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Mannheim Steamroller's Chip Davis celebrates past and present, eyeballs future
It's an auspicious year for Chip Davis and his Mannheim Steamroller.
As the title of the new compilation, "30/40," indicates, it's been 40 years since Davis formed his Fresh Aire music collective and his American Gramaphone label, and 30 since he introduced Mannheim Steamroller's first Christmas albums. Both have become institutions that composer-producer Davis, 67, continues to guide and nurture from his home base in Omaha, Neb.
"I'm so glad we got to do this '30/40' album, because so much of the Fresh Aire stuff hasn't been out in years," says Davis, an Ohio native who moved to Nebraska to write advertising jingles -- where he also created the character C.W. McCall, a fictional trucker who hit big with the chart-topping 1976 hit "Convoy."
"I had a lot of fun picking through the repertoire and figuring out what would be complementary with the Christmas material. And now we're bringing it out for the shows, too. It's great to see the audience reaction when we insert about 25 minutes of Fresh Aire material right in the middle of the Christmas stuff. It's, like, refreshing to the audience, I think."
The "30/40" summing up hardly means Davis is through, however. In fact, it's quite the contrary. He has "the entire repertoire picked for a brand new Christmas album" and is in the middle of recording a record of Henry Mancini compositions. He's also working with his 15-year-old daughter Elyse, who sings a new recording for "30/40," will publish his seventh book, a young adult novel called "The Wolf and the Warlander" and has another album in motion called "Exotic Spaces," which makes use of modern recording technology to record sounds from unusual locales around the world.
"I'm really pushing the technology that's available now, and that's going to give me a heads-up on doing the next Christmas album, too," Davis notes. "I never did a Fresh Aire album until technology had advanced enough for that, so in a way this is going back to the beginning for me, kind of doing the same thing just at a different period of time. With all the (sonic) junk you can call up at your fingertips, it's amazing.
"With '30/40' it's kind of nostalgia time, remembering the old days, the way it was when we started. And it was a shock to realize how long ago I started out on this path and the number of people who are still with me from the beginning. I really didn't have a clue it was going to turn into this. But it also makes me want to come back at (music) with a vengeance and really pour your heart and soul into it and see what more we can do. That's what's exciting."
A Mannheim Steamroller Christmas
7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7.
Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit.
Tickets are $39-$85.
Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.
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