Marcelo Camela – Celebrate The King – A Christmas Album – Album Review
Not even a creature was stirring…
Okay…you know what? Whomever wrote that originally certainly never lived near a music-studio, nor did this person write about & listen to music all-day every day; there are many creatures a stirring and Christmas music has been making its way to our speakers since the middle of OCTOBER this year! And my feelings on the subject, season and music are well-documented throughout these pages…you know I’m quite often the Grinch of Christmas-music present when it comes to examining the yuletide-tunes.
But you know what ELSE has been put into print here at sleepingbagstudios multiple-times throughout the years? My love of instrumental guitar music…I’ve had TONS to say about it! What’s REALLY cool though…is that after listening to this new album from instrumental-guitarist-extreme Marcelo Camela – our love of his music, creativity and passionate-performances will also have been documented more than once in our reviews revealing a confirmation of his skills, talent and pure-love of his craft that radiates from the pages in support of his effort. He is a massively-skilled musician…so young still and so entirely gifted; I think it’s incredible to see that the majority of Marcelo’s time is spent giving-back through his music and doing his part to continually inspire us all and make the world a better place. His intentions, his mindset, his music…no matter what you choose to look at or examine, Marcelo is a completely pure-hearted soul that truly knows how to bring joy to the world through his stunning songs.
Some of these Christmas tunes on the album, I was familiar with; others I kind of knew a little…but with Marcelo’s creativity in-check and firing on all-cylinders once again, he’s also able to really present this music in a whole new-way…through the instrumental rock-guitarist’s perspective on the Xmas sound for once! And I really liked the fact that, aside from the jingle-bells ringing out clearly as the album begins – Marcelo launches immediately into heavy-distorted-riff-glory with a whole entire sound and approach to Christmas music that you wouldn’t expect on “Celebrate The King.” Even with “Good King Wenceslas” that followed, I found I felt the same way; everything I was hearing was so anti-typical for what you’d expect to hear around the tree on Christmas morning…
…all except for ONE thing…
…that same magic…that same pure audio-joy that Marcelo brought to his last album we reviewed, is what makes this album something you’d want to put on while you spend time with your loved-ones this season. To be truthful…I would argue that there is every bit as much joy and passion on his Praise And Strings album…I’d be just as happy to play that on December 25th for Christmas and I’d get the same uplifting feel, tones and atmosphere Marcelo creates, no question. Celebrate The King is of course, a dedicated Christmas album…and thereby, really the only difference in the music is that these are familiar songs to us…but the extreme level of captivating charm, love and pure-joy continue to remain at the high-level you’d expect from Camela. The way he winds through the last half of “Good King Wenceslas” is fantastic…and in my opinion, his version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” featuring Matt Giela is one worthy of standing up there with the best-of-the-best. We all know the words…you can sing them if you’d like to…but for me, these instrumental versions really hit the spot. The additional instrumentation and trumpet sounds of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” combined with the stunning-guitar tones hitting a completely angelic-stride…it’s all audibly fantastic.
Songs that I didn’t know as well like “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Believe” were massively impressive. I really liked the spin that Camela put on “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” with a more Spanish-style guitar and gentle percussion leading the way through this somewhat familiar tune to me…it’s one I know, but even if I had known this one inside & out, I’d be willing to bet that Camela has taken this original melody to extraordinary new places. “Believe” is one that…perhaps he’s written himself…I’m honestly not 100% sure. My gut tells me this one is pure-Camela…everything about the radiant & bright melody seems to bear his signature style of writing that we found on Praise And Strings. To further my point about the amount of significant JOY you can hear in his music…if this IS somehow a traditional Christmas song, I don’t know it…and if this is somehow NOT something you’d want to play around the tree on Christmas morning…you’re crazy. There’s more celebration in this kind of performance and approach than most of the Xmas-music you’ll ever get exposed to! If it’s not already in a format that’s been done 10000-times, or sounding like it’s just a slow-pulse above a flat-line in its delivery, sound and performance – that’s an extraordinary stroke of LUCK when it comes to Christmas music the way I see it – and Camela’s album is 100% full of vibrant tones, music and atmospheres that light-up every bit as brightly as that over-zealous neighbour on your block’s Christmas-light display!
You all know the one I’m talking about.
I think that Marcelo also displays tremendous judgement as a player, song-writer and composer when he takes traditional structures a little more close to their originals, like in “Silent Night.” To me…this is where I’m looking for a slightly more melancholy-feel…maybe that’s not the right word…more like, thought-provoking somehow…reflective…nostalgic – yeah, that’s it. The recording and performance of “Silent Night” has all of what I’m looking for in this song and so much more. The fragility of the sound and guitar-notes is a masterstroke of genius…I loved Marcelo’s version of this beloved Christmas classic.
Who would have ever thought one day I would be writing the sentence, ‘he’s put a great alternative sound & energy into the guitar-riffs that rip through “Deck The Halls”’ – cause I’ll tell you right now that’s not something I ever expected I’d be doing in my lifetime; but that is indeed the case. Camela’s talented & skilful solos and supremely-impressive guitar-work is ALL OVER this song…and believe me, by my own Grinch-like DNA, I do everything I can to resist “Deck The Halls” in any of its forms; but there’s no denying this one – Marcelo made it rock!
Does it get any better than “Joy To The World” though? That’s the question you’ll ask yourself when it gets to this point on Camela’s new record. Starting out with an absolutely spellbinding melody & rhythm, the song switches between letting that smooth sound ride and his incredible soaring solos that come crashing right back into the sweetness of the melody-line in purely brilliant ways. He really is an extraordinary talent…and a genuine one that does it all for the pure love of bringing new, vibrant creations into the world for all to enjoy. And I for one…I am. I am enjoying this very, very much and finding myself once again sincerely impressed with just how incredible this musician truly is.
“Oh Come All Ye Faithful” is played a little closer once again to the traditional-side of its nature and familiar, comforting melody. Featuring an assist from Marisa Frantz on another strong collaborative effort from Camela upon this record; her violin sounds are captivating…they take a sweet section of this song’s middle and really change up the atmosphere in a stunningly-beautiful way. Great ideas on this one come through, and even though it’s a little more recognizable to its original form…you can’t help but notice that the uplifting tones deep-set in this song’s melody are the exact ones that play to the best of Marcelo’s strengths as a writer and as a performer – perfect choice for him and excellent version of the song overall.
Much like the approach to “Deck The Halls,” “Christmas Time Is Here” is a ripping delight of bright-alternative chords and perfectly picked-out notes that echo every word you remember from its original lyrical-forms. Short…extremely well-played…at just over two-minutes long, “Christmas Time Is Here” plays like a solo for Camela…he could riff out two-minutes with his eyes closed asleep in a dream. Taking the added alt-edge of the energy and bringing it in deeper & heavier into “Carol Of The Bells” – this was another excellent choice for Marcelo. While this tune might be the perfect example of something that many might struggle with while having their Christmas breakfast…for others like me, this is exactly what we’re looking for on Christmas morning. On ANY day for that matter…I like passion, I like shifting dynamics and emotions and instrumentation in the music I listen to and this song has ALL THAT and MORE. I dig its heaviness…but it’s really the way it moves and still brings the haunting-feel of its original melody into this updated version that really make it all impressive.
And in contrast, Marcelo Camela wraps-up this sparkling album with “God With Us,” which is by far one of the more lighter-sides of this record’s set of melodies. Led largely by an acoustic-rhythm and captivating breakdowns that really standout for their beauty and graceful, precision-performances…I don’t even know what else can be said other than to point out that Marcelo is truly audibly-flawless all the way throughout this album. Like all Christmas-music, or well, really ALL-music I suppose…there will be some tunes that resonate more strongly within you than others do…but the astounding level of instrumentation, incredible instincts and pure HEART from Marcelo’s performances will go on to continue to be exactly what sets this guy apart from the rest. He’s literally and audibly 100% as good as the heroes of guitar like Vai, Johnson, Satriani etc. that he’s always looked up to himself. The masters are no longer teaching this student of music; this student has certainly become the master.
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