Brilliant. This is the first review without stars I write. Why?, is this progressive rock?... of course. And high skilled. I´m going to tell you the band´s history...
Once there was a band named The December People formed by Sven, Klaus, Rudolph, Prancer and Vixen. They achieved during the seventies a great success in countries such as Norway, Canada, and both Poles (the north and the south) with albums such as "Have You Heard The Snow, Girl?" (1971); "Presents" (1976 and renamed "Gifts From The December People" in 1977 after a legal dispute with Led Zeppelin); "Girlfriend, Your Tree's On Fire!" (1978); or "Disco In December" (1979). Through the years, the musician and producer Robert Berry has declared he would be happy joining this legendary band. Finally the band accepted and Berry collaborates in Sounds like Christmas, the ninth CD of The December People. Robert got a contract for The December People with US label Magna Carta that will expire December 24th, 2011.
I should admit that I love these stories. Although you think I am a serious prog rock reviewer (I think so too!), I am also fan of everything that sounds to fantasy, to skylarking, and to certain frivolity. Evidently, the history of The December People is similar to Spinal Tap´s (another legendary band that you should know): a band with a fictitious past and created expressly by well-known musicians under pseudonym -except Berry and the rest of singers - in order to release a CD with covers of famous carols but "dressed" as if they were legendary bands of the history of prog rock.
I won't give hints, but I can tell you that this CD is 100% surprising. All the carols remains well-known songs of many bands, and with the same sound!... and to adapt some melodies inside already composed structures is a very complicated task. So, we have "Carol of the bells", sung by Robert Berry, as if performed by Yes; "I heard the bells on Christmas day", also with Berry, as if performed by Queen... a great mix of "Lazing on a sunday afternoon", "Good old fashioned lover boy" and the final part of "Bohemian Rhapsody"; a spacey and Floyd-like "Silent night" sung by John Wetton; a bombastic "Little drummer boy" -Berry again - full of Hammonds (do you know the band?); "Twas the night before Christmas" sung by Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery)... do you remember a mythical song about a stairway?; "The first Noel", sung by Wetton and it sounds to... one of his old bands, etc. There are also certain famous bassist; a progressive band that now there are three (or two?); the former singer of that band; and a famous band which bewared us of something dirt in the wind. I have already told you that all the songs not only recreate famous songs from those bands but they also reproduce the production and typical and genuine arrangements of these bands.
A hint... the last carol is "Merry Xmas/War is over", John Lennon's famous carol, sung by Trent Gardner, Lisa Bouchelle, Mike Baker, Robert Berry and Gary Wehrkamp. Well, the sound and the arrangements are the SAME than songs such as "Eleanor Rigby".
Finally we have a couple of special surprises: a Kansas unreleased track called "The light", where the band go on showing us they´re in a sweet moment, and Robert Berry's bizarre experiment Berry titled "Christmas poem #1" totally inaudible and full of noises, voices, background sounds, etc. I thought it was a joke, a sort of game in order to play with the balance buttons of our CD player, but it´s only an experiment without sense.
OK, that´s all. I suppose you will think that this is a CD to listen to in Christmas time and to forget the rest of the year. I don't agree because if you listen to it next to your family, they won't understand these strange carols. On the other hand, if you listen to it alone, you will be able to have a very amusing time while listening to the Christmas side of the scatterbrained boys from Magna Carta playing some curious covers. Keith Emerson, Brian May, David Gilmour, etc. already bought it and I´m sure they´re having a great time.
And, as always, I would want to wish a merry Christmas and a happy 2002 to my family, my dog Krusty, all good friends (past, present, distant and near) including progVisions members (indeed great friends!) and all the people -readers, labels, bands, etc.- who have supported progVisions through the years. All the best to you and your families and keep on proggin´