Just added! Exciting one-on-one interview with musician and producer Rhan Wilson!
Read for yourself as he answers all the right questions, and even some wrong ones!

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Have you ever been Altared?
Honestly, haven't you secretly wished you could add a little something special to this year's holiday get-together? Something to loosen people up and to remind them of just why they are getting together in the first place?

Well, here's your chance! Just slip this CD into the player. It starts out quite beautifully with a solemn version of "Silent Night" but little by little gets stranger and stranger...

Before long, someone will surely say "What in the world is this?" as it occurs to them that even though the songs sounds so familiar, there is something quite unique about all of them. They are all in minor keys!

That may not mean much to some people, but when you realize that these Holiday songs were originally written in happy, major keys, then you will discover for yourself what happens when the lyrics stay the same while the music changes from major to minor.

So sit back and let the music take you to another place and time, a holiday gathering from another reality...
An Altared Christmas!

Read what everyone is saying about this unique and uplifting Christmas Recording!

An Altared Christmas CD Cover Artwork
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An Altared Christmas Limited Edition
Volume 1

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R E V I E W S


"...Where's the hash fruitcake?"

-Ukelele Dick

SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL

"O the holidays. We start out following tradition with the best intentions: dutifully shopping for friends and family, patiently waiting in the post office line with parcels tightly taped to government standards, carefully stringing outdoor lights outdoors and indoor lights indoors. In the quiet, idle moments we sip eggnog and think good thoughts, all to the soundtrack of relentlessly cheerful, stultifyingly familiar Christmas carols.

You've been so nice, don't you think you deserve to be a little naughty? I'm not suggesting you give the shopping mall Santa a hotfoot, but a merry little "Altared Christmas" may be just what you need.

"An Altared Christmas" (Dhejuti Records), is a more-than-slightly skewed collection of Christmas carols offered up by Rhan Wilson, the vocalist and multi-instrumentalist of Thoth and Haunted by Waters.

This holiday season, the Santa Cruz raised performer poses the musical question: "What happens to joyously major-key songs when they are suddenly recast in a minor mode?"

The result is "An Altared Christmas" a sometimes spooky, often funny, completely bizarre and oddly satisfying collection of nine familiar Christmas carols, bent by Wilson's inspired vision.

Like many of us, Wilson had equated the Christmas season and its music with "the pressure to deliver, the emphasis on guilt and consumption.'' A playful recording session meant to tweak some fun out of a couple of "seriously overexposed" carols became a full blown project after he transcribed the familiar lyrics and rediscovered their power.

Guided by the memory of a friend who had died of AIDS, Wilson decided to expand the project into a full-length album and donate half the profits to benefit AIDS services in Santa Cruz and San Francisco counties.

Wilson's partners in this methodical madness include local musicians Pipa Pinon, Daniel Lewis, Bob Burnett, Gary Regina, David A. Wallis and sound engineer Noel Gott. Portland artists Cyoakha and Melo and San Francisco contributors S.K..Thoth, actor Kelvin Han Yee, Janet Roitz, Mark Edwards, baby Cazzie and dogs, Lucky and Liesl round out the ensemble.

The record gives nine hackneyed holiday songs a fresh angle while retaining the original lyrics and melodies. It opens with an eerie, ambient "Silent Night" duet by Rhan and Pipa. "A Visit From St. Nicholas" gets a quiet, quirky jazz treatment reminiscent of Lord Buckley, that takes a turn when Santa sparks up his famous pipe. The normally chirpy "Deck the Halls" becomes the lament of a mournful mom tending to her wailing baby.

On the instrumental side, "Carol of the Bells" switches on with jazz fusion guitar squall and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" frizzles with fractured violin strains.

On a comic note "Mall Girl" Cyoakha whines her way through "Away in the Manger," at the same time cracking on the lyrics. ("Like, what is, like, 'nigh'?")

The ensemble then converts "Jingle Bells" into a strange, slow Yiddish chant only to whirl it like a dervish into a raucous laughing fit that totally grosses-out poor Mall Girl.

A closing bonus track of even more edgy laughter is sure to send you back out into the Christmas chaos refreshed and ready to face the rigors of the season -- with renewed energy and a slightly naughty smile.

"An Altared Christmas" is available at local record stores or though the website at www.altared.com.

-Adrienne Rogers
SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL

METRO SANTA CRUZ

"There have been many unusual takes on the classic Christmas album but never quite one like this. Simultaneously raucous and subdued, rollicking and genteel, An Altared Christmas is a ride through Xmas past and future. Standards like "Deck the Halls" and "Silent Night" are given a solemn, almost eerie treatment, while both versions of "Carol of the Bells" take on a world-beat vibe. "Little Drummer Boy" sounds like it should have been on Passion, Peter Gabriel's soundtrack for The Last Temptation of Christ. On the flip side, "Away in the Manger" and "Jingle Bells" are eclectic ditties, peppered with gum-smacking Valley Girl speak--"Bells" even sounds like a score for a Tim Burton flick. Produced and performed by Rhan Wilson (with the help of a roster of local performers like Pipa Piñon, Bob Burnett and Gary Regina), this album not only offers up seasonal classics in a different light, but will earn those who purchase it a big visit from Santa this year--half of the album's proceeds go to AIDS charities. "

- Karen Reardanz, Arts Editor, METRO SANTA CRUZ


GOOD TIMES SANTA CRUZ

"...These carols aren't just 'altared' - they're tweaked...This album definitely belongs in the the collection of any Christmas music collector with a sense of adventure..."

Rob Pratt, Music Editor, Santa Cruz GOOD TIMES


COOL AND STRANGE MUSIC MAGAZINE

"The starting track, "Silent Night," performed in a minor key, was very well done, and began the disc off to a wonderful start. You have to hear it; it will make you listen to Christmas music in a totally different light. Maybe never hear it the same way again..."

Robert Koenig


NOE VALLEY VOICE
SAN FRANCISCO

"...The Voice got a preview copy, and believe me, this disc has a great sound!..."

Roger, Rumor columnist, Noe Valley Voice, San Francisco


PAWS PRINT
PETS ARE WONDERFUL SUPPORT NEWSLETTER

"...Wait, you must also have "An Altared Christmas," an irreverent CD that contains, shall we say, odd, renditions of traditional holiday tunes - you'll be the most popular party host around."


DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR
CHRISTMAS MUSIC REVIEW WEB SITE

You're tired of the usual Christmas offerings. Even hearing yourfavorite performers isn't doing it for you anymore. Approach the altar of Rhan Wilson and taste his offering, then, because he has offered up the most unorthodox holiday treat of this season: An Altared Christmas. I was just beginning to nod off, and Rhan Wilson has awakened me with Christmas in a minor key.

I don't remember ever hearing even a single holiday song played in a minor key, but here is an entire CD. And that's not all. Wilson has unlocked the door to a cornucopia of cacophanous characters and moods with his new keys. His arrangements run the gamut from sad to silly--as the listener runs a gauntlet of madcap zanies, each of whom has a story to tell, if you listen carefully.

From Cyoakha's valley girl harmony vocals on Away in a Manger, to the monstrous cries of the weird creatures who materialize on the sleigh to terrorize her through Jingle Bells, a tremendous number of images and flights of dark fancy and fantasy characterize this artful rendering.

I was entertained by this unparalleled take on Christmas and, if you are one of those people who truly do want something different to listen to this Christmas, so will you be.

Sure to become a minor classic.

-Richard Banks, reviewer
DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR

About the Artist
Cool Animated Photo(s) of Rhan Wilson Himself

What happens when you change the music while keeping the lyrics intact?

Rhan Wilson, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist known for his work with Thoth, Haunted by Waters, and Dreambeach thought that he knew the answer, having jokingly done exactly that to many tunes over the years: "The music can take on a darker, more passionate edge."

What a surprise, then, when a whimsical, off-the-cuff recording session, staged to twist around a couple of seriously overexposed Christmas carols, suddenly yielded powerful, emotional results. It was especially surprising because Wilson had previously tied these carols solely to "the pressure to deliver; the emphasis on guilt and consumption" that makes up the Christmas experience for millions of us.

"I began to realize how beautiful these songs were," he recalls. "And as I started to write out the lyrics for the carols, I was, for the first time, aware of the lyrics and how meaningful they really are."

Moved by that meaning, and recalling the special holidays laughter of a close friend who had died of AIDS, Wilson decided to expand that session into a serious, if humor-laced, full recording project, and dedicate both its purpose and an equal share of its profits to those who help people with the disease.

Caught in the spirit, Rhan Wilson flipped through his phone book, dialed up the best musicians he knew, from Portland to Santa Cruz, and every one agreed to give of their time and service to produce a new, different kind of Christmas recording. The result? "An Altared Christmas," nine tracks of some of the most haunting, ribald and otherwise odd renditions of these traditional tunes ever recorded, with enough background surprises and stereo-field subtleties to keep it in the foreground at every listening.

From a roller-coaster version of "Jingle Bells" which speeds up endlessly to become an orgiastic melee of laughter to a "Deck The Halls" which looks at that decorating task from the point of view of an exhausted single mother, "An Altared Christmas" presents an entirely different way of hearing, and experiencing, songs heard thousands of times before.


This web site was made possible by the technical assistance of Steven Lienhard.


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