Music Reviews

The December People

Sounds Like Christmas

Magna Carta

After a few eggnogs, you think, “What would happen if Robert Plant became a Methodist, joined the choir, and released a Christmas disc?” Well, that thought pierced the brain of Robert Barry, leader of December People, and the result lies in cut seven of this astonishing compendium. He squeezed the famous poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” into “Stairway to Heaven’s” classic grinding guitar riffs. That sounded so fine he merged “The First Noel” with some King Crimson, and arranged a Yes cover of “Carol of the Bells.” Holiday novelty music never sounded so rebellious. It’s a Christian Contemporary Spinal Tap, but with no sense of irony.

The production values are stunning on this disc – it’s the concept that creates pre-holiday cognitive dissonance. More than a little musical knowledge goes into placing the words and melody of “Silent Night” deep inside of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” Not a beat is misplaced when Emerson, Lake and Palmer meet “Little Drummer Boy,” and the mix for a Queen version of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is spot on, even if you’re uncertain if the tune is “Tie Your Mother Down” or the fast bit from “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Barry knows a few folks in the music business; he even got Kansas to join him in the studio for a song called “The Light.”

Where should this vivisected collection of songs be placed? Perhaps in the Doctor Demento bin, or on the “Best Hits of the ’70s” airwaves Christmas morning. It’s hard to imaging aging Christian boomers seeing this as a combination of all that’s meaningful in their middle aged lives. It’s an odd merger between the devil’s music and a church holiday concert. You don’t really feel like playing air guitar, and it doesn’t make you feel like wrapping presents. It would be a strange party indeed that would improve with this on in the background.

All in all, there’s something on this disk to offend everyone for the holiday. Christmas music purists will hate the Floyd/ Zep sound, rockers will resent the hokey holiday tunes interfering with a decent hallucination, and Christians will resent hymns pasted onto music that celebrates sex & drugs. It’s a Concept Album, and the concept is “How can we squeeze a few more bucks out of music everyone already owns” feel. I do recommend this for an “under $10 suitable for either sex” office holiday party gift, just don’t leave fingerprints. Happy hokum days.

http://www.magnacarta.com


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