Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Merry Axemas -- A Killer Guitar Holiday Sendoff

The holiday fever is heating up, so here are a few gems to get you started now. A tour de force of guitar players Steve Vai has known rock around the Christmas tree in this must-have Yuletide album. Vai, who began his career as a member of Frank Zappa's band and in more recent years has been David Lee Roth's partner in crime, transcends both roles by playing matchmaker between a few of our more inventive (albeit overlooked) guitar slingers and some of the best-loved Christmas carols. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer's proboscis has never glowed quite so brightly as when Kenny Wayne Shepherd cranks up his guitar and takes us down an edgy blues journey. More highlights include "The First Noel" from Eric Johnson. He starts us off with an acoustic rendition before stepping over to his electric guitar and wowing us with his fancy finger work, but nothing so flashy as to take away from the original work. As always, EJ's tone is right on and after a couple of his patented licks and runs he turns the tune into his own. The Brian Setzer Orchestra rocks Christmas with a swinging version of "Jingle Bells". The horns blare, and Brian gives us that Rockabilly fell on his Gretch. After checking out this upbeat tune you'll never know how it could have been any other way. Hotei comes in with a good rendition of Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)". Jeff Beck gives a haunting performance on "Amazing Grace" pulling out his trademark bends, dives and swells. His take is very beautiful and fitting to more than just Christmas.

For anyone looking for a little less traditional take on Christmas music, or if you're a guitar junky, don't miss celebrating Christmas without this axe-ful album. You may even have to spin this disc in July.

1. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer - Kenny Wayne Shepherd 2. The First Noel - Eric Johnson 3. Amazing Grace - Jeff Beck 4. Jingle Bells - Brian Setzer Orchestra 5. Silent Night/Holy Night Jam - Joe Satriani 6. Joy To The World - Steve Morse 7. Christmas Time Is Here - Steve Vai 8. Blue Christmas - Joe Perry 9. The Little Drummer Boy - Alex Lifeson 10. Cantique De Noel (O' Holy Night) - Richie Sambora 11. Happy X-mas (War Is Over) - Hotei


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