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Midnight Clear

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Album Review

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.

Customer Reviews

Christmas music from The Land of Whowouldathunkit.

Andreas Vollenweider Christmas album. Four words we thought we'd never see together, and yet here it is. At his website (see the track listing image above for the address), Andreas Vollenweider explains the how and why of a Christmas album from a musician and anti-war proponent who was always more into mysticism than religion. No, he hasn't been baptized but he acknowledges that the underlying spirituality of religion is essential in healing the world's ills and even points to Jesus Christ's Sermon on the Mount as guidance for all of humanity. The selections and performances are eloquent witness of his convictions: a generous helping of traditional carols, a little Papa Bach and a few original works wrapped up in Vollenweider's trademark electric harp with some Carly Simon vocals. Happily, it sounds like he's kept alive a performance practice that dates back to his earliest works, specifically those lush enveloping bass notes played on the harp at the same time as the melody and harmony. The titles are better described as inspirations because Vollenweider makes each melody his own. "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" becomes a spirited waltz on the harp that veers pleasantly into jazz club improvisation when the clarinet comes in. "The Little Drummer Boy" emerges as "Carol of the Drum" and "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" features a lesser-known melody, neither the traditional nor the occasionally heard "Forest Green." Other surprises include wrapping "The Coventry Carol" in alternating Mayan flutes and cool jazz. "Midnight Clear" is a delight and destined to become for this century what the Ray Conniff Singers and Mannheim Steamroller were in the previous. Even more enchanting are the possibilities it opens for future albums. Dare we hope a few of Handel's harp concertos will someday leap from Vollenweider's magical strings?

Midnight Clear - Andreas Vollenweider

Imaginative and masterful. Another fabulous experience. The Yorkshire Wassail is a nice find.

Carly Simon and Vollenweider - a perfect match

I wasn't aware Vollenweider and Carly Simon had been friends for so long but by listening to these Christmas gems from the two of them it shows. This is my most favorite new Christmas release...we'll wear it out this season!


Born: 1953 in Zurich, Switzerland

Genre: New Age

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Andreas Vollenweider was one of the few musicians to gain superstar status as a "new age artist" back when the term was first used as a marketing category in the mid-'80s. The Swiss harpist, however, quickly transcended the need for alternative record sales when his albums simultaneously broached Billboard's pop, jazz, and classical charts in 1986. Born in Zurich in 1953, Vollenweider was ensconced in the city's fine art scene, courtesy of his father, one of Europe's leading organists. After becoming...
Full Bio