Christmas records are many times strictly hit or miss efforts. Those who grew up with their own Christmas traditions associate different things and, in this case, different sounds with what carries that true "Christmas feeling." In an attempt to modernize some Christmas classics, artists can often completely lose the essence of that feeling, while some tend to successfully retain enough of it while giving it their own personal touch. Atlanta-based mega act Third Day adds a third installment to their Offerings series in the form of their first seasonal project, Christmas Offerings.
Making their seasonal project part of the Offerings series has mixed results right off the bat. Each of the three Offerings records follows the format of new studio recordings making up the core of the album with a handful of live recordings added to the mix. The end product is varied and not necessarily unified. But this can be good and bad. Considering how not many artists have live Christmas records, Third Day immediately has an advantage by bringing that unique element to Christmas Offerings. At first, the live versions feel sorely out of place among the studio productions, but when the live audience breaks out into a chorus of "Silent Night," it captures that beautiful candlelight Christmas Eve service ambience that I've never heard in a recording before. So while it may be somewhat awkward at times to be flip-flopping between the studio sessions and live selections, the highlights still exist.
But the other downside to the live recordings presented here is that, previously, nearly every live track on the Offerings records appeared in studio form on another project. Here, this isn't the case. If there's a live song here, a polished rendition isn't available elsewhere (with the exception of "Do You Hear What I Hear" which has a studio version on WOW Christmas (Red)). It's in this case, that I kind of wished the band had chosen to split this into two separate discs - a full, studio Christmas recording, and perhaps a bonus live EP tossed in for good measure. You can't go wrong with a setup like that.
Regardless, Christmas Offerings is a wonderful Holiday record. In addition to the classics, the Atlanta boys provide a few originals. These tracks include "Born In Bethlehem," "Jesus Light of the World," a delightfully sentimental live rendition of "Christmas Like A Child," and the truly instant classic and album closer, "Merry Christmas." It's the latter that possesses the most heart and passion, with the song coming to a grand resolution to wrap up the record. The other originals are some of the better modern Christmas tracks you'll hear, but time can only tell their endurance. Finally, Third Day's signature spin on our seasonal favorites are well-done and worthy of repeat listens around this special time of year.
A fun and unique Christmas offering, Third Day's debut seasonal record has its grand high moments despite feeling a little random with its mix of live and studio recordings. All in all, I think I can confidently say I will be adding Third Day's Christmas Offering to my seasonal collection along with the best of them.- Review date: 10/7/06, written by John DiBiase
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