First and foremost before any further discussion … if you're a Metalhead or have a loved one who's a Metalhead, and if either of you celebrate Christmas, make a note on your Holiday “to do list” right now to pick up or order a copy of this Halford 3 – Winter Songs release. You’ll be glad each holiday season for many years to come that you did …
Now, with that public service announcement out of the way -- onto the rest of the story …
Throughout the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll, icons have developed, emerged, or (at times) hit the scene amid mass hysteria. Many have made an acute impact on the industry and societal norms, only to fizzle out (or crash & burn) due to their inability to handle success and the pressures tied into their image, or due to their inherent self-destructive tendencies. 20+ years ago, Rob Halford was close to falling victim to that “crash & burn” category, primarily resulting from on-going alcohol abuse, but he was able to regain sobriety, regroup, refocus, and re-emerge/resurrect as the definitive Metal God of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Whenever your “title” includes reference to a deity form or royalty (e.g., Michael Jackson being the KING of Pop, Elvis Presley being the KING of Rock ‘n’ Roll, etc.), you know that you’ve reached a plateau and level of respect throughout the industry that few have attained or will ever attain. When a label such as The Metal God attaches and sticks, you’re also afforded the luxury of pursuing and delving into certain realms of entertainment that others simply can’t pull off … or wouldn’t dare to even try. In Halford’s case, that luxury comes in the form of putting together and releasing a Christmas/Holiday Season album entitled Halford 3 – Winter Songs, a concept which to some will undoubtedly come as a shock, if not met with disbelief that the same man who penned the lyrics to the track “Eat Me Alive” (from Judas Priest’s Defenders of the Faith release) would also be covering spiritually-committed tracks such as “Oh Holy Night” and “Come All Ye Faithful” … AND, would be writing a holiday composition oozing with relational love such as “Light Of The World.” But, lo and behold Halford has done what may have previously been unthought-of by many … and, you know, he’s done just that extraordinarily well. To all of those who initially scoff at the idea of Halford delving into the Holiday Spirit … keep an open mind, and remember at all times the adage “You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover” … even if that book’s typically wrapped in black leather and accentuated by studded wrist bands.
Halford 3 – Winter Songs is comprised of 10 tracks with a total running time of about 41 minutes. 4 of the tracks are original Halford compositions (with consult mainly from guitarist Roy Z.), 5 are metalized covers of traditional Holiday Classics (“We Three Kings,” “Oh Come O Come Emanuel,” “What Child Is This?,” “Oh Holy Night,” and “Come All Ye Faithful”), and 1 track is a beautiful, tear-jerking cover of a less known Holiday-based track by Sara Bareilles (and the inspiration behind the name of the album) entitled “Winter Song,” begging for an answer to the question, "Is Love Alive?" To be sure, you'll find that answer when you listen closely ...
The album starts out with 1 of the Halford originals, “Get Into The Spirit;” a track that would serve as an excellent kick-off to ANY Metal album. The musical flavor here is curiously part Doom and part Industrial, but without a doubt, as Metal as Metal can be. The message essentially is a calling to gather, to push away distractions, and to get ready to celebrate and energize one’s spirits. With Halford’s slicing vocal style and the impressive guitar work displayed in this up-tempo rocker, Halford certainly lays the foundation and attitude for a true Metal Christmas compilation.
The other Halford original tracks unfold in succession midway through this album … and that trilogy segment begins with “Christmas For Everyone,” a song with a thick and driving Hard Rock presentation that also features a few well-placed conventional Holiday sounds via bells and keyboards. By and large this is a light “feel good” song topically, but most notable here is its insightfully catchy chorus:
“When Christmas comes for everyone
It brings us all together …
For just one day there’s peace in the world
We wish would last forever”
Indeed a nice reflection to muse upon ...
The next Halford original is “I Don’t Care,” which on the surface certainly seems to butt heads with the typical glad tidings associated with the Holiday Season. What this song is, though, is a track inspired by one of the funniest movies of all times, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (starring Steve Martin and the late, great John Candy), and deals with the occasional trials and tribulations all have faced at one time or another in trying to get everything done and to arrive at that ultimate, elusive Christmas destination … on time. “I Don’t Care” has an underlying Chuck Berry vibe running through it, and shows a rare tongue-in-cheek comical side of Halford’s writing moxie.
The last Halford penned original is a track that may surprise many, entitled “Light Of The World.” Only on rare occasion has Halford, either with Judas Priest or as part of any of his solo projects, ventured into matters of the heart … but “Light Of The World” certainly shows Halford is more than capable of capturing and conveying aspects of the emotions surrounding the truly special gift of being in love. Although more melancholy, the covered track “Winter Song” also deeply embraces this same theme, and together with this song Halford drives home the message of how true love can be the most important, warming, hope-producing, and radiantly powerful “light” of all shared between two people. You might just find a few apparent influences in “Light Of The World” borrowed (perhaps unintentionally) from The Beatles’ December 1995 single “Free As A Bird.” Regardless, “Light Of The World” could indeed catch on and be one of those songs that is listened to and enjoyed by many generations for years and years to come.
The remaining 5 covered songs, as mentioned above, are metalized interpretations of traditional Christmas classics, containing various manifestations of Halford’s personalized vocal stamp. “We Three Kings,” “Oh Come O Come Emanuel,” and “Oh Holy Night” have remarkably taken on a new Metal life via Halford’s renditions and are certain to get the adrenaline flowing for Metalheadz from all walks of life. “What Child Is This?” and “Come All Ye Faithful,” to differentiate, are presented in a much more reflective, spiritual, and majestic fashion. “What Child Is This?” includes those wonderful patented multi-layered Halford voice-overs that have contributed to setting The Metal God apart from all others in the business, and “Come All Ye Faithful” hits home as a great way to end this album in a “let’s all unite and gather together” fashion.
A number of heavy rock artists and bands have taken a chance on Christmas, and other than Trans-Siberian Orchestra, most have belly-flopped into a thinly-iced, slushy pond. Halford, however, has hands down delivered successfully. The Metal God has been bestowed with a voice unlike any other in the history of Metal and Rock ‘n’ Roll, and that gift from his Creator has brought him financial comfort and reverence by millions throughout this world. Just like The Little Drummer Boy giving the only gift that he could give to the newly born Christ Child, perhaps Winter Songs is likewise Halford’s humble gift back to his Creative Source, and perhaps too a heartfelt effort intended to help contribute to his loyal fans’ Holiday Season joy. Whatever the case may be, Halford has succeeded in crafting a Metal album that applauds and maintains the sanctity of the Christmas Holiday and its messages and meanings, showing further that he indeed is worthy of his title … while graciously letting his guard down just a bit to let fans experience more of what makes up a genuinely feeling and eclectic Metal deity.
On December 3, 2009, Metal Express Radio will air the HALFORD HOLIDAY SPECIAL FEATURE -- a world-exclusive show recorded with Rob Halford and our own Soft Boy. In this Special Feature, we’ll play the entire Winter Songs album, and Halford introduces each song and provides insights regarding their personal meaning to him … Rob also shares a number of never-before-aired stories about his personal Christmas Holiday experiences, memories, and traditions.
We'll also be posting a "Trivia Question" during the show -- Metal Express Radio will be giving away 5 copies of Winter Songs, and only persons who tune in will know the answer to be eligible to win!!!
Trust us when we say YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS THIS SHOW, so mark your calendars and be sure to tune into Metal Express Radio on Thursday, December 3rd at 15:00 and 21:00 CET (9 a.m. and 3 p.m. EST)!!!
For more information about Halford and Winter Songs, go to www.RobHalford.com.