Thursday, November 15, 2007

Jars of Clay: Christmas Songs

It's never easy to review a Jars of Clay CD. I've loved the band for years. Their first two CDs were incredible; they were part of the soundtrack of my life--my college life. Yet their releases are, for me, hit and miss. A few are great, a few are good, a few are okay, and one or two are bad. The problem? Assigning albums to those categories that all fans can agree to. While most fans will admit that some are way way better than others, and that a few are just awful. It's never particularly easy to agree on which is which. Why? Because their style changes from CD to CD. Often even within one CD they display diverse styles and genres and moods. So depending on your personal taste, you might really really love an album that another Jarsy fan hates. And vice versa.

And Christmas CDs are not the easiest to review either. Taking into account that any time a band or artist 'rearranges' a Christmas song--carol, hymn, jingle, whatever--there are bound to be some that think it's not so good. Why mess with a good thing after all? And there are those that will love the new twist on an old favorite. With the philosophy why not make it theirs?

There are fourteen songs on Jars of Clay's Christmas album named Christmas Songs. Even if you think you recognize them as having been "sung" by the group before...believe me...these are new arrangements. (There was a beautiful, beautiful little single put out about a decade or so ago that had "Drummer Boy" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" on it.)

The songs range from enjoyable to annoying. That's not to say that the annoying songs wouldn't or couldn't grow on you if you listened to the album at length. There are many albums that take time to appreciate. (I've only listened to the album twice.) But with Christmas albums overall consistency is almost more important than enjoying individual songs. After all, when it comes time to setting background music to cook to, to bake to, to wrap presents to, to open presents to, to eat dinner to, to drive around looking at Christmas lights to, etc. You want something that is pleasant through and through. Something not too distracting, something not annoying, something that you won't have to be stopping so you can flip songs. There are a handful of genuinely pleasant songs on this CD, but a few are a bit too much for me personally.

You might want to preview this one before you buy it. Or you might want to take advantage of stores like iTunes and buy only a few songs from this album.