I made two incorrect assumptions when Ivory Angels
arrived for review. From the title, I assumed that this would be an acoustic piano album, and it isn’t - all of the instrumentation is electronic and of excellent quality. The other assumption from the title was that these would be extremely different arrangements of Christmas carols - along the line of the first two Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums or Silvard’s “Calling Upon Angels,” where the themes of the songs were there but he improvised his own versions. Rick Seaton’s arrangements are solid and have some very original interpretations, but are not radically different from the traditional tunes. Different, but not way out there. Seaton’s selection of carols is made up of non-Santa songs that are of a more sacred nature. Playing styles include mellow/new agey, gospel, smooth jazz, and most of the tracks are piano with other instruments accompanying (all performed by Seaton on keyboards).
All eleven tracks are very enjoyable, but I do have some favorites. “What Child Is This” is enchanting. Mostly a piano/guitar duet, Seaton keeps the melody clean and uncluttered, but has a complex piano part in the background that livens up the piece without taking it too far out of tradition. “O Little Town of Bethlehem” truly is a very different arrangement, and isn’t recognizable for the first 45 seconds. When the melody enters, it is jazzy and upbeat - a very joyful version that is also a lot of fun! “Once in Royal David’s City” starts out as a basic church hymn played on organ with choral voices accompanying. It then evolves into a soulful gospel piece with organ and piano that becomes an exuberant jazz trio (piano, organ, and percussion), ending with a phrase of the “Hallelujah” chorus - this one makes me smile each time I hear it. “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” is unusual in that Seaton has changed the time signature to 5/4, giving it an edge that makes it fun to hear, but will probably throw off the sing-along folks (nothing wrong with that!). “Coventry Carol/Away In a Manger” is gorgeous. Mostly guitar and voices, the medley shimmers with simple beauty. I also really like “Masters In This Hall,” which I’ve heard before, but never knew the title. It sounds like it’s from The Renaissance, and is given appropriate treatment for that era - joyful, but in a minor key - a great way to end the album!
As I’ve mentioned many times before, I get really tired of Christmas music because I teach it so much, but I really enjoy Ivory Angels
. If you’re in the mood for some fresh interpretations of Christmas carols, this is a great album! It is available from rickseaton.com
, amazon.com, and cdbaby.com. Recommended!