Various Artists

A Windham Hill Christmas: The Night Before Christmas

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The collection The Night Before Christmas is exactly what one would expect from Windham Hill: mellow, new age instrumental versions of familiar Christmas songs. Artists include Jim Brickman, Alex de Grassi, Liz Story, George Winston, and a number of others. Songs include the familiar -- "Silent Night," "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," and "Cherry Tree Carol" -- and the less familiar -- "Walking in the Air" and "The Green Trees of Winter." One piece that stands out in this album's context is "Morning Has Broken." What makes this inclusion fun and unusual is that while it certainly fits in with the seasonal theme, one is probably more used to hearing it on oldies stations than Christmas albums. Everything on the album fits uniformly together. Even a piece like "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," usually a brisk and upbeat number, is as peaceful as "Silent Night" in the hands of Steve Erquiaga. This collection will undoubtedly find its way to numerous gift stores, where it will play in the background as listeners shop, but it should also prove just right for a quiet evening after the hectic rush of holiday shopping. For fans of the series (which includes half a dozen entries), The Night Before Christmas will be a welcome addition.

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