“Not So Silent Night: Christmas with REO Speedwagon” (Special Edition) by REO Speedwagon

Artist: REO Speedwagon
Title: “Not So Silent Night: Christmas with REO Speedwagon” (Special Edition)
Label: Sony Music
Release Date: 8/17/2010
Genre: Holiday Hard Rock
Rating: 4.5/5

Back in the Fall of 2009 the band REO Speedwagon offered up their own take on many holiday classic tunes and I had to admit that the end result was something very enjoyable. This year the band has re-released the album with three additional tracks and since its holiday vibe still rings the same for the original recording, I am re-presenting my views to you about it and then briefly discussing the new additions. Please find a comfortable chair, light a holiday scented candle and enjoy a little eggnog while we revisit those seasonal thoughts.

When I learned that REO Speedwagon was planning on releasing their own album of Christmas material I was unsure of what to expect and this made sense based on the surprising hit that the Twisted Sister became and just how good the Rob Halford “Winter Songs” release was. I’ve always loved what REO was capable of as a band but admit that my favoritism begins and pretty much ends with their juggernaut recording “Hi Infidelity”. Of course there were a few scattered tracks over the years they have been together that I enjoyed but I had gotten into the very heavy stuff not long after that 1980 release so it took a little more to get a rise out of me. Now older and somewhat wiser, I had to say that I was incredibly curious to see how the bands classic sound would be mixed with time honored holiday classics and I am happy to report that the end result is one of the warmest releases of its kind to come along. It’s not at all sarcastic like the Twisted Sister piece nor does it give you a smiting like the Halford one does at times but instead fills you with the spirit of the season on track after track. It begins with the softly delivered “The First Noel” that finds Kevin Cronin in terrific form and from here it launches into a very fun version of “Winter Wonderland”. “Silent Night” is slower and that song works best when done in this fashion and with “Deck The Halls” we see just how rocking this tune can be. So far so good I was thinking as I made sure these songs were on the Holiday Stuff playlist in my music player.

Before I continue it’s important for the readers to know that while Rock in its core, it’s more of a Christmas recording and hence keeps the tempos to a certain level and even employing the feels of Jazz, Blues and some Gospel for good measure. Yes REO Speedwagon is a kicking Rock band, but they stepped out of their normal capabilities to make an album that everyone can enjoy with “Not So Silent Night”. I had to say that I couldn’t find one bad tune on the release or even one that I was willing to bypass to continue in my listen. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” is very soulful while “Blue Christmas” brings the blues home as it should. They also give a great rendition of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” and this was a winner all around. As the tune fades out we hear Kevin speaking the words “we love you John, rest in peace”. In 2010 the legendary murdered Beatle would have been 60 years of age and his loss still resonates in the music world. The special edition of the release has three additional tunes and the first of these is “Sleigh Ride” which I felt had a nice driving feel to it and that makes sense. It’s perfect for a winter ride down a snow laden hill or something to that effect. “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is kept on the traditional side which makes sense but they threw me for a bit of a loop with “I Believe In Santa Claus”. With this one I was expecting the song we heard in the classic Rankin Bass animated feature “The Year Without A Santa Claus” but it was not this tune and instead an original number by Kevin Cronin and company. It was a nice touch and a perfect closing to the album. The cover of this version is a wiser red as opposed to the original blue since the familiar face of Santa Claus is featured on its art and while there are a page of liner notes from Cronin about the album’s origins and premise, we don’t get much more that the lyrics for that just mentioned song and some production details.

If you are a fan of holiday tunes and also happen to like REO Speedwagon then this is a no brainer in terms of purchase, but if you are also someone who loves the season and is seeking a recording that can be enjoyed by a wide group of different interest’s people, then this will do you no wrong. Thanks to REO Speedwagon for giving us something really sweet for the stockings that are hung by the mantle with care and a clear album to look into should you have passed on it the first time around. Happy Holidays.

Track Listing:
1. The First Noel
2. Winter Wonderland
3. Silent Night
4. Deck The Halls
5. The 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
14. Sleigh Ride (bonus)
15. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (bonus)
16. I Believe In Santa Claus (bonus)

Official Website: http://www.speedwagon.com

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