When last did an artist with even the slightest progressive music leanings
fill prestigious arenas like Madison Square Garden - in city after city, year
Born of progressive-metal grand-daddies Savatage, and by producer and
songwriter extraordinaire Paul O'Neil, Trans-Siberian Orchestra has become a
regular in America's most prestigious venues and has attracted increasingly
large audiences of all ages and all musical tastes, since 1996. TSO is one
of Lava / Atlantic'e top artists, they've gone multi-platinum, their music has
been featured in several films such as The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," and
"Little Vampires", and in 2006, the band's The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve
DVD was featured on Public Broadcast Television.
Whether it's really prog or not is irrelevant - it's hard to argue with that
kind of success.
O'Neil wanted to recreate the lost art of the rock opera. He developed
great yarns and collaborators Jon Oliva and Robert Kinkel helped write rich,
approachable music to convey them - but the masterstroke was to place his
storylines against the backdrop of some of mankind's biggest stories. Life
after death, Beethoven's 9th symphony - written when he was deaf, and
particularly, Christmas itself. And it is the annual Christmas shows that
have launched TSO into the spotlight. Trans-Siberian Orchestra now
comprises two bands, that tour simultaneously - allowing the show to be
seen by twice as many people in the very condensed November / December
timeframe. In fact the show is played a staggering 118 times in 89 cities
Read on for the Sea Of Tranquility's full report on Trans-Siberian Orchestra,
including interviews, concert reports, and our reviews of the band's entire back catalog.
When asked what Trans-Siberian Orchestra was about, Paul O'Neil replied "It's
about creating great art ... the purpose of art is to create an emotional
response in the person that is exposed to that art."
And having played guitar in touring productions of Jesus Christ Superstar
and Hair, you have to assume the man knows what he's talking about.
In addition to those rock operas, Paul has promoted tours for Madonna and Sting,
Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and Ronnie James Dio - and his productions
include Aerosmith's platinum Classics Live, Volumes 1 & 2 and
several of Savatage's critically albums and rock operas.
So in forming Trans-Siberian Orchestra he had a tremendous depth of talent to
draw on - and he tapped into the prog-metal artists of Savatage, as well as some
of the greatest talents in the classical, rock, Broadway and R&B worlds to
perform on his albums.
From the beginning, O'Neil's main collaborators have been Jon Oliva and
Robert Kinkel. Oliva will be familiar to readers of the Sea Of Tranquility for
his work in Savatage, the band he co-founded with his late brother Criss, and
for whom he was the principal writer, keyboardist and lead singer. In 1995 Savatage released Dead Winter Dead, produced by Paul O'Neil, which
featured the instrumental piece "Christmas Eve Sarajevo-12/24". That song
was the springboard for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Robert Kinkel is an
experienced session musician, he's done engineering work for artists such as The
Who, The Police and Genesis, and is a successful, prolific creator of
advertising jingles for organizations like Coke, AT&T and Verizon. He also
collaborated Paul O'Neill and Jon Oliva on Savatage's music.
Savatage's guitarist Chris Caffrey, a long-standing friend of the Sea Of
Tranquility, was an early recruit and plays lead guitar and is master of
ceremonies at the live shows.
The staff at Sea Of Tranquility has taken the time to review Trans-Siberian
back catalog. See below for an interview and a full list of the reviews which together
- and at 9,400 words - constitute one of the most comprehensive retrospectives of
Click on each item to see the review.
(Oh - and see if you can find a wee Easter Egg in this article!)