TSO Goes Back To Its Past On New EP

Courtesy:  Atlantic Records

Courtesy: Atlantic Records

Trans Siberian Orchestra is back at it again.  It’s been over fifteen years since this famed melodic power rock band first turned the world of Christmas music on its ear with its blend of classical, rock, and holiday sounds.  And it’s been eight years since the band’s last holiday themed release, The Lost Christmas Eve (2004).  Now, the band has returned to form after the release of its most recent album, Night Castle with the release of its new EP, Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night).

TSO’s new EP offers fans four new songs and one that revisits an old classic and updates it at the same time.  That track is the EP’s title track.  Long-time fans of TSO will instantly recognize the band’s song ‘Queen Of The Winter Night’ in this song.  The change here though is that it has been mixed in with the final movement of Vivaldi’s legendary ‘Four Seasons’ opus.  Obviously, going back in time for this song has and will continue to divide the band’s legions.  But adding in new material makes for an interesting musical reboot of sorts.   

The EP’s opener, ‘Winter Palace’ is the perfect first impression for this new release.  Its ominous piano based intro will instantly grab listeners and keep their attention throughout the course of the song’s near four minute run time.  It’s the song’s buildup from the first bars to the sudden harder edged rock sound that makes it such a powerful first song.  It will instantly conjure thoughts of the band’s breakthrough hit, ‘Christmas Eve Sarajevo 12/24’ with its overall tone.  And its transition into the EP’s title track adds even more power to the overall general effect of this new release.

The EP’s third track, ‘I Had a Memory’ is just as…well…memorable as song as anything that the band has released over the course of its “Christmas Trilogy.”  This one will instantly conjure thoughts of ‘Faith Noel’ also from the band’s previous Christmas album, The Lost Christmas Eve.  Fans will recall that after the song’s initial slower opening “A” section, the tempo picks up in its “B” section.  The overall sound here even goes to more of a rock based sound.  A side by side comparison of the two songs will surely show the similarity.  While the band obviously looked to its roots for this piece, it can’t be said that the band directly ripped itself off.  But the influence of its previous record is undoubtedly there in this song. 

The influence of the band’s previous works is evident even as it moves into the EP’s penultimate track, ‘Someday.’  Stylistically, its emotional, almost folksy sound is similar to that of certain material from the band’s debut 1996 album, Christmas Eve and Other Stories.  What’s different here though, is the song’s lyrical side.  Lyrically, it is a tribute on the part of TSO founder and singer Paul O’ Neill to his parents sung by vocalist Tim Hockenberry.  Hockenberry’s haunting vocal style won’t leave a single eye dry after hearing singing here, “So I wrote these words/And I hope they last/For the years have come/And the years have passed/Think of all they gave/Think of all the debt/But can’t find a way/To repay them yet/For the days still come/And the debt still mounts/And do words unsaid/Ever really count/But sometimes still/In the dead of night/I can see them there/In the pale moonlight/I am trying/And I don’t know how/And I don’t know when/But I’ll have to tell them/Someday.”  It’s not just Hockenberry’s vocals that will move listeners in this emotional piece, either.  The music makes for a fitting compliment to Hockenberry’s gritty and almost mournful vocals in this song.  Together, they make one more highlight to the EP.  It’s a song that will leave even the strongest person at least a little teary eyed.

TSO’s new EP closes out with the gentle and equally emotional vocals of singer Georgia Napolitano on ‘Time You Should Be Sleeping.’  Yet again, TSO has reached back into its bag of tricks here as its obvious this song was influenced at least some part by the band’s song, ‘Dream Child’ from its 1998 album, ‘The Christmas Attic.’  Napolitano’s vocals are so powerful in their gentility, proving once more the old adage that less is more is very true.  Listeners can almost see this loving mother figure holding her young child, smiling down on said child as she sings, “I can see you breathing/Know that I am near you/Feel the evening whisper/In gentle sighs/To close your eyes until tomorrow/Childhood dreams are always new/And when you are there I’ll follow/And believe that my whole life is…/You.”  If this final moment doesn’t send chills and draw tears once more from listeners, then it’s anyone’s guess what would.  ‘Time You Should Be Sleeping’ doesn’t necessarily show any real Christmas themes.  But that aside, its beautiful lullaby style sound and lyrics make it the perfect counterpart to the EP’s opener, gently landing listeners on another musical shore after the journey taken from the EP’s other songs, thus closing one more impressive release from one of rock’s greatest and most talented bands around today.

Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night) is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online via TSO’s online store at http://transsiberianorchestra.shop.bravadousa.com/.  It can also be picked up at the band’s shows as it tours the country in support of the new release and its most recently full length Christmas album, The Lost Christmas Eve.  To get a full list of tour dates and all the latest news from the band, audiences can go online to http://www.facebook.com/TSO or http://www.trans-siberian.com.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Halestorm Holding Special Online Performance Today

Courtesy: Atlantic Records

Happy Halloween, everyone!  Halestorm has a very special treat for all of its fans today.  The band will be taking over the Warner Sound studios today.  The band will be performing live at 3pmEST/12PT for a very special Live Session performance.  Fans can check out the announcement from the band right here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfpxXV3HrVg.  And fans can go to The Warner Sound’s YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/TheWarnerSound

The PA based band’s performance is all part of its ongoing promotion for its most recent album, Strange Case Of…  The album was released April 10th via Atlantic Records and was produced by mega producer Howard Benson (P.O.D., Sepultura, Theory of a Deadman, etc.)  Those who don’t get the chance to catch the band this afternoon will still get plenty of opportunities to see the band live as it tours in support of its new album.  The band’s next live performance will be Thursday, November 8th at the Soul Kitchen in Mobile, Alabama.  It will also be making a stop in Asheville, North Carolina on Wednesday, December 12th at the Orange Peel.  Halestorm’s fans can get a full tour rundown and all the latest news from the band online at http://www.halestormrocks.com, http://www.facebook.com/halestormrocks, and http://www.myspace.com/halestorm

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always get the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Zac Brown Band Impresses Again On “Uncaged”

Courtesy: Southern Ground Artists/ROAR/Atlantic Records/wngreen

Zac Brown band’s third release, “Uncaged” is an interesting work.  While this record does have some of the same feel of the band’s 2008 debut, “The Foundation”, it goes in a slightly different direction.  What it tries to do is mix the sounds of its previous two releases into one full album.  It’s not the worst album that the band has released.  But it isn’t the best, either.  Regardless, it still has enough firepower to make it a fun listen.

The album opens very strongly with the song, ‘Jump Right In.’ The drums and whistles instantly conjure thoughts of Rio de Janeiro’s famed Carnival festival.  The song goes straight into the Jimmy Buffet song style that has made the Zac brown band so popular.  It’s just as uplifting lyrically as it is musically.  Brown sings in the song’s chorus, “You can jump right in/let the music pull you in/You can jump right in/Oh, lose yourself again/as the southern wind sings again/another lullaby.”  Simply put, this song is just a feel good song.  It’s about letting go of the worries of the world and simply having a good time every now and then.  It makes for a wonderful opening to this new album.

‘Jump Right In’ is followed by a song that is just as solid in the album’s title track.  While it’s just as solid a song, its general feel is quite different from ‘Jump Right In.’ This track has more of an Allman Brothers Band feel.  The use of the organ and the guitar work gives the song that feel.  And from the opening verse, listeners get more positive vibe.  Zac sings as the song opens, “Gonna drift to the great wide open/gonna set my spirit free/won’t stop till I reach the ocean/gonna break these chains all in me.”  The song’s second verse is just as uplifting.  He sings on verse two, “Gonna swim in the coldest river/gonna drink from a mountain spring/Live in the land of the great wide open/let the water roll all over me.”  The remainder of the song carries that same uplifting vibe.  Both musically and lyrically, it will get any listener moving.

The band kicks into a bluegrass vibe after these two songs in the album’s fourth track, ‘The Wind.’  Brown picks with the best of them in this song.  Rather than being one of the standard country style songs of lost love, Brown pays tribute to a very special woman.  He sings in this song, “Where the wind blows baby/you can bet/I’ll be ridin’ high with it/holdin’ on for my dear life just like I always did/Close yoru eyes babe/take a breath/say my name/and I’ll be there/My love will find you anywhere/anywhere, my love.”  The guitar breaks and musical backing in general make this one of the album’s top songs.  It would be no surprise if this song becomes one of the album’s singles.

Fans of ZBB in North Carolina will take pride knowing that “Uncaged” was recorded in the old north state.  It was recorded at Asheville’s Echo Mountain Recording.  Among the big name artists and bands that have recorded at Echo Mountain are the likes of:  Dierks Bentley, Darkest Hour, Soilwork, Smashing Pumpkins, and T. Bone Burnett, just to name a handful.  The studio’s list of who has recorded there is far longer. 

“Uncaged” is available in stores and online now.  The band is currently touring in support of the album.  Fans in North Carolina will get to see the band live when it makes a stop at Charlotte’s Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.  Fans can keep up with all the latest news and tour dates from Zac Brown band online in the meantime at http://www.zacbrownband.com, http://www.facebook.com/zacbrownband, and http://twitter.com/zacbrownband.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Cody Simpson Brings Fans Installment Three Of Summer Video Series

Teen pop sensation Cody Simpson has released the newest video in his Wish You Were Here Summer Series. In the series’ third brand new installment, Cody and company take fans along for the ride for the group’s performance at the OC Fair. Fans get to see Cody on stage, behind the scnees and interacting with fans before and after the show. It’s all set to Simpson’s song, “Wish You Were Here.”  Just click the link right here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhJJWrkBYPc.  The first two episodes of Cody’s series are also available online now.  Episode 1 can be viewed at http://youtu.be/5TP1Mu5Hu4W.  Episode 2 can be seen at the link here:  http://youtu.be/TmbuGSUhom4.
While fans watch the latest episode from Cody’s Wish You Were Here Summer Series, they can also check out his “Preview to Paradise” EP on iTunes at http://bit.ly/TWSPreviewtoParadise. Fans can also follow all the latest news and tour information from Cody online at http://www.codysimpson.com, http://www.facebook.com/codysimpsonmusic, http://twitter.com/codysimpson, http://www.youtube.com/codysimpsonmusic, and http://www.myspace.com/codysimpsonmusic.

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.