song" features lead vocals from Johnny Mathis, who delivers an average performance. The arrangement is nothing special and a far cry from the group's re-imagining of Christmas songs in years gone by. "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" marks the first appearance of a saxophone solo on a Steamroller Christmas track. In my opinion, the instrument just doesn't fit the Mannheim sound. "Feliz Navidad" is OK, but doesn't come across as fresh or exciting as Steamroller arrangements on earlier albums. "Catching Snowflakes On Your Tongue", a new Davis composition, is a nice instrumental but lacks the emotion of a song like the original "Traditions Of Christmas" from A Fresh Aire Christmas. "It Came Upon The Midnight Clear" and "Masters In This Hall" are the best performances on the album. These tracks would have fit nicely alongside songs from previous albums. "Above The Northern Lights" is the first and better of two vocal remakes on the album. Of all the Christmas tracks the group has recorded, "Frosty The Snowman" stands as my least favorite. This performance exceeds their earlier recording of "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" in sheer silliness. This is about as far as it gets from the majestic beauty of "Veni Veni" or "Stille Nacht". To be fair to Chip Davis, I realize that he was going for little kid fun rather than reverence, but this rendition falls flat. "Traditions Of Christmas" gets things back on track, but all too briefly. This music box reprise of the 1988 classic gave me chills. "Christmas Lullaby" is an unnecessary vocal remake of the 1995 instrumental. Olivia Newton-John is fine here, but the lyrics to this song are no substitute for the poignant beauty of the original instrumentation. "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" starts out with promise, but never expands into a powerful closing song. Instead it suffers from the reappearance of the saxophone and leaves the listener wanting more.
As a loyal fan, I have a few friendly suggestions for Chip Davis next time around. First, please resist the temptation to include more than one or two vocal performances. Mannheim Steamroller has always been at its best when making music in the vicinity of progressive rock rather than straying into easy listening territory. If a guest vocalist is desired, I suggest a distinctive voice such as Jon Anderson of Yes (who would've taken "Above The Northern Lights" to another level, though Gene Nery did a good job). Second, please bring Jackson Berkey and Ron Cooley back to the studio. These two gentlemen were part of the Mannheim magic since that first Christmas album, but they don't appear on Christmas Song. Lastly, please don't use saxophones and electronic drums. The beautiful Renaissance era instruments define the Mannheim Steamroller sound and a sax is no substitute. The sound of the drum kit on the first Christmas album is superior to the recent pad sounds which, to me, interfere with the balance between ancient instruments and those must-have synthesizers. I do hope Mannheim Steamroller records another Christmas album before six more years pass, but I will be hesitant to purchase it without hearing it first. Come on Chip, please make the next one a return to form. Meanwhile, I'll enjoy those classic Steamroller recordings. A very Merry Christmas to all!"
I was hoping for something other than this, but it came anyw
Shaun D. | Indiana | 10/12/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"It's hard to listen to the Fresh Aire series and to the first Christmas albums and then attempt to listen to this album. It doesn't even sound like Chip Davis tried. It seems like he is chugging out material just because it will sell with the Mannheim Steamroller name on it. Most of the songs are rehashed rhythms with the same old lame synth sounds. Maybe Mr. Davis needs to listen to his older stuff and realize, "Wow, that was good and listenable." I'm not saying that artists should stay the same for the sake of their fans, but this is an obviously rushed album with selling records as their main goal. After hearing his other crap factory CD's such as the Halloween series, I was hoping for something other than this, but it came anyway. So overall, just keep your Mannheim collection untainted and leave this one behind. If you have to listen it, try the library, but don't pay for it."
Tom Eason | Northern CA | 11/04/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This is way below the standard Chip Davis has set for himself in earlier Christmas CDs. It is dull and repetitive. None of his earlier originality."
Knesewa | Madison, OH, USA | 11/28/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"As a long-time fan of Mannheim Steamroller, I bought this album on impulse while Christmas shopping today. I eagerly popped it into my car CD player and, with great anticipation, settled in to enjoy the latest from Chip Davis and company. Unfortunatley, what I heard was not up to par with his earlier Christmas offerings. In fact, what I heard was so uninspired, unoriginal and unenjoyable that I will probably not listen to this recording again. Very disappointing."