Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's A Wonderful Christmas

No one does Christmas like Michael W. Smith. Though I admit I'm completely biased. His first Christmas album, simply titled Christmas, was released in 1989. It became an instant favorite alongside Prism's Prism Green album and Sandi Patti's The Gift Goes On. Those three were pretty much it as far as Christian Christmas favorites were concerned. They were the only three that I had in my collection for several years at least. This means they got a LOT of play. Over the years, new favorites were added: Amy Grant's Home For Christmas, Steven Curtis Chapman's The Music of Christmas, but above them all was Michael W. Smith's second Christmas album entitled Christmastime. That second one was released in 1998. Now I'm not saying that I haven't appreciated other offerings by Christian artists--Steve Green's First Noel, FFH's Winter Wonder, MercyMe's Christmas Sessions, Third Day's Christmas Offerings, but I'll keep it honest. No ONE does Christmas like Michael W. Smith.

So you can guess my excitement when I "discovered" a few weeks ago that a third Christmas album was being released. (It was released in October, but purchased in November).

Christmas Angels
It's A Wonderful Christmas
The Promise
Song for The King
Christmas Day
A Highland Carol
Sing Noel, Sing Hallelujah
What Child Is This
Son of God
Audrey's Gift
All Year Long

Those are the songs. Do they have the potential of being the soundtrack of the 2007 Christmas season? You know they do!!! This is what Amazon has to say It's A Wonderful Christmas is the, "2007 holiday release from one of the most popular Contemporary Christian Music artists of all time. It's A Wonderful Christmas features nine original songs and one standard performed by Michael and a 67-piece orchestra, recorded at London's famous Abbey Road Studios. This album is perhaps the most anticipated seasonal release this year, so don't be left out in the cold without it!"

The album is a unique blend of instrumental and vocal joys. One Amazon reviewer made this observation...which I'm quoting because it saves me the trouble of formulating it on my own..."Some of the instrumental tracks sound like the soundtrack to a movie. And one feels like a missing piece from the Nutcracker." And earlier he wrote, "Only one track, "What Child is This" is a traditional piece. Michael wrote or co-wrote everything else. Yet everything feels like an old familiar friend." Though you may not believe me at first, I was thinking the EXACT same thing. The instrumental songs really are just like the perfect Christmas movie soundtrack. And one does sound like it's inspired by The Nutcracker. From the very first moment I heard it, I thought "I see ballerinas. Ballerinas NEED to hear this song!!!"

I also learned this from an Amazon review..."This release is a more epic,classical work with four amazing choirs, among them a 100-voice choir and also a 16-member London boy's choir directed by John Tobin, and a 67-piece orchestra at London's Abbey Road studios."

Other Amazon reviews note that the album is "too short." To those critics, I say this. His first album was shorter. Shorter by almost two minutes. And his second album is only longer by five minutes. So their memory is faulty in thinking that they're getting shorted on quantity. And on the time issue, Nat King Cole's classic album The Christmas Song is only thirty minutes. Bing Crosby's classic album, White Christmas, only thirty minutes. Amy Grant's Home For Christmas, only 42 minutes. (Two minutes longer than It's A Wonderful Christmas.) Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas? 39 minutes. Elvis's It's Christmas Time? 23 minutes. The soundtrack to A Muppet Christmas Carol? Almost 39 minutes. No matter how you look at it, there's no way this argument will hold up.

This is a true must-have album. I just loved it. I'm not sure where it fits into with his other two albums. I don't see it as displacing them from their places of honor. But all three together, and you've got the perfect soundtrack for Christmas celebrations and preparations.