You know, I've been reviewing and writing about music for the Herald-Star for more than 13 years now, and rarely do I ever comment on a locally produced album.
Why? Well, I have to be honest, and what happens if I don't like it?
Over the years hundreds of home-grown CDs have crossed my desk, and believe me, a lot of them weren't very good, either for production values or the music.
I don't want to pan someone locally because I'm also a musician, and I can understand how that could be very traumatizing.
Musicians are the complete opposite of politicians in that we "are" what we create, and we hold that very dear to us, whether we like it or not.
We are very thin-skinned about our creative work.
Usually I'll just give someone a phone call to tell them I like this or that, and that's that.
They don't need to know that maybe I thought the production values were so-so, or that vocal is out of tune or whatever. I sure as hell wouldn't want to hear that about something I created, so I'm not going to insult and slam someone's local product in print.
I'm more interested in promoting good music over bad, and those with national reputations can handle it if I occasionally give them a less-than-stellar review.
Every so often I run across something that is so good locally even my much-jaded ears are intrigued. Such is the case with "The Greg Capozzi Christmas Album," recorded at Mike Ofca's Innovation Studio in Steubenville over a three-year period with Ofca doing double duty recording and co-producing.
Now, my all-time favorite Christmas albums are Frank Sinatra's swinging "Have a Jolly Christmas" and Bob Dylan's Christmas album, so that kind of tells you where I'm coming from. It's got to be different to capture my attention.
Greg Capozzi is a local guy from Pricedale, Pa., and one hell of a singer and pianist. His playing reminds me of the great '70s rock pounders, like Elton John during his prime.
He's a great guy, writes marvelous songs and has not even a wisp of pretension about him.
I really like the passion in Greg's vocals, and his piano-playing - well, no one, unfortunately, plays that way anymore, mainly because they don't know how.
I'd heard some of his solo stuff, and although his material might be categorized as Christian, most of the modern, mainstream Christian rock bores me to death.
Not so with Greg's music.
To be honest, I wasn't really prepared to believe anything as good as "The Greg Capozzi Christmas Album" could have been created locally, and as I listened to it for the 100th time this morning, I still can't get over how musically interesting, how involved and how infinitely creative this album is.
Imagine your favorite Christmas songs, radically re-arranged, re-tooled and packed with so many brilliant ideas it defies the genre.
In fact, I wouldn't even call this a strictly "Christmas" album because it reminds me more of the great, progressive '70s stuff you used to hear on FM radio, such as Bruce Springsteen's epic "Jungleland" or Elton John's "Funeral for a Friend" off his masterpiece "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road."
This is a big statement I'm about to make. But it's true.
This is, hands down, the most ambitious, the most audacious and most musically exciting album - all apologies to other local studios - I've ever heard come out of the Ohio Valley, no matter the genre.
The attention to detail is stunning, the sonics of the album extraordinary, and the work that went into this is peerless.
The musicianship is top-notch, but the feeling is what's most important, and that's here in spades.
And just when you think it can't get even more thrilling comes Capozzi's interpretation of my favorite Christmas song, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."
Refreshingly modern while still maintaining the minor-key melody of the greatest Christmas song ever composed, Capozzi's interpretation veers off into wonderfully unexpected territory, as he brilliantly interjects bits of other Christmas songs into corners of the song you aren't expecting, making the song interesting from one thrilling climax after another.
If that wasn't enough, the two-minute coda is a marvel in itself, with multiple time signatures layered on top of one another and hints of other Christmas songs fading in and out of the mix.
The result - a jaw-dropping piece of songcraft most songwriters would die to have created.
It's that good, folks, and it just doesn't get any better than this.
Sometimes bigger is better, and there's no more proof than "The Greg Capozzi Christmas Album" - the best and most creative production I've ever heard from a local studio.
Locals will have an opportunity to hear the Greg Capozzi Band perform selections from "The Greg Capozzi Christmas Album" in a benefit show for the United Way of Jefferson County, set for Dec. 17 at Froehlich's Classic Corner ballroom, 501 Washington St.
Tickets for the event are $10 and can be purchased in advance at Froehlich's or at the door.
For information on the show, call (740) 283-9901. To purchase a CD or for information on Capozzi, go to www.GregCapozziMusic.com