Prime Cuts: Cherish That Name, Who Came When Jesus Came, Come on Ring Those Bells
When Tribute sings, it's a challenge not to pay attention. Attested across their most recent triumvirate of releases, "Hit Replay Again," "Journey of Hope" and this their second release this year "The Thought of Christmas," the quartet has a way of choosing songs with melodies that are so tight that they prevent us from roving in boredom midway through the songs. Every song on these three releases has a way of gluing our ear to every twist and progression of the song's melodic line. Add to that, they have a way of working their four part harmonies in such a way that there's not much airy space that doesn't permit our attention to linger in limbo. All of these traits can be found in the group's debut Christmas album for Daywind Records "The Thought of Christmas."
Comprising of lead singer Gary Casto, baritone/pianist Josh Singletary, tenor Riley Harrison Clark and Bass vocalist Anthony Davis, Tribute seems to have dropped the word "quartet" from their moniker evidenced most prominent by the album cover. Nevertheless, this has by no means depreciated their sound as "The Thought of Christmas" is a consistently rich record following this year's "Journey of Hope." Roger Talley is once again in the producer's chair. He is to be lauded for keeping the right balance between new festive compositions, traditional carols and lesser known covers.
Talley has also aided Tribute to weave creativity even when they are tackling the most over-sung carols. Case in point is "Sing Christmas." Stringing together a litany of sprightly carols, "Sing Christmas" finds the Tribute in full-blown harmony singing over an animated-sounding string led ensemble. Sounding like it was recorded for one of those made-for-Disney Christmas movies, the aural of Christmas beams bright and proud on "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." "Who Would Imagine a King," a track made popular by Whitney Houston on her "Preacher's Wife" soundtrack, has a childlike purity to it as the Tribute leaves us in awe again at the miracle of how a tiny baby can be the King of the World.
As for the lesser known songs and originals, the clumsily titled "Who Came When Jesus Came" hits the bull's eye as far as the heart of Christmas is concerned. Pedaling through the Biblical prophecies that point to who Jesus is, this song is one of the best expositions of Scripture set to music. "Come on Ring Those Bells," is lyrically a tad more light weighted, but the chiming bells and the galloping pace really get us into worship. While "Cherish That Name" is the album's lodestar. Commencing in the context of narrative, the song slowly progresses into an offering of worship that is nothing short of stellar. With songs this good, "The Thought of Chistmas" isn't just a passing thought but it's going to be a treasury of songs for the years to come.
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