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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Diane Arkenstone & Misha Segal

Christmas Healing Volume 1

Review by Gary Hill

Here we have the first of three volumes of Christmas music released by Diane Arkenstone and Misha Segal this year. While each disc can be purchased separately, I’d advise buying them as a set. It’s a better deal that way and it would be hard to choose which one to get as they are all strong. This music is mellow and mostly traditional. It’s great mood setting stuff for your holiday celebration. For more information (or to make your purchase), check out the website.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 6 and Music Street Journal the Holiday Edition at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Silent Night
Gentle and pretty, this is a touching rendition of the classic Christmas song. The vocals seem a bit too far down in the mix, though. That said, the musical arrangement is impeccable.
It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
With a playful ballad approach, this one is pretty. It’s one of the more effective pieces in the whole set of discs. And that comes considering that it’s not one of my favorite holiday songs to begin with.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
A bit unusual in terms of arrangement, this features some kind of a flute, bringing a Native American sound to the table. It’s essentially a ballad structure here, and this song is very pretty. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before, though, and I’m not crazy about the overall construction. In other words, while I really like the arrangement and musicianship, I’m not crazy about the song structure, leaving this a bit wanting in the heart of this reviewer.
Angels We Have Heard On High
Alternating between piano based sections and those created by acoustic guitar, this instrumental rendition is a bit unusual. It’s also quite beautiful.
Joy To The World
This has a 1960’s folk music sort of feel to it. When the arrangement fills out with more layers of vocals it’s a nice touch. I’m just not overly impressed with this cut. Still, when it shifts out to the more rocking mode for a short time (a little reminiscent of the Vince Guaraldi Charlie Brown Christmas stuff) it livens it up for a bit.
O Christmas Tree
OK, be honest, who out there can hear this song and not picture the killer Christmas trees from Saturday Night Live? I don’t see many hands up. Well, despite that connection, this is still a pretty song and the folk sort of acoustic guitar ballad motif works well for it.
Good King Wenceslas
This instrumental has a definite old world texture to it. It’s pretty and soothing. It’s one of the highlights of the disc.
The First Noel
Acoustic guitar provides the backdrop and the melody for this instrumental. Other instrumentation joins in later on down the road. This is one of my two or three favorites from all three CD’s. It works quite well.
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Piano starts off with the familiar melody and builds up in dramatic ways on this musical theme for a couple measures. Then the vocals enter and the song is reborn. This has always been one of my favorite Christmas melodies and it works quite well here.
We Wish You A Merry Christmas
Bouncy and fun, this feels like a sing along at a family gathering – at least at first. The first portion of the track is just piano and then piano and vocals. After a while, though, other instruments join and take a way the at home Christmas texture. You just can’t go wrong with this song and they play it pretty traditionally.
 
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