Long time readers of my blog know that I love Christmas music. Imagine my excitement when a local rock radio station went to an all-Christmas format in late-November. However, this turned quickly to disappointment when I realized that the station had pretty much taken Christ out of the songs that they are playing. There is little mention of the reason for the season. In its place are harmless secular messages with its focus on Santa and commercialism, but there are also even a number of songs with an anti-religious slant. It is a terrible way to deflate the holiday spirit and to leave a distinct hollowness to this wonderful time of year. To help remedy this, here are some CDs to provide an antidote and that put the Christ back in Christmas.
Steven Curtis Chapman, like Amy Grant, is one of the Christian artists I turn to most when I want to listen to great Christmas music. This is his third seasonal album and it matches the excellence of his previous efforts. The most impressive aspect of this album is again the wonderful original compositions. Stylistically, this is still country but with a sparkle of jazz. “Christmas Card” is a simple song which reminds us that Jesus is with us, regardless of how sad we might be during this time of year. “Christmas Kiss” is absolutely sweet and would be a winner on secular radio. “Christmas Time Again” is infectious and will bring a smile to even the most jaded holiday shoppers. “I Am Joseph (God is with us)” reminds us of all the major characters in the Christmas story. The covers of the standards all have originality, such as the melody changes found in “Joy to the World” which help bring freshness to a familiar classic. Highly recommended.
Francesca Battistelli– Christmas
One of the most Christian music’s most popular female vocalist delivers here in a big way. Her distinctive pop vocals and great new compositions makes this CD one to look for. The originals include “Christmas Dreams”, a ballad that is lush and gorgeous, as well as “Christmas Is”, which has a youthful sass that is simply infectious. Francesca Battistelli does a fine job on the jazzier outings, such as “The Christmas Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” There is a sense of fun in “Marshmellow World” with its 60’s rock sensibilities. The highlight of the album, though, is “You’re Here“, a song penned by this young artist that takes the point of view of an adoring Mary holding the baby Jesus. This is one of the best Christmas CDs I have heard this year.
Jeremy Camp– Christmas: God with Us
Jeremy Camp is a worship artist with gritty vocals that has garnered him a huge following. He brings this intensity into these carols in a way that is quite pleasing. This is a back-to basics acoustic rock sound featuring heart-felt singing and fine guitar work. “O come O come Emmanuel” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” are highlights in that these versions are as good as any I have ever heard. “Jingle Bell Rock” is also given a nice reworking. Nothing fancy here. Just great enjoyable Christmas music.
Scotty McCreery– Christmas with
This American Idol winner won over the nation with his deep country voice and his charming personality. This album is at its best when it is similarly fun and playful. You can almost see his disarming smile on cuts like “Let it Snow“, “Santa Claus is back in town”, “Jingle Bells” and “Holly Jolly Christmas”. The ballads, although well-sung, are not as strong, perhaps betraying the youth of the artist. A song like “Christmas in Heaven” is more effective when sung from a heart that has been often broken. Nonetheless, very good effort from a new artist.
Starfield – Songs for Christmas Vol 1
This EP is from one of Canada’s most celebrated rock bands. For the most part, this is pretty standard fair. “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Go tell it on the mountain” are nice catchy versions. Not a bad effort but nothing too innovative and new to add to the holiday repertoire.