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December People

Rattle & Humbug

Review by Gary Hill

Robert Berry and company are back with a new release of holiday music. This time around the reference points aren’t as closely restricted to progressive rock as they were on the first December People album. That said, this is still definitely prog rock. It’s quite an entertaining release, too and stands up well alongside the original CD.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 6 at

Track by Track Review
What Child Is This

The musical motif here is mellow and quite catchy progressive rock in the early modes, but it powers out to harder rocking territory as it continues onward. They drop it back down for the verses. If there’s a specific and direct musical correlation here it escapes me. There is an instrumental section later that seems a bit more familiar with The Who and the Kinks both coming to mind.

Joy to the World / Jingle Bells
The Who are definitely the inspiration for this one. Nods to “Pinball Wizard” and “Baba O’Reilly” can definitely be heard. This is a cool rocker with holiday music merging with the more rock sounds. Of course, the music of The Who is a springboard and this is an original composition based on those songs and others.
We Three Kings
This is a far mellower cut that is based on an electronic progressive rock sound. I can’t pin any specific link here, but Sting’s Dream of Blue Turtles album is one possible reference. It’s a powerful cut with both cool instrumental textures and a potent vocal arrangement. It rocks out more as it continues. The powerhouse progressive rock jam later feels rather like Yes.
Little Drummer Boy
Emerson Lake and Palmer is certainly on the bill with this cool cut. The keyboards give it away, but there are plenty of other references in the arrangement. This is one of the highlights of the set.
Up on the Rooftop / Feliz Navidad
Starting with a cool percussion solo, old school Santana sounds are merged with progressive rock for this smoking hot piece. There is newer Santana on hand here, too. We get some definite Jose Feliciano with the second half of the track. There’s a smoking fiery jam at the end as they return to the “Up on the Rooftop” section of the song.
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
I hear Elton John on the piano based early sections to this piece, but I’m a big fan of Mr. Reginald Dwight, so that’s probably all in my ear. The cut is very much in a proggier Queen motif. It’s a real screamer later and they do a great job of capturing that Queen sound. That’s not an easy feat, either.
God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen / The First Noel
The reference point here is Boston and they do a great job of capturing that sound and hitting on some similar territory to the original without straight copying it. As they move out into “The First Noel” part of the track, though, it feels closer to Rush in many ways. Boston rules again later, though.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
And this time around we’re in ZZ Top territory. There are several changes and alterations along the course and some of the music seems more purely original than a pure nod to the little old band from Texas.
The Night Before Christmas
The basis for this is a proggier rendition of a reworking of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” It’s another strong piece of music. We’re taken out into something like “Kashmir” later. They work it back to the “Stairway…” like territory further down the musical road.
Angels We Have Heard On High
Anderson Bruford Wakeman and Howe would seem to be the inspiration for this. There are a number of variations on the themes and full on shifts throughout.
Carol of the Bells
I make out Yes, Genesis and a host of other progressive rock in the mix of this (although Yes is the most prominent reference). It feels quite original, while still nodding to various musical sources. It’s one of the strongest pieces on show and a great way to close the set in style.
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