The Christmas season is upon us. What does that mean exactly? Well, you can bring out your hoodies, you can get sweet deals at all kinds of retail stores, and you can start listening to your favorite Christmas songs - or even new Christmas songs. Enter this year's product from Tooth & Nail. In what is essentially Happy Christmas Volume 5, T&N is releasing this Christmas compilation as part of their running - and as of late, stale - X series, simply entitled X Christmas. Why? Not too sure, but whatever it's called, it turns out to be a fairly good collection for the holidays.
I hesitate to say that at first, as the first few songs do not fare so well. Top rockers Thousand Foot Krutch get things started with "Jingle Bell Rock," which does rock, but turns bad when Trevor McNevan tries to kind of rap the verses. The singing is the only problem with the song, which is also kind of the problem with the next track, Hawk Nelson's "Gloria," originally from 2006's Gloria EP. I'm also not so sure if it's not sacrelegious to change the lyrics "Gloria, in excelsius Deo" to "Gloria, the girl I want for Christmas." Aaron Gillespie's side project The Almost serves up a decent rendition of "Little Drummer Boy," followed by Tooth & Nail's third use of "Evergreen" by Switchfoot (it first appeared on Happy Christmas Volume 1, then later on Happy Christmas Volume 4). If they really wanted Switchfoot on the compilation, I'm sure it wouldn't have been that hard to at least have had them record a new one, but it's a good song nonetheless. David Crowder*Band's Latin-flavored "Feliz Navidad" follows, staying true to the original, followed by another recycled song, "Christmas Baby Please Come Home" from Anberlin, originally appearing three years ago on Happy Christmas Volume 4 (this may be a reason for not releasing it with the Happy Christmas name, so they can reuse - and RE-reuse - songs this time around). BEC rockers Kutless remake the Mark Lowry classic "Mary, Did You Know?" with their usual dry approach to rock, while FM Static offers up a cover of their own, Newsong's "Christmas Shoes" (some nice redemption for Mr. McNevan, and an excellent rendition of the song).
Two songs from last Christmas are next, Jars of Clay's hit "Love Came Down At Christmas" and Project 86's "This Time of Year," which doesn't quite sound like your usual Christmas-y kind of song. But it's Project through and through (more closely resembling the sound of Rival Factions than any other album of theirs), so you can expect goodness if you haven't yet heard it. Seventh Day Slumber offer up a dull remake of "Do You Hear What I Hear," while Sanctus Real plays around with "Silent Night," changing it up a little bit from what you usually come to expect from the song. Tech-metal band August Burns Red rips through "Carol of the Bells," and since it's an instrumental (that is, no screaming), it's still safe for the non-metal fan to listen to. Though it may not be safe once KJ-52 starts his song "It's Christmas Time." Those who know KJ's music know what to expect, as it's not that much different than anything else he's ever written, whether it's the structure of the music or the way the lyrics pretty much always go from silly in the first verse or two to serious in the last (with a few exceptions, I admit). If you can make it past KJ (or you can press the skip button), you will come to a very surprising gem from... Capital Lights? Yes, as strange as it may be, Capital Lights just may have captured the title of "album highlight" with "His Favorite Christmas Story," a heartwrenching-turned-heartwarming song about a man who fell in love with a girl he would never get to know. Two more newcomers finish the compilation: Jaymes Reunion (though not entirely new, as singer Cameron Jaymes did debut about five years ago) with the classic "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" and Corey Crowder taking his southern approach to music with another classic, "Angels We Have Heard On High."
Overall, X Christmas is a good album to add to your modern Christmas music collection. Though there are definitely some mishaps along the way, and you may even already have several of the songs on the tracklist, there is enough goodness in X Christmas to justify the purchase of it. Rock versions of Christmas songs (or at least still-soft versions from rock bands) is always something to look forward to heading into the season. If you agree, head on out and pick up a copy. If you still can't justify spending the money on mostly songs you already have and a few good and bad songs, at least hit up iTunes for the new ones, like August Burns Red, Corey Crowder, FM Static and Capital Lights.- Review date: 10/30/08, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: BEC Recordings
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