A collection of the best Christmas songs from a selection of artists would be difficult to criticize and Joy To The World “The Ultimate Christmas Collection” is no exception. Bart Millard’s (Mercy Me) splendid vocals introduce us to “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen” the opening track.
“Messiah” has ghostly instrumentals featuring rich guitar work by xxxxx but I found Phil Wickham’s vocals lacked the punch I would hope for on a song with the clout the lyrics provide.
The understated “Welcome to Our World” by Philips Craig and Dean is a song I hadn’t heard before and enjoyed thoroughly. The simple melodies and good harmonies befit a king born in a simple manger in a little town.
The positioning on the album of “Mary Did You Know” in the fourth slot is a nice compliment to “Welcome To Our World”. As always when this song is sung with the kind of sensitivity that Mark Harris demonstrates, you are left in awe that a teenage girl betrothed to a carpenter was chosen as the vessel through which the Christ child would enter our world. The lyrics bring our own thoughts to the surface, ‘What was Mary thinking? Did she realize the complete magnitude of what was happening both inside of her as the child grew and in the manager as he lay?’ Do you ever wonder how you would respond to angels proclaiming the birth of your child, wise men bearing gifts and shepherds you have never met coming to bow down before your child?
I will touch upon Todd Agnew’s “God With Us” in a separate review of his Christmas CD Do You See What I See.
Perhaps the prettiest song on the CD is Darlene Zschech’s “Hallelujah”. Zschech’s spirit and emotive vocals always evoke in me a feeling of wonder, awe and praise as I enter into God’s presence. After all doesn’t that just about sum up how we should prepare our hearts as we approach Christmas? Song selection falls down a bit with the addition of “Strange Way To Save the World” by 4HIM. There is nothing wrong with their song in fact it is a beautiful hymn however the producers should have opted for only one of Mary Did You Know”, “Strange Way To Save The World”, and “Breath of Heaven” sung by Sara Groves. Three songs focusing on Mary seem a tad like overkill within the context of eleven tracks. There are so many themes to explore about Christ’s birth within the bigger view of salvation that I think a little more imagination could have been exercised by the producers. They would do well to consider the aforementioned Did You See What I See by Todd Agnew.
Now that I have said my piece I will say this Sara Groves one of my favorite people and an artist “who gets it” provides a stirring rendition of “Breath of Heaven”. If you want to know what goose bumps feel like spin this song in your CD player with no distractions and just pay attention to the words as the beautiful vocals of Groves minister to you.
The only real song that I didn’t care for on this album is Derek Webb’s “Lo How A Rose E’re Blooming”. I found the song to be plodding. Not being familiar with the tune I suspect it is a very traditional song born in Scotland and is probably performed paying homage to its roots. Therefore let’s chalk my comments up to personal preference.
The CD closes out with Nicholas Jonas singing Joy To the World (A Christmas Prayer). I am not familiar with Jonas but now I want to be. This young man is a very gifted singer and turns in a stunning performance on the closing track. Still barely in his teens he already has four Broadway plays to his credit.
If it were me and I had to choose between more tinsel and the good music that abounds on this CD, I would take the tinsel out of my shopping basket and put this album in.
Copyright © 2006 Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved. This material may not be redistributed without prior written permission from Joe Montague. Joe Montague is an internationally published freelance journalist / photographer.