Over the years David Arkenstone has been known as a pioneer in the area of New Age music, from his beginnings with Narada records, where he gained three Grammy nominations, to his work as both a solo artist and composer on the collaborative albums of the great musicians who were featured on the Windham Hill record label.
Visions of Christmas released on the Green Hill label, his fifth holiday album over the years, sees David Arkenstone joined by other talented musicians in creating an album of holiday classics that bear the classic trademark diversity well known by fans of Arkenstone’s “symphonic rock” style. Along with several holiday favorites, the album also contains a couple of original works by Arkenstone. These originals, as usual, rise to the top of my favorite track listings just based on Arkenstone’s ability to meld the harmonies of guitar and piano, and to utilize other instruments with originality, filling the songs with a passionate and emotional aura that is rare to find in albums serving up holiday fare.
Those who are old fans of Arkenstone’s work on Narada and Windham Hill will rejoice in his return to the vibrant, culturally and instrumentally diverse, sounds that have long been his trademark. The Celtic and Arabian inspiration of “Bottom of the Punchbowl” and “Arabian Dance”, as well as the jazzy feel of “The Holly and the Ivy” make them stand out for their fun, vibrancy and masterful artistry.
The songs “Joy to the World”, which leads the album off, “Deck the Halls”, “What Child is This” and “O Christmas Tree/ Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant” are direct reminders of the work Arkenstone was involved in when composing for, and creating on, Windham Hill. “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” and “I Saw Three Ships” feature the booming drum and percussive brilliance that harkens back directly to the days of comparison to Mannheim Steamroller and Trans-Siberian Orchestra; a full-on explosion of passion in the re-workings of these holiday classics.
But above all else it is the power and emotional build up of the songs “The Coventry Carol”, “Silent Night”, and two Arkenstone originals, “Snowdance” and “Angels in the Snow”, that make them nearly defy the label of “holiday Songs”. They could easily find a place on any playlist throughout the year, just due to their incredible composition and orchestration. I assure they will not be retired from my player at the end of the season. They feature a darker, more melancholy, yet inspired feeling that touches the heart and the soul, which is what holiday music should do. They connect past and present and make you appreciate the feeling, the inspiration, of the season more so than any holiday album I’ve heard in a very long time.
Visions of Christmas
01. Joy To The World
02. Deck The Halls
03. What Child Is This
05. The Coventry Carol
07. I Saw Three Ships
08. Angels In The Snow
09. O Christmas Tree/Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant
10. Bottom Of The Punch Bowl
11. Arabian Dance
12. The Holly And The Ivy
13. Silent Night Powered by Sidelines