Written by General Jabbo
It’s been a busy few years for veteran rockers REO Speedwagon. From releasing their first album in more than a decade, one that had the band rediscovering its rock roots — 2007’s Find Your Own Way Home — to nonstop touring with the likes of Styx, Journey, and Night Ranger, the band has worked at a harder pace than many bands half their age.
Now, nearly 40 years after their debut, REO is releasing its first Christmas album. Not So Silent Night mixes traditional Christmas carols, obscure gems, and a cover of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” with the classic REO sound — big, melodic choruses and guitars.
The album begins sweetly with a short, melodic version of “The First Noel,” before segueing into a bluesy “Winter Wonderland.” ‘Silent Night” and “Children Go Where I Send Thee” show the band in a surprisingly gospel vein and prove to be highlights of the disc with the former done as a ballad with choir and the latter as an up-tempo number.
For a band most famous for its ballads, the fact the slower material works better here is not surprising. “The White Snows of Winter” in particular stands out and should prove to be a favorite of fans of the band’s softer side.
The Lennon cover is by the numbers and while not an improvement over the classic original is still a strong track. In keeping with the holiday spirit, all proceeds from this track go to the John Lennon Foundation. The band’s cover of “Blue Christmas” finds them veering off into country territory in surprisingly convincing fashion
While the band rocks up their versions of “Deck The Halls” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman,” these versions come off as forced and aren’t to the same standard as the rest of the CD. Still the positives outweigh the negatives here.
REO Speedwagon may not be the first band people think of when it comes to recording a Christmas album, but they make it work. Fans of the band and of Christmas music should enjoy this release for years to come.