Christmas

Mannheim Steamroller

Depending on your point of view, Christmas is either a quaint sonic time capsule extracted from the mid-1980s or a timeless holiday classic. The first in what has become an ongoing series of Mannheim Steamroller Christmas recordings, this CD has sold millions, which seems to indicate that it is everything its advertising claims it to be: “America’s favorite Christmas music.” The powerfully successful Mannheim Steamroller formula, conceived by group mastermind Chip Davis, involves a blend of Renaissance-flavored moods and instrumentation (strings, harpsichord, flute, French horn) intertwined with polite pop instrumental music. At times, the analog synthesizers used in this 1984 recording sound dated and a little cheesy, particularly on “Deck the Halls” and “Good King Wenceslas.” But it is a forgivable offense since live instruments and the earnest but ersatz medieval atmosphere they evoke dominate 8 of the 11 tracks. As pleasant and soothing as a Willard Scott birthday wish, Christmas does offer one selection that truly merits “classic” status: the reverent, prayerful, slow-motion interpretation of “Silent Night” (“Stille Nacht”) for piano and strings that closes the album—a beautiful and heart-touching work. This selection alone makes this album worth owning.

  • Deck The Halls
  • We Three Kings
  • Bring A Torch, Jeannette, Isabella
  • Coventry Carol
  • Good King Wenceslas
  • Wassail, Wassail
  • Carol of the Birds
  • I Saw Three Ships
  • God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
  • God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
  • Stille Nacht