Fresh stuff --- for Christmas, anyway.
Lanny Heidbreder | State University, AR USA | 12/23/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Christmas music is, for the most part, terribly cliché--- quadruply so if you're a musician of any flavor. So I suspect that many Boston Symphony/Pops musicians are weary of playing the tunes on this album. But I'm pretty confident in saying that this album is the least cliché holiday album you're likely to come across for a while.
Yes, yes, they dig up some old standards, "Sleigh Ride" included. And while we don't really need another recording of it, at least it's a NEW recording, with (to my amateur ears) some detectable Lockhartness in it. The other "traditional" tracks include solo vocal settings of "O Holy Night" and "Do You Hear What I Hear", plus others.
The fresher stuff is what makes the album worth the price. The Joy to the World arrangement by Randol Alan Bass is fantastic -- which is remarkable, since most Joy to the World arrangements are the very definition of Christmas cliché. "Songs from the Hill Folk: Carols of Appalachia" is yet another Christmas medley, but it's a GOOD one, and its set of tunes is good a mix of sounds as well as of familiarity. "Kije Takes a Ride" is a jazz version of a Prokofiev tune that only orchestral buffs are likely to know, from a film that only hard-core film buffs are likely to have heard of. (But it's still unmistakeably Christmas.) "Winter Weather Medley" is a clever mix of three popsier tunes; it's got some weak spots, but it's a keeper nonetheless. "Joy!" is the Sebesky jazzish medley that was the "centerpiece" of "Holiday at Pops!" a few years back. It's nice, and most people eat it up. (I personally think it needs work, but I'm picky with stuff that tries to be jazz.) And the last track is "Happy Holidays", a straightforward arrangement of the Manhattan Transfer chart. Nothin' fancy, but a very listenable specimen of orchestral jazz (which is usually awful).
As far as recording quality goes, I /think/ you can tell that they're under their own label now, and aren't having their sessions mixed by guys from Sony anymore. But almost all the places this is detectable, it's not egregious at all -- in fact, it almost makes me think it's a superior recording model. (Almost.)
Overall, you're likely to have your own set of skippable tracks and repeat-'em-over-and-over tracks. But I think, for anyone curious enough to read these reviews in the first place, you won't go wrong for your money with "Sleigh Ride"."
A Great Pops Companion CD
Timothy Kearney | Hull, MA United States | 12/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When it comes to Christmas and the Boston Pops, it's easy to wonder if this ensemble really needs another Christmas recording. We have multiple discs with the great Fiedler renditions of holiday music, and there are two fine discs under the direction of Conductor Laureate John Williams. Keith Lockhart has also released a holiday music disc. Why another? Well, when it comes to the Pops, creativity and reinvention are two of their trademarks, so this ensemble can always be counted on for something unique and enjoyable, and this newest Christmas CD SLEIGH RIDE will become a beloved part opf the Pops Christmas music library.
This disc has the new sound of the Pops under Lockhart's direction. There are new arrangements that are fresh and lively, and bound to become future "classic" Pops favorites. There is a mix of the traditional (the arrangement of "Joy to the World" "O Holy Night" and the famous chorus from Handel's MESSIAH "Hallelujah." The original "Kije Takes a Sleigh Ride" based on the "Troika" Prokofiev's LT. KIJE. There are three medleys: one of winter weather songs, a second of general holiday songs, and a third called JOY which is an addictive arrangement of Christmas carols. Any time I listen to this disc I find myself listening to this track again and again.
I'm giving these recording five stars due to the quality of the musical performances. It is a flawless set, but for me it would be a supplementary Boston Pops Christmas disc. The first I'd select would be any of the discs under the direction of Arthur Fielder that include Leroy Anderson's "A Christmas Festival," Leopold Mozart's "Sleigh Ride" and Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" without vocals, and the classic Pops renditions of "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers," "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," "Santa Claus is Coming To Town," "Winter Wonderland" and "The Toy Trumpet." I'd also purchase William's JOY TO THE WORLD which includes some of his tracks from HOME ALONE and Lockhart's HOLIDAY POPS. These recordings give a true Pops Christmas. SLEIGH RIDE would be a companion CD, but like all Pops CD's, it's a great investment.
GREAT CHRISTMAS MUSIC
Ron H. Wrede | RICHMOND,CA,USA | 01/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A VERY WELL-DONE ORCHESTRAL CD OF CHRISTMAS CLASSICS,AND HARD TO FIND IN MY LOCAL STORES. SO HAPPY TO PURCHASE IT."