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Christmas Eve & Other Stories

Track Listing
1. An Angel Came Down
2. O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night
3. A Star To Follow
4. First Snow
5. The Silent Nutcracker
6. A Mad Russian's Christmas
7. The Prince Of Peace
8. Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24
9. Good King Joy
10. Ornament
11. The First Noel
12. Old City Bar
13. Promises To Keep
14. This Christmas Day
15. An Angel Returned
16. O Holy Night
17. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Atlantic 1996

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More TSO:
The Christmas Attic (1998)
Beethoven's Last Night (2000)
The Ghosts of Christmas Eve DVD (2001)
Poets and Madmen (2001)
The Wake of Megellan (1997-1998)
Dead Winter Dead (1995)


Heavy metal and Christmas, the two go together like cheese and wine, peanut butter and bread, chocolate and... SAY WHAT? Heavy metal and the most sacred of holy Holidays (well maybe not, but close enough), whoever thought to match these two together? Plus throw in a bevy of broadway vocalists and a full orchestra behind them, not to mention the musicians of Savatage and their writer in residence, Paul O'Neill. Luckily the whole thing gels nicely and makes a much nicer compliment to the holidays than the almighty fruitcake or supposedly "all weather" wicker reindeer.

"Christmas Eve & Other Stories" was the band's first attempt at creating a rock opera based around the sounds of the season and lucky for them, it ended up being a red hot seller thanks to many QVC appearances and that unexplainable appeal that reaches the masses and captures their interest to pledge their pocket change. "The Christmas Attic" made a quickie followup to continue the snowball rolling into success on its trip to the top, and another holiday themed album is scheduled for a winter 2003 release. "Beethoven's Last Night" remains their only effort outside of the Xmas themed fare in their first step towards achieving that "music as art" banner, and was also well recieved.

For their grand debut, the outfit even threw in a heartwarming story for good measure penned by TSO leader Paul O'Neill and based around an angel's trip to earth under command from the Lord to find a single "thing that represents everything good that has been done in the name of this day." The disc then takes us along with the angel and is basically the background music for his every stop, such as "Silent Night" sung in the church, the sounds of villagers on the street, the single voice of despair from a lonely's man's nighttime ballad. But of course a lost child catches the ethereal being's attention outside of a bar and the angel attempts to send the child 'home'. A kind of magic ensues that sees the angel completing his task and a few of life's little mysteries arising along with it. Its got the mass market appeal thing nailed down perfectly, and the music was brilliant to go along with it.


The album's greatest gem and claim to fame, remains to be the one track lifted from an official Savatage album, "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" from "Dead Winter Dead". They turned this into a wonderous video with visions of new fallen snow, a little girl rushing out to command an orchestra and then slipping back into bed before her mother realizes she has been out of her room for a late night adventure. The song itself is of course both powerful and breathtaking, being a Savatage created track. It has more pomp and blizzard-like fury than anything else twinkling on the disc. The ringing bells send delightful shivers right up the base of the spine and make the listener feel completely alive and in touch with the winter wonderland that surrounds, with its cold, frozen world beauty. Its a fantastic blend of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman" and "Carol of the Bells" with all the spectacular overblown instrumentation one comes to love from Savatage, and in turn, TSO. "First Snow" also captures an emotion in the palm of its musical hand. The silent 'sound' of a fresh snowfall, that utter and complete silence that only means the land is covered in white, the rush to a frosty window to peer into a backyard transformed by winter's coldest touch, and the absolute magic that comes from spinning circles into dizziness as snowflakes float all around. The guitars squeal of this unrelenting joy that brings tears to the eyes and wonder to the heart and the orchestrations wrap around it with a gleeful whisk into a frigid fantasy. "The First Noel" is a short acoustic piece that manages to be extremely touching in under a minute's time. "The Silent Nutcracker" has more time to win one over, and it uses dead space nicely, the lone guitar rather stark against in the hushed backdrop. For those craving more metal-like antics, "A Mad Russian's Christmas" fits like a glove with its wild metallic instruments and the force of a hurricane. However, "O Come All Ye Faithful - O Holy Night" is where the magic is at. The guitar reigns down like electric teardrops and the booming rhythm section backing it sets off the axe lead with vibrancy and flair as it twists and turns into a heart melting rendition of "O Holy Night". Al Petrelli is a master of his instrument and proves it here with class and style in one of the most elegant Christmas songs ever recorded. "O Holy Night" crops up later on in a less majestic form, quaint and delicate like a fuzzy feathered cardinal braving a sleeting storm. Shivering at its start and warming as the song continues, its quiet and relaxing much like TSO's tackling of "The First Noel". These are all instrumentals mentioned here and present the very best of the disc.

Unfortunately the tracks injected with lyrics are not quite as spectacular. Instead of using resident Savatage vocalist of that era, Zak Stevens, with his amazing warm and glowing voice, they decided to bring in a stable of singers from broadway to lend their talents to the disc. Unfortunately they all sound rather sterile with a few exceptions. Over dramatic without the emotional sincerity to support the outlandish attempts at singing this material is downright laughable at times. "An Angel Came Down" is a powerhouse of a song and very much like a "lighter" Savatage offering, the band's dramatics intact. It could have brought down the house with Zak at the helm but instead squeaks out as just alright like it is. "Ornament" and "Old City Bar" represent the bluesy side of the cd, with the latter featuring a weathered sounding vocalist that could very well be a patron at one of these fine establishments on a cold Christmas Eve night. "This Christmas Day" is pure broadway pomp with the obligatory emotional tweaking. The rhythm guitars are a piece of perfection, backing up the lead without interfering, and the vocal lines themselves are another bit of classic Savatage extravagance which should please even those that would have prefered Zak over these guys. "An Angel Returned" is off the same card, but with a powerhouse backing choir to slam the grand ending home repeating loud and proud "Kyrie among nations".


"Christmas Eve & Other Stories" blends jazz, opera/broadway, heavy metal and blues into a mixture that is big, bold and pompous and absolutely will not take being relegated to the backseat of Xmas time gatherings. Its a cd that stands and demands to be heard with its power and class, thus making it almost impossible to throw on as ambient background music. But for a ride under cover of darkness to admire all the houses decked out in their glowing holiday best, or as engaging music to trim the tree and decorate the halls by then there's nothing finer than TSO's first outing. All of the songs mentioned within this review are bordering on excellent or even achieving that status, and will remain a treasured part of your own personal Christmas soundtrack for years to come.

Ratings and Wrap Up:
Songs - 8.0, Performance - 8.8, Production - 9.0, Lyrics - 7.5

Hot Spots: Therion's "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24", "First Snow", "O Come All Ye Faithful - O Holy Night"
Bottom Line: Timeless Christmas tunes blended with modern holiday nu 'classics' in a Broadway/metal setting.

Review by Alanna Evans -

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