This recording has
no liner notes, just a track-listing
and credits, so I needed to fire up
my web browser to learn a little more
about Bill Perry. Both his web site
and that of Eroica Recordings (www.eroica.com)
have the same brief bit of biography.
Carol’ is the debut release of New Hampshire
native Bill Perry. After playing electric
and acoustic guitar for many years and
studying classical guitar, Bill toured
and taught music until eventually giving
up music for almost 20 years … ‘A Christmas
Carol’ represents Bill's quest to bring
the true spirit of Christmas to the
Unlike some classical
music critics, I am not categorically
opposed to cross-over efforts. It seems
to me that they fall into two categories:
those crafted by marketers to appeal
to an audience presumed not to like
‘straight’ classical music, and those
genuinely inspired by artists involved
in crossing musical boundaries. This
disc, mixing Perry’s arrangements of
Christmas carols and his original compositions,
definitely falls into the second category.
I wish I could be more enthusiastic
about the result.
The most immediately
frustrating aspect of this recording
is its incessant squeakiness. Of course,
one will find squeaks in the playing
and recordings of all but the most technically
proficient classical guitarists in fast
and difficult passages. However, little
on this disc is fast or difficult, and
yet on most of the tracks squeaks occur
at the end of each phrase, at times
even between every left-hand shift.
Given that the recording highlights
these noises, one almost wonders if
a conscious stylistic decision was at
work, an exaggerated attempt at an "authentic"
classical guitar sound.
Few of the carols fare
favorably under Perry’s arrangements.
"Joy to the World" suffers
from country-rock riffing that brings
to mind Willie Nelson — definitely an
incongruous jolt. Perry’s own composition,
"Josylvia Winter", has this
same issue. In "Silent Night"
he creates a bell effect in the way
he plucks the strings. It almost works
but then he breaks the mood by playing
faster, then arpeggiating on the melody.
"Little Drummer Boy" sounds
good on the guitar, until Perry’s percussive
effects which consist of anaemic tappings
as if he is trying not to wake up his
listeners. Only "Carol of the Bells"
comes across as consistently inspired
and unaffected. It even has less than
the normal quota of squeaks.
Regarding the rest
of Perry’s own compositions, while listening,
I frequently jotted the notes "pleasant
noodlings" and "squeak!".
Everything seems designed to be simple
and inoffensive; nothing in the music
engaged either the intellect or the
emotions. "A Christmas Carol,"
a ten-minute long piece supposedly "inspired
by the Charles Dicken’s Short Story
[sic]", does nothing with its note-noodling
or occasional chord-strumming to evoke
the story or the Christmas season.
The appropriate potential
audience for this recording will not
be serious devotees of classical music,
but those interested in new-age easy
listening With the ever-present loud
squeaks I would have a hard time even
recommending it to them.