OK, by now, everyone who's familiar with today's Christian music should be familiar with the new City On a Hill series of collaboration projects. In 2000, the first City On a Hill project caught the attention of many, spurring the release of City On a Hill: Sing Alleluia, the inevitable sequel. But what wasn't expected was maybe, say... a Christmas project? Brilliance.
Christmas projects in CCM are getting more popular and it's about time! With City On a Hill: It's Christmas Time, the producers take the collaborative concept of the first two projects and incorporate it with Christmas tunes new and classic. With that, It's Christmas Time opens with the brief instrumental "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," before leading into the original title cut featuring a large variety of talent chipping in together. With members from Caedmon's Call, Third Day, Jars of Clay, Sixpence None the Richer, The Choir, as well as Michael Tait, Sara Groves, Out of Eden, and Terry Scott Taylor, the song seems a little too disjointed while impressive at the same time. Sixpence None the Richer's "Silent Night" is a great acoustic version of the renowned carol. Terry Scott Taylor's original "Holy Emmanuel" doesn't really fit with the other offerings on the project with the other excellent vocalists. However, Caedmon's Call's acoustic rendition of "Babe in the Straw" fits well after Taylor's track. Sara Grove's "Child of Love" is a nice track as her usual spoken vocals are absent to her beautiful singing here. Jars of Clay's original "Bethlehem Town" is a good Jars ballad, but like most originals, doesn't exactly carry the feeling of Christmas that most traditional carols do. Third Day's "Manger Throne" shares the same slight problem while Julie Miller and The Choir's Derri Daugherty's "Away In a Manger" is a short and sweet version. The album ends on a stronger note as Out of Eden does an amazing Gospel-flavored take on "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and Paul Colman Trio does a decent "In the Bleak Midwinter." Michael Tait and Sixpence's Leigh Nash collaborate on the classic "O Holy Night" to end the project on a high note.
It's Christmas Time nicely blends new and old favorites with a fresh sound -- City On a Hill style. If you're looking for more Christmas music from your favorite artists, It's Christmas Time will make a great early Christmas present.- Review date: 9/22/02, written by John DiBiase
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