Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Christmas Eve and Other Stories (1996)

frontcover1Christmas Eve and Other Stories is the debut album by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

It was released on October 15, 1996, and is the first album in their “Christmas trilogy”, with The Christmas Attic (1998) and The Lost Christmas Eve (2004) coming after it. All three albums, as well as their The Ghosts of Christmas Eve DVD, were featured in the The Christmas Trilogy box set.

The story is about a young man who wanders into a bar on Christmas Eve where he encounters a mysterious old man who tells him a tale about the magical effect of Christmas Day on the human race. The album takes familiar classical pieces and adds to them new songs and arrangements from both classic and progressive rock influences for which the group is known. The album also contains a mix of vocal and instrumental songs. The primary musicians on the album are all members of the progressive metal band Savatage (Paul O’Neill, the producer of the album, is Savatage’s longtime producer). Jon Oliva, one of the principal songwriters on the album, is also a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and original vocalist in Savatage. (Oliva is also the voice of Mephistopheles on Beethoven’s Last Night.) Cover art created by Edgar Jerins.[2]

As of November 2014, Christmas Eve and Other Stories was the ninth best-selling Christmas/holiday album in the United States during the Nielsen SoundScan era of music sales tracking (1991 – present), with sales of 3,430,000 copies according to SoundScan.[3]

On November 28, 2011, Christmas Eve and Other Stories was certified Triple Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for shipment of three million copies in the United States.(by wikipedia)

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What would happen if members of Savatage decided to write some Christmas songs? Easy: Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This “supergroup” is the brainchild of Jon Oliva and Paul O’Neill (respectively the leader-keyboardist and the producer of Savatage). They hired Al Pitrelli (Asia, Savatage) to play guitars, Robert Kinkel to help with keyboards, John Middleton (also a member of Savatage) on bass, and Jeff Plate on drums. Lead vocals are shared by six vocalists, while some of the backing vocals are handled by Savatage lead singer Zachary Stevens. Christmas Eve and Other Stories is a concept album: all the songs are built as chapters of a book, each telling part of a larger story. The plot here is of a young angel sent down to Earth to find and bring back to the Lord “the one thing that best represents everything good that has been done in the name of this day.” The angel’s quest takes him all over the world, through Russia and Sarajevo, until he finally hears the prayer of a father. This last piece is the strongest moment on the album and makes for a miniature story within the larger story.

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It is basically told in a trilogy of songs: in the first, “Ornament,” we hear the father’s prayer, explaining how he hasn’t seen his daughter in many years. In “Old City Bar,” the angel finds the daughter, standing alone outside a bar, and talks to the bartender who, out of a random act of kindness, takes all the cash from his register drawer and gives it to the girl so she can go home. The third song, “This Christmas Day,” has the father praising God, thanking him for bringing his daughter back to him on this night of all nights. It is a very touching story, pondering the thought that “If you want to arrange it/This world you can change it/If we could somehow make this/Christmas thing last/By helping a neighbor/Or even a stranger.” Musically, the band has taken some traditional Christmas songs (“O Come All Ye Faithful,” “O Holy Night,” “The First Noel”) and mixed in some modern rock music. The result is stunning and very impressive. It is filled with energy that simply blows you away. The already classic “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” is a gripping instrumental based on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (although you might have to listen carefully to hear it). Fans of progressive music should like this one. And if you’re into the more recent works of Savatage (like Handful of Rain or Dead Winter Dead) you’ll really love this. (by Alex S. Garcia)

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Personnel:
Robert Kinkel (keyboards)
Johnny Lee Middleton (bass)
Jon Oliva (keyboards, bass)
Paul O’Neill (guitar)
Al Pitrelli (leadguitar, bass)
Jeff Plate (drums)
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Solo vocals:
Zak Stevens – John Margolis – Marlene Danielle- Michael Fawcette – Thomas Faresse – Ken Williams – Babi Floyd

gackground vocals:
Zak Stevens – Nancy Jackson – Peggy Harley – Latasha Spencer – Danielle Lander – Jeffrey Stackhouse – Timothy Carosi – Peter Valentine

Child choir conducted by Anthony Piccolo:
Joseph Murray – Adrian Ross – Nigel Tangred – Warren Wilson – Beth Butler – Cabiria Jacobson – Rachel Rosenfield – Caroline Ross

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Chris Caffery (guitar on 08.)
John Clark (french horn)
Mary Wooten (cello)

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Tracklist:
01. An Angel Came Down (Gruber) 3.57
02. O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night (instrumental) (Wade/Oakeley/Reading/Adam/Dwight/O’Neill/Kinkel) 4.19
03. A Star To Follow (O’Neill) 3.49
04. First Snow (instrumental) (O’Neill) 3.53
05. The Silent Nutcracker (O’Neill) 2.22
06. A Mad Russian’s Christmas (Tchaikovsky/Kinkel/Oliva) 4.42
07. The Prince Of Peace (Mendelssohn/Wesley/O’Neill) 3.33
08. Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 (O’Neill/Kinkel/Oliva) 3.25 (*)
09. Good King Joy (Mason/Kinkel/O’Neill) 6.36
10. Ornament (O’Neill/Oliva) 3.37
11. The First Noel (Traditional) 0.55
12. Old City Bar (O’Neill) 6.18
13, Promises To Keep (O’Neill/Kinkel/Oliva) 2.41
14. This Christmas Day (O’Neill/Oliva) 4.20
15. An Angel Returned (O’Neill/Oliva) 3.52
16. O Holy Night (Adam/Dwight) 2.39
17. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Traditional) 1.16

(*) = (same recording released in 1995 by Savatage)

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