Saturday, November 21, 2015

Jennifer Thomas - "Winter Symphony"

Truly an album worth owning.  And I do mean that.  OWNING.  Add this to your Christmas music playlist and play this every year.  Heck, play it all Winter long, because this is a

"Winter Symphony

This is a fun review to be able to write.  I'm writing this paragraph last as an overview.  Why?  I wanted to capture the emotions and feelings that I had when I first listened to this release and get them down in their raw and honest form, like I did with Jennifer's last album "Illumination".  (another album, that if you don't own it, you should)

Track 1 - Angels We Have Heard On High (feat. The Ensign Chorus)

What a way to make an entrance.  Seriously.  From beginning to end, I have copious ripples of goose flesh.  Chills and thrills and might I add some heavy WOW moments.  I love the arrangement as it builds, but when the chorus enters the scene.  Oh my.   At one point I felt myself tearing up.  Right when the theme for "Ave Maria" started to roll into the middle section, then full bloom back into "Angels We Have Heard On High".  Stellar track.

Track 2 - Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

This arrangement should have been in a Harry Potter movie right smack dab in the middle of the Christmas segment.  Just saying.  It takes you on the whimsical journey of the Sugar Plum Fairy.  I can almost see the dancers on stage.  But when the track goes on a romp through a waltz-out-of-control (and that's a good thing), I see the dancers take flight across stage and everything is strewn with ribbons and bows and snowflakes falling.  It's just a happy-go-lucky-whimsical jaunt through the music and that just makes me very happy.  I've only ever heard someone else do a waltz-out-of-control and that's Hanz Zimmer in the soundtrack for Gladiator, in the opening battle scene with the Germans.  It was perfect there and it's perfect here.

Track 3 - Carol of Bells

Well.  I have to say.  Carol of Bells is not one of my favorite songs.  I have a friend who has done a really cool blitzed out dance version of it that made it not repetitive at all.  But this version has now become my favorite version of the song and has made me like the song even more.  It's a beautiful arrangement and not repetitive at all.  I love the swells and rolls of the melody.  Just makes me want to jump in the snow and play like a kids again.  (now if you could do this to The Little Drummer Boy, Jennifer, I'd be grateful.)

Track 4 - Alleluia (feat. Felicia Farerre and The Ensign Chorus)

I just have one word for this track.  Wow.  I could just end with that, but I'll elaborate a little.  Nothing does this track justice, but to sit, listen and envelope yourself in the angelic voices of The Ensign Chorus and Felicia Farerre.  I shivered from beginning to end.  The big "love" that comes through in this track is pure passion and magical all the way.  Elegant, graceful, stunning, beautiful, passionate…and simply WOW.  Jennifer, you have written a masterpiece here.  WOW  This one brought tears to my eyes several times.

Track 5 - Ice Dance (feat. The Ensign Chorus)

Here we go again.  Goose flesh and some beautiful Elfman-ish chorus with stunning orchestral swells take me through woods with the snowflakes falling, while skating on the icy river.  Straight out of a scene from Hans Christian Anderson.  It's just what I feel folks.  Everyone is going to get a different experience from this track.  But if Tim Burton were to ever redo Edward Scissorhands?  Yep, this would be the track to consider when he's making his ice sculptures.  Again; what a beautiful arrangement.  Update to this writing: When I wrote this paragraph on this song, I didn't know where it was from.  I went and looked at Jennifer's liner notes on the writer.  It was Danny Elfman.  Ding, ding, ding.  I thought at first, maybe it was from the second Batman film with the Penguin, but I went and looked it up.  I WAS from Edward Scissorhands.  It's been over 20 years since I've seen that movie or even heard that soundtrack. For me to pick that out of thin air, is just amazing to me.  And I stand by what I said.  If they ever remake that movie.  Hire Jennifer to do the arrangements and Glen Gabriel to do the orchestration…oh and The Ensign Chorus to do the choral parts.  Phenomenal!

Track 6 - I Saw Three Ships

This arrangement starts off with a great Celtic feel and just continues through the entire song.  What a great genre fit to this classic songs.  Could almost see a River Dance going on.  Or Mr. Fezziwig dancing around his company party with young Ebenezer celebrating in early life.   Beautifully done.  This is a favorite holiday song for me.

Track 7 - Breath of Heaven

Another beautiful rendition of a gorgeous song.  Made famous by Amy Grant; this Chris Eaton song has always been a favorite one for me.  Beautiful arrangements on the orchestra and piano.  Not much to say here, but to tell you just to sit back and listen and enjoy.

Track 8 - Theme from Home Alone (Somewhere In My Memory)

Stunning arrangement here.  Jennifer's arrangement and Glen Gabriel's orchestrations.  Nothing more to say here other than…BRAVO!  Standing up and clapping at the end.  Brilliantly done.  Takes me back to when I first saw this film in the theater.  An amazing soundtrack and a perfect selection for this album.

Track 9 - What Child is This (feat. Taylor Davis)

The violin solo by Taylor Davis is stunning.  This is a beautiful and haunting arrangement.  Jennifer is playing the violin harmony on this track as well.  Shivers when both are playing.  A wonderful Celtic feel here as well.  Pulling the original English Folk style into the solo violin is truly beautiful.

Track 10 - Silent Night (feat The Ensign Chorus)

Oh my, again.  One of my favorite Christmas songs.  Such a beautiful piano arrangement, but then when Noel kicks in it sends a chill right up your spine and into your heart, you feel the warmth.  Especially when the chorus kicks back into Silent Night again.  Gorgeous!

Track 11 - Winter Symphony

We're not off this ride yet folks!  Hang on to those reigns as the horses kick into gear on the sleigh and the ride kicks into overdrive.  Barreling through the snow laden roads of the forest and then over the hills into the open, you see a field ahead with a marvelous castle in the distance and realize that you are heading for greatness and what a ride it is.  This is the title track and it will take your breath away.  I hit repeat on this 4 times, because I wanted to make sure the feeling I was getting was the same each time.  A masterpiece pure and simple.

Track 12 - O Holy Night

Another favorite Christmas song of mine.  Played with such passion and grace that it will make your heart melt.  If you've have a stressful day of Christmas shopping or just the fact that work might be getting on your nerves.  Just sit for a minute.  Close your eyes and kick back.  If this doesn't put you into a feeling of "reason for this season", then I'm not sure anything will.  This is a season of love, peace and good will towards all.  As the end of end of this song explodes,  just feel that power of love enter your heart and share that with every one you meet this holiday.  Remember what it's like to be human and be peace.  It's not about the toys, it's all about LOVE.

Wait…playback is over?  Twelve beautiful tracks.  There.  Right there.  There it is.  The replay button.  And there.  Right there, is the play button.  And, ahhhhh….there.  Track 1 starting all over again…and there…there it is.  There's all the feels.

Go buy this.  There are still physical CD copies available through Bandcamp at the time of writing this review.  You won't be sorry.  Enough of reading me ramble.  I'm going back on the journey again and again and probably all weekend too.

You can get this at iTunes, Google Play and Amazon as well.  Check out the preview video here at YouTube.

Support indie music this holiday.  You'll get awesome music and you won't be disappointed that you did.