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The Sounding Board by R J Lannan
RJ Lannan is the reviewer for The Sounding Board.
Other reviews from The Sounding Board by R J Lannan:
  Winter Fantasy by David Arkenstone, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 12/12/2016
  Road To Chiang Mai by Bill Wren, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 12/5/2016
  Innisfall by Innisfall, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 11/30/2016
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Winter Fantasy
By David Arkenstone & Charlee Brooks
Label: Green Hill
Released 11/2/2016
Winter Fantasy tracks
1. The First Noel
2. What Child Is This
3. Deck The Halls/God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
4. Winter Fantasy
5. The Bells Of Christmas
6. Noel Nouvelet
7. Gaudete
8. The Darkest Midnight In December
9. New Snow
10. O Holy Night
11. A Wassail, A Wassail Throughout This Town
12. Veni Veni Emmanuel
13. Carol Of The Bells
Winter Fantasy
I’m supposing that David Arkenstone feels fortunate that he already knew of an angel to sing on the new album, Winter Fantasy. Charlee Brooks, one of New Age music's most affecting voices proffers her talents on a Celtic and atmospheric winter journey into traditional and innovative holiday music. The lush and lyrical thirteen track album has Arkenstone's signature imaginative orchestration combined with Brook's seraphic vocals. You think you might have heard every Christmas carol version, but you have not heard them like this.

The opening cut, The First Noel, with a sedate violin intro suddenly bursts into this fanciful reverie with pipers piping and drummers drumming. Brooks' silvery soliloquy is blissful and rhythmic.

Arkenstone offers a polished and up-tempo rendition of Deck the Halls/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Flutes, violins, drums and fresh composing makes this duo a new kind of carol. You can't help but tap your toe on this one.

The title tune Winter Fantasy is a show stopper. It is one I've never heard before, but it becomes a memorable number suitable for a live performance. The music is swelling and dramatic as the beauty and power of winter miracles are extoled. Brooks shines on this one like something sparkling on the Christmas tree of life.

Noel Nouvelet is a haunting instrumental from the 15th century, yet David modernizes it with expressive flute, a soft chorus and a chiming harp. Although it is considered a New Year's carol, it seems to fit right in with this enthralling collection.

One of my favorites, (one of many) is a song called The Darkest Midnight in December. Charlee's tender ballad recounts one of the most fateful nights in humankind's history. Was it dark? Yes, but it had a star that outshone them all. Was it cold? Yes, but the warmth of faith comforted all. Flute and piano reign in this sumptuous narrative.

Gaudete, the 16th century hymn converted to carol revels in the birth of Jesus Christ in a most reverent way. Gaudete means rejoice and, and under the auspices of Arkenstone and Brooks, it is an inspiring song celebrating hope for the whole world.

New Snow is another instrumental full of sparkling highlights in a lush composition that describes the beauty of a white landscape. The snow makes everything clean and fresh. It hides the shortcomings of nature and mankind and it reminds us that someday soon, spring will offer us another chance.

Brooks offers a heavenly vocalization of O Night Divine that is as chilling as it is beautiful. Her singular angelic expression leads all our souls to great heights as her voice soars ever higher.

With glistening clarity and sophisticated orchestration, Arkenstone offers up his finale, Carol of the Bells. His concept of Christmas time tintinnabulation is joyful and more than merry. Church bells join jingling sleigh bells in this artful tune full of energy and spirit. It is truly one to remember.

Winter Fantasy is one of my favorite Christmas time albums of the year. Every tune is a vignette, a production number that celebrates the delight everyone should experience at this most joyous time of the year.

Very highly recommended.
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 12/12/2016
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