Review Summary: Mannheim Steamroller’s finest Christmas album to this day…
If there’s a new age Christmas group that many people should know, that group would either be Transiberian Orchestra, or its older delinquent, Mannheim Steamroller. Mannheim Steamroller was a new age music group first founded in 1975, but wouldn’t be well known until 1984, when they released their first holiday album, Christmas. It helped them make their holiday spirit breakthrough. While it was great, they wouldn’t reach the apex of their career until the year 1995, when they came out with their third winter spectacular, Christmas in the Aire. This is when Mannheim Steamroller would reach its finest point in their music.
If there already is any grandiose effect in this album, it is that Mannheim Steamroller finally served the perfect blend of new and old age music, one that perhaps beats the last two Christmas albums they made. They put excitement and upbeat spirit into songs such as Joy to the World, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Angels We Have Heard on High, while putting a spectacle of emotion and mellowness into Jingle Bells, Joseph Dear Oh Joseph Mine, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem and parts of Peces del Rio. But that is not the only greatness that exists in this album.
The older, more traditional elements of Christmas in the Aire are highly refined, concentrated, and a little more fun to listen to. Take for example, in Pat-A-Pan, in all of the new age music brings in the old airs of the past. As an extra bonus, the album also puts in a unique selection of cultures from all over the world to bring more flavor to the album, like Los Peces en el Rio in which Mannheim Steamroller presents the darker, edgier side of Latin-American music, and Gagliarda, which delivers the original European Renaissance mood to the listener. But there is much more to the plethora of benefits to this album than just this.
Another noteworthy advantage is the group members play in harmony with each other. As a result, they complement each other’s work in this album. Almeda and Jackson Berkey are the two keyboardists responsible for the new world elements contributed to Christmas in the Aire whereas Bobby Jenkins, Roxanne Layton, and Arnie Roth balance it out with the older, more traditional sounding musicality. These members in return create the perfect complimentary blend of music possible. Almost comparable to the best hot chocolate you’ve had. As for all the other members, they still have their good musical contributions as well, in comparison to the past two Christmas albums where the balance between the musicians was a little shaky.
As for vocals, there’s not much to that. In fact, it may be better that because there’s a really small amount of singing in this album. As an advantage, Mannheim Steamroller didn’t have to worry about how well they created their lyrics, or if they even created any lyrics in general, for that matter. There are one or two songs on this album that involve choirs singing old traditional choirs, which in reality, are considerably harmless. It may only benefit the diversity of the album.
Chip Davis’ effort to create a long lived holiday album kept getting closer as Christmas and a Fresh Aire Christmas were made. As eleven years passed between the original Christmas and Christmas in the Aire were released, Mannheim Steamroller began to evolve and put more meaning into the spirit of the holidays and their own music. Their evolution was simply a statement saying that they can compete with some of the other holiday musicians and win the battle. Maybe that explains why Christmas in the Aire was the best-selling holiday album in the year 1995. They continued to please the minds of listeners all around the United States and the world by keeping up to date with the times without losing the traditional concepts of the album that made Mannheim Steamroller what it was. In this success, Chip Davis had reached his achievement and would continue to maintain the standards of new age music for years to come.
And on that note, have a Merry Christmas.