Personnel: Andreas Vollenweider (vocals, guitars, harp, flute, ocarina, keyboards); Matthias Gohl (vocals, electric piano, keyboards); Zurich Youth Choir (vocals); Max Lasser (guitar, lap steel guitar); Daniel Kueffer (clarinet, saxophone); Walter Keiser (drums).
The legendary, Grammy Award-winning harpist takes some truly blessed left turns on what could have been just another pedestrian new age Christmas collection. Rather than do the umpteenth version of "White Christmas," Andreas Vollenweider applies his plucky, ethereal style to unique, traditional, and little heard Old World tunes like "The Coventry Carol" (which he jazzes up with bamboo flute and seductive sax), "The Wexford Carol," "The Yorkshire Wassail" (which is the source of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen") and "Carol of the Drum." His beautiful harp tones are perfect fits for these classical instruments, but he has enough pop sensibilities to add just the right touch of soul and groove to them. Vollenweider's other ace here is longtime friend Carly Simon, who lends her warm and familiar voice to an offbeat arrangement of the title track and several romantic, inspirational originals. Nothing is wrong with overtly commercial new age-oriented holiday collections like the beautiful albums Jim Brickman has done, but Vollenweider deserves kudos for digging deeper into history and finding emotional joy in traditional pieces that truly sound fresh here. ~ Jonathan Widran