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Non-Prog CD Reviews

David Arkenstone

Christmas Lounge

Review by Gary Hill

Getting music for your holiday festivities can be challenging. I mean, there’s always the classics, but we’ve heard them so many times – and how many versions do you really need? Then there are things that are quite removed from sounding holiday-like. Well, here’s an intriguing disc. Although it is supposed to sound like waiting room music, I don’t hear that. I’d put this somewhere in the range of soft jazz to keyboard dominated progressive rock. This disc is quite good. I’d have to say if there’s one complaint it’s that it doesn’t always seem that much like a holiday disc. Of course, that can be a good thing, too. It’s definitely a tasty piece of variety to help you celebrate the festive season.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Sleigh Ride

Appropriately, sleigh bells start this and show up from time to time during the cut. Otherwise, this has a nice electronic lounge jazz feeling to it. The familiar melodies work well in this new environment.

Deck The Halls
There’s more of a Christmas texture to this, but there’s also a shuffling, sort of electronic beat. It doesn’t differ a lot from the previous piece, but we’re in no risk of monotony yet.
Angels We Have Heard on High
The motif that leads us out here reminds me a bit of Pink Floyd. This modulates out into a tasty mellow jazz instrumental journey. I really don’t hear a lot of the main song here (yes, it does show up in terms of some lead melody lines later) and it doesn’t seem overtly holiday oriented, but this is a killer track and one of my favorites of the set. I can make out Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk and Alan Parsons at varying points.
O Come All Ye Faithful
The most blatantly holiday oriented cut we’ve heard so far, this features the main melody more prominently than on the previous pieces. I like this one a lot. It’s still got enough of that cool jazzy sound to keep it from feeling like any other holiday album, but yet we can make out the song. It reminds me a bit of some of Mannheim Steamroller’s holiday music.
Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy
Almost symphonic in nature, this is one of the most intriguing pieces on show here. It’s got plenty of the original music and feels quite a bit in the spirit of the holiday while still being rather adventurous and original.
We Three Kings
This is a dramatic and quite progressive rock oriented cut that’s not overly holiday oriented. The synthesizer sounds on this are noteworthy.
Carol Of The Bells
Evocative and pretty, this is closer to some of the earlier music on the set. Personally I wish there were more of the original on this, but that’s just because I am completely enamored with that composition. It’s another that gets more proggy at times.
Do You Hear What I Hear?
There’s a definite jazzy Pink Floyd element to this, but also some funk. The traditional melody here is presented mostly through acoustic guitar.
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
There are actually some vocals on this one, but they are in the background and processed. Beyond that this doesn’t differ a lot from the rest of the music here – yet it still has its own identity.
Jingle Bells
One of the most jazz oriented cuts on show here, I really don’t hear much of the original song on this at all. It also has some definite progressive rock tendencies.
The First Noel
Although the formula is starting to wear a little thin, this is a tasty number and features the main melody more prominently. 
 
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