A CBNmusic Christmas 2007
The holiday season is here again and both seasoned and new artists share in the Christmas joy. Last year's CBNmusic Christmas was an eclectic potpourri. This year, we honor not only Christmas past with music from the late Johnny Cash but the sweet sound of the future with Relient K and many others.
Joined by a 65-piece orchestra and 4 choirs, Michael W. Smith serves up a Christmas extravaganza on his latest CD. If one of the highlights of the Christmas season is a well-performed cantata, and if this time of year brings out your desire for the classical, this CD will thrill your soul. Although my personal tastes run a bit less traditional and much less ecclesiastical, traditionalists will love It’s a Wonderful Christmas. The highlight of the CD for me was the duet sung with the bright young performing artist Mandisa. For the professional musicians, choir directors and choral enthusiasts, every song on It’s a Wonderful Christmas will be a treat. Album Highlights: "Christmas Day with Mandisa" - linda michaels
What makes Bebo’s typical style is his passionate, lyrical voice, his easy-going, melodic arrangements, and his profound words. What comes through is emotive and spiritual depth in a gentle presentation. But on his latest Christmas album, much of his passion and profundity is lost with traditional renderings of such Christmas favorites as “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” “Silver Bells,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” He truly shines on originals like “Mary’s Prayer” and “Born to Die” and brings back color on his revamp of an old hymn, “Come and Worship” -- which many of us would recognize as the better-known “Angels From the Realms of Glory.” In my opinion, he should stick with original works that come from the heart. Anything else is prone to be lackluster. Album Highlights: "Mary's Prayer" and "Born to Die" - laura j. bagby
This album features a collection of Christmas tunes by MercyMe, NewSong, Israel & New Breed, Hillsong, and other artists. The two-disc set offers a wealth of music perfect for setting the tone for holiday parties or family get-togethers, but there really is nothing too exciting here. The album offers your typical Christmas fare. A few songs have slightly different arrangements than the traditional melodies, but even those fall somewhat flat. Also, in a compilation of worshipful songs for the season, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and “Nutcracker Suite” seem oddly out of place. Album Highlights: “Breath of Heaven” (featuring Sara Groves), “The Little Drummer Boy” (featuring NewSong), and “Good Christian Men Rejoice” (featuring Bob Fitts) - belinda elliott
Christmas with Johnny Cash is a lovely collection of well-adored Christmas carols. Cash’s signature bluesy voice and his gift of storytelling bring to life the joyful celebration of Jesus’ birth. Timeless hits like “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World” show originality while keeping true to the classic sound that we all love. This collection pulls from several different Cash Christmas projects from 1962 to 1980. The last selection on the album, “Christmas as I Knew It,” is a previously unreleased spoken word track that tells a personal childhood Christmas experience as Cash quietly strums his guitar. You really get a sense of his humble gratitude and love of family. Cash’s reading of scripture in the middle of “Away in a Manager” along with his interpretation of “The Christmas Spirit” will also be a favorite for all ages. It’s full of Christmas cheer, Johnny Cash-style. Highlights: “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Away in a Manager,” “The Christmas Spirit” - andrea d. hedlund
A Diamond Rio Christmas is a pleasurable listening experience for country fans who enjoy this band’s tried and true blend of distinct, beautiful harmonies. Including such holiday favorites as the lighthearted “Winter Wonderland,” the banjo bouncy “Sleigh Ride,” and the jazzy “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” as well as the harmonious a cappella “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” this album succeeds at bringing Christmas cheer, while maintaining class and integrity as a country album. Standouts include the original title track for its catchy tune and clever lyrics, the richly layered “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” for its pure-sounding reverence, and the creative musicianship in “Christmas is Coming.” Album Highlights: “The Star Still Shines” and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" - laura j. bagby
If Christmas never came, not only would David Phelps never be able to sing the songs on this album, but you would not be able to listen to them… and that would make for a hopeless holiday indeed. For fans who know Phelps from the Gaither Vocal Band or his own CDs, along with curious new listeners, One Wintry Night is a great addition to any Christmas celebration. With 15 tracks that capture the joyful spirit of the season, Phelps performs a wide range of well-known Christmas carols like “O Holy Night” while also offering playful, original tunes such as “Santa Claus Tonight”. From the slow a cappella vocals to the full-fledged orchestra complete with horns, bells and even harmonica, this album should be a must this Christmas. Album Highlights: “Hallelujah!”, “If Christmas Never Came” and “Hark the Herald!” - amy nickerson
Relient K puts its thumbprint on the holidays from the very first note. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "Sleigh Ride" have a retro-'50s meets modern pop feel. There's plenty of punk with "I'm Gettin' Nuttin' For Christmas", although their heavy guitars butchered "Handel's Messiah". Naturally these guys couldn't resist some "tongue-in-cheek" humor as heard in "12 Days of Christmas" (i.e., "What's a partridge / What's a pear tree / I don't know so / Please don't ask me"). As you can see, you get more than rehashed "Jingle Bells" on this project. The original ballad, "Merry Christmas, Here's To Many More", is melancholy yet hopeful, and Let It Snow... offers the only other album that fans can get the Narnia-inspired "In Like a Lion (Always Winter)". In hyper rock tradition, the songs are short, but being 17-tracks strong, it's a joy for even the biggest Scrooge. Album Highlights: "I Celebrate the Day" and "Merry Christmas, Here's To Many More" - jennifer e. jones
Ah, the simple Christmas pleasure of playing an acoustic guitar by the fireplace. You get that warm feeling as you listen to indie singer JJ Heller’s EP, Wake Up The World. Her five songs bring both originality and a new spin on old classics. She has the voice of a pure angel on the a cappella “Silent Night”, and “Star of Wonder (We Three Kings)” is sweet. I can't help but chuckle at the lyrical irony in “Christmastime”. However, the brightest star on the EP is the title track. “Wake Up The World” is a joyful call to the weary that Christ has come. With this project, JJ Heller gives you a great stocking stuffer for that hard-to-please indie listener. Album Highlights: “Wake Up the World” and “Christmastime” - jennifer e. jones
Time Life presents big names in the spirit of the holidays. Mainstream artists (such as Patti LaBelle, Luther Vandross) as well as traditional gospel artists (Mary Mary, Mighty Clouds of Joy) come together in this Christmas stew. Let your heart swoon with Alicia Keys’ rendition of “Little Drummer Girl” and get a pop jolt from Christina Aguilera with “Angels We Have Heard on High”. The late Luther Vandross gives a classic, yet powerful performance on “Come All Ye Faithful”. Most of these songs are on the artists’ respective Christmas albums, but Love’s Holiday is nice collection nonetheless. Album Highlights: “Why I Love You” (featuring Kenoly Brothers) and “Joy to the World” (featuring Whitney Houston) - jennifer e. jones
The bad news is that this is no Bing Crosby’s Greatest Hits. The good news is that it’s not supposed to be. Cooper infuses traditional Christmas melodies with sounds from every corner of the Earth in an effort to create “something fresh and contemporary”. The first track "Hark the Harold" is R&B meets Lord of the Dance with a soulful drum beat. The song's extended remix takes you to the bullpen in Spain where you can almost see the bold red cape billowing in the wind. Next, we are off to the bayous of New Orleans with "We Three Kings", evoking images of crooners soulfully strumming guitars on front porches. As Christmas albums go, A Guitar’s Carol isn’t packed with hits, but there’s enough to keep your toes tapping and get you in the holiday spirit. Album Highlights: "We Three Kings" and "Carol of the Birds" - pilar l. davis
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