While most of us are still relishing fall too much to be busting out our favorite Christmas albums, many labels and bands are getting a head start on the holiday music season. MercyMe is one such band with their second musical offering in ten years, and it's quite the gem. With eight tracks spanning ten Christmas classics and three original tracks, It's Christmas carries all the qualities that make a great soundtrack for sitting by the fire, or background music at holiday parties.
"Newborn" starts off the album as a proclamation of the birth of Christ by fusing the carols "Away In A Manger" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" together. The song takes a while to get going, but it progressively gets more engaging as it transitions between the first verse of "Away In The Manger" and a good chunk of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." What is most impressive here is Bart Millard's pure and powerful vocals. His voice has always been a great fit for contemporary Christian music, and It's Christmas finds the singer at the top of his game.
There are plenty of moments throughout the album where the band embraces their silly side. This is best evidenced in their original recording "Christmastime Again" and "A Holly Jolly Christmas," both of which have a late 50's/early 60's rock vibe. The infectiously cheerful sound and over-the-top backing vocals make these tunes absolutely delightful. Small details like referencing Buddy the Elf with "wait a minute I forgot to give you a hug" only add to the fun-loving character of these songs.
"I'll Be Home For Christmas" longs to be home with loved ones while "Go Tell It On The Mountain" and "Joy" keep the focus of the season on celebrating the birth of Jesus. Each of these tunes have their own unique characteristics that help keep them fresh and relevant despite their overuse. For example, "Do You Hear What I Hear" has added lyrics and "Joy" (shortened from "Joy to the World") has a different pacing and arrangement than the original.
Of the two other brand new songs, "Hold On Christmas" is an upbeat pop song about being home for the holidays, and "Our Lullaby" is a more stripped-down acoustic-driven number about Mary, Joseph, and the heavens singing a lullaby to the newborn baby Jesus. Millard sings falsetto for the entire chorus of "Our Lullaby," which some may find beautiful and others, distracting.
MercyMe, It's Christmas! is a huge success and sets a high bar for the rest of the Christmas releases this year. Though you might not be ready for it, it is a spectacular addition to any Christmas music collection.- Review date: 10/10/15, written by Christopher Smith of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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