Various Artists - Prog Rock Christmas,
When I first saw this I was immediately taken back to the Nineties when there was a plethora of compilation albums released which featured well known progressive musicians all providing versions of songs by Yes, Jethro Tull etc. Billy Sherwood is the man behind this album, and must confess I don’t know what songs have been especially recorded for this, and what were already available, but I am guessing that John Wetton’s version of “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” is the same one which appeared on ‘An All-Star Tribute to Christmas” some ten years ago. I believe all the songs are covers, although I must confess there are a couple I don’t recognise, either of popular songs such as “Fairytale of New York” or “I Believe in Father Christmas” or carols such as “O Come All Ye Faithful” or “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. There are a host of famous names appearing, including Yes singer Jon Davison, Yes and Asia keyboardist Geoff Downes, Utopia bassist Kasim Sulton, Deep Purple guitarist Steve Morse, late Asia singer/bassist John Wetton, Renaissance frontwoman Annie Haslam, Wishbone Ash's Martin Turner and ex-Yes and Moody Blues keyboardist Patrick Moraz. But, are these names any reason to buy the album?
One has to question the rationale behind the inclusion of many of these. I am a huge fan of Sonja Kristina, but I can’t see me playing “O Come All Ye Faithful” again, while Martin’s Turner “I Believe” is not what I expect from the man who for so many years was the vocal attack of Wishbone Ash. However, in amongst these there are some wonderful gems. Kasim Sulton’s “Christmas Lights” has been arranged perfectly for his beautiful baritone, and his voice is front and centre just as it should be while the use of slide guitar is inspired. Nik Turner & Simon House should take a huge bow for their deconstruction of “Silent Night” which has been moved so far away from the normal arrangement that it is almost unrecognisable. The highlight though has to be Malcolm McDowell performing “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch”, absolutely inspired. He will always be Alex DeLarge to me, but here he brings all his presence to the fore, awesome. There are only a few songs contained in this compilation I will be putting on my Christmas Day playlist, but those are very special indeed.