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The Sounding Board by R J Lannan
RJ Lannan is the reviewer for The Sounding Board.
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RJ's 2009 Holiday Music Reviews
By V/A
RJ's 2009 Holiday Music Reviews
It is just after Thanksgiving and just before the Christmas holidays. As I write, I am enjoying hot chocolate with a little whip cream. Okay, a lot of whip cream. There is quite a bit of great holiday music to choose from this season. All these albums would make great gifts that go beyond the ordinary in their sentiment and accomplishment. I have so much to be thankful for this year. One of my thoughts was - I wish everyone could be as blessed as I am for just a day. For the coming year I wish for you all fortune (in every sense of the word), good health and above all else… peace.
– R J Lannan

The Holiday Spirit
Aaron Meyer
Independent Release

Rock Violinist Aaron Meyer puts his eclectic brand on ten tracks of traditional holiday music on his album The Holiday Spirit and does so with panache. Sometimes edgy, sometimes melancholic, but always entertaining. I promise you that after you hear this performer, you are going to want to hear more. I did. The album features Meyer on violin, a plethora of some great musicians and some vocals by the talented Brown Sisters. Outstanding tracks include The Carol of the Bells, Light of Shalom and Angels We Have Heard on High. One of the most remarkable tunes on the album is Vivaldi's Concerto in B Minor for four violins and rock orchestra. Yeah, rock orchestra. Wow! Highly recommended.

Rating: Excellent

A New England Christmas
Futura Productions

For the sound of an old-fashioned Christmas Noel's A New England Christmas is the choice. Her strong vocals and traditional tunes will bring back many memories and help to produce new ones. It is no mere coincidence that her name means Christmas, for she was born to sing of her passion and faith. Wish You Were Here, penned by Noel herself is a song for all those that are anywhere but home on this family holiday. One of the best cuts is Bring the Torch Jeannette, Isabella and a personal favorite. Although not originally a carol, the old French song never fails to bring a feeling of nostalgia for my own New England Christmases. Still, Still, Still and O Holy Night are remarkable, but Polish Lullaby is the embodiment of sweetness and light.

Rating: Good

Christmas for Two
Lisa Downing
Vision Quest Entertainment

Christmas for Two, the latest by pianist Lisa Downing is unique in that it combines several well-known tunes in every song, sort of like traditional Irish music does on occasion. She gets off to a wonderful beginning with the tunes God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen / Carol of the Bells. It is obvious that a lot of thought went into these marvelous segues. It is like opening a Christmas present that has been wrapped several times and the anticipation is euphoric. My favorite track on the recording is the combination O Come O Come Emmanuel / Do you Hear What I Hear. Very passionate, very evocative. I keep forgetting that Greensleeves has another identity, but Lisa reminded me on her song blend What Child Is This / We Three Kings, my childhood favorite. Recommended.

Rating; Good+

December Peace
Stanton Lanier
Music to Light the World

I had the pleasure of reviewing Stanton Lanier's first album Unveiled and it went immediately on my Top Ten for 2008. His holiday album December Peace would be on my holiday top ten if I had one. He opens his piano and light ensemble album with a most appropriate song, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. The rendition is passionately beautiful in its simplicity, stultifying versions I have heard using pipe organs with hundreds of horns. In The Bleak of Midwinter, a traditional tune by Gustav Holst is a melody that warms the heart with its soft echoing accompaniment of English horn. Stanton's original song Shepherds and Stars is evocative of the cold desert darkness, the one Great Star and a miraculous night that neither man nor history will ever forget. No holiday album would be complete without Silent Night and Stanton's version is quite memorable as is another of his original tunes Thanksgiving. This album is highly recommended and it is a great album to play any time the winter blahs threaten your spirit.

Rating: Excellent

O Christmas Tree
Christopher Boscole
Centaur Music

Utilizing a nine-foot Steinway D Concert Grand piano Christopher Boscole offers up a dramatic holiday album with style. His solo piano work O Christmas Tree has nineteen tracks of traditional music as well as some old chestnuts that are still warm in our memories. He opens with an original composition called The Gift. It everything a Christmas morning should be – crackling fires, cerulean skies, French toast with warm syrup and the knowledge of love and life that will persevere. The title track O Christmas Tree at more than seven and a half minutes is quite a memorable tune with a flamboyant display worthy of Keith Richards. Its complexities are beyond description. Snow on Big Mountain is another original tune that is quite remarkable. Christopher begins musically with big, fluffy flakes of snow falling incessantly and transforming the landscape into a Christmas card of snow-capped peaks as towering pines don their white winter coats and the air turns frosty and crisp. This album has over an hour's worth of terrific holiday fare, and although this is not a recent release, it a noteworthy recording.

Rating: Very Good

Christmas Presence
Merrill Collins
Spiraling Music

Merrill Collins has been providing music on a national as well as global scale for decades. She offers a holiday piano album overflowing with traditional tunes and old-fashioned memories. Her music has been used for everything from social gatherings to Tai Chi demonstrations. O Holy Night replete with bells is quite a favorite. Actually many of the tracks feature jingle bells, Tibetan bells and piano. The First Noel, my favorite on the album is presented as a melancholy ballad and conjures up memories of Christmases past. It was a time when we had only two gifts under the tree in our living room. One was the gift of heat from a godsend of a neighbor and the other, outside, the gleaming of stars on a cold New England night. With the sound of gentle wind chimes O Come, O Come Emmanuel, my all-time holiday favorite is nostalgically rendered with memorable grace. As an added Christmas gift, Merrill offers a ringtone on the album. A gift that keeps on giving.

Rating: Good

Piano Christmas
Peter Kater
Point of Light Records

Legendary New Age pianist Peter Kater offers a delightful holiday album that is a feast of traditional tunes and classical music that comes out of the darkness like a new star. Peter’s rendition of Coventry Carol, one of the oldest recorded carols from the 16th century is as compelling and dramatic as is the original story of Herod's anger and brutality. How Satie's Gymnopedie No. 1 got on the bill, I don’t know, but my favorite composer is always welcome at any time of the year. I remembered out of the blue the melody from the TV program The Snowman. The artwork was luminous as was the score by Howard Blake. Kater’s version is no less brilliant. This solo piano album is highly recommended.

Rating: Excellent
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 12/3/2009
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