Mannheim Steamroller


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Halloween is further proof that Chip Davis and his American Gramaphone outfit plan to provide and market proper musical accompaniment for all holidays, themes, and moods. Davis and his Mannheim Steamroller hit that categorical trifecta in 2003 by releasing three discs within months of each other: Romantic Melodies (mood), American Spirit (theme), and Halloween (holiday). While Romantic Melodies collected previously released compositions from the Fresh Aire series and American Spirit combined old and new material, Halloween features original, Mannheim-style arrangements of appropriately dark classical pieces and a few new Davis compositions, with only a couple of catalog songs revisited to pad the disc. This ultimately helps make Halloween's music the best among these three highly marketable products. Creepy classical pieces usually heard around the holiday by composers such as Bach, Wagner, and Mussorgsky are given the signature synthetic Mannheim flare while going light on the scare. Davis' playful approach gives these standards a more comical feel, as if they were to be included on a soundtrack to a Munsters movie rather than a frightening monster movie. Grieg's Hall of the Mountain King is the most effective of these pieces as ghostly groans accompany the pizzicato string melody that is backed by an almost danceable drumbeat. Davis' own compositions, both old and new, serve the theme quite well, with the chugging rhythm of Rite of Twilight being the most interesting and amusing as strains from the theme song to TV's Twilight Zone provide the song's foundation. In addition to the music, a second disc of sound effects is included that is meant to be "shuffled" along with the music disc on a multi-CD player. While it may be utilized to good effect in conjunction with the music, on its own the "EFX" disc is quite repetitive and banal with a large portion of the tracks centered around the sounds of a nighttime forest enhanced by a synthesizer and only a few eerie sounds heard during The Other Side and Mountain King. Although Mannheim Steamroller may not provide any real thrills or chills for the holiday, it does emphasize (and synthesize) the happy in Happy Halloween, as the disc's jovial atmosphere makes one prone to having simple, pumpkin-carving fun rather than actually Smashing Pumpkins.

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