Friday, December 22, 2006

Rescuing Christmas Music, Part Two

A few days ago, I documented four of my favorite Christmas albums that might rescue you from the same two song cycle being played on the radio (Okay, so it's a twelve song or so cycle). Well, as life is often inconvenient, it so happens that all the good Christmas songs are not contained on those four albums. Thereby, here I will note a large handful--enough to make a compilation CD--of my favorite Christmas songs not on one of the aforementioned four CDs.

It is essential to stress that the following list contains only songs not on my favorite CDs, because many of my absolute favorites are on those. Also, the classics are omitted, for obvious reasons (Do they really need mention?)

In semi-particular order:

1. Christmas Shoes
By: NewSong
Notes: Got tissues? This song, based off the popular novel of the same name, just about will tear your heart out—in a good way! It is about a boy who wants to buy his mom shoes on Christmas Eve. His mom is very sick and about to die. The boy wants to buy her these shoes so she’ll “look beautiful” if she “meets Jesus” that very night. The boy can’t afford the shoes, and the story is told from the perspective of a man behind the boy in line, who had lost the true spirit and meaning of Christmas.
Lyrical Example 1: "Sir, I wanna buy these shoes, for my momma please. It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size. Could you hurry, sir? Daddy says there’s not much time. You see, she’s been sick for quite a while, and I know these shoes will make her smile, and I want her to look beautiful, if Momma meets Jesus tonight."
Lyrical Example 2: “I knew I saw a glimpse of heaven’s love, as he thanked me and ran out. I knew that God had sent that little boy, to remind me what Christmas is all about…”

2. All is Well
By: Michael W. Smith
Notes: Michael W. Smith utilizes a boys’ choir just about to perfection here, creating a breathtakingly beautiful,peaceful, even angelic song.
Lyrical Example: “All is well. All is well. Angels and men rejoice…”

3. Christmas Canon
By: Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Notes: Like “Canon in D” needs any help! Well, add a boys’ choir singing about Christmas--and somewhat vaguely about Christ--over top, and it is just that much better!
Lyrical Example: "Merry Christmas... The hope that he [He?] brings... This night we pray our lives will show this dream he [He?] had each child still knows... We are waiting. We have not forgotten..."

4. Strange Way to Save the World
By: 4Him
Notes: This is by far the best song told from Joseph’s perspective that I have ever heard. With a beautiful piano riff as an intro and filler, the chorus chronicles the simple and honest question that must have been swirling through Joseph’s head: Why?
Lyrical Example: “Why me? I’m just a simple man of trade. Why Him, with all the rulers in the world? Why here, inside this stable full of hay? Why her? She’s just an ordinary girl. Now I’m not one to second guess what angels have to say. But this is such a strange way, to save the world…”

5. Appalachian Carol
Arranged By: Dan Goeller
Notes: These are the liner notes from the CD this song is found on: Our Daily Bread, Christmas Edition IV:
"Appalachian music is a rich tea of Celtic, English, and African-American roots. The essential singing style and harmony are Celtic, often imitative of Celtic fiddling where the fiddler may slide from one melody note to the next, while sustaining a single harmony note on a higher string. Scottish Presbyterians and English settlers brought carols and the four-part harmony tradition of the Protestant hymn, which in Appalachia found a less formal expression. African Americans brought rhythmic intensity from the old world--and their experience of slavery to Protestant plantation owners--contributing such Christmas gems as "Children, Go Where I Send Thee," "Go, Tell It on the Mountain," and "Behold That Star!"

If you didn't get all of that, don't worry. Here's my translation, since that description seemed to be talking more of the style of music rather than the particular song:
You won't necessarily think Christmas music when you hear this song, but it is a beautiful and moving tune that will conjer images of prairie-life and pioneering, and the type of Christmases they must have had.
No lyrical example because there are no lyrics; just good music!

6. Mary, Did You Know?
Written by: Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene
Notes: I put the songwriters here for a change since many have performed this modern classic. I give this song this high of a ranking mainly out of honor and nostalgia. When I was a small child, it was very near being my favorite Christmas song. In fact, it might have been (I didn't rank them at that time.) I used to sit in my basement, bang on a toy drumset, and belt the lyrics out with all the lung capacity my little self had. Now that I look back, I think, what was my family doing at the time? Earplugs? ;)
This song is truly great because it focuses not on the birth of Christ, which many other songs do and certainly is a worthy thing on which to center, but it focuses on what Jesus would do--not on His birth, but his life. Even with the Old Testament and the angel's message, could Mary really have known who Jesus was?
Lyrical example: "Mary did you know, that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?Did you know, that your baby boy will calm the storm with his hand? Did you know, that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?And when you kiss your little baby,You've kissed the face of God."

7. A Prayer for Every Year
By: Plus One
Notes: Adapted from the Amy Grant classic “Grown-Up Christmas List,” which has since been re-recorded many a time, this song takes the theistic—and thereby less depressing and hopeless—approach on the topic, although ultimately the chorus is equally unlikely to be fulfilled until the Millenium Reign of Christ. The musical and vocal quality of this particular version may be less than that of Amy Grant, Kelly Clarkson, or Michael Buble, but it is worth the tradeoff to have a song’s lyrics directed towards God rather than Santa.
Lyrical Example: (“Grown-Up Christmas List”) “Do you remember me? I sat upon your knee. And wrote to you with childhood fantasies…”
(“My Prayer for Every Year”) “Do you remember me? Long ago on bended knee, I prayed to you with childhood fantasies…”

8. A King is Born
Written By: Sy Gorieb and Tim Hosman
Notes: This is another song that has been special to me since childhood. At my church, this song would always be performed during the Christmas pageant. The lead singer would always play some sort of drums, and the choir would back him up. I've never heard it on the radio or on a CD, although if you take the link to the writers, it says that Ron Kenoly is the "artist." A Google search revealed the Oak Ridge Boys. However, I haven't heard either of these versions. But, the song is so good and so much fun, I think it would be worth it for you to search it out.
Lyrical Example: "A King is born this day in Bethlehem. Hallelujah, halle, hallelujah. No crown is worn but angels worship Him. Hallelujah, halle, hallelujah..."

9. Emmanuel, God With Us
By: Point of Grace
Note: I'm not sure what it is, but it seems like every song focused on the name "Emmanuel" is fantastic! This song is not an exception, being touching, moving, powerful, and beautiful. Most of the other songs I am referring to are on my favorite CDs, but there are at least two that I cannot think of the names or artists. Maybe you all can help me out.
Lyrical Example: "O Emmanuel, God with us, Spirit revealed in us, that we may be Your hope to the world. O Emmanuel, God with us, with the light to break the darkness, that we may show Your hope to the world. Emmanuel, be God in us."

10. When Love Came Down
By: Point of Grace
Notes: I really love the feel of this song, particularly the introduction and first verse. It is so soft and sweet, illustrating that God--Who is love, as the Bible says--came down at Christmas time, and also showing that we should continue to show people and tell them of that Love.
Lyrical Example: "Christmas Eve, 2 A-M, heavy snow is falling down, and the streets clothed in white, echo songs that were sung by candlelight. We're alive, we can breathe, but do we really care for this world in need? There's a choice we must make each and every day. So close your eyes and share the dream. Let everyone on earth believe. The Child was born, the star shone bright, and Love came down that Christmas time. And Love came down at Christmas time..."

11. All My Heart Rejoices
By: Steve Green
Notes: Another great usage of children's voices, this time in a faster paced song.
Lyrical Example: "All my heart this night rejoices, as I hear, far and near, sweetest angel voices. Christ is born, their choirs are singing, fill the air, everywhere, now with joyous ringing. Come and banish all your sadness, one and all, great and small, come with songs of gladness. Love Him Who with love is yearning, hail the star, that from far, bright with hope is burning..."

12. Good News
By: Steve Green
Notes: Good News. That's what Christmas is all about, and that's what this song is all about. The song portrays well the true yearning, passion, desire, longing, and desperate-ness for the Good News of the Gospel.
Lyrical Example 1: "Good News, Good News, an angel brings Good News. Good news, good news, I leave you with Good News."
Lyrical Example 2: "...The Child grew up to wear a cross; the Child grew up to pledge a life. Behold the time of joy. Behold, Christ a baby boy..."

13. This Christmas (Joy to the World)
By: Toby Mac
Notes: For the rap and hip-hop in all of us, this song focuses on such themes as “it is better to give than to receive” and “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress.” (James 1:27)
Lyrical Example 1: “Well Johnny never got his wish on December 25th. That’s what he said when we left the orphanage. Nine years old, but Johnny was an old soul, gonna spend his first Christmas in a real home...”
Lyrical Example 2: "Father of the fatherless, be with Your sons and daughters this Christmas..."

14. O Holy Night
By: Apologetix—The Christian Parody Band
Notes: This is not your ordinary band or “O Holy Night.” Apologetix is a group that takes secular songs and gives them Christian lyrics—actually, more than that: they tell Bible stories through the same melodies with different lyrics—sometimes completely different, sometimes just focusing on alternate meanings of a statement. The result is often hilarious, as is the case here.
This song is taken from the Frank Valli & The Four Seasons classic “Oh, What a Night.” The song focuses on the need to celebrate Christ’s birth all year round, since we don’t know exactly when He was born—year or day. A couple rap-like portions not in the original flow of the song clearly—and amusingly—demonstrate this. The song also talks about, however, the fact that neither side (those who celebrate Christmas and those don’t) of the debate should criticize the other--I believe they even mention Romans 14.
Lyrical Example: (“Oh, What a Night”) “Oh, what a night. Late December back in ’63…”
(“O Holy Night”) “O holy night! In December back in 6 B.C...."

Certainly this list will be an on-going, evolving project, but it is relatively comprehensive for now, keeping in mind once again that the old classics and favorites from my favorite albums are not located here.

I want to here about your favorites, and I also would like to know which of the songs I listed that you have (or have not) heard, and do (or do not) like.

~ Kingdom Advancer


Austin said...

Sorry, not relevant to the post:

You now have magical administrative powers on Beginnings...

Austin said...

Nevermind, that comment was unnecessary, because I just clicked on my own link and realized that you've already touched up the site. You sure don't skip a beat.

Austin said...

It looks great, by the way. Thanks!

Oh, and thanks for this list of Christmas albums. I'll see if I can check some of 'em out.

Kingdom Advancer said...

I don't think you meant to say this, but this list is just songs, not albums (the last list is albums). I just wanted to point that out to make sure you don't go looking for the "Christmas Canon" Trans-Siberian Orchestra album or something.

P.S. Your welcome (2x).

Austin said...

I just want to make sure you noticed that Ketutar has posted on your blog a few more times. Go check the post where she first commented.