Friday, December 25, 2015

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

I wasn't going to post anything today, but at the last minute, I thought this was fitting.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) is an American progressive rock band founded in 1996 by producer, composer, and lyricist Paul O'Neill, who brought together Jon Oliva and Al Pitrelli (both members of Savatage) and keyboardist and co-producer Robert Kinkel to form the core of the creative team. The band gained in popularity when they began touring in 1999 after completing their second album, The Christmas Attic the year previous. In 2007, the Washington Post referred to them as "an arena-rock juggernaut" and described their music as "Pink Floyd meets Yes and The Who at Radio City Music Hall." TSO has sold more than 10 million concert tickets and over 10 million albums. The band has released a series of rock operas: Christmas Eve and Other Stories, The Christmas Attic, Beethoven's Last Night, The Lost Christmas Eve , their two-disc Night Castle and Letters From the Labyrinth. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is also known for their extensive charity work and elaborate concerts, which include a string section, a light show, lasers, "enough pyro to be seen from the international space station", moving trusses, video screens, and effects synchronized to music.

Paul O'Neill has managed and produced rock bands including Aerosmith, Humble Pie, AC/DC, Joan Jett, and Scorpions, later producing and co-writing albums by the progressive metal band Savatage, where he began working with Jon Oliva (who had left Savatage to spend time with his family and take care of personal matters), Al Pitrelli and Robert Kinkel. O'Neill took his first steps into rock music in the 1970s when he started the progressive rock band Slowburn, for whom he was the lyricist and co-composer. What was intended to be the band's debut album was recorded at Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady Studios and engineered by Dave Wittman. Although Wittman's engineering was capturing the exact sound O'Neill was hearing in his head, O'Neill was having trouble with it because many of his melodies were between two to three octaves. Rather than releasing an album that he was not happy with, he shelved the project, but continued working in the industry at Contemporary Communications Corporation (also known as Leber & Krebs), the biggest arena rock management company at the time.

Over the years, O'Neill continued to work as a writer, producer, manager, and concert promoter. In 1996, he accepted Atlantic Records' offer to start his own band. He built the band on a foundation created by the marriage of classical and rock music and the artists he idolized (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Queen, Yes, The Who, and Pink Floyd, and hard rock bands such as Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin and the multiple lead vocalists of the R&B groups the Temptations and the Four Tops). He brought in Oliva, Kinkel, and Pitrelli to help start the project. O'Neill has stated, "My original concept was six rock operas, a trilogy about Christmas and maybe one or two regular albums."

O'Neill and Jon Oliva were preparing for the launching of Trans-Siberian Orchestra when their plans were brought to a halt with the death of Jon's younger brother, Savatage guitarist Criss Oliva. Realizing that without a new Savatage album delivered quickly, Warner Brothers would likely drop the group and their catalog, they quickly delivered two new albums for Savatage. Not until they were sure that the Savatage situation was stabilized were they able to resume work on TSO. With Savatage stabilized O'Neill decided it was time to launch Trans-Siberian Orchestra; however, the William Morris Agency had heard the rough demos and convinced O'Neill that it was too good to be a rock album. Owen Laster, O'Neill's agent, not only got him thirty million for production cost but also helped him to obtain total creative control over everything produced by him.

"Wizards in Winter" is an instrumental track by Trans-Siberian Orchestra, released on the 2004 album The Lost Christmas Eve. During the 2005 Christmas season, electrical engineer Carson Williams set up a Christmas light show in the front yard, driveway, windows, and roof of his house. It took him about two months and 16,000 lights. The lights were synchronized to the music, and the show was free for anyone passing by who tuned to a specific low-power FM frequency on their car radio. It is also available to download on iTunes as a music video.

A three-minute video of the show playing circulated widely on the Internet, and also spawned many others who imitated the style of setting their Christmas lights to this and other songs. It was later adapted by Miller Brewing Company into a 30-second TV advertisement for Miller Lite that aired on U.S. stations in late 2005.

A similar animation was used in a commercial for the UK's National Lottery, although, according to a press release, the advertising campaign "was created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO". No mention of Carson Williams' light show was made. The advert can be seen on the website.

The piece is also used in Jordan's Furniture's 2009 Christmas LITE (Laser Imagination Theater Experience) show.

What does tomorrow bring?

Tune in to find out! 

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