Wednesday, December 12


When was the last time you bought a CD and loved every song? For me, a good CD purchase is usually one that fewer than 3 songs are "throw away" - I skip them because I don't like them, they get on my nerves, etc. etc. I'm pretty picky when it comes to music...just ask my voice instructor.

No genre is excluded from this general rule - the style of music usually has no bearing on whether or not the 3-song rule applies. The style of music DOES affect whether or not the CD's actually make it into the player to qualify for the 3-song rule. *grin*

When I got this Michael W Smith CD (It's A Wonderful Christmas) in the mail to review, my first inclination was to listen, review, and chuck and/or find a friend whose tastes differ slightly from my own. Actually, I was thinking "more than" slightly. Usually when I hear MWS's name, all I can think of is "Friends are Friends Forever" which I do NOT like. And I think it's more than just the lyrics. But we'll leave it at that. *wink*

So, despite the taste in my...ears? I decided to do my best to keep an open mind, try to forget the name on the album, and just listen.

I was pleasantly surprised. Actually, when the CD started, I had to open up the multi-disk player to make sure I had the correct album - the orchestration that began track #1 was a surprise. About a minute into it, the solo vocals began. Mr. Smith also used several choirs in this song, and throughout the album, including a boys choir - and that really made parts of this album sparkle. I loved the choirs.

Track #2 was entirely instrumental, and had some very nice moments - glimmers of traditional Christmas themes - I liked track #2.

"The Promise" is the title of track 3, and for me seemed to have a little Feature Films for Families flavor. I loved the use of the choirs. I love choirs at Christmas. Some may say the pure, full tones of the choir made a nice contrast to Mr. Smith's voice, which is not so rounded. I don't happen to have this opinion. This song was so-so for me.

#4, "Song for the King", starts with "Once in Royal David's City" on strings. I love strings. Added brass, and then about a minute into it, a piano and violin in a relaxing and simple theme. You can easily imagine this as a lullaby for Jesus. Until the last minute or so, when the same theme is augmented in a majestic way, then quieted for a piano/violin finish. The entire song is instrumental.

So far, we're 3 for 4. Not bad on my 3-song rule.

Number 5. A duet with Mandisa? Now, you are my friends, after all. Do I really need to tell you how I feel about that? This is the first song I cannot stand even in passing. Skip. We won't even go into the "let's light a candle/for peace we pray" lyrics. OK we will. This song's lyrics go from Santa and nations to lighting candles for peace. Nowhere is Jesus mentioned (although "manger scene" is in there.) SKIP.

"A Highland Carol" begins with bagpipes and a theme reminiscent of "Blessed be the Name" and although I'm not big into bagpipes, this was a nice tune.

Number 7 - "Sing Noel, Sing Hallelujah" is entirely choral. Read the lyrics. It begins with a boy choir, and is gorgeous. No church would have any problems with their choir singing this beauty. It has a traditional hymn sound, and it made me want to stand up and sing. This is my favorite song on the whole album. It's about this time that I think, "maybe I will keep this CD" You can listen here.

"Son of God" reminds me of a church cantata - a solo at the beginning, choirs taking over - and I can see this song IN a cantata - all the repetition of the "singing gloria" would be good for reflection on the nativity. And the text is pretty good for the solo part, too. I would pick a different vocal style for the soloist. But you knew that.

"What Child is This" is a simple arrangement on piano and penny whistle. It is beautiful.

So if you're counting, we're 7 for 9. I'm raising my eyebrows in surprise at this point. As I am sure you are.

"Audrey's Gift" is a piano arrangement of the same simple theme that has woven through the entire recording. This is not a vocal song. You know, this CD could easily be a soundtrack to a movie. Easily.

We are on the last track of the CD, "All Year Long" and it is full of M. W. vocals. A few choirs, a subtle insert of a secular world view, and we're done. I didn't care for that one.

So, friends, we have listened through "It's a Wonderful Christmas" and Mr. Smith squeaked by on the 3 song rule. I don't think I have a new favorite CD, but I don't think I'll be tossing this or finding a new home for it. And I do love "Sing Noel, Sing Hallelujah" enough to make a mental note that if I ever direct music again, I will need to look into it.

M. W., you have squeaked by! I give you one out of 2 socks. Surprised right off.


Rosemary at Rose Tree Threadworks said...

I'm glad that you like most of this cd. I also enjoyed most of it, especially "What Child is This" with the penny whistle - I just enjoy ANYTHING Celtic including the bagpipes in "The Highland Carol". (It's my Great Granny McCaffery in me, I guess!)I did wonder if some of the tracks were from some movie though and kept checking the track titles to see if it was from Harry Potter or something! But the music was nice and festive..just what I needed during this busy time of year to keep me going.

Abby Sokul Turner said...

I just posted this whole long comment and blogger was being stupid! Ok - this is what I said - I think it's funny you post this today - my sister-in-law has this CD and when I was dropping Elijah off this morning she was talking about it and let me borrow it. I was listening to it on the way to work and so far pretty much agree with you - although, I was driving, so I couldn't devote all my attention to the CD (you know, traffic and all!).

I also like MWS's CD Freedom - have you heard that one? It's all instrumental and really great!

Karen said...

Not a big MWS fan, either, but... duly noted! I'm always on the prowl for decent Christmas music.

Rachel said...

I'm glad that you liked the CD and posted a thorough review. His voice is can be rather whiney but he is very talented when it comes to orchestration. I was able to hear part of the CD online and what I hear of it was fantastic:).

nate, christina, and connor said...

funny review! i like that he shocked only one out of two socks. :)
i know mws isn't the highest on the list of "go out and get it" music. i mean, he has given us some weird ones over the years. thanks for giving him a chance and giving us the low down. that's one thing about music; you just can't try it on like a sweater.

KColas said...

I've been looking forward to this review! I'm totally with you on the three-song rule; and you've piqued my curiosity for sure about this CD. All in all an enlightening and entertaining review. There WILL be more - right?