Showing posts with label Holiday Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holiday Reviews. Show all posts

Holiday Review: Dan Blanchard-The Spirit of Christmas

Release Date: December 7, 2018
Label: Peaceful Vibes  
Dan Blanchard has created one of the more unique Christmas albums I have ever heard. The Spirit of Christmas is the title, which is about as generic and traditional as you can get but don’t let that simple title fool you. This is a significant music project and a tremendous accomplishment for the artists involved.

Dan has some incredibly talented people join him on this release and since there is the song “Twelve Days of Christmas,” he gives us 12 tracks to enjoy and guess what the twelfth track is? Everything seems to fall in line so far…just wait.

What Daniel sought to create was a musical holiday adventure that was steeped in traditional Christmas Carols and Indian Classical Music. This, of course, provided the opportunity to combine these elements with some improvisation. The cross-section of instruments included on this recording includes Sitar, Santoor, Harmonium, Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar, Mandolin, Tanpura, Tabla, Percussion, Bansuri Flute, Indian Slide Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, and Violin. Just stop and think about the kind of sounds all of those instruments can make and you will be filled with anticipation before hitting the play button.

This is exactly the type of Holiday album I love to hear actually, rather than the same songs year after year with no expectations of change or any kind of new experience. I do respect these traditional songs and from whence they came, however, I do enjoy an artist that is willing to try something entirely different with enough confidence that it is going to work. When it does work, a listener can become mesmerized and also very appreciative of the worldly experience that is being offered.

The core foundation of Indian Classical music is three components, Drone, Rāga and Tāla. The Drone is the part of the music that is continuous throughout the song, the Rāga is the melody and the Tāla is rhythm. So, what you get are two classic traditional forms of music intersecting for a fantastic combination of sounds, rhythms, textures, and color.  Think of it as big Christmas tree with a multitude of different colored lights, that is what this music is and it’s absolutely beautiful, meditative, spiritual and joyous.

Dan’s love for both traditions is what inspired this album and why it turned out so well. I usually get the “Bah! Humbug!,” feelings when I see all the holiday things coming out the same time just before Halloween, it just feels so artificial and money driven. So along comes musical projects like The Spirit of Christmas to put it all into a proper perspective and allow me to focus on the true meaning of the holiday and the pure beauty and worldliness of the music.

Music, the universal healer, it makes the world a better place and this kind of release make you think about the entire planet, not just your own community in a town or city. This is a worldwide spirit that comes in many different forms, languages, and sounds, it really is a beautiful thing and I am grateful for the reminder of that. Thank you, Dan, for transforming me from the Scrooge into old Saint Nick! This truly is The Spirit of Christmas.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
December 7, 2018

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Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

01. We Wish You A Merry Christmas
02. Ode to Joy (Beethoven’s 9th Symphony – Movement 4)
03. Jingle Bells
O4. It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
05. We Three Kings
06. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
O7. Carol of the Strings (Bells)
O8. Silent Night
09. Joy to the World
10. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
11. Good King Wenceslas
12. Twelve Days of Christmas


Holiday/New Age Instrumental Review: Doug Hammer-Christmas Lights

Release Date: November 27, 2015
Label: Dreamworld Productions

Christmas Lights, Doug Hammer's tenth release, is a follow-up to his award-winning Christmas album, Noel. It contains seventeen traditional favorites and a new original composition, Christmas Lights. There is a combination of new age, holiday, classical and more mixed into the compositions.

Over the last year I have become more appreciative of piano-based music than ever before. I find it simplistic and complex, moving and emotional, relaxing and uplifting…those are a few of the prominent terms that come to mind.

Doug’s piano playing invites you into a world filled with the wonder of Christmas through the eyes of a child who is now an adult. With all the bright colorful lights and the joy of taking a drive with your family to see different houses and how their lights and decorations displayed in all their splendor… the music sweeps you away to a magical place removed from your current reality.

What is presented here is simple and straightforward piano music with different elements sprinkled in, kind of like Grandma’s special recipe for Christmas cookies. Doug’s talented fingers do all the talking through this instrumental journey. With the stroke of each note the Holiday is right at your doorstep beckoning you to come in and let it absorb your being. If that is the intent here, it surely accomplishes that.

“Away In A Manger” is beautifully done. Doug’s fingers delicately stroke the keys and you instantly envision the little Lord Jesus in the manger. The effect is seamless, powerful and effective, taking you away to when this event actually took place so long.

Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabella” is an upbeat track; it is like dancing on the rooftops on a crisp winter night, thus asking the fair ladies to bring along some light to lead the way. This probably has nothing to do with the meaning of the song; however that is what it did for me. Everyone is affected in different ways by music. The sheer beauty of unencumbered instrumental music is the fact that you can paint your own picture as you go.

”Deck The Halls” is another age old-classic done in a way you will likely hear for the first time. The piano playing is amazing. The artist builds the song into his own by playing layer upon layer of keys and at a very quick pace. It is like a tidal wave of music with one instrument serving as the featured star. I absolutely loved it.

Doug closes the curtain on this newly born Christmas classic recording with his original title track. It is a step away from the norm as he turns the page on all the classic compositions and gives each listener a taste of his own Christmas and his incredible talent for capturing the moment. I found it a wonderful way to close out the album and it leaves it open for another chapter to come perhaps?

It usually does not take me long to get my fill of Christmas music because of the commercialism and it all kicking in prior to Halloween now. This music however allows me to actually find the true meaning of the Holiday and appreciate a talented artist pouring his heart and soul into something that carries a message and heartfelt meaning. This is great instrumental music that I think can be enjoyed any time of year, but for now you are well advised to enjoy it and usher in the Holiday. 

4.5/5 Stars

01. Angels We Have Heard On High
02. Joy To The World
03 It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
04. Away In A Manger
05. Il Est Né Le Divin Enfant
06. Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabella
07. Deck The Halls
08. O Come, All Ye Faithful
09. What Child Is This?
10. Once In Royal David's City
11. Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring
12. Good King Wenceslas
13. Jingle Bells
14. Still, Still, Still
15. Coventry Carol
16. O Holy Night
17. Toyland
18. Christmas Lights

Key Tracks: Away In A Manger, Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabella, Deck The Halls

Keith “MuzikManHannaleck- New Age Music Reviews Founder
December 5, 2015

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews