Christmas music is ultimately one of the few kinds of truly timeless music. While the more contemporary styles can feel horribly dated over time, there are a few albums that will never tire. Folk pop vocalist Bebo Norman makes his BEC Recordings debut with Christmas... From The Realms Of Glory, simultaneously taking a stab at leaving his fingerprints on one of the most cherished times of year.
This actually isn't Bebo's first Christmas recording. In 2000, Norman contributed his own original, "Mary's Prayer" for a rare compilation entitled Essential Energy Christmas. But this full-length outing gives Norman a chance to really stretch his festive wings creatively to give listeners an intimate Christmas experience - Bebo Norman style. There's a distinct around-the-fireplace feel delivered through Bebo's signature deep, soft crooning and carefully strummed acoustics. Songs like the traditional "Silver Bells" paint a quiet wintry picture with simply Norman's voice over a piano and sleigh bell backdrop before strings and drums are introduced at the chorus. Even when the instruments layer on, the intimacy is not lost.
To keep things unique and fresh, Bebo opens the album with "Come and Worship," a beautiful worship anthem with a leaning towards Christ's birth, complete with a seasonal flavoring. Norman's take on the holiday favorite "Joy To The World" is a considerably different arrangement as he gives it a folksy update complete with a southern twang. "Christmas Time Is Here" (not to be confused with the popular Charlie Brown theme "Christmastime Is Here") is another original, stripped down with a strong folk styling. Among the album's many highlights is a sweet and endearing cover of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas." Simplified and acoustical, Bebo's take also features longtime friend Gabe Scott on accordion as a prominent instrument - something you might not really expect for a Christmas song. Jackson Browne's "The Rebel Jesus" is one of Norman's chief inspirations for the project, and the singer tucks it nicely between two traditionals, with a slightly dark but ultimately reverent rendition of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" following. A well-placed interlude of Bebo's popular "Great Light Of The World" is a surprise to find on a Christmas record but turns out to be a great way to lead into the album closer, the beautifully eloquent "Mary's Prayer." Norman weaves worship and seasonal emotions throughout Christmas... From The Realms Of Glory and never takes his sights off of what Christmas is all about. Beginning the album on such a note as "Come and Worship" and ending it with such a reflection as "Mary's Prayer" is a great way to represent what Christmas is meant to be.
Bebo Norman's warm and intimate voice is a perfect match for the Christmas season. His first official venture singing original and all-time favorites is a triumph and easily among the greatest CCM offerings in the Christmas genre to date. As this particular Christmas looks to bring with it some truly memorable projects, consider Bebo Norman's Christmas... From The Realms Of Glory to mark one of the first grand achievements for 2007.- Review date: 9/30/07, written by John DiBiase
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