Friday, February 10, 2017

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Beethoven's Last Night

During the weeks leading up to the last Christmas, I'd occasionally hear the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version of Ring Christmas Bells, and I'd watch a bit of their performances on youtube. Eventually, I got to wondering what else they've done, and how well they did it, so I requested a CD of their music as a Christmas gift. What I received was "Beethoven's Last Night."

TSO is an American prog-rock band formed in 1996 by Paul O'Neill, Jon Oliva, Al Pitrelli (both members of Savatage) and Robert Kinkel. Of the 9 albums listed in the wikipedia discography, 5 of them are Christmas related in some form. The orchestra is big, and the performances are staged as rock concerts, complete with pyrotechnics and massive banks of lights. Which brings me to "Beethoven." This was a rock opera, released in 2000. In 2012, it was reissued as "Beethoven's Last Night: The Complete Narrated Version," including the narration that was used in the live performances.

The basic concept is that Beethoven is dying, and he's not happy about it. Mephistopheles shows up to make an offer - "you can live longer, but your music will be erased from human memory." As Beethoven considers accepting this deal, he's then joined by Fate and her son, Twist, who more or less try to help him make the better choices. There's some similarity in presentation and solo singing that reminded me a lot of the Jesus Christ Superstar Broadway play.

Overall, the main male actors are very hammy, particularly the one playing Beethoven. Some of the music is good, but I was put off by the more weepy, self-pitying lyrics. I wouldn't recommend BLN as an introduction to TSO's music, but's it's not that bad of an album. On the other hand, if I want rock opera, I'd go immediately with the Jordan Rudess Dream Theater albums.

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