Christmas from Mars
2000 / Sounds Manipulation Inc.
Review by Michael Debbage
Once again it is that time of the year when we celebrate love, peace and joy of the season whether it be for spiritual reflections or a time of reunions with family, friends and loved ones. Though released a few years ago there is no better time like the present to revisit Mars Lasar’s and his warm yet unique slant on traditional Christmas carols. But as always do not to expect the norm from this musical explorer.
Mars Lasar’s commercial recording career began in back in 1992 with the release of his debut Olympus. His freshman offering was geared more towards the mainstream New Age genre, paralleling more with the early years of Yanni’s musical styling. The emphasis was on the melody and intricate crossover rhythms. Never one to stand still musically, Lasar, courtesy of Eleventh Hour leaned towards the abstract and electronic manipulations yet still kept matters interesting. The mistake would be to pigeonhole the musician who followed up this effort with the sublime and gorgeous Sapphire Dreams that evoked lullabies and soft dreams. This theme apparently was evanescent as 2001 saw Lasar return to his patented soundscaping and effects with solid results courtesy of the album Karma.
Despite expecting the unexpected from this artist, the results here are a most pleasant surprise. While Mars Lasar’s theme is revisiting the traditional Christmas songs and carols, they come with his distinctive tilt on things. The arrangements are so unique that at times they sound like original compositions. The most obvious example comes courtesy of “All Ye Faithful” that is almost thunderous in its approach when viewed in the context that it was developed from the hymn “O Come All Ye Faithful”. The song is inspiring largely due to the crescendo of percussion work combining with the surging keyboard arrangements. There is also the rolling, strolling “Ye Merry Gentleman” which is a little more subdued when compared with his arrangement of the same carol that he collaborated on with guitar extraordinaire John Sykes a few years ago. Yet still this arrangement is exemplary.
We are even entertained with some very fine guitar work on the “Christmas Tree”. Countered with restrained but evocative vocal effects within the bridge, this song is a delight. There is a little additional guitar work available on “Bethlehem”, which is equally poignant. However, it is Lasar’s keyboards and sound effects that remain as the spotlight. There is not a filler track in sight and Lasar does a wonderful job in giving these time-honored carols an elegant makeover without losing their original spirit.
Christmas From Mars is well grounded yet still out of this world which is probably an accurate description of the music of Mars Lasar in general. While Lasar may wander musical, his production is always precise, provocative, elaborate and detailed. Lasar has become so complete in this area that if he were denied his compositional gifts he could easily take on the full time livelihood of a producer. Fortunately we have not had to endure such a loss and are rewarded by this masterful project that will no doubt endure as a Christmas favorite.
December 1, 2000
Review by Michael Debbage