Sunday, December 18, 2005

A puff piece on Mannheim Steamroller?

Ye gods, my upcoming trip to New York is not looking very auspicious at the moment...I'm not a fan of Mannheim Steamroller, and therefore I mourn the trees that were sacrificed to make this:

What he has done out in the sticks is corner a market. "Chip Davis owns Christmas," says Sean Compton, programming vice president of Clear Channel Communications, which owns more than 1,200 commercial radio stations. "He is the Christmas king." Years ago, Mannheim Steamroller surpassed Elvis Presley as the top-selling Christmas artist of all time; even those who've never heard of Mannheim Steamroller have most likely heard its music. This year, more than 160 radio stations around the country have switched to an all-Christmas music format during the holiday season, some beginning as early as the first week of November. Mannheim Steamroller dominates those radio playlists, with as many as 15 songs in regular rotation on some stations. If you've wandered down a department-store aisle in the last few weeks, Davis's versions of "Silent Night" or "Deck the Halls" have probably drifted into earshot. The music is strange: a hodgepodge of rock rhythms, blipping synthesizers, Renaissance instrumentation and orchestral extravagance - a big, bright and, even by Christmas standards, fearlessly schlocky sound that Davis has called "18th-century classical rock." In Davis's reworked carols, the showy time-signature changes and keyboard passages of 70's progressive rock rub up against lutes, cornemuses and other 15th-century instruments; classical piano filigrees and gusty Muzak strings rise over a thudding backbeat.

For years, critics have savaged this music, dismissing Mannheim Steamroller as "the Lawrence Welk of New Age." "I've read some of the headlines, things like 'Commercial Musical Stew,"' Davis says. "All I know is that 15,000 people came to my concert, and I saw them stand up. And they weren't standing up to leave."

I like them almost as much as Thomas Kinkade musical snowy globes.

Ah, but let us rather sing the praises of the Chia pet, which is actually less bothersome than Mannheim steamroller.

Let us return to the simpler days of the Salad Shooter.

Or is that too violent?

I know a really off-color joke involving a certain digestive tract malady, which features the aforementioned product as a punchline, but I won't be repeating it here.

I only wish there was such a joke about Mannheim Steamroller.

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