Many of us will be celebrating the holidays this year, in some fashion or another. Tradition can be a truly wonderful thing, whether it’s travelling to see friends and family, picking out a Christmas tree, giving gifts to your loved ones, or…releasing albums??? This year marks the second winter in a row that Professor Shyguy, best known throughout our lovely community for his enthralling voice and lyrical prowess, has graced us with the gift of music. Almost every tune on this album should be recognizable in seconds, but the Prof puts his own spin on each of these classic Christmas tunes, which makes for a heartwarming welcome to this otherwise blustering, bitter season (especially to us in the Northeast!). So gather round, grab a cup of hot chocolate, and let the soothing sounds of the Professor bring you warmth!
One may remember Shyguy’s cover of ‘We Three Kings‘ from 2012’s ‘chipWINter’, but it’s always a pleasure to hear Shyguy sing this carol. While most other recordings of this song are significantly softer, Shyguy puts his personal touch on this track and turns it into a heavy, emotional ballad. The darker lyrics in this song – particularly the verse of the song speaking of myrrh, a kind of odorous incense used to mask the scent of the deceased – are emphasized by a decrease in overall volume, providing dimensions that may not have been previously heard. The exit of all other instrumentation for a brief moment at 2:29 allows a beautiful high G to ring out with vivacious vibrato. Percussive work, particularly the marching band snare-esque rolls, is phenomenal through the song, and the touch of Shyguy’s sonorous shredding will delight many fans. The key change by the end of the track is also well executed and rounds out this masterful rendition of ‘We Three Kings’ quite nicely.
Holiday cheer needn’t only be portrayed through classic Christmas carols and holiday music; one particularly standout non-religious song is Danny Elfman’s ‘What’s This?’ from ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas‘, which is surely a traditional film for many of us. For the last 23 years, many have delighted in this song, which cleverly yet simply portrays the surprise of Jack Skellington during his first encounter with snow, Christmas decorations, and traditions. Musically, Shyguy expands on the original track with quick, punchy percussion and speedy square runs. Vocals throughout the song’s verses are backed by a square voice, while during chorus segments they provide quarter-note arpeggiated harmonies; the aural texture to Shyguy’s cover of ‘What’s This?’ is simply delightful.
‘Little Drummer Boy‘ is another song with heavily religious overtones, speaking of the birth of Jesus and how the singer lacks a tangible gift to bring the newborn. Instead of bringing gold or some other fanciful object, the drummer boy raps away at his drum…but Shyguy doesn’t really play the drums, and notes around 1:32 that ‘I’m better at guitar, so…’ This precedes a rather intense, octave-spanning solo, with the track’s main melody continuing to play behind it. Rather than having a different tune play behind it to emphasize the solo more, this particular passage has a sense of familiarity to it and segues nicely into the end of the song. It can be noted that many Christmas carols are quite religious in spirit, and while some may be slightly turned off from Shyguy’s ‘Little Drummer Boy’ as a result, I would implore them to listen to it while trying to pay special attention to its instrumentation.
The last song I’ll be writing on today is ‘Please Come Home for Christmas’, which may be known by many as a song covered by The Eagles; in reality, the song was written several years prior by a famous blues musician, Charles Brown. Brown’s original version features soft-spoken vocals and an overall gentle vibe, with bells ringing and light instrumentation garnishing the piece to create a classic. Shyguy’s version, however, takes this track up a few notches. The bells are nowhere to be heard at the beginning of this piece, instead replaced with a groovy, staccato triangle bassline, and an awesome bridge featuring Shyguy’s chugging away at the guitar takes place around 1:20. Structurally, the song differs from Brown’s as well; Shyguy sings through the whole song once prior to the bridge section, then returns to the song’s midsection before singing the first and final phrases once again, which makes for a unique rendition of this classic.
This particular album is slightly pricier than many at $10, but for $1 a track to play during your festivities for life, this is a tradition that I’ll be sure to take part in myself, and I hope that you will too. Each track is masterfully crafted and Shyguy’s beautiful voice is always a treat to hear. His style works perfectly with almost any kind of soulful, cheerful music, and it really shows on this album. Don’t miss out on this one, folks, and stay warm; it’s cold outside.