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The Christmas Chart

  • Staff CCM Magazine
  • 2004 14 Dec
The Christmas Chart

Erin O’Donnell:  "Christmas Time Is Here"

1. Ratio of originals to covers:  2:8
2. Track You’ll Be Humming Long After the CD Stops: “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” — The jazzy groove and thumping upright bass will put you in the Christmas mood in no time.
3. Fun Facts:  “Christmas Kiss” is the first song Erin’s husband, Brad O’Donnell, ever wrote for her while they were in college, ironically, studying jazz together.
4. Vibe:  Think upbeat jazz with just a splash of Latin salsa (“Angels We Have Heard on High”) and a nod to Alison Krauss (“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”).
5. Listen While You … cozy up to a fire, drinking hot cocoa and munching on cookies.
6. Fa la la la la Factor:  3.5 candy canes — This album might lull a little here and there; but it puts a fun, creative spin on several Christmas favorites.

**The Peanuts Award for including “Christmas Time Is Here” from "A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Original Soundtrack Recording from the CBS Special"

Denver & the Mile High Orchestra:  "Timeless Christmas"
Reel Loud

1. Ratio of originals to covers:  7:6
2. Track You’ll Be Humming Long After the CD Stops: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” — This swinging song will certainly play in your head — and most likely have you dancing — long after the music comes to an end.
3. Fun Fact: This is the band’s first Christmas recording.
4. Vibe: Denver and his 11 cohorts offer the full big band experience on the majority of the tracks but aren’t afraid to veer off every now and then.
5. Listen While You … have friends over for a merry holiday gathering
6. Fa la la la la Factor:  4 candy canes — The original songs are a nice diversion (especially “This Must Be the Place”), but Denver & the Mile High Orchestra really hits a homerun with the classics.

The Katinas:  "Family Christmas"

1. Ratio of originals to covers:  7:3
2. Track You’ll Be Humming Long After the CD Stops: “Christmas Is Here” — This funk-infused cut stands out musically from the rest of the tracks, and you can just tell the brothers had fun with this one!
3. Fun Facts:  They’ve performed on five Christmas tours (three with Amy Grant; two with Michael W. Smith), but this is the first Christmas recording.
4. Vibe:  A little R&B, a little funk, a little traditional, a little rock and a lot of five-part harmony
5. Listen While You … decorate the tree
6. Fa la la la la Factor:  4 candy canes. Creative arrangements, unique instrumentation and perfectly blended voices define this Christmas disc.

Andrew Peterson:  "Andrew Peterson Presents: Behold the Lamb of God: the True Tale of the Coming of Christ"
Fervent Records

1. Ratio of originals to covers:  9:3
2. Track You’ll Be Humming Long After the CD Stops: “Deliver Us” — You’ll be humming it not so much because to bob your head to but because of the haunting music and lyrics telling of Israel’s cry for deliverance from the Egyptians.
3. Fun Facts:  Andrew has put on a Nashville Christmas concert (and before that a tour) showcasing the songs with various guests, including Phil Keaggy, Alison Krauss, Jill Phillips, Fernando Ortega, for the last four years (including this year).
4. Vibe:  Although an electric guitar, bass and drums find their way into some songs, this music is definitely of the folk persuasion.
5. Listen While You … take a road trip to grandma’s
6. Fa la la la la Factor:  5 candy canes — There hasn’t been a more equally creative and well-made project in years.

**Best Holiday History Lesson for giving the Christmas story from Genesis to the Gospels

George Huff:  "Christmas EP"

1. Ratio of originals to covers:  0:5
2. Track You’ll Be Humming Long After the CD Stops: “Go Tell It on the Mountain” — This peppy live version cut will, as George says, get you “ready to have church!”
3. Fun Facts:  He’s the second “American Idol” contestant to sign with a faith-based label and the first to record a Christmas CD.
4. Vibe:  Just what George (as we all say on “American Idol” does best:  soul music.
5. Listen While You … kick back after a long day and contemplate the real meaning of Christmas
6. Fa la la la la Factor:  3 candy canes — The arrangements aren’t overly original, but this short-and-sweet EP show off George’s smooth voice on Christmas favorites.

Various:  "All Star Gospel Hits Christmas"

1. Ratio of originals to covers:  4:8
2.   Track You’ll Be Humming Long After the CD Stops: Shirley Caesar’s buoyant performance of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” won’t be leaving your brain matter for hours. And that’s not a bad thing.
3. Fun Fact:  Luther Vandross’ vintage rendition of “At Christmas Time” dates back to 1976.
4. Vibe:  Full of soulful stylings on holiday classics old and new, you’d have to be dead (or a grinch) not to moved (or moving) when listening.
5. Listen While You … contemplate what to get your pesky Aunt Matilda. You’ll still be in a good mood while you’re worrying.
6. Fa la la la la Factor:  4 candy canes — The first track sums up the entire project very well: “Hallejuah!”

**The “You Couldn’t Make This Good of a Christmas Compilation on Your iPod if Your Life Depended on It” award for a great blend of soulful classic and contemporary tunes for that perfect holiday ambience.

Kim Hill:  "Real Christmas"
1. Ratio of originals to covers:  2:8
2. Track You’ll Be Humming Long After the CD Stops: The can’t-get-it-out-of-head“glooooooooooooria” from the chorus of “Angels We Have Heard On High.”
3. Fun Facts:  A veteran of the music biz, Kim Hill had never recorded a Christmas album until now. After hearing the final product, she says she wishes she’d recorded one 15 years ago.
4. Vibe:  Laidback and acoustic, it lets Hill’s distinctive alto voice shine through.
5. Listen While You … sip egg nog and write out your Christmas cards.
6. Fa la la la la Factor:  3.5 candy canes — It’s not flashy, but that’s what makes Real Christmas warm and welcoming.

© 2004 CCM Magazine.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.  Click here to subscribe.


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