From the Vault...


Mannheim Steamroller
"Christmas Extraordinaire"

© American Grammophone Records

Year of Release: 2001

track listing
  • Hallelujah
  • White Christmas
  • Away In A Manger
  • Faeries
  • Do You Hear What I Hear
  • The First Noel
  • Silver Bells
  • Fum Fum Fum
  • Some Children See Him
  • Winter Wonderland
  • O Tannenbaum
  • Auld Lang Syne

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    Mannheim Steamroller
    "Christmas Extraordinaire"

    Ok, Spring is just right around the corner, and let's get all of our frustrations out with the cold, winter weather! It's Christmas in March this week -- (With all the great Christmas albums out there, it's not really a bad idea now and then to "spring in" an Xmas album here and there.) Mannheim Steamroller is truly one of the greatest instrumental bands to emerge from the Jazz and Classical genres. Chip Davis is the brains behind this band, and for the "beautiful music" fan, any of their releases (at whatever season it is), is truly entertaining, beautiful, and uplifting to listen to. Mannheim Steamroller marks their second appearance on WSVNRadio; as one of their Fresh Aire albums first appeared here in March of 2002.

    Their Christmas CDs are phenomenal -- Christmas Extraordinaire (or some called it the Red Christmas Album) was a #1 album on the Christian albums chart in early November, 2001, for eight weeks. (Easily seen and heard throughout the 2001 Holiday season.) "Hallelujah" (from the Messiah) leads off this album, with an energetic feel. "White Christmas," "Away In A Manger" are both beautiful, peaceful and soothing to relax by. The same can be said for another Christmas favorite, "Do You Hear What I Hear." Tchaikovsky's "Faeries" (from the Nutcracker) is a rocking, bouncing song.

    Rick Wakeman comes to mind on "The First Noel, "Silver Bells" -- as both songs have a different approach in musical styles of these traditional well-familiar Christmas songs. An experimental rock feel has "Fum, Fum, Fum". The next song was interesting to read about in the liner notes: "Some Children Can See Him," written by Alfred Burt (1920-1954):
    Alfred Burt's father, the Reverend Bates Gilbert Burt started writing original Christmas carols and sending them as cards to family and parishoners in 1922 and continued the tradition until 1941.

    Al graduated from the University of Michigan in 1942 with a Bachelor of Music degree. That was also the year that Father Burt asked Al, for the first time, to write the music for the family Christmas card.

    During WW II, Al played in the Army Air Force Band in San Antonio, Texas, but continued writing the music for the family Christmas cards. (While at the U. of M. and while in the Army Band, Chip's parents, Louis and Betty, knew and performed with Al.)

    In 1949, Al's wife, Anne was home in Pontiac, MI to await the birth of their only child, Diane. It was at that time that Al and Anne asked long-time family friend and church organist, Wihla Hutson, to write the poetry for the family Christmas cards. Anne had talked with Wihla about the "new life" that she was carrying and asked Wihla to write a lullaby for that year's Christmas card. Wihla wrote "Sleep, Baby Mine." She also wrote the text to "Some Children See Him" which was used for the family's 1951 Christmas card.

    On February 6, 1954 Al completed his last carol, "The Star Carol." The next afternoon Al lost his battle with lung cancer at the young age of 33.

    For further information on Alfred Burt, his family and Christmas Carols contact:

    Johnny Mathis sings the lead vocal on "O Tannenbaum" This is not one of the best recorded versions, as it its a little moody. Not to say it's bad, but it is nice to hear the traditional Christmas songs sounding in a different way, as Chip Davis called it, "in a modern way... the Mannheim Steamroller way." Ending the album is the song that ends the Christmas season, a beautiful, yet slower version of what we're familiar with -- "Auld Lang Syne."

    A different approach in sound, either way you look at it, Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas Extraordinaire is truly exceptional. Peaceful, beautiful music, with some upbeat tempo songs, they're all equally entertaining to enjoy during any Christmas Holiday Season. Chip Davis (just as Rick Wakeman) truly is a genius in creating beautiful music such as this. Extraordinaire is the third Christmas album from his band. (Wakeman only has one Christmas album, and it is a shame that he didn't create more.)

    For the beautiful music mood, any Mannheim Steamroller album will be a great setting -- whether it be one of their regular albums, or holiday albums.

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