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Bill Perry:

A Christmas Carol
Bill PERRY Prelude/Resurrection [2:57]
Irving BERLIN (arr. Perry) White Christmas [3:15]
HANDEL/WATTS (arr. Perry) Joy to the World [2:44]
DAVIS-ONOTARI-SIMEONE (arr. Perry) Little Drummer Boy [4:49]
M. LEONTOVICH (arr. Perry) Carol of the Bells [4:04]
Bill PERRY Josylvia Winter [3:18]
MOHR-GRUBER (arr. Perry) Silent Night [4:54]
Bill PERRY Angeli Musicanti/Music of the Angels [3:44]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (arr. Perry) Hark the Herald Angels Sing [4:20]
Bill PERRY A Christmas Carol [10:37]
Bill Perry (guitar)
Rec. Blackwater Sound, Webster, New Hampshire (no date given)

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 ( have the same brief bit of biography. An excerpt:

"‘A Christmas 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 guitar repertoire."

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.

Brian Burtt



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