For the hordes of Trans-Siberian Orchestra fans out there, this box set is the ultimate gift from TSO founder Paul O'Neill and his chief collaborator, Jon Oliva. Handsomely packaged, The Christmas Trilogy
houses all three of the TSO's hard rock-meets-symphony epics -- their 1996 debut, Christmas Eve and Other Stories;
1998's The Christmas Attic;
and the final installment, 2004's The Lost Christmas Eve
-- plus a DVD of a gloriously staged production of 2001's The Ghosts of Christmas Eve,
featuring Ossie Davis in the role of the Caretaker and vocals by Jewel
and Michael Crawford
(Broadway's original Phantom of the Opera). Additionally, the glossy CD booklet includes each album's story in straight narrative form -- broadly, they're about searching for the true meaning of Christmas -- along with complete lyrics, session credits, and illustrations that evoke the mood and atmosphere of each tale. There's little in the way of subtlety here: TSO are about screaming guitars, thundering drums, and wailing vocals, all supported by a full orchestra with the brass, reeds, and tympani at full Wagnerian throttle. Occasionally, the tumult is quelled by the soothing, angelic voices of a children's choir, and that fleeting bit of tenderness adds a bracing introspection to the presentation. O'Neill and Oliva believe devoutly in what they're doing, and their passion and grand vision drive this work. It's a distinctive sound, and in the rock world the grandeur of TSO's approach, sweep, and execution is singular and compelling. These musicians' hearts are always in the right place, and it's palpable at every turn.