Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Trans Siberian Orchestra - Wizards in Winter

December… Well Christmas must be the first thing most people think of when December rolls around, so I might as well embellish this common thought pattern.

Now as a cynical, miserable person it would be unnatural of me to say anything positive about a commercialized, Christianized, pagan holiday originally celebrating the coming of winter as you may have noticed December 25 is awfully close to the winter solstice which occurs every 21st or 22nd of December. I’ll spare you my negativity on this matter since this has nothing to do with music.

I suspect I am not wholly alone in my general dislike of Christmas carols and Christmas music in general. For the most part most songs written for Christmas are obvious attempts at cashing in on the finical feeling of season, which is consumerism. Furthermore any song written that can be credit as ‘good’ on its own merits usually suffers from being produced for the wrong reasons, naturally, once again commercialism. Overall I have grown extremely weary of any music in association with Christmas.

You can probably guess where this is going.

In 1979 a virtually unknown progressive rock group known as Savatage began their career. They would found no success until their 1987 album “Hall of the Mountain King,” which I have never heard, and never heard of until I looked it up. Supposedly they have experienced a relatively successful career since then but I could not possibly tell you any of their songs, they are a complete mystery to me. Founded by the Oliva brothers Criss and Jon, Jon would feel the need to change his career and life altogether after the death of his brother Criss in 1993. So that’s where we get Jon.

Paul O’Neill was originally a guitarist, whom toured with such musical as “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Hair,” you just might have heard of those. He went on to be a legendary manager in the music industry producing such groups as Aerosmith, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Ted Nugent, The New York Dolls, and the Scorpions. An impressive list to say the least. In 1991 he would team up the Oliva brothers to create the rock opera “Streets” which I have never seen or heard of before today. Anyway that is where we get Paul.

Robert Kinkel is a keyboardist who played with Savatage after Criss’s unfortunate death. That’s all. Robert is apparently the easy one to explain.

These three men, working in, and living in New York decided to combine their glorious efforts to create something very different; The Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

The concept for The Trans-Siberian Orchestra was Christmas songs done in a rock opera style. I think its safe to say nothing like this has been done before.

The name of the group comes from the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia, which Kinkel says connects many cultures otherwise isolated, much like music. With such a name like “The Trans-Siberian Orchestra” you would think they are Russian, I know I did, but apparently not. Near as I can tell they are all American. Although with a name like Kinkel, we can assume some Russian heritage from Robert.

Studios, not surprisingly did not care much for the idea of Christmas rock operas, and I can’t say I blame them. However after the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s first release “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” in 1996 they became an immediate success, subsequently proving there is indeed a market for holiday music that rocks.

Recently the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has obtained some internet fame through Christmas lights maniacs setting their very elaborate and very, very, impressive Christmas lights to the song “Wizards in Winter.”

Have you seen it? I know this is old news to most people, but wow! If you haven’t make sure that you do:

Can you imagine living next to that? I really like how he has different sets of lights dedicated to different instruments.


It has been six years since I wrote this review, and since that time there have been many other efforts by enthusiastic Christmas lovers to set their lights to "Wizards in Winter"





Who knows what is going to happen in the future.

You got to admit it is a pretty sweet song, but what do you expect from a sixty-piece rock orchestra?

So this month “Wizards in Winter” is my song of choice. You can download the attached file and rock out this Christmas or you can do what I did last year and watch that video over and over again. I recommend both.

Until next year, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin