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Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Bringing Proggy Music Back Into The Public Spotlight
Posted on Sunday, December 24 2006 @ 17:13:51 CST by Duncan Glenday
Progressive Rock

When last did an artist with even the slightest progressive music leanings fill prestigious arenas like Madison Square Garden - in city after city, year after 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 nationwide.

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 Orchestra's entire 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 TSO's music anywhere, ever.

Click on each item to see the review.

Year Album Reviewer Rating
1996 Christmas Eve & Other Stories Ken Pierce
1998 The Christmas Attic Ken Pierce
2000 Beethoven's Last Night Ken Pierce
2001 The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve (DVD) Ken Pierce
2004 The Lost Christmas Eve Michael Popke

Year Item By

Trans-Siberian Orchestra at The Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester, NH November
Steve Pettengill


Chris Caffery-Savatage and Trans Siberian Orchestra Guitarist Goes Solo
Pete Pardo

Chris Caffery at BB King Club in NYC 4-28-05
Pete Pardo
Trans-Siberian Orchestra Bring Their Holiday Event to MSG!
Pete Pardo
Trans-Siberian Orchestra Hits the Continental Airlines Arena 12/21/2006
Ken Pierce

(Oh - and see if you can find a wee Easter Egg in this article!)

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Trans-Siberian Orchestra at The Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester, NH November

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