Wow Christmas, the second holiday album in the Wow compilation series, offers exactly what it promises: a little bit of something for everyone. The two-disc, 32-track collection covers most of the bases within the contemporary Christian music industry.
These discs used to be divided up, one disc for the Adult Contemporary-type artists, the other for the rock and “edgier” stuff. Thankfully, that distinction has been eliminated, making for a more eclectic listening experience throughout. Consider the resulting mix to be like a Pandora channel dubbed “Contemporary Christian Christmas,” but better, actually. Between the two discs, there are obviously some missteps, but a nice range of traditional carols performed traditionally, others given a fresh update, and a good addition of winning original songs.
Disc One highlights include Toby Mac’s snappy “Christmas This Year,” featuring Leigh Nash and Natalie Grant’s warm “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow.” Both Francisca Battistelli’s gentle Mary song, “You’re Here,” and Mercy Me’s tender “Joseph’s Lullaby” offer first-person perspectives on the Advent story, as does Brandon Heath’s story/song “The Night Before Christmas,” which ripples with the emotional delivery Heath has become known for. Chris Tomlin’s “Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground),” while a ubiquitous Advent favorite in churches, still stands out thanks to Tomlin’s passionate delivery.
Disc Two features revamped standards like newsboys' take on “Jingle Bell Rock,” which proves a perfect match for new front man Michael Tait’s husky, sassy delivery, and BarlowGirl’s “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” done in classic big band style. Amy Grant’s “I Need a Silent Night” is far more touching than the other Grant classics heard incessantly on mainstream radio this time of year, and Sidewalk Prophets’ “Hope Was Born This Night” and Matt Maher’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” are both solid performances. The second disc is a bit weaker, although it ends nicely with Audrey Assad’s haunting, understated piano ballad “Winter Snow.”
There’s really little to quibble with on Wow Christmas, except possibly the omission of any Gospel artists. Adding top-flight Gospel artists, among them The Winans or even Take 6, who have released two Christmas albums in their career, would have rounded out the sound of this disc, making it a truly memorable collection. Otherwise, Wow Christmas accomplishes what it sets out to be: one-stop shopping for a plethora of heartfelt holiday music.
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