Sunday, November 25, 2012

Celtic Thunder "Christmas" CD Review

In response to many fan requests for a Christmas album, Celtic Thunder finally recorded and released their first one in the fall of 2010 with Celtic Thunder Christmas. This CD includes a number of classic Christmas tunes, of both the traditional and popular variety, and is peppered with both solo and ensemble numbers.

This honestly is not my favorite CD of this group. In fact, until recently, I would have definitely put it dead last in my list of favorites. This may be a problem with popular Christmas music in general, but it seems to lean too much toward the "easy listening" category with songs that have very little depth to them. This makes them easy enough to listen to, but not very memorable.  That said, there are some tracks included that are worth a listen.

The Great

Damian McGinty is a real standout on this CD. His solos are absolutely the best on the album. He has a great warmth and growing maturity in his voice that make him really nice to listen to. Winter Wonderland is light, playful, and a real joy. Our First Christmas Together, a sweet song written for him by Phil Coulter, is really adorable. It's snappy, cute, and is sure to make you smile.

Silent Night is easily the strongest and most beautiful ensemble piece on the album. It's handled with appropriate seriousness and sung with great reverence. The harmonies are truly beautiful. It begins in Gaelic with the melody being passed from soloist to soloist, all the while with a harmonic chanting playing in the background. Eventually, the verses turn from solo lines to the entire ensemble singing together.  Really breathtaking.

All I Want For Christmas, a solo by Keith Harkin, is a really fun one. It's peppy and catchy, one of those songs that you'll find yourself dancing around the room, and then hoping that no one's watching you make a fool out of yourself. Keith's voice is really strong and enjoyable. It's one that you'll definitely want to listen to.

George Donaldson really shines on I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day. It's a great, upbeat song that George performs with the same energetic gusto that you'll find on his signature 500 Miles or Life With You. If you've liked him in those songs, you'll love him in this one.  A lot of fun!

The Good

Paul Byrom performs a lovely version of Ave Maria. This isn't really my favorite song ever (just in general), but it's a great song for a tenor and Paul does it great justice.

The Brat Pack comes to town in both of Ryan Kelly's solos. Let It Snow is a nice jazzy song, and Ryan channels a bit of Sinatra for it. Sometimes the range feels a bit low and butts up against Ryan's usual ability to emote well. But, it's smooth and sexy overall. Baby It's Cold Outside is another jazzy piece, this time a duet with Charley Bird, a return guest artist after singing on the previous Storm and It's Entertainment. The mere fact of the duet has its pros and cons. Charley is a really nice vocalist, but time taken away from fans' precious Celtic Thunder main soloists doesn't always go over well (if ever). It may be a problem with mixing, but Charley's voice often stands out more than Ryan's does.  However, the song is flirty and seductive and is fun to sing along to.

Keith's Last Christmas isn't really my favorite of his solos. It's very reminiscent of those 80s ballads that I gripe about every album.  It doesn't seem to have a lot of depth. But it has a habit of getting into my head, and I find myself singing it all the time!

The Skippable

Neil Byrne's It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas is sweet, but it feels like fluff. It's sung so lightly, too lightly, with musical accompaniment that often seems to overpower Neil's voice.

Celtic Thunder rounds off the album with a Christmas Medley, comprised of "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." I'll be honest with you. It's pretty cheesy. When you listen to it, your mind's eye can't help but imagine a choir of choreographed swaying along to the music in a Charlie Brown-esque parody. It does have some bright moments of honestly nice harmonies tucked into the cheese, so it might be worth a listen anyway.  But, don't say I didn't warn you about the cheese.

If You Can Only Afford Three Tracks

  1. Our First Christmas Together (Damian McGinty Solo)
  2. Silent Night (Ensemble)
  3. All I Want for Christmas is You (Keith Harkin Solo)


  1. Thank you for waiting until after Thanksgiving to post this :)

    1. LOL! What? You didn't want a Christmas review in July?


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