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Trans-Siberian Orchestra: The Lost Christmas Eve

Trans-Siberian Orchestra has evolved into arguably the most successful holiday-music outfit in history unless you want to count Mannheim Steamroller. Created in 1996 by longtime Savatage producer/composer/lyricist Paul O'Neill with writing partners Robert Kinkel and Savatage founder Jon Oliva, TSO relies on a large cast of vocalists and musicians (including several current and former members of Savatage) to create its signature symphonic fusing of rock, metal, pop, rhythm & blues, classical and Broadway. The centerpiece of TSO's international success began with a Savatage instrumental called "Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)," which originally appeared on 1995's Dead Winter Dead and bridged "Carol of the Bells," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and original music. TSO reworked the song, inspired by the true story of a cellist who refused to be intimidated by the gunfire in his native city of Sarajevo, for its first album, 1996's Christmas Eve & Other Stories. The song became a phenomenon on a wide variety of radio stations, and TSO quickly found an audience just as diverse. Two years later came The Christmas Attic, and now The Lost Christmas Eve is upon us.

The new record continues the tradition of its two holiday predecessors by telling a musical tale of loss and redemption, this one encompassing a rundown hotel, an old toy store, a blues bar, a gothic cathedral and their respective inhabitants, whose destinies are intertwined during a single enchanted evening in New York City. The Lost Christmas Eve, which shipped Gold, follows many of the same musical paths TSO explored on previous albums and contains some of the band's lightest moments ("Christmas Jazz" and "Christmas Concerto," which recalls something out of a Lawrence Welk special) and heaviest songs ("Christmas Jam" and the title track, splendid in its bombast). In addition to plenty of piano-based ballads, choirs and power chords, there's "Back to a Reason (Part II,)" another nod to Savatage, as the original "Back to a Reason" appeared on 2001's Poets & Madmen. Note that the moving O'Neill-penned narrative in the thick CD booklet is well worth reading, despite its verbosity and sentimentality.

Despite the presence of several traditional Christmas carols, TSO's nontraditional delivery makes The Lost Christmas Eve, perhaps more so than either of its previous holiday records, a pleasurable listening experience any time of the year. Play it with someone you love even your mother.

Track Listing:
1) Faith Noel (4:32)
2) The Lost Christmas Eve (5:33)
3) Christmas Dreams (3:54)
4) Wizards in Winter (3:05)
5) Remember (3:25)
6) Anno Domine (2:13)
7) Christmas Concerto (0:42)
8) Queen of the Winter Night (3:11)
9) Christmas Nights in Blue (4:18)
10) Christmas Jazz (2:16)
11) Christmas Jam (3:47)
12) Siberian Sleigh Ride (3:08)
13) What is Christmas? (2:51)
14) For the Sake of Our Brother (3:09)
15) The Wisdom of Snow (2:01)
16) Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness) (3:09)
17) Back to a Reason (Part II) (4:52)
18) Christmas Bells, Carousels & Time (1:04)
19) What Child Is This? (5:57)
20) O' Come All Ye Faithful (1:26)
21) Christmas Canon Rock (5:02)
22) Different Wings (2:44)
23) Post Script: Midnight Clear (1:38)
Total Time: 74:38

Added: December 25th 2005
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official TSO Web Site
Hits: 37163
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Trans-Siberian Orchestra: The Lost Christmas Eve
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-12-25 07:03:48
My Score:

Not being a Christian country, we don't celebrate Christmas in Turkey. Therefore, the lyrical content on TSO albums (except Beethoven's Last Night) has never been of much significance to me. I have been following them because I happen to be a big fan of Savatage whose music I enjoy a lot. TSO producer Paul O'Neill and and main songwriter Jon Oliva have been exploring a different kind of music in their side-project (which eventually turned into another full-time band) and The Lost Christmas Eve is the last album of their Christmas trilogy. I personally think their previous disc Beethoven's Last Night is better than all three Christmas discs put together and wasn't really enthusiastic about The Lost Christmas Eve as I tend to grow tired of TSO's Christmas stuff after a while whereas BLN continues to remain an ageless masterpiece. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I heard The Lost Christmas Eve.

While the first TSO release may, to most fans, still be their best among their Christmas albums, this one is without doubt the darkest, heaviest and most progressive of the three. This may be due to the fact that it shares a good amount of common characteristics with Beethoven's Last Night: hauntingly melodic songwriting and relentlessly heavy musicianship! On the other hand, it continues to expand upon the synthesis of progressive music and textured soundscapes previously established on their first two Christmas records. There is also a stronger emphasis on vocal arrangements here with more dynamic song structures. Paul O'Neill's primary songwriting partner, Jon Oliva, didn't contribute to The Lost Christmas Eve as much as before, mainly because he was busy with his solo album (which you should check out as well), but Paul O'Neill proves to be stronger than ever. He wrote all lyrics and most of the music himself with the exception of some tunes where he was accompanied by other writing partners such as Rob Kinkel and Al Pitrelli. Special mention goes to Pitrelli who, as the musical director of TSO, certainly leaves his imprint on most of the songs, particularly the amazing album-opener "Faith Noel", the mid-section on "Wizard in Winter", the Mozart-influenced "Queen of the Winter Night", and the "Christas Jazz" and "Christmas Jam" masterpieces. Former Savatage axeman Alex Skolnick as well as Paul O'Neill himself among others also play some impressive leads and rhythms throughout the disc.

I do agree that it would have been to cool to hear Jon Oliva singing lead on a couple of songs, but I feel none of the tracks on The Lost Christmas Eve are suitable for him. I know that "Back to a Reason pt.2" is actually a song off of Savatage's last record Poets and Madmen, but Robert Evan who sings it on this disc does a fantastic rendition, especially in the ending when he switches to different lyrics and vocal stylings. Evan also defines the other two tracks he appears on, "What is Christmas?" and "What Child is This?", both of which have a certain BLN flavour to them. Paul O'Neill, however, could have used new Savatage singer Damond Jiniya on one track just so Damond could prove his incredible range and versatility. Since a new Sava album isn't going to come out any time soon, introducing Damond to the Sava fans would have been great. That said, each singer is amazing on the album, be it the title track, which is one of the best songs on the record, "Christmas Dreams" with Michael Lanning who has a grittier voice, the female vocal-driven tunes "Christmas Canon Rock" and "Different Ways" (with a killer scream in the end) or "For the Sake of Our Brother" delivered by Daryl Pediford who unfortunately passed away shortly after recording the album. I'm not saying this cause Pediford is no longer with us, but this song is one of the most haunting vocal deliveries ever, on ANY Trans-Siberian Orchestra release. It is strictly vocal based and Pediford's vocals give me goosebumps. May he rest in peace.

Finally the instrumentals, i.e. the strongest aspect of the album. The album is filled with tons of brilliant moments mainly led by Al Pitrelli and Paul O'Neill. A wide range of instruments are used and weaved together in a haunting combination of rock, prog, Broadway, and modern Christmas music. Paul O'Neill offers us new renditions of Mozart and Liszt. "Wish Liszt" is mercilessly heavy, and this only adds to the song's tension as it kicks off right after "The Wisdom of Snow" (which actually is the piano intro of "Back to a Reason" from Savatage's Poets and Madmen album). Its crushing groove, rhythmic bass and guitars along with pummeling drums is the ultimate climax of this CD. However, the songs preceding this, "Christmas Jazz", "Christmas Jam" and "Siberian Sleigh Ride", are equally mesmerizing with their epic structure, unexpected mood shifts, and dexterous instrumentation. In short, Paul O'Neill continues to make bold statements in his artistic evolution, and now that he's got the Christmas trilogy out of his system, I want a new Savatage album and the long-awaited Romanov project next.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra: The Lost Christmas Eve
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-11-20 07:20:58
My Score:

A few years have passed since the last release for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and this one comes with some anticipation. With The Lost Christmas Eve we find the Christmas Trilogy at its completion and offering another glimpse into the magic that this group can deliver. As you would expect this CD continues along in the same musical themes as their previous efforts of Christmas Eve And Other Stories and The Christmas Attic. The mix of classical, holiday and rock is blended together in a very effective manner once again. The 1st CD is by far the best and in my opinion very difficult to surpass, yet I found that I also enjoyed the new one quite a bit. I actually preferred this over The Christmas Attic. With "TLCE" there are more instrumentals and I felt that these added some amount of progression from the first two by taking similar ideas and expanding upon them. The best way to view the numbers is to also realize that they are heavier than the last efforts managed to be. Songs like "Wizards In Winter" and "Siberian Sleigh Ride" are absolutely rocking and get repeat plays on my stereo when I listen. The vocal tracks hold a very Broadway feel to them which makes one wonder if Trans-Siberian Orchestra's storylines will eventually be taken to the stage in that capacity. It could actually work as the story laid out on each of the albums is quite good. The proper director and stage design could make this even bigger than the Holiday show at Radio City Music Hall in my opinion.

Once again under the watchful eye of Creators Paul O'Neill and Robert Kinkel the release has a lot of overall highlights. In addition to the tracks I referenced above I also found myself enjoying "Christmas Jam" but was sad to find "Faith Noel" to be such a carryover from Attic's "Boughs Of Holly". The players on the CD while too numerous to list all of include Chris Caffery, Jeff Plate and Al Pitrelli - all of them members of the legendary Savatage. There were a number of strong vocal numbers and as I said they had such a Broadway feel to them that just makes you feel as if you watch a play while listening. Songs such as "What Is Christmas" are among the best examples of this style. "Christmas Canon Rock" is a redo of the "Christmas Canon" from the last album and finds a stellar female vocal instead of choir this time around. There are two short pieces in "Christmas Concierto" and "Christmas Jazz" which personally I could take or leave but with 75 minutes of music to enjoy you are certainly getting your money's worth on the record. One of the surprises that the Savatage fans might enjoy is the inclusion of "Back To A Reason" (first featured on "Poets And Madmen" and now given the Trans-Siberian Orchestra style). "For The Sake Of Our Brother" is a soulfully sung number by the late Daryl Pediford. The band lost Daryl just before touring began in 2004 and he will be truly missed both on recordings and in concert. I feel he remains a part of all the TSO fan and band hearts just the same.

If it has taken this long for you to give the music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra a chance then that is indeed a shame. However while I admit this CD grew on me after a few listens, it is still not the same as Christmas Eve And Other Stories. My advice holds to buy that one first and then adventure further on. With the "Christmas Trilogy" complete now is actually the best time to give them a try. I doubt you will be disappointed.

» Reader Comments:

Trans-Siberian Orchestra: The Lost Christmas Eve
Posted by Hugh Dark on 2007-01-02 18:51:42
My Score:

The Ken Pierce review is the one to read as he is the most accurate. I could see this going broadway as well and it would not surprise me if the details of such a thing was being worked out. In fact, they could hire Dennis DeYoung to sing on songs 2 and 3. It would be perfect for him!
This cd is a little to strategic sounding to top the first one even though it has moments of superiority. The vocal performances are more intoned and professional, but they are hampered by a lingering stiffness in the production. I was very happy to hear the childrens choir being limited to one track entitled "Remember", but they outsmart themselves when they make the ever so predictable contrast with the adult choir on the following song"Anno Domine".
I believe the acoustic guitar is the real star of the show. On songs like "Christmas Jazz" it is played with exceptional dynamics and a warm joy that is neither overwrought or unnecessary. Listen to the astounding "Midnight Clear" that closes the cd and hear what the "real deal" is about at Christmas time. These acoustic pieces blow the ones on the first cd out of the water! Hands down!!! *On a sidenote* The talking in the fade out reminds me of the Dee outakes on the Tribute cd.
There are 2 songs on the cd that are an absolute throw-away and they are "Christmas Concerto" and "Christmas Bells, Carousels & Time". The former being a muffled sounding tribute to the past that just does not fit the production (Is the title a spoof on Simon & Garfunkle's Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Time?) and the latter could act as the first Christmas horror theme for a unnamed movie that King Diamond is penning the soundtrack for. See what I mean; they just don't fit.
The only other gripe I had is with the song "Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness)". It satisfies in being the most complex in terms of arrangement, but blows it by not including more solo flourishes. Franz was the most accomplished piano player ever and there is no one to this day that can play all of his composistions. There are those working on it, but their interpretations very in quality of virtuosic consistency. He was also the first composer who invited and encouraged people from all social classes to come to his concerts. Anyway, don't take the easy way out, pay the man a proper tribute rather than coining his name for a clever song title.
If you like the first cd you should have no problems with this. Excellent!

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