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Back of The Billboards: 'Christmas Symphony II' by Mannheim Steamroller

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Society always celebrates the records that top the Billboard 200 album chart. Back of The Billboards is a Music Times weekly segment that looks at the opposite end: the new record that finished closest to the back of the Billboard 200 for the previous week. We hope to give a fighting chance to the bands you haven't heard of.

Week of 10/25/2013

WHO: Mannheim Steamroller
WHAT: Christmas Symphony II
SPOT: 197
WHY?: Because Christmas is just around the corner! Well, not really, but it is the time of year where artists begin rolling out the holiday albums. And if anyone knows anything about rolling out holiday albums, it's Mannheim Steamroller. Christmas Symphony II is the collective's 12th Christmas album, and the seventh in the last ten years. It may seem repetitive, but Steamroller knows its niche. Few people can identify the group with anything outside of its winter repertoire, and the band takes advantage to the tune of 28 million albums sold.

So it seems a little unfair that a 28-times-platinum act gets the "Back of The Billboards" designation, but we made the rules and we have to live by them. For the record, this collection is only at no. 197 because it's still October. Unlike your average record, sales position for Christmas Symphony II will get higher as Christmas approaches.

This album serves as the sequel to 2011's Part I, a collaboration with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra to expand the band's already extensive Christmas catalogue. The advantage of the new compilation is that it features the tracks that everyone who's listened to the radio around Christmas is familiar with, such as Steamroller's versions of "Carol of The Bells" and "Carol of The Bells." Now, thanks to the orchestra, there's a symphonic horn section and flutes to accompany Chip Davis and his band's synthesizers and harpsichords.

If you don't already own a Mannheim Steamroller Christmas collection, this is a good one to buy. However, the differentiation here doesn't justify doubling up on the band's sound. Christmas Symphony I breaks from the traditional songs more commonly played on the radio. If you feel the need to mix Mannheim and orchestra, go for the first collection. 

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