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The Priests ()

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A trio of Irish Catholic priests, two of them brothers, may seem like odd candidates for a major crossover marketing push by the RCA/Sony colossus, but whoever conceived this odd idea has carried it off reasonably effectively. Start with the makeup bucks that were surely involved; the blond-haired priest in the center, collar and all, is made to look like a cyborg from a hip science fiction movie. The surfaces come from the pop side; arranger Sally Herbert provided some of the more lush string backgrounds on Radiohead's recordings, and producer Mike Hedges has a rsum going back to the 1970s and encompassing such groups as the Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees. But when it comes down to the basic musical product, nobody goes overboard. The three priests -- two tenors and a baritone -- have light voices that the production doesn't overwhelm, and they stick to familiar numbers like Franck's Panis Angelicus before turning to contemporary material. The newer songs are better suited to their slightly croonish voices, and they have an enjoyable mix of familiar numbers, like the seemingly ubiquitous Andrew Lloyd Webber Pie Jesu, and more unusual yet simple melodies, not only Irish but also, in a couple of cases, Spanish. The production is oddly echo-filled, but it comes off as spacious rather than grandiose, and it effectively knits the entire program together. It all coalesces into a group of Christmas sentimental favorites of the sacred sort, sung in ensemble by performers who've managed to bring some of their enjoyment of what they do to an outsized project. Recommended, especially as a holiday item for those whose gift-giving plans include light classical music. ~ James Manheim, Rovi Hide synopsis

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