Every Christmas season, the Christian music scene is introduced to the latest projects offered by the greatest in CCM, offering their own personalized renditions of their favorite holiday tunes. This season, we're treated to an early offering from successful Latin solo artist Jaci Velasquez, who's career has been an impressive one at her young age.
I've found most Christian artists' Christmas projects to be good, often interesting, but nothing has ever come close to the traditional songs I grew up with, sung by the talents of yesteryear Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Mitch Miller, Burl Ives, Nat King Cole, and orchestrated by such as the Glen Miller Band, Ray Conniff, and others. I haven't found too many CCM Christmas projects to really give off that Christmas feeling. In fact, often times you can listen to those projects any time of the year, and it would be just the same. Miss Velasquez has broken this trend. She has not only broken it, but hopefully has set a new one. It's truly Christmas in September this year.
Jaci's debut Christmas-themed project, appropriately titled Christmas, blends old-time big band, orchestral, and jazz flavors with her current contemporary pop sounds for a fresh album all her fans should enjoy. The album opens with a soft and worshipful rendition of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," followed by one of 3 new songs, "The Angel Song," a song written by Chris Eaton which in a way presents the Gospel message. "The First Noel" begins much like a traditional song you may have heard in the early and mid 1900's with Jaci's voice being carried softly across seasonal strings and powerful orchestral sounds that you don't hear too often from a new record these days. Jaci's offering of "White Christmas" gets similar treatment while new song "It Wouldn't Be Christmas" captures the special bond couples have during the holiday season. This song is the only of the 3 new tracks to really capture a Christmas feeling, while "Season of Love," featuring a duet with Pete Orta, and "The Angel Song" feel a little too contemporary, especially being among everything else on the record. However, considering what Jaci is best known for, she can easily get away with this.
"Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" is an excellent song driven by a real jazzy feel accompanied by old-time backing vocals remeniscent of the Andrew sisters who are know for backing the likes of Bing Crosby. The sleigh bells are a nice touch. Hey, it's so good, you're liable to feel chilly listening to it! It's amazing how easily Jaci can balance her fresh vocal melodies with the traditional sounds to keep the record familiar but unique in its own way. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" has that soft bluesy sound of the old night club solos as Jaci's passionate vocals float across subtle strings and a trickling piano. "Feliz Navidad" closes out the record heavy on the Latino, Mexican side as Velasquez gives her take on a tune that probably hits home closest musically.
Jaci Velasquez has not only put together a creative, fun, traditional Christmas project that will touch the hearts of all ages, but she has easily created one of the best-orchestrated Christmas projects put out in the contemporary Christian music to date. Christmas still amazes me.- Review date: 9/18/01, written by John DiBiase
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