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Jarkko Ahola’s second Christmas album is yet another proof of the man’s excellent talent. He’s got a beautiful tenor voice and the skills to sing almost anything from the soft, hushed parts of Suojelusenkeli (Guardian Angel) to the more operatic vocals of, for example, Con te Partiro. I guess his reputation as the vocalist of Teräsbetoni may be a reason why he wants to show everyone he’s got more to offer to music than the high notes of power metal. I’ve been convinced for a while already.
Also, the orchestrations and arrangements of the songs on this album are quite lovely. The Bratislava Symphony Orchestra (conducted by David Hernando Rico) sounds airy and ethereal when needed (like in Ensimmäinen joulu - First Noël) but can also easily demonstrate the full strength of a symphony orchestra if a song requires it. I especially like the fact that the arrangements really do leave ”breathing space” in the songs. They haven’t been made into massive, pompous versions but quite clean versions instead. I like it.
But what I don’t quite get is the mix & match philosophy behind the track listing. I had the same issue with Jarkko Ahola’s first Christmas album. I couldn’t listen to it in its entirety more than once, as Albinoni’s Adagio made me cry my eyes out and that’s not something I necessarily want to do over a Christmas album. Suojelusenkeli doesn’t make me quite as teary, but I still don’t quite understand the combination of songs. Sure, the album is titled ”Classics of Christmas”, which really doesn’t need to mean it’s an album of only Christmas carol classics. But if Ahola wants people to listen to the beautiful non-Christmas songs like Con te Partiro and Senza Luce all year round, why have them on a Christmas album? I may be a Christmas carol conservative, but I would like to have a purely Christmas album from him and then a separate album for classical pieces & pop classics.
And please, could there be a happy Christmas song somewhere? I’m a Finn myself but I’m so tired of the Finnish Christmas music tradition of dead birds, kids and gloom (yes, slightly exaggerating here, I admit) that I’d love to hear an upbeat Christmas carol every once in a while. I’m sure Jarkko Ahola, as he’s also been a part of the Heavy Christmas project for years now, could throw in a jollier tune as well?
As far as the variation of styles on the album goes, I’m forced to continue my critique. I think the cohesion suffers from a need to include many kinds of genres on the album. For example, Ahola’s own composition ”Nuku vaan” (”Just Sleep”), is a lullaby-like song that hails back to the simple Finnish ”rautalanka” rock of the 60’s, whereas Senza Luce is an Italian translation of the Procol Harum song A Whiter Shade of Pale. On top of that there’s the Andrea Bocelli hit Con Te Partiro - once more a song that is also used as funeral music, just like the previous album’s Adagio… They are all beautiful songs but do they work well together on a Christmas Classics album? I’m not so sure, I’m sorry to say.
Having said all that about the choice of songs on the album I must add a huge thank you to Jarkko Ahola for choosing to record Finlandia, even if it’s not a Christmas song. It’s undeniably a masterpiece of Finnish music history (and therefore a classic for whichever time of the year) and he does it justice on this album. You can’t really go wrong with Sibelius on a Finnish album, and Ahola’s got two Sibelius’ songs on Suojelusenkeli. Not bad!
In short: great voice, lovely arrangements & orchestrations, odd mix of songs. Buy the album, download it to your computer and create different playlists of it? I think that’s my plan. Christmas carols for the Christmas playlist, others for a ”somber mood” playlist.
1. Ensimmäinen joulu
3. Oi jouluyö – O Holy Night
4. On hanget korkeat, nietokset
6. Senza Luce
7. Con te Partiro
8. Cavatina – She Was Beautiful
9. Nuku vaan