The working title of this collection of Christmas songs was called 'Christmas II' mainly because it was my second Christmas CD. I then decided to name it after the heart felt First Noel featuring R&B singer and collaborator 'Joaquin'. The CD covers a lot of ground stylistically from my various musical influences Jazz, Pop, R&B, Brazilian, Smooth Jazz, Flamenco and Classical. There's something here for everyone... Well almost everyone sorry no rock guitar maybe the next one! The song 'Home for the Holidays' and 'Winter Wonderland' are upbeat jazzy and toe tappin. The lush Brian McKnight's 'Let It Snow' originally performed by the Backstreet Boys and the moving rendition of Natale Cole's version of 'My Grown-up Christmas List'. Ending the collection is the lyrical and ever popular holiday classical J.S. Bach's 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring' performed as a guitar duet. Produced by: Phil Sheeran REVIEW ------- It is always good to see Phil Sheeran when the holidays roll around. Two years ago, I reviewed I'll Be Home for Christmas, Sheeran's 1996 release, and now Mr. Smooth Jazz returns with The First Noel. Like the finest wines, most class acts do get better with age, and Sheeran does not disappoint; I like this holiday offering even more than the first (although I do miss the sweet simplicity of the guitar solos included on the earlier CD). Sheeran is a jazz guitarist/composer who spans a broad range of musical genres here--from classical to Brazilian to pure pop. At it's heart, though, this music is decidedly Smooth Jazz--with some attitude, but satiny smooth all the same. Sheeran's accomplished ensemble provides a seamless mesh with his guitars; special nods go to the sax man (George Shelby) and keyboards master (Leon Bisquera). If you are hankering for almost an hour of well-executed jazz instrumentals when the December winds begin to blow, then Sheeran and his talented pals should make very fine company. My favorite tracks are the title cut The First Noel, which has a playful, yet mystical, feel, and the percussive It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. The former contains the album's only singing; Joaquin's subtle vocalizations act as just one additional musical instrument, providing an overarching layer of sound. Very, very lovely. The latter number has a tap-tap-tappin' sensibility that makes you irrepressibly swing in place, and the percussive framework really let's Sheeran's excellent guitar playing shine. The song rolls through some intense Brazilian interludes, then rolls back to the timeless melody that carries the day. Phil Sheeran's The First Noel is a great choice for those who seek smooth jazz renderings of Christmas favorites. It's a great way to create a warm and welcoming, but inobtrusive, backdrop for a holiday event. Within the next ten years, I will certainly expect Sheeran's third Christmas release. See you then, Phil--and Happy Holidays! --Carol Swanson Christmasreviews.com (Reviewed in 2007) BIO: Phil Sheeran has established himself as a guitarist and composer with the national international release of his CD's 'Breaking Through', 'Standing on Fishes', 'It's A Good Thing', 'Orchid' and The Marc Anthony Latin Guitar Tribute CD plus two holiday albums, 'I'll Be Home For Christmas' and 'The First Noel', and his most recent Japan only release 'Phil Sheeran, The Best of Smooth Jazz Series'. Phil's albums have hit #17 on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz and charted top 5 in the nation for air play on contemporary jazz and New Adult Contemporary stations. Phil has performed on the same bill as the Rippingtons, David Benoit, Richard Elliott, Michael Tomlinson, Danny O'Keef and Tom Grant and has recorded with such artists as Eric Marianthal, Steve Kujula, Luis Conte, Gregg Karukas, Andy Narell, Eric Tagg, Brandon Fields, Harvey Mason, and Will Kennedy just to name a few. Phil's educational background is in jazz, classical and Brazilian music. Graduated from the prestigious Cornish Institute of the Arts with a BFA in music, Jazz composition and performance. Phil signed with Sonic Edge Records of Los Angeles, California in 1990 and released his first album 'Breaking Through' nationally. In 1991 came the release of his second album 'Standing on Fishes as it climbed up the charts to #4 NAC. Phil was nominated by NAMA (Northwest Area Music Assoc.) both in 1991 & 1992 for Best Jazz Artist, Best Jazz Recording and Best Electric Guitarist. Presently, Phil resides in Los Angeles performing clubs, concerts, festivals ... as a session guitarist and composer, producing music for clubs, radio, film and television. International releases to date include: Japan, Italy, South Africa and Brazil. Review quotes: --- 'With Sheeran there's always more than meets the eye just as he eases our expectations with gentle declarations the guitarist fires up to explosive effect.' Jonathan Widran, JAZZIZ, USA 'With a smooth, clipped-chord sound recalling Earl Klugh sunny, wide-open leads and memorable melodies.' Hilarie Grey, JAZZ TIMES, USA 'Phil is an accomplished acoustic guitarist whose sound and style is a Jazzier version of Earl Klugh.' Al Merritt, JAZZ NOW, USA.