Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Music Review: The Silent Night EP by Marc Martel

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Six wonderful arrangements of great songs
Cons: The introduction really isn’t needed
The Bottom Line:
Short Christmas release
That is long on quality
Must get new EP

Majestic EP of Christmas Music

Despite the fact that I was a huge fan of the band Downhere for their entire career, I have not done a good job of following Marc Martel, one of their lead singers, in his solo career after the band retired.  (And I call myself a huge fan.)  However, when Marc announced he was releasing The Silent Night EP this year, I jumped to get it, and I have not been disappointed.

The disc starts off with the intro, which is the only weird track.  It is essentially a bunch of people talking and making noise until they suddenly cut out.  Since this leads into “Silent Night,” the first official track, I get what Marc was trying to do here, set the message of Christmas against the noise of the world.  I’m just not completely sure it was needed.  Regardless, it’s less than a minute and the only possible weakness to the disc.

You know you are in for something special as soon as that first musical track starts.  Marc sings the first verse a cappella, and his voice is amazing.  He slowly brings in some piano as he sings the second verse, but his voice is still the focal point.

And as the disc progresses, the arrangements remain simple.  It’s just Marc and a couple of instruments.  Usually it’s piano taking the lead, although the guitar does so on “What Child is This?”  We get strings on a couple of tracks to add to the beautiful music.  Marc is joined by Ron Block on “What Child is This?” but otherwise it is usually just Marc singing as well.  If you called these tracks acoustic, you wouldn’t be far off at all.

But these simple arrangements are so powerful.  Marc’s voice is outstanding, and these arrangements are designed to show it off.  He does put his own spin on things, changing a line of melody here or a rhythm there, and those little changes make things fun.  Even the song with the most change “O Come Emmanuel” mainly stands out from the other versions you have because of the bridge that Marc has added.

The disc closes with a new version of “How Many Kings,” a song Marc co-wrote that was a huge hit for Downhere.  When I listen to this song on this disc, I feel like I am listening to a remix.  This is definitely the most polished sounding track here, breaking away slightly from the acoustic feel of the rest of the EP.  Again, Marc has added some twists to it, and it has taken me a few listens to get used to them.  Don’t misunderstand, I still love the song.  It’s just that this song has taken the most time to grow on me, but grow on me it has.

With just six songs, this disc is short, but each song is outstanding.  If you are looking to add more Christmas music to your collection, you would do well to consider adding The Silent Night EP.

EP Length: 24:04
1. Intro
2. Silent Night
3. In the Bleak Midwinter
4. O Come, Emmanuel
5. O Holy Night
6. What Child is This?
7. How Many Kings 2016

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