AG-1984 Christmas
Produced by Chip Davis
Released on 1984
MULTIPLATINUM RECORD
Find it at GEMM
AG-1984 cover  

T hey’d painted the four seasons, gone to the moon and back... what was left for Mannheim Steamroller to do? Would you believe a Christmas album? You’d be in your rights to expect that the band puts it into cruise control for these carols, but you’d be wrong. In fact, you could make the case that Mannheim’s mix of medieval music, electronic keyboard proficiency, and Chip Davis’ increasingly facile way with an orchestra find their true voice on this record. The band’s arrangements (in some cases, re-arrangements) find the spirit in every song, whether it’s the reverential and refined feel of “Carol of the Birds” or a funky take on “Good King Wenceslas” with an actual vocal cameo from Jackson Berkey. Some of the songs are modern in feel, some medieval (in the case of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” you get both), all of them are more fresh and engaging than time-worn Christmas carols like these have a right to be. In some ways, Christmas is a return to form; Fresh Aire’s IV and V had moved away from the upbeat medieval romps, but they return on “Deck the Halls” and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” New sounds are also added, notably Ron Cooley’s classical guitar on “Coventry Carol.” And you could argue that their treatment of “Still Nacht” is really an Interlude in disguise (although Harold Budd’s influence is also at work here). Unlike some of the Fresh Aire series, which had their dead spots, Christmas showcases the band’s various styles to best effect. I’d stop short of calling it their best album, but the best medium for their unique sound? It could be. This is one of the finest holiday records made in the ‘80s, and Mannheim’s personality is stamped all over it. If you enjoy their music, or simply enjoy Christmas, buy this.

AG-1984 back cover
AG-1984 back cover

TRACK LISTING

  1. DECK THE HALLS    3:29
  2. WE THREE KINGS    (John Hopkins)    3:40
  3. BRING A TORCH, JEANETTE, ISABELLA    2:32
  4. COVENTRY CAROL    2:38
  5. GOOD KING WENCESLAS    3:29
  6. WASSAIL, WASSAIL    2:20
  7. CAROL OF THE BIRDS    2:03
  8. I SAW THREE SHIPS    1:28
  9. GOD REST YE MERRY, GENTLEMEN    1:37
  10. GOD REST YE MERRY, GENTLEMEN    4:19
  11. STILLE NACHT (SILENT NIGHT)    (Franz Gruber)    5:26

    Arranged by Chip Davis

CREDITS

JACKSON BERKEY -- Badlwin SD-10, Davis harpsichord, clavichord and toy piano, Prophet 5, Fender Rhodes, vocals, camel bells, production assistance
CHIP DAVIS -- drums, percussion, recorder/solos and chorus, Black Oak hammered dulcimer, soprano Dulcian, Crumhorn, camel bells, vocals, pencil, dry ice
ERIC HANSEN -- lute, bass
Roxanne Adams -- strings
Richard Altenbach -- strings
Wayne Anderson -- strings
Michelle Brill -- strings
Greg Clinton -- strings
Ron Cooley -- classical guitar
Ron Dabbs -- sand storm, camel bells
Louis Davis, Sr. -- keyboard technician, puns
Deborah Fuller -- strings
Grace Granata -- strings
David (High D) Kappy -- French horn
Richard Lohmann -- strings
David Low -- cello solos
Bill Ritchie -- strings
Kim Rockshaw -- strings
Willis Ann Ross -- flute
Steve Shipps -- violin solos
Scott Shoemaker -- strings
Michael Strauss -- strings
Mary Walter -- harp
John Boyd -- engineer, mixing
Carol Davis -- Nikon 35mm, Graphlex 4x5, jacket design/direction and special effects around the office
Album Graphics Inc. -- jacket production
Jerry Becker -- Santa and the Reindeer
Typesetting Etc. Ltd. -- type

return to MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER discography

REGION RELEASE DATE LABEL MEDIA ID NUMBER FEATURES
US 1984 American Gramaphone LP/CS AG/AGC-1984  
US October 31, 1991 American Gramaphone CD 8488 repackaged w. A FRESH AIRE CHRISTMAS
as CHRISTMAS, VOLS. 1 & 2
US August 29, 1994 American Gramaphone CD AGCD-1984  

 

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