Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

Three New Christmas Albums That I Recommend

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I love Christmas music and have a large collection. I’ve made a “Christmas playlist” in my iTunes library, and it currently includes more than 250 songs. New Christmas albums are released every year. Below are three new Christmas albums that I can recommend to you.

The Gift: A Christmas Compilation – 116
****

The Gift is the third overall studio album from 116, and their first Christmas collection. Noticeably missing from the Reach Records group is Andy Mineo and KB, but there are some surprise guests including Derek Minor on the album. Adam Grason did the cover art, which merges the look and feel of vintage Christmas with traditional hip-hop elements. The album debuted at #1 on iTunes Hip-Hop and Rap chart.

I really enjoyed this album and getting exposed to some artists I was not familiar with, as well as hearing some of my favorites such as Lecrae, Trip Lee and Tedashii.
Below are a few brief comments about each song:

O’ Come – The song is written by Dustin “DAB” Bowie, John McNeil, Joel McNeil, Crystal Nicole, Ace Harris, CASS, Tedashii and nobigdyl. It is produced by Weathrman and Ace Harris, and features CASS, nobigdyl and Tedashii. The chorus includes a bit of the Christmas hymn “O Come All Ye Faithful” written by John Francis Wade. The song opens with CASS, with Tedashii taking the first verse, CASS the second, nobigdyl the third, and Tedashii closing things out. The joyful song has a great beat and some hand claps.
Key lyric:
He changed the world, that’s a landslide
God meant for all mankind

This Christmas – The song was written by Ace Harris, Epikh Pro, Evan Ford, Abe Parker, Jon Keith and Jaylon Ashaun. It was produced by Ace Harris and Epikh Pro and features Jon Keith, Jaylon Ashaun and Evan and Eris. Evan and Eric handle the chorus, with Jaylon Ashaun on the first verse and Jon Keith on the second on this light-hearted and joyful song with a great beat.
Key lyric:
It’s gonna be the best time of the year
Got my hands in the sky ’cause I know that I’m living my best life when you’re near

Joy – The song was written by Ace Harris, Epikh Pro, Alex Hitchens, Abe Parker, Trip Lee and Lecrae. It was produced by Ace Harris and Epikh Pro, and features Lecrae, Trip Lee and Abe Parker.  Lee and Lecrae each take a verse, and Parker handles the chorus, which includes a bit of the Christmas hymn “Joy to the World” written by Isaac Watts. The song addresses pain, injustice and life’s difficulty, along with God’s faithfulness and spreading the good news. A highlight.
Key lyric:
Why wait for tomorrow?
Joy came and He called us

What A Time – The song was written by Cardec, Ace Harris, Zach Paradis, Jimi Cravity, Dave James, SVRCINA and WHATUPRG. It was produced by Ace Harris, Dave James, Zach Paradis and Cardec, and features WHATUPRG and SVRCINA. The chorus includes a bit of the Christmas hymn “O Holy Night” written by Adolphe Adam. There are also some references to the song “What Child Is This?” written by William Chatterton Dix. The drums really stand out on this track. WHATUPRG’s and SVRCINA voices blend well as they sing together near the end of the song.
Key lyric:
What Child is this?
Whose crown is this?
On the ground I live
Falling on my knees
Giving everything to the King of kings

Silent Night – The song is written by John Smythe, Joel McNeil, John McNeil and Chrystal Nicole. The song is produced by Weathrman and features Chrystal Nicole on vocals. Nicole has worked with Lecrae, Andy Mineo and Tedashii in the past. The chorus includes a bit of lyrics from the Christmas hymn “Silent Night” written by Joseph Mohr. Nicole delivers a powerful vocal over guitar and excellent backing vocals as the song builds.

All Is Bright – The song is written by Derek Johnson, Crystal Johnson, John McNeil, Joel McNeil, Wande and 1K Phew. It was produced by Weathrman and features 1K Phew, Derek Minor & Wande. The chorus includes a bit of the Christmas hymn “Silent Night” written by Joseph Mohr. The vocals from Wande, 1K Phew and Derek Minor are strong. Minor sings in verse three of being saved out of the slums, with dealers, users, scammers and hustlers.
Key lyric:
You got a way of, making me stay
You pull me closer when I push You away

Noel – The song is written by and features Trip Lee and Dave James, and is produced by James. The song includes a bit of the Christmas hymn “The First Noel”. This song is about Jesus. Lee handles the verses. I loved the line “Baby clothes couldn’t cloak His divinity”. Includes some nice guitar at the end of the song. A highlight.
Key lyric:
Who would’ve known that this babe was the King on the throne?

Angels – This song was written by Abe Parker, Crystal Johnson, Rhomar Jessy, Joel McNeil and GAWVI. The song was produced by Weathrman and features GAWVI, who delivers his usual strong vocal over a punchy percussion driven beat. The chorus includes backing singers infectiously singing a bit of the Christmas hymn “Angels We Have Heard on High” written by James Chadwick.
Key lyric:
I wonder where would I be, I be if You never found me when I needed You

We Three Kings – The song is written by Zach Paradis, Alex Hitchens, Wande Isola, Ace Harris, Epikh Pro, Paul Russell, Lecrae and Abe Parker. It is produced by Zach Paradis, Ace Harris, Epikh Pro and Abe Parker, and features Lecrae, Abe Parker and Paul Russell. The song is based on the Christmas hymn “We Three Kings” written by John Henry Hopkins Jr., and begins “We three kings with the diamond rings, bringing gifts, coming from afar”. The song is upbeat, starting with guitar before it dives into a great percussion driven beat, featuring a memorable chorus. The song also includes a lyric “Long lay the world in sin and error pining” and from the Christmas hymn “O Holy Night” written by Adolphe Adam.
Key lyric:
Was the lowest of the low, born in a manger
Came to Earth out of love so You could save us

A Worship Initiative Christmas, Vol. 2 – Shane and Shane
****

Shane and Shane (Shane Barnard and Shane Everett) follow 2014’s A Worship Christmas Initiative with this second full-length album of Christmas songs. Last Christmas, they released an EP of five songs titled A Worship Initiative Christmas, Vol. 2. This year, we get an entire ten song album.
This is my second album from Shane and Shane after seeing them perform at the Sing! Conference early this year. I really enjoyed Hymns Vol. 1 and this new album of worshipful Christmas songs as well.
Below are a few comments about each song on this excellent album:

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus – The lyrics of this hymn were written by Charles Wesley. The song opens with beautiful vocals over piano and strings. It then builds gently with guitar, bass and percussion.
Key lyric:
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne

Joy to the World (Joyful, Joyful) – The lyrics of this hymn were written by Isaac Watts. This version includes a verse from Henry Van Dyke’s hymn “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”. The song features Phil Wickham, who Shane and Shane are on the road with on a short Christmas tour. The song begins quietly with piano, chimes, strings and then builds joyfully with drums, bass and guitar as it goes into a new refrain “We will sing, sing, sing, Joy to the World”, which might remind you a bit of Chris Tomlin.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing – The lyrics of this hymn were written by Charles Wesley. The song begins with acoustic guitar and piano and then builds gently with guitar, bass, strings and drums. The song adds a refrain “Glory to the newborn king”.
Key lyric:
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth

O Little Town of Bethlehem – The lyrics of this hymn were written by Phillip Brooks. This beautiful rendition begins with acoustic guitar and bass and gently builds with light percussion, backing vocals and some excellent piano.
Key lyric:
Where meek souls will receive Him still
The dear Christ enters in

Breath of Heaven – This song was written by Amy Grant and Chris Eaton. This rendition of the song, made popular by Grant, features Bethany Bernard (formerly known as Bethany Dillon), wife of Shane Barnard. The song opens with piano, then adds light bass, strings and light percussion. The strings and piano stood out on this song, along with an excellent vocal.

Face of God – This song was written by Shane and Shane, and features Phil Wickham. It’s the one song on the album that I was not familiar with. The song opens with acoustic guitar and strings, and then builds joyfully at the chorus with full band.
Key lyric:
Gloria, I hear the angels singing
Gloria, all the heavens are ringing
Gloria, the Savior of the world is in her arms
She’s staring at the face of God
The face of God

What Child is This? – This hymn was written by William Chatterton Dix. This song begins with acoustic guitar, and then builds with bass, drum, strings, piano and backing vocals. The song includes a nice newly added refrain.
Key lyric:
Come, let us adore You
Our hearts with enthrone You

Away in a Manger – This music to this hymn was composed by William J. Kirkpatrick. The author of the lyrics is unknown. The song begins with acoustic guitar and piano. It then builds with bass, percussion and backing vocals.

Winter Snow – This song was written by Audrey Assad and features Dinah Wright. I first heard this beautiful song with Assad singing it on Chris Tomlin’s first Christmas album, 2009’s Glory in The Highest: Christmas Songs of Worship. This version opens with piano and acoustic guitar, and then builds with bass, percussion, strings and backing vocals.

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear – This hymn was written by Edmund Sears. The song opens with synth, piano and bass and builds after the first verse with backing vocals, drums, acoustic guitar and keys. A refrain is added at the end of the song.
Key lyric:
Glory to God
Glory in our heart

Season of Peace: The Christmas Collection – Michael McDonald
****

I love Michael McDonald’s Christmas music. Three years ago, we saw a wonderful show on his This Christmas: An Evening of Holiday and Hits tour at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis.
This is his fourth Christmas album. His 2001 In the Spirit-A Christmas Album is one of my all-time favorite Christmas albums. He followed that up in 2005 with an album made for Hallmark, Through the Many Winters: A Christmas Album. After In the Spirit, Through the Many Winters was somewhat of a disappointment, with more sparse instrumentation and laid-back arrangements. I just recently found out that McDonald was forced to complete the entire album in two weeks, including mixing and mastering. In 2009 he released This Christmas, a compilation of twelve songs from the first two albums along with four new songs. Season of Peace: The Christmas Collection is another compilation of fifteen songs, with one new one, a short (less than two minute) instrumental recording of “Winter Wonderland”, featuring ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro.  The album cover art was painted by McDonald.

Below is the track listing for Season of Peace:

      1. That’s What Christmas Means to Me (from This Christmas)
      2. White Christmas/Winter Wonderland, featuring Jonny Lang (from In the Spirit)
      3. Children Go Where I Send Thee, featuring Twinkie Clark (from In the Spirit)
      4. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (from Through the Many Winters)
      5. Wexford Carol, featuring Amy Holland (from Through the Many Winters)
      6. Christmas on the Bayou (from Through the Many Winters)
      7. To Make a Miracle (from In the Spirit)
      8. Peace (from In the Spirit)
      9. Through the Many Winters (from Through the Many Winters)
      10. Every Time Christmas Comes Around (from In the Spirit)
      11. On Christmas Morning (from In the Spirit)
      12. World Out of a Dream (from In the Spirit)
      13. Oh, Holy Night (from Through the Many Winters)
      14. Winter Wonderland, featuring Jake Shimabukuro (new recording)
      15. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (from This Christmas)

Season of Hope: The Christmas Collection does a nice job of pulling some of the best songs from McDonald’s previous Christmas albums. However, if you have his previous albums, you can pass on this one.

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence ~ married to my best friend for more than 39 years and a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Before retiring I served as a manager at a Fortune 50 company; I'm a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary and in leadership at my local church. I enjoy speaking about calling, vocation and work. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinders themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony and Achiever, and my two StandOut strengths roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book and 2 Corinthians 5:21 my favorite verse. Some of my other favorite books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Prodigal Son (originally titled A Tale of Two Sons) by John MacArthur and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I enjoy Christian hip-hop/rap music, with Lecrae, Trip Lee and Andy Mineo being some of favorite artists.

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