Various Artists - The Sled,
Here I am writing about a compilation album which you cannot buy, but is easy to obtain. Perhaps I had better let Nick Katona explain: “Each Year we host a holiday release to showcase many bands and artists that you may not be aware of; but should be. The album will feature many styles of holiday music and original music; all of which will touch your heart and soul. May it inspire you for in giving, we receive so much more. To receive your copy as a gift from MRR and with the kind permission of all of our contributing artists we ask you to commit a great act of kindness. Send us proof of you donating to your local charity of choice, it can be your time, or tangible goods such as blankets, food or clothing. Think outside of the box, donate your time at the local food bank, soup kitchen or shelter. Certainly, the hospitals would be grateful for volunteers or donate blood today and save a life. We would like to promote the good deeds of great citizens and with your permission, we will share your photos on our page set up this holiday season to spread the good news.”
15 songs, nearly 80 minutes in length: one thing I really enjoyed about this album is the sheer variety, and it has allowed me to come across bands I have not heard of before. ‘The Sled’ starts with two of these, Jennifer Cutting’s Ocean Orchestra and Jack Potter. “Fall Leaves, Fall” is stunning in its arrangement, and I felt that I was listening to a reborn version of Renaissance, with beautiful orchestration, great woodwind, stunning rock guitar, and a singer who reminded me of Annie Haslam. A short piece of detective work later and I discovered that it was indeed Annie, and that this song came out a few years ago. This is one of the delights of this album, as it truly is meant to be broad and wide-reaching, so while it does include songs from MRR artists, of course, it isn’t restricted to just that. Jack Potter’s “Snow Globe” is delicate, starting with just piano and again wonderful vocals, this time care of Salley Elsey. Taken from the ‘Pride Before The Fall’ album which was released earlier this year, I was reading more about it when I started filling up and had to compose myself for a minute. The reason is that one of the guitarists is none other than Colin Tench, and I don’t think any of us who knew him will ever really get over his loss last Christmas, so to find him on a Christmas album for 2018 feels both poignant and fitting. I know he would have a laugh about it.
I have always been a fan of Don Schiff, so it is great to see him here, while one of MRR’s newest signings, DC Snakebuster shows that rough and raw blues, with some great harmonica, also has a place at Christmas. Federico Fantacone provides some gorgeous piano, while Darrel Treece-Birch treats us to a song from his new album, ‘The first step..is to take one’ with the glorious “For Giving” which contains not only the sweeping keyboards we have come to expect but also some glorious guitar. Andy John Bradford is in fine form with “Raise A Glass For Christmas”, and overall the whole album is a delight.
So, what are you waiting for? This album is streaming until the end of January, but you can get your own copy now just by doing something for others at Christmas. Surely that is what the season should be about, instead of the commercial brashness it has become? Think outside the box, make a difference. Many already do so without any thought of reward, and for those who do, then here is a gift from some wonderful musicians just to say thanks.