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Christmas Music Playlists with Trans-Siberian Orchestra Songs
Open Up A World Of Christmas Rock Opera's
Progressive rock hasn’t exactly earned the right to bring out a greatest Christmas hits compilation but if there is one band on earth that could do the job all on its own it is America’s Trans-Siberian Orchestra. With a trilogy of Christmas themed albums released between 1996 and 2004 and culminating in a box set called ‘The Christmas Trilogy’ this is a band that takes the season extremely seriously. Which means that their 3 Christmas albums can often be heavy going but never lack a hopeful approach to the yuletide celebrations. Trans-Siberian Orchestra formed after their previous band Savatage scored an unlikely hit with ‘Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24’ in 1995 which hinted at a niche that they could build on.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s debut release in 1996 was ‘Christmas Eve and Other Stories’ which remains one of their most enduring records. With its vintage styled artwork and a sweeping lyrical tale of a man learning about the magic of Christmas this was an album of big sounds. In parts it sounds what you might have expected a Queen Christmas album to sound like, especially so on ‘O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night’. ‘Christmas Eve and Other Stories’ has to date sold almost 4 million copies which moves it into the Top 10 best-selling Christmas albums of all time. Quite an impressive feat for a concept album but over 15 tracks and 2 bonus ones this was a unique experience. ‘Christmas Eve and Other Stories’ featured more originals than covers and even the presence of standards such as ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ made for an interesting listen as Trans-Siberian Orchestra infused them with their unique prog-rock sound. With a running time of beyond the hour mark there are lots of twists and turns with children’s choirs, heavy metal riffs and orchestral embellishment aplenty. A prime example of the voluminous ideas on show can be heard on ‘A Star Will Follow’ which originally starts out like a multi-vocaled ode to ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ before seguing to boys choir and ultimately ending up with the grown up choir proffering lots of Merry Christmases. It is quite a feat for a 4 minute piece but emblematic of the power of this epic album.
Such was the success of ‘Christmas Eve and Other Stories’ that it was re-released on several occasions. A limited edition narrated version of contained a bonus CD with dialogue from the band. Retail chain Target also put out their version of the album highlighting the presence of 2 hidden tracks (‘Whoville Medley (Perfect Christmas Night/Grinch’ and ‘The World That He Sees’) which had actually been present on the original release but not indicated anywhere on the packaging.
1998 would see the release of part 2 of Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas trilogy called ‘The Christmas Attic’ which again featured old style artwork and was full of original compositions from the band’s songwriter Paul O’Neill. The 16-tracks were once again bound by a concept but this time it was a little bit less complex with the story featuring a little girl exploring an attic on Christmas Eve. In many ways it made ‘The Christmas Attic’ a more accessible album with songs such as ‘The Ghosts of Christmas Eve’ displaying a more tender side to the band’s normally euphoric tendencies. The most well-known song to emerge from ‘The Christmas Attic’ was ‘Christmas Canon’ which had the famous classical piece ‘Canon in D Major’ at its core but was emblazoned with progressive rock mannerisms.
Sandwiched between Trans-Siberian Orchestra’ 2nd and 3rd Christmas album was a 1999 Fox TV Christmas Special called ‘The Ghosts of Christmas Eve’ which featured music from the group’s previous albums as well as guest appearance from such stars as Jewel and Michael Crawford. Based around the story of a little girl who ran away from home but returned for Christmas following the advice of a wise old man this was a colourful film that fleshed out the storylines in TSO’s Christmas catalogue.
‘The Lost Christmas Eve’, released in 2004, marked the final chapter of Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s epic story of Christmas and the band kept up their grand ideas to the end. Again the album was heavy on storyline with angels descending on New York City and with 23 tracks it was an enormous effort to take in on a single listen. For the most part though the band gave their material plenty of thought and each of the track displayed TSO’s idiosyncratic musical styles. So ‘Christmas Dreams’ might start off slow but it attains an impressive momentum carved out by expansive guitar riffs and heavy duty (almost heavy metal sounding) vocals. ‘Remember’ is wonderful too, an arrangement with sparse piano keys and a male choir to give you tingles down your spine.
In 2005 Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s 3 extraordinary Christmas albums were released as a boxset called ‘The Christmas Trilogy’ which included a bonus DVD of 1999’s ‘The Ghosts of Christmas Eve’. There would be a gap of 7 years before TSO returned to their natural yuletide berth and this time it was an EP called ‘Dreams of Fireflies (On A Christmas Night’). The 5-track release showed that the US band has lost none of its lust for the season with the EP taking off from where ‘The Lost Christmas Eve’ left off. The 2 opening tracks were perhaps the most arresting with the ebullient instrumental ‘Winter Palace’ opening proceedings before the title track successfully mixed classical with rock arena theatrics.
‘Dreams of Fireflies (On A Christmas Night’) appeared to kick-start Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s love affair with Christmas as 2013 ushered in several festive releases. ‘Tales of Winter: Selections from the TSO Rock Operas’ was a greatest hit of sorts gathering the best of the band’s 6 albums to date. ‘Merry Christmas Rabbi’ was a brand new release and a sequel to the Christmas Triology’s middle album ‘The Christmas Attic’ with the little girl featured on that release having returned from the attic with a journal that forms the basis for the concept behind ‘Merry Christmas Rabbi’.Author: Kevin