1998 Christmas Album Roundup
We've dusted off our slate of 1998 Christmas reviews again for this year since, of course, these things
don't go out of date.—
reviewed by Stan North and Mark Tilles—
Christmas reviews from previous years are also still available. And there's also a special review page for those classic Christmas albums.
The Real Meaning of Christmas, Volume 2
This sequel surprises and satisfies. Contributions come from Fred Hammond and
Radical for Christ, Ben Tankard and the Tribe of Benjamin, The Canton Spirituals,
Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Virtue, newcomer Tarralyn Ramsey,
Yolanda Adams (with 2 songs) and others. Highlights include
Vanessa doing something contemporary on the original song “The Innkeeper”,
Maurette Brown-Clark with an awesome interpretation
of “What Child is This” (plus a saxophone instrumental of the same song), and The Canton Spirituals
laying down nearly urban grooves on “Go and Tell It”.
For the record, the album does not have contributions from Hezekiah Walker or Commissioned
this time round. Could this be an even better album than 1996's Volume 1? I
hardly thought that to be possible, however that was before I gave it a listen.
Pioneer Music Group
After her recent, still-charting hit
album “Everlasting Love”, CeCe Winans came back quickly with this Christmas package
of familiar and fresh tunes, each with that familiar CeCe signature sound.
With Fred Hammond on production in some cuts, and with Radical for Christ
weaved throughout, you know that this collection has a built-in
audience. This is one of those albums that although it fits into the Christmas
season smoothly, it is also intensely listenable in all seasons. Don’t be
surprised to find that it remains in your CD changer into the summer months.
Christmas With Shirley Caesar
Myrrh Black Music
Shirley Caesar doesn’t
deter from what she does best: soulfully traditional stylings in her
downright unmistakable voice. The album is mostly a collection of
traditional Christmas music that Caesar sings on her own, with arrangement
and production from the ever-capable Steven Ford. Perhaps the surprise
of the album is in hearing her sing the classical favorite, Ave Maria.
This is another label compilation,
with some interesting surprise guests tossed in for good measure. Make
that ‘great measure’, because with the quality of the offerings provided
here, there will be an abundance of gospel soul around the tree this December.
Dawkins and Dawkins give their urban spin to “Do You Here What I Hear”,
and Oleta Adams drops a beautifully-written ballad, “A Child Was Born Into
My Life”. Kenny Lattimore (formerly with William Becton and Friends and
now R&B artist) contributes with
“History”, and I.D.O.L. King give a raucous holy hiphop interpretation
to “Joy to the World”. The album is rounded out with strong cuts
from Darlene Love, BAM Crawford’s Purpose, Deniece Williams, Alvin
Slaughter and Nancey Jackson. Many will consider this to be the
strongest Christmas set of 1998.
Marxan Records Special Christmas
This is one of those albums
which deserves accolades solely on the merits of one song.
Charles Woolfork and Covenant bring their Ohio gospel funk
to "Jingle Bells", creating a sanctified, bumpin’, bell-ringing,
choir groove. Woolfork and crew have gospelyzed this tune,
claiming it for Jesus Christ. But there’s way more to this
label sampler that make it worthy of the season. Newcomers
Keith Leak and DFW, as well as Donna Summers and Aaron
Lindsey (on a keyboard instrumental jam) join Woolfork and Covenant with fresh Christmas sounds, sometimes smooth, sometimes hype,
always original and quite ear-grabbing.
There's nothing like spending time
with family during the holidays. This is especially true if you're
from a musical family and the time you spend together is in the
studio crafting a Christmas album. On Brian McKnight's first Christmas
offering, he joins with his brothers Claude (of Take 6), Fred and
Michael and his wife Julie to create an enjoyable holiday album that
reflects both the spiritual and social joy of the holiday. The
most impressive family cameo, however, comes from his sons Niko
and Brian Jr., whose lead vocals on "It's All About Love" not only
prove their McKnight pedigree, but also puts to shame many vocalists
three times their age. Other guests on Bethlehem include
Boyz II Men, Michael Sembello, saxophonist David Koz, and
the much missed Tim Miner. The best cut on the album is
McKnight's rendition of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," in
which he shifts to a lower register. Other standout cuts
include the Take 6 sounding "Christmas Time Is Here," the instrumental
"Christmas Eve With You" and "Home For The Holidays" which shows
an early Winans influence.
The Williams Brothers
A Candlelight Christmas
The Williams Brothers invite
us to gather around the Christmas tree in Smithsdale, Mississippi with
this album of warm, down-home melodies and harmonies. From standards
such as “Silent Night”, and “Little Town of Bethlehem”, to originals
such as “Celebrate Jesus” and “No Greater Gift”, the trio from Smithdale
will delight their many fans, and most probably pick up many newcomers
along the way. There’s not much snow down in Mississippi, but
(shhhhh!)….don’t tell the Williams Brothers. Lack of
snow didn’t stop them from giving us an authentic Christmas
sound to round out the bounty of Christmas projects on the
shelves this year.
in GospelFlava © copyright 1999. Any information reprinted
or broadcast from this site
must be credited to GospelFlava.com