I can hardly believe that I am writing this but I am got for today marks the 20th Anniversary of the release of “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It was the group’s first album and it blew me away from the very first listen and I can proudly say that I have been listening to this recording since it was released. My introduction to them is on the amusing side because I had been a longtime fan of the band Savatage and was keeping up with their releases as they appeared at the record shop and found the sounds on the album “Dead Winter Dead” to be something very, very different. In my mind the band always pushed the creative envelope and were more than a typical Heavy Metal band but with this body of work there was a grandiose nature to it and even a sense of cinematic or Broadway drama. This was of course due to the creative genius of Paul O’Neill and Jon Oliva who wrote and composed this one from beginning to end. When that album reached the track of “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” I was floored. Yeah I had listened to Heavy Metal Christmas tracks when I heard them but they were few and far between at the time. Stryper had a good one but most of the rest were just Rock artists. This was new and quite different to my aural senses.
Fast forward to 1996 when this album had now come out – I remember finishing off a rehearsal with my Ramones cover band and as we enjoyed some pizza afterwards the “Christmas Eve” song was playing on the radio. This blew my mind since I don’t think that I had ever heard a Savatage song on a mainstream station. As I rocked and conducted from the table (yeah I did that) I was confused as the DJ said “that’s the Trans-Siberian Orchestra with Christmas Eve Sarajevo”. Considering the point of history that this was I couldn’t race home to the web and do some searching and there was nothing remotely like Facebook yet in existence. Yes my younger friends there was such a time. I had to wait until I could go to the local CD store and ask just what in the hell was a Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Luckily there was a copy on the shelves, it was very new as a release and the clerk said that it was the Savatage guys doing Christmas songs. I remember asking him to repeat himself but since it showed that there were indeed such players on the recording I purchased it and went home to listen. A suitable volume was selected (meaning loud) and on came the first track “An Angel Came Down”. It really blew my mind and I listened straight through to the end before pressing play again. Most of the lineup of Savatage was on this album from singer Zak to guitarists Al Pitrelli and Chris Caffery and the solid rhythm section of Johnny Lee Middleton and Jeff Plate. It’s a Heavy Metal Christmas Charlie Brown!!! As it played I found myself doing both air guitar and air drums because that is just what you do when the music hits you right. Below are the full tracks from the debut. I’ll let you know my favorites after they refresh in your own mind.
1. An Angel Came Down
2. O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night
3. A Star To Follow
4. First Snow
5. The Silent Nutcracker
6. A Mad Russian’s Christmas
7. The Prince Of Peace
8. Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24
9. Good King Joy
11. The First Noel
12. Old City Bar
13. Promises To Keep
14. This Christmas Day
15. An Angel Returned
16. O Holy Night – Instrumental
17. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Instrumental
For me there wasn’t a bad track on the album and I loved the charm of the story itself. It read like a storybook when you followed along with the lyrics. Some years later an actual storybook of the first album would be available for fans at the shows. I still have my copy and think it’s pretty hard to find at this point but let’s focus on the album. The biggest favorites for me fall to the opening number, “First Snow”, “A Mad Russian’s Christmas”, “Ornament” and “This Christmas Day”. Of course let me not forget the now juggernaut of a holiday track in “Christmas Eve Sarajevo” which is a number that I think everyone has heard by now and it still finds me rocking even twenty years later. Writer Paul O’Neill really took a chance with this one but the end result has become nothing less than amazing. This album is a constant go to record during the holiday season and I always make sure to catch the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in concert at least once each time they come to visit our region. The groups followers are nothing short of diehards and over the years I have met those who have gone over 100 times a piece. I wish I could do that but I do have a score of other entertainers to give that media love to. Still I do plan on being at the NJ show this year and it will mark what I think is my 15th year straight of seeing them. If you haven’t done so yet you should really take that leap because you will not regret it. I suggest that those with the younger members of the family see one of the matinees since its easier on the kids.
Now you might have noticed that I didn’t do too much “review” type of reflection here or speak about the albums overall production aesthetic and that is because I have already reviewed this recording. That review can be found HERE and all of the deep details can be learned on the albums official Wikipedia entry which is linked below. Thank you Mr. O’Neill for creating what is a true masterpiece and a classic from top to bottom. It is one of the highlights of my musical year time after time after time. If any readers still need a copy they can order it via Amazon.com on the link below. Closing up I should say that the TSO have long been a topic of coverage here on PiercingMetal.com and I am going to keep that process going as well and by all means please let me know what you think of this Music Milestone down in the comments below. See you next time.
Official Website: http://www.trans-siberian.com
Official Album Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_Eve_and_Other_Stories