THE WIZARDS OF WINTER – ST (2014)
With the holidays coming up, it’s time for some Christmas albums. THE WIZARDS OF WINTER is an eclectic group of musicians from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania dedicated to bringing a holiday spectacle including a complete stage presentation.
The band was originally formed in five years ago as a Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) tribute band, but since 2011 they have produced new material of their own. This, their self-titled album “The Wizards Of Winter”, is the band’s second record just released.
With themes related to Christmas, The Wizards Of Winter compose music that exposes their Classic Rock and Progressive Rock influences with unique creativity and the extraordinary talents that each member possesses. The arrangements, performances and production are highly polished and refined to the point of near perfection.
This talented tri-state lineup includes director Scott Kelly also tickling the keys; Sharon Kelly on flute/vocals; Steve Ratchen on bottom/vocals and Fred Gorhau on guitar. All four of these musicians share in writing and composition of the arrangements.
The roster continues with Natalie Niareska on violin; T.W. Duffy also on guitar; vocalists Vincent Jiovino and Guy LeMonnier; percussionist Tommy Ference and on keys/vocals, Mary McIntyre.
Currently the band is touring with former members of The Trans-Siberian Orchestra: Guy LeMonnier, Tony Gayno and Joe Cerisano along with special guest Tommy Farese, who produced the CD with Tom Corea.
Opening with “Arctic Flyer”, this instrumental sets the mood with an energetic intro that has classic rock sounding roots. “Special Feeling” reaches down deep into the heart with its melodic feeling and greatly arranged vocals.
“Sing O’ Alleluia” with the intro ‘Do You See What I See’ kicks it into gear with powerful keys, tight harmonies and harmony vocals. “Night of Reflection” is a dual medley of some a well known classic that is expertly composed and performed, then “Once Long Ago” incorporates a keyboard segment that explodes into guitars rocking heavy with prog metal overtones. I love the organ with the Leslie and the marriage of the guitars in the solo.
Leaning toward a dark side is the track “Gales of December” that was inspired by the TV show “The Deadliest Catch” which incorporates bits of ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’. Lots of keyboards here.
“Moments of Wonder” is an absolutely wonderful piece of music. Piercing vocals send chills thru the listener. There’s pianos, flute, happy guitars solos and delicate lead vocals.
The next number features guest vocalists Joe Loria and Meg Williams along with percussionist Tom Corea on “March of the Metal Soldiers” that kicks things off in an old-timey swing sort of a way which melds into piercing multi-voice harmonies.
“Journey” is a powerful, banging instrumental with sinister undertones that reminds me of a soundtrack in one of the retro Roman movies or for you, prog rock fans, ELP. “Toys Will Be Toys” features the signature piano runs that have become well known with holiday rock operas.
“A Simple Gift” reflects on the holiday season through the lyrics, while the music is very melodious. Their simple gift from the heart is all they have to give and it’s the best gift of all. It’s a wonderful seasonal song, very touching.
There’s a bonus with “Ode to Eisenach”, featuring Fred Gorhau’s acoustic guitar playing a calm instrumental with a clean and precise picking that is refreshing.
“The Wizards Of Winter” is a complete collection of music that the discerning listener would appreciate and listen to multiple times this season. You get the true feeling of the message and the talent that created it.
This is a very well arranged, performed and produced album with a melodic and pristine sound.
A hearty, holiday two thumbs up.
01 – The Arctic Flyer
02 – Special Feeling
03 – Sing O’Alleluia
04 – Night of Reflection
05 – Once Long Ago
06 – Gales of December
07 – Moments of Wonder
08 – March of the Metal Soldiers
09 – The Journey
10 – Just Believe
11 – A Simple Gift (bonus track)
Scott Kelly – Director, Keyboards
Steve Ratchen – Bass
Tommy Ference – Percussion
Sharon Kelly – Vocals, Flute
Fred Gorhau – Guitar
TW Durfy – Guitar
Mary McIntyre – Vocals, Keyboards
Natalia Nierezka – Violin, Vocals
Vinny Jiovino – Vocals
feat. ex-members of The Trans-Siberian Orchestra:
BUY IT !