Not So Silent Night (2009)

1. The First Noel 2. Winter Wonderland 3. Silent Night 4. Deck the Halls 5. Little Drummer Boy 6. The White Snows of Winter 7. Angels We Have Heard On High (Gloria) 8. Children Go Where I Send Thee 9. I'll Be Home For Christmas 10.God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen 11.Happy Xmas (War is Over) 12.Blue Christmas 13.Joy to the World --Bonus Tracks-- 14.Sleigh Ride 15.Hark! The Herald Angels Sing 16.I Believe in Santa Claus


At first glance, this looks to be a bit of a weird idea for an album by these guys. After several listens......, well, it still looks to be a bit of a weird idea. Like many veteran classic rock bands that still make their living by touring - usually in somewhat smaller venues and with at least one other nostalgia band, REO didn't seem to be putting out a lot of new material. Although the most dedicated fans would eat up a new project in a second, most are not familiar with just how much such a project would cost (without record label backing) and how little these new albums recoup in terms of generating profit. So this album seemed somewhat of a compromise. They were allowed to record "new" material, but it would be songs that everyone was familiar with when listening. So, in a nutshell, yes - a Christmas album by REO Speedwagon would generate more money than a disc with proper new material.

On this record, they're all over the place with the holiday material - from the religious to the secular, from the seriousness to the silly, they leave no stone unturned. Most of what is here will be familiar, and whether or not you actually get anything out of REO singing Winter Wonderland or Angels We Have Heard on High as opposed to anyone else is purely at the discretion of the listener.

Believe it or not, this incarnation of REO Speedwagon has now lasted longer than all of the previous lineups combined. It had now been about 19 years since this band regrouped, and 19 years prior to that they hadn't even had a record out yet. That's not to say that there were masses of people that familiar with this lineup. Yes, 19 years is a long time, but they really hadn't released any new material that made any ground on the charts during this time. No, let's face it, during this time, people were going to see them to reminisce in the glory days of the band's earlier history. I only say this, because it's very easy to make the accusation that this really doesn't sound like REO Speedwagon, yet this sounds very similar to what the present lineup has offered over the course of its tenure.

On a bit of a sad note, the one constant in this band, Kevin Cronin's voice, is losing some of its consistency. Kevin really sounds strained on many of the songs, and it sounds as though there was some heavy doctoring going on at the controls to get a decent vocal at times. On many songs, he (or really the whole band) sounds as though they're trying to hard to shed a rock and roll image and somehow belt out some of the more traditional classics. These are the ones that don't quite resonate as strongly. Probably the strongest thing here, ironically, is John Lennon's Happy Xmas (War is Over). Ironic because this is a Christmas song that really doesn't get covered that often. They do quite a good job.

Then, for whatever reason, there were two versions of this release - one being a "bonus edition" that had three extra songs. Not sure of the story there, but you're probably better off getting the bonus edition. It even has an original by the guys, I Believe in Santa Clause that is quite good. You almost wish they would have churned out another original or two on the record.

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