various artists,
Holiday Yule Log
(World Trading, 2007)

Here it is, the perfect gift for the person who has everything except a fireplace: Holiday Yule Log. Of course I bought it, just to have a more complete Christmas collection. I bought it for the music, but have also enjoyed the fire, though it seems a bit strange to have a fire halfway up the wall and can actually be startling if you go to sleep and wake to see flames shooting up your wall. Trust me on that point.

This DVD puts a "crackling" wood fire on your television screen. It "transforms" your television into a fireplace. You can decide if want just the fire, the fire with a crackling sound, or the fire with holiday music. You can have the full fireplace scene or select a closeup of the burning logs -- which would be cute for placing a monitor inside an unused fireplace.

Holiday Yule Log has 25 Christmas songs in a looped two-hour program. Once you start it, it plays until you stop it. The tracks are mostly instrumentals, but when they do add vocals, they definitely make them count. The harmony and backup are great. Your first impression will be: "Elevator music!" However, if you give it a listen, you will be amazed. This music is engineered with remarkable skill. Do not expect this full orchestral sound to allow you to relax too much. Instead, it energizes and often forces your feet to respond.

If I had to select one word to describe the overall feel of the music, it would be "sweeping." There is a motion to the music that seems like you are being picked up and carried along on it, much like being swept along in a river current. There are so many places where the music builds to a crescendo, sometimes slowly and sometimes rapidly.

I do not much care for the pieces from The Messiah, though they were wonderfully composed and had tremendously powerful choir-type vocals. I simply prefer my Christmas songs to be a bit more of a joyful celebration of birth than gospel proclamation of resurrection and salvation. The latter is supposed to belong to Easter, which is that other religious holiday. I felt these pieces were poor choices for this collection and would have greatly preferred "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree," "Sleigh Ride" and "Baby, It's Cold Outside" ... to name the first three that come to mind.

I do believe that these 25 selections include most of the musical techniques and styles known to mankind. From swing to blues to rock to Oriental, the styles are diverse and entertaining. The layering is absolutely astounding! These pieces get deep.

Holiday Yule Log is a nice selection of holiday music that is well worth the purchase price, with a fireplace attached. The fire is quite realistic, especially when you turn the lights off ... but try to stay awake or hide the fire extinguishers.

review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

13 December 2008

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