Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Rescuing Christmas Music from Repetitiveness/Redundancy

I don't know about you, but by this time in the Christmas season, I am about tired of hearing the radio play songs beginning with the following lyrics: "Rudolph the Red-Nosed..." ; "He's makin' a list..." ; "Frosty the Snowman..." ; "I'll be home..." ; "Chestnuts roasting..." ; "Well, the weather outside is frightful..." ; etc.

Now, don't get me wrong and don't call me Scrooge. I love Christmas, and I love Christmas music--even most of the songs I just alluded to. The point is, the radio stations that have dedicated themselves to Christmas music enclose their range into a tiny cycle of familiar songs, artists, and--yes--often secularity. However, even some of the Christian Christmas songs (like "O Holy Night," "Silent Night," "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," etc.) seem overplayed and, frankly, over-recorded in the same old way--although that is not so much an issue--especially when you consider that even Christian stations rely heavily on the secular songs of the season.

The true shame here is that there is so much good Christmas music out there that barely garners recognition, in both Christian and secular circles, being buried underneath the weight of giants such as Burl Ives, Frank Sinatra, Rudolph, Frosty, and Santa. While I'm fighting off the seemingly "Bah! Humbug!" urge of "not this song again," I wonder, "Why am I not listening to a CD instead?"

And that's what this article is all about: I'm writing to tell you about four of my favorite Christmas albums. If you are a fan of Christian music, I'm sure you'll have heard of at least three of the four artists I mention, but if you've never heard their Christmas CD's, you are in for a pleasant surprise, either as an addition to your Christmas wishlist or as a stocking stuffer for someone else.

1. The Music of Christmas
By: Steven Curtis Chapman
Notes: This song has become about as much of a Christmas tradition with my family as turkey is a tradition at Thanksgiving. I can't recall any song on here worthy of being skipped, except for the fact that you might just be impatient to hear another one. Several of the songs on this production would make it onto my "Christmas Top 20," including arguably my favorite Christmas song: "This Baby." Chapman mixes new renditions of classics with classics of his own, ranging from slow and melancholy to upbeat and fun. All songs, except the instrumental ones, are Christian themed, unlike Steven's newer Christmas album, in which he takes on some secular classics. This is absolutely a must-have!

2. Repeat the Sounding Joy
By: Phillips, Craig, and Dean
Notes: If, for some reason, The Music of Christmas was taken away from me, I'd be able to survive with this CD. This popular singing trio grooves with Gospel-like renditions of "Go Tell It On the Mountain/Amen" and "Joy to the World," and smooth and/or fun originals such as "Call His Name Jesus" (my favorite song on the album), and "Be It Unto Me." The CD does have a few of the overly familiar secular songs, such as a bouncy version of "Sleigh Ride," but the version is so fun in this case, the fact that you've heard it sung a million different times and different ways doesn't really matter!
Although the album is often upbeat and fun, including the likes of what is borderline one of the most fun songs of Christmas--"The Kid in Me"--it doesn't hesitate to slow down occasionally to create great performances of songs like "How Great Our Joy" and "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." Then, there's the powerful worship medley consisting of "Bow Down/Glorify the Lord/All the Earth Bows Down."
This CD also lays claim to many of my favorite Christmas songs, and it is also a must-have!

3. Snowfall
By: Yanni
Notes: No, I haven't been at the Gaffer's Home Brew (Lord of the Rings inside joke; I think it's gaffer's, isn't it?); no, I'm not off my rocker; and no, I don't have a screw loose. I thought I'd answer all of those questions right away, since some of you might be asking them. To be honest, I don't know much about Yanni--although he gives the impression that he might (stress the word "might") be a bit of a New Age-type. I haven't heard much of his music; I don't know what his beliefs are; and I don't know if all of his music (or everything on his site) is appropriate. I'm not saying I necessarily suspect anything. I simply don't know.
What I do know is that the album Snowfall is incredible. Although there is nothing really Christmas about it (Snowfall? What side of the battle for Christmas is Yanni on?), with an ambiguous title and all original--and wordless--songs, it ranks as one of my favorite Christmas albums for a few reasons: 1.) First of all, because I seem to only pull it out around Christmas time (therefore, I qualify it as "Christmas") ; 2.) Secondly, because of its sheer beauty; and 3.)Thirdly, related to the second reason, it conjures up such beautiful visual images in one's mind of the winter--and thereby--Christmas season.
I often jest that emotionally tantalizing songs without words are "more Christian than a lot of Christian songs." Actually, I'm not so sure that's not true. Why does a song have to have lyrics (or have lyrics in another rendition) to be considered Christian? Why does it have to be written by a Christian to be considered Christian? I have heard it said that "art often exceeds the purpose of the artist." Whether or not Yanni is a Christian or was intending to write a Christian song or evoke Christian thoughts and emotions does not determine whether or not these songs can be edifying to the Christian's soul.
Focusing on soft, nostalgically and reminiscently rhythmic melodies of the piano, this CD transports the listener into the peace of the season's meaning, although Yanni does rampage off into some up-beat, synthesized compositions, which illustrate musically the excitement of Christmas and its true meaning.

4. Christmastime
By: Michael W. Smith
Notes: Phew! Don't have to explain myself on this one! Though I would question Smitty on his recording of "O Christmas Tree," this work scoots onto my list mainly because of three songs: "The Happiest Christmas" ; "Welcome to Our World" ; and the title track. I especially enjoy the latter two--they are a couple of my favorites.

Certainly there are others that I love and would recommend, such as Steve Green's The First Noel, but the aforementioned are my main favorites. However, it is a likely scenario that there are albums out there which I would very much enjoy if I would only hear them. I encourage you to comment with your favorites, but I beg you to give a short description if you do.

~ Kingdom Advancer


Anonymous said...

Try Christmas Offerings by Third Day. Their rendition of "O Holy Night" brings me to tears. The whole CD is fantastic, with a southern rock flavor.

Lanna said...

I like Hanson's Snowed In, BUT there are some santa songs on there.
I think it was Kenny Rogers that did the album The Gift. All those songs where very Christian. "Mary, did you know, that your baby boy..." and stuff like that.

Also, the Jars of Clay song "Little Drummer Boy" is quite good.

I do perfur Jars of Clay, Switchfoot, Micheal W.Smith,........Christian Rock!!!

Oh, and I recently heard some remakes of Christmas songs that you should never listen to unless you want to laugh you head off with bad images. Songs like Santa's Going Crazy (a verse from that song: Marry Christmas, Now you're all going to die!)
A song about a dead roadkill dear and what good sausage he made. (tune was a Christmas song..don't remember what one.) And another that said and another one, what ever it was. MY friend Brendon, well, that's is favorite music. Just don't listen to the song that's based of of the song "Deck the Halls" cause it's just nasty. I told them to skip it when we listened to the songs.


Austin said...

Third Day does "Do you know what I know" or whatever it's called. Mac Powell, by the way, is the best singer ever.

I love "Mary, did you know?" That's a great song! I can sing it and sign it in ASL at the same time! ...well, sometimes.

Austin said...

My mom has some albums of Country music singers doing Christmas songs. Reba's songs are all specifically Christian, I believe (her Christmas songs, that is). She tells the story of how "Silent Night" was written, and then she sings it. She also tells a story about a shop owner name Conrad who is promised a visit from the Lord on Christmas Day, and he gets visited by a begger (whom he clothes), a lonely woman (whom he feeds), and a lost little girl (whom he leads home). At the end of the day, he asks God why he never showed up, and God says he kept his promise - he was the three people who visited him asking for help.
So three cheers for Reba MacEntire.
Steve Wariner (amazing guitarist and singer) plays some instrumental guitar Christian Christmas songs.

Kingdom Advancer said...

Thanks, everybody!

for now...: That's the second thing I've heard recently about Third Day's Christmas CD. I'm probably going to have to pick that one up (maybe not 'til next year, though).

Lanna: I know you probably don't want to mention the group's (or groups') name(s), but I'm going to have a hard time avoiding them if I don't know who they are.
How about this one: "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer." That's another good one...wait...NOT!!! ;)

Austin: Can you back up that Mac Powell claim with Scripture verses? Just kidding.
I also love "Mary, Did You Know?" When I was little, I used to play this little toy drumset and just shout that song as loud as I could. My poor family.

By the way: I'm going to try to post a "Part Two" of songs I love that I don't necessarily know about the whole albums of the artists. Stay tuned...

Austin said...

No, it's obvious. The Bible doesn't always state the obvious. Besides, Mac Powell wasn't born yet.

Maybe King David was better. I don't know, I haven't heard him. I can't imagine it, though.

Austin said...

I have finally posted my first real post on Beginnings... (www.genesiscreationblog.blogspot.com), and I'm ready for teammembers.

Would you like to join? You don't have to post at any regular rate at all. You can just join, and then post whenever you happen to feel like it.

If so, email me your email address (mine's aww7342@yahoo.com), and I'll invite you.

You wouldn't be alone. I'm also inviting Steve (from rubiesandsapphires.blogspot.com).

Palm boy said...

Yanni!!! I like that guys music.

Mary did you Know, I like that one too Austin.

Ever tried Mannhiem Steamroller?

Kingdom Advancer said...

I definitely have heard Manheim Steamroller, but are you talking of them in general, or are you saying they do a version of "Mary, Did You Know?"

Palm boy said...

No, they don't do a version of Mary, not that I know of. I meant in general.