· play whole album in popup
I came across this instrumental disc and, with great scepticism, sampled some tracks. Sometimes you get something with poor sound-quality or something churned out for tourists.
Instead, after listening, I was really impressed. I have never found another disc like this. Though I'm not Greek, I've been listening to Greek music for quite some time now. I espeically like the distinct sound of the bouzouki, and that's what this is: traditional Christmas carols on Greek instruments, very unique. All that's missing is the mournful sound of the clarinet (understandably).
I found that even people who aren't especially fond of Greek music enjoyed this wonderful disc. There are a few tracks ("O Come O Come Emmanuel" and "De Tierra Lejana Venimos", of course) which have a bit of a Spanish flare to them, but I liked these as well.
Most of the album comes across as a kind of Christmas laika, something I've found nowhere else. I've had trouble finding Christmas carols in Greek, at least in America, so this is a pleasant find. Not only do the songs have Greek instruments, they are played in a certain style I can't describe that is distinctly Greek and which gives a new spin to traditional songs. Some even sounded like they were played in the unique Greek meter.
I especially liked that they were carols. I love other Christmas songs like "White Christmas" etc, but they are overplayed in every store you go to, and so I find myself drawn to carols like these. There are a few drawbacks: "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "Away in a Manger" are done in the less-well-known (and for me less-liked) tunes as they can be played two different ways. I found "The First Noel" a little too slow for my taste, though it was a change of pace.
However, I love the fast, high sound of the bouzouki which is what most of this album features. There are also beautiful improvizations (I think they're called taximia) and variations in intros/bridges between choruses that make them unique. I especially like the rendition of "We Three Kings". I must say "Angels from the Realms of Glory" sounds more like "Angels We Have Heard on High". I'm not sure "De Tierra Lejana Venimos" quite fits with the others (and I had never heard it before), but it's so catchy I can't really put it down.
The best tracks are the minor key ones, which sound more "Greek", my favorite being "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" which has flourishing riffs that almost remind me of the intro to a famous Greek song "Nuchtose Choris Feggari". Some of the songs sound a little like Greek film scores, like Hatzidakis, at least to my untrained ears. And on some I almost expected to hear Dalaras or Kazantzidis start singing any moment. If you know someone Greek or have to buy a present for your Greek girlfriend's dad and have no idea what to get, get this. It's a great gift all-around. It doesn't cost much and it's very good.