Saturday, December 12, 2015

REO SPEEDWAGON-Not So Silent Night: Christmas With REO Speedwagon (2009)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: December 12, 2015

Now allow me to turn your attention to my second Christmas album feature of the 2015 holiday season. "Not So Silent Night: Christmas With REO Speedwagon" is surely an early Christmas gift for some of you; in a way, it's an early surprise gift for me. I haven't had the pleasure too often during my lifetime of tuning into the Champaign, Illinois rock band who broke out with those unforgettable hits "Can't Fight This Feeling" and "Take It On The Run" back in my favorite decade. But it was all pleasure and more when I spent well over an hour of my time—in a span of a couple of days, no less!—wrapped up in the holiday spirit with iconic lead vocalist Kevin Cronin and company. No point in keeping silent about it tonight—this has gotta be THE greatest rock-inspired Christmas album I've ever heard! So many brilliant moments to be had with every one of the sixteen tunes, which eventually prompted me to say to myself, 'I gotta listen to all of these songs again'! Which is shocking even to myself, as I've only been able to say that about certain particular renditions of Christmas songs before and not an entire album! Among the shining moments is when this REO SPEEDWAGON bunch takes the lively, upbeat rockin' approach and do some serious jammin' on "Winter Wonderland", "Deck The Halls", "Joy To The World", "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen" (this classic-rock style version of the traditional hymn is cool with the fun combination of the rock guitars, soft piano and the great backup vocals, with my favorite moment being the awesome instrumental break driven by the downshift in tempo before the screaming guitars take over for a few measures) and my personal pair of favorites: "Sleigh Ride", which I've gotten super-addicted to in a short time, and "Children Go Where I Send Thee" (I love these traditional 'counting' songs; "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" and the popular children's rhyme, "The Ants Go Marching One By One" are a couple of others I like), which is a super-thrill that makes me feel like dancin' (the background vocalists on this one are fantastic!). The band shines equally when they slow the tempo and take the power ballad approach on "Silent Night" (a Christmas album for me is never complete without an inclusion of this holiday staple; such a stunningly moving performance by Cronin and those same soulful backup singers), "Angels We Have Heard On High (Gloria)" (different in its rock format, but it totally works!), Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" (definitely one of the best takes on this traditional classic I've ever heard!) and "Little Drummer Boy" (I love the thunderous production infused into this one, complete with a catchy marching drum beat in the closing movements that adds a special touch). Taking an even slower and more peaceful approach still meant that the tunes were shining bright. "The White Snows Of Winter" is one I'm not too familiar with, though the delivery and part of the lyrics was a bit recognizable. I just enjoyed the lovely orchestrals mixed with the soft piano—absolutely wonderful on the ears! And their bluesy, ringing rendition of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" truly is one to ring home about! Perhaps the only thing blemish on this record—if you could even call it as such—is the introductory snippet of "The First Noel", as I didn't get to hear it in its entirety, but in no way did it ruin the spectacular time I enjoyed on this not so silent night:

1. The First Noel
2. Winter Wonderland
3. Silent Night
4. Deck The Halls
5. Little Drummer Boy
6. The White Snows Of Winter
7. Angels We Have Heard On High (Gloria)
8. Children Go Where I Send Thee
9. I'll Be Home For Christmas
10. God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen
11. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
12. Blue Christmas
13. Joy To The World
14. Sleigh Ride
15. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
16. I Believe In Santa Claus

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